When planning Disney World vacations I’m asked many questions. What is the Magical Express? How do I use my MagicBands? Where can I eat dinner with the Princesses? And then there is the question that usually leads to a lot more questions. What is the FastPass?

So what is a FastPass? Well, as I like to say it’s a magical way you can get more out of your Disney Vacation by reserving a time for your favorite attraction, show or character greeting and bypassing the standby line. That is a simple answer to a somewhat complex thing. Today, I will share with you the basics of the FastPass+. I must note that this a basic overview of FastPass+. To get the most out of this free time saving service Disney offers it is best to have a conversation with your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist. The one thing we all have in common on this team is getting the most out of your Disney vacation and FastPass+ definitely will help do that!

FastPass+ is a free service that allows guests an opportunity to reserve a time to many of the attractions, shows and character greetings. FastPass+ is available to both Disney guests staying at a Disney Resort and for those not. For this blog we will make the assumptions all guests are staying at a Disney Resort. FastPass+ service is, in my opinion better for those staying on property.

Here is how it works.

  • You can begin making your FastPass+ reservation at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time 60 days in advance of your visit.
  • To make a reservation in advance of your trip either log onto your My Disney Experience mobile app or on the website.
  • Once logged on you can select up to three FastPass+ experiences you would like for the park you are visiting on that day. You will be guided through your options and times and simply select what you would like. For example, at the Magic Kingdom you could visit Mickey Mouse at 10 a.m. and ride Space Mountain at noon and reserve a spot for the fireworks at 10 p.m.
  • You can make selections for each day you have tickets on your vacation.
  • The FastPass+ selections are automatically loaded onto your MagicBand.
  • Once you arrive at the park a Cast Member scans your MagicBand at the attraction, show or character greeting at your designated time and you are in.
  • You can make changes to your selections in advance or even the day of by logging onto your My Disney Experience mobile app.

So that is a basic understanding of how it works. Like I said there are many other features and little secrets to get even more out of this amazing free service. To find out more of the advance features of FastPass+ contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialists. They will help you by explaining how to book additional FastPasses once you’ve used yours for the day, what rides you should try to get a FastPass for and much more!

Ryan Gross

Travel Specialist

 

 

As we have experienced with our Me and The Mouse clients, once you have experienced a Disney Cruise, you cannot wait to start planning your next one. Disney has made the process both easy and with a cost savings by starting the booking process while you are onboard. The process is very simple:

  1. By visiting the Future Cruise Desk, you can book a specific date with an applicable deposit or you can book a placeholder cruise for $250. The placeholder reservation can be moved to another cruise with a sailing date within 24 months from your booking of the placeholder.
  2. The $250 for the placeholder deposit will be applied to your deposit when moved to a set date.
  3. When you move your placeholder to a cruise of 7 + nights or longer, you are only required to place 10% of the cruise cost as the deposit (typically, 20% is required as a deposit).
  4. You will receive 10% off your future cruise when you transfer the placeholder to an actual sailing. Concierge level excluded.
  5. Disney also offers an onboard credit on your future cruise that can be used toward any charges you will have on your next cruise, such as excursions, purchases at the gift shop, and/or drinks. For sailings 7 + days, it will be $200. For sailings 6 days and less, your onboard credit will be $100.
  6. If you decide you are not able to use the placeholder, the $250 is refundable.

Please note, there are restrictions such as blackout dates and the benefit cannot be combined with any other offers. The onboard booking benefit is not valid on concierge levels rooms or VGT, OGT or IGT discounted rooms or 2 night cruises.

Happy sailing!!

Janene Jaroscak

Travel Specialist

 

 

Continuing the success of the Marvel films (and my personal favorite), Guardians of the Galaxy  – Mission: Breakout! is a fantastic thrill ride that has been re-imagined in the former Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction. The Guardians of the Galaxy have been kidnapped and it’s up to you to save them!

Enter the fortress of Taneleer Tivan (otherwise known as the Collector) where he is currently exhibiting some of his finest pieces. Take some time to explore the cases and discover amazing relics – a warlock’s eye, Atlantis artifacts, Loki’s shackles, Figment (from Epcot’s Journey’s Into Imagination with Figment), and Cosmo the Spacedog. The newest possessions on display are none other than the Guardians of the Galaxy: Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and Drax. You will find yourself in the Collector’s office where Rocket has escaped his cage and is now requiring your assistance to break the remaining Guardians out of the fortress.  The rest of the journey is full of thrills, an “awesome” soundtrack, and quite possibly a lot of uncontrollable giggling!

If you weren’t brave enough to experience this attraction when it was the Tower of Terror, you might want to give this re-imagined attraction a second chance. While the scenes and falls are randomly generated, one thing that has been removed is the thirteen-story drop that was part of Tower of Terror. Instead, guests experience much shorter drops, and the comedy of the Guardians and music from the films will have you laughing and cheering the whole time!

If you are craving more time with the Guardians, be sure to head over to the Guardians of the Galaxy Dance Off! Dance to an “awesome” mix of familiar tunes with Star-Lord, Gamora and Groot!

Other Marvel characters to meet around Disney’s California Adventure include Spider-Man and Captain America! If you’re lucky, you might even spot Black Widow or other Marvel heroes roaming the streets of Hollywood Land!

* You will want to determine your main attraction goal for California Adventure before you enter the park. Mission: Breakout will be a jog to the left into Hollywood Land. CarsLand is straight through from the main entrance. Both attractions have FastPass kiosks (or you can utilize MaxPass on the Disneyland app for a fee) to help accommodate both attractions into your day.

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

 

 

 

Looking for something special for a diehard Harry Potter fan? Well, Celebrating Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort is just what you’ve been wanting. You can be part of a magical 3 day event presented by Warner Bros. and Universal Orlando Resort.

The event takes part January 26 to January 28, 2018. There’s a lot to see and do in this action packed 3 day event! Not only is there a Q&A session with 5 actors/actresses from the Harry Potter movies, but you’ll be able to learn some wand combat skills, hear from 2 graphic designers for the films, learn special effects secrets, and get sorted by the sorting hat. All of these activities and more will take place at both parks, so you’ll need to make sure you have a park to park ticket.

The best way to make sure you get the most of this 3 day event is the A Celebration of Harry Potter Premium Vacation Package. This package includes on-site hotel accommodations, park to park tickets, and guaranteed access to select event activities. It includes an exclusive autograph and photo session with select film talent, an evening reception at the Harry Potter Expo, breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, exclusive Evening at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with desserts and one complimentary Butterbeer, not to mention a lot of other special inclusions.

By booking A Celebration of Harry Potter Vacation Package, you’re allowed early access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These sections of the parks will open an hour earlier to guests staying on property. With the extra hour, you’ll be able to access Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley with reduced crowd levels. Set against the backdrop of Universal Orlando’s amazing theme parks, you’ll explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade™ at Universal’s Islands Of Adventure™ and Diagon Alley™ at Universal Studios Florida™. Experience Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™, and other thrilling attractions. Ride the Hogwarts™ Express* and travel between King’s Cross Station in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade™ Station in Islands of Adventure.

This is definitely on a must do list for a Harry Potter fanatic! There are many more experiences and magic that will happen over these 3 days than what’s mentioned above. We’d be happy to let you know of all of the special things that will be happening from Jan 26th to the 28th. Be sure to contact your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist today!

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist

 

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

 

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