A huge part of our family’s experience when we visit any Disney destination is enjoying so many amazing restaurants. Good food allows us to relax and simply enjoy the moment together. Great food keeps us coming back!

When we’re back home, we’ll think back on that special something and wish we could have just one bite! For me, the bread pudding at Ohana’s at the Polynesian Village is one of those “aaaaah” foods. Lucky for my family, it’s also pretty easy to make!

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Nancy Wideman
Travel Specialist

Another new transportation service will soon be available to guests visiting the Walt Disney World property…….”Minnie Vans”. This new transportation service is now available for guests staying at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort and Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Copper Creek Villas and Cabins, and Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge can now go to the front desk at the resort to activate the service for their use. Soon, the service will be available at all Walt Disney World resorts.

Minnie Vans will take you anywhere on Disney property you want to go that is open to the public. Exclusive to “Minnie Vans” is the access to Magic Kingdom. When servicing the Magic Kingdom, guests will be dropped off / picked up at the BUS area, NOT the Ticket and Transportation Center, like all other off-property transfer services. This will provide guests with the short walk to the park entrance without needing to use the monorail or ferryboat service from the Ticket and Transportation.

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Minnie Vans are Chevrolet Traverse mid-sized SUVs that can seat up to 7 or 8 passengers (including the driver) across 3 rows. Each Minnie Van comes equipped with 2 Graco car seats. These car seats are fully adjustable to convert from a car seat into a booster seat, and can be both forward and rear facing.

Minnie Vans will be available through Lyft. When guests open the Lyft app from anywhere in the Walt Disney World Resort the Minnie Van Service is unlocked. The Lyft app will allow guests to request a ride from their smartphone and pay directly through the app. The current price the service is $20 per trip, this includes gratuity. The drivers are all paid employees of Disney. Currently,the hours of operation are 6:30 am until 12:30 am.

Whether you are traveling by monorail, bus, boat or Minnie Van, Disney does recommend allowing up to 90 minutes of travel time to get to dining locations within the Walt Disney World property. The Minnie Van transportation is another great option for arriving for early morning dining reservations, as well as making it easier to travel from resort to resort for dining and shopping.

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

Loews Portofino Bay Resort is my resort of choice while visiting Universal Studios in Orlando. The beautiful re-creation of the famed seaside resort village of Portofino, Italy truly gives you the feeling of a piece of Italy in Orlando. I have stayed here on several occasions and continue to come back because it is exquisite in every way. The rooms are spacious and luxurious designed with superior quality and make you feel like a V.I.P. while you are a guest. You will feel the grandeur as you enter the lobby.

The service here is impeccable. This upscale resort is worth every penny because it includes complementary Universal Express passes for each guest in your party. The Universal Express pass allows you to skip the lines on many of the popular rides at the Universal Parks, including all of the Harry Potter attractions. You will also receive one hour early entry into the parks allowing you to beat the crowds. Water taxi service is available from this resort which provides easy access to the parks.

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If you are looking for a fun hotel catering to children, try a Despicable Me-themed Kid Suite with a Garden or Bay View. Parents can have privacy in a beautiful master bedroom with a king bed and the kids will have a connecting room with 2 twin beds shaped like Minion missiles.

The grounds and pools are always beautiful and well kept. Portofino Bay offers 3 swimming pools. The Beach pool is a lively pool ideal for families. It has a waterslide and a sandy beach. The Villa pool has a more serene atmosphere. Lastly, the Hillside pool offers more privacy. It is great to be able to return to your resort for some poolside relaxation after spending an active day at the parks. The Mandara Spa promises blissful renewal of both mind and body and offers a variety of spa services and treatments, a complimentary fitness center, and exclusive steam and sauna facilities.

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Each evening at sunset, the Harbor Piazza hosts nightly Italian musical performances, including Opera Singers, which really adds to the ambiance of this magnificent resort. It is a delightful way to end the day.

There are many restaurants onsite at Portofino Bay serving a variety of menus, including Mama Della’s Ristorante, Trattoria del Porto, Sal’s Market Deli and the superb Bice Ristorante. Dining and ambiance at this onsite resort is part of the wonderful experience at staying at a Universal resort.

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This resort holds a special place in my heart because of the incredible memories my family has made there. Loew’s Portofino Bay Resort offers onsite guests the opportunity to enjoy time away to rest, relax and enjoy a little piece of Italy.

Contact your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist to book your next vacation to Universal Studios Orlando!

Traci Perjak
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.

For many families, planning your vacation last minute is a necessary decision. When friends panic and tell you that you can’t do it – take a breath and go for it! A last minute trip to Walt Disney World can be filled with wonderful memories! We here at Me and the Mouse Travel want to make it a magical experience for you.

The first thing you need to remember when booking a last minute vacation to Walt Disney World is to be flexible. If you open yourself up to the options available you are going to find treasures of delight hiding around every corner.

Planning a Last Minute Disney Trip!Staying on property at Walt Disney World is a key component of a last minute vacation. This allows you to partake in extra magic hours, maximizing your fun each day. A last minute trip will have reduced resort and room selection but consider these options an opportunity to explore what makes each resort unique and special. While most of Disney’s promotional offers do not apply to last minute bookings, if your budget is tight consider staying at a value resort.

 

Many families are concerned that if they book a last minute vacation they will not be able to eat at character meals. Your agent will recommend the available character meals that include many of the characters you are wishing to see at alternate locations on property. You might also be one of the lucky families and get a reservation released from a last minute cancellation! Be sure to check each night at your resort concierge desk for any updates on cancellations for the following day.  

Planning a Last Minute Disney Trip!Looking for just a nice place to sit down for a meal? Consider eating at resorts as they are often hidden gems. A favorite place to eat is Epcot for its many international restaurants. Having a park hopper ticket, you can head to this park for a meal on any day. Disney Springs is also a FREE location with many different dining options. Stressed about trying for dining reservations? Skip reservations completely and eat at Disney’s many quick service restaurants that serve a wide variety of entrees. 

Lastly, if you book less than a month before your trip, some of the top FastPass attractions may not have availability. However, there are ways to still experience these rides with minimal wait. This is the perfect time to use extra magic hours. Another option is to head to those favorite attractions first thing in the morning when the parks open. Don’t forget to check the Me and the Mouse touring pages in your travel package for the must see attractions in each park.

Planning a Last Minute Disney Trip!A last minute trip can be one of the most stress-free vacations you’ve ever had! The reduced options allow you to focus on what is most important to you and your family. Remember to be flexible!! Let your travel agent work their magic! You are sure to have a great time on your Walt Disney World vacation.

Ready to book your last minute vacation? We’re here to help! Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today!

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist

 

Disney's Animal Kingdom LodgeDisney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a one-of-kind destination at Walt Disney World.  Its views of exotic animals grazing on nearby savannas, guests will feel as if they have escaped on an authentic Safari adventure!

This deluxe resort property is located near Animal Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World.  The African-inspired resort gives guests the opportunity to view grazing exotic wildlife outside their rooms and public areas within the resort. This leaves guests feeling as if they are staying on the African savanna.

Disney's Animal Kingdom LodgeThe rooms can accommodate up to 4 guests, plus one child under age 3. They are available with either a king-size bed, two queen-size beds, or one queen-size bed and bunk beds. Amenities include room service, irons and ironing boards, hairdryers, coffee makers and refrigerators.  Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge also has guest suites and Concierge Level accommodations. This offer access to the Kilimanjaro Club lounge, robes, turndown service and the opportunity to participate in two unique safari experiences (for an additional fee).

There are two amazing pools on property. The Uzima Springs Pool faces the Uzima Savanna and features a zero-depth entry, along with a 67-foot-long waterslide.  Families will enjoy making a splash at the Samawati Springs Pool.  This is located just a short walk away at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Kidani Village.  This family pool features an exciting 128-foot waterslide and zero-depth-entry.  This pool area also includes Uwanja Camp, a water playground with 3 distinct zones for kids of all ages.  Observation Station is for children 4 years of age and younger.  Kids can climb through cargo crates, unscramble animal images and play in a bubbling geyser and shallow cistern pool.  Children, ages 5 to 7, will enjoy playing at the Departure Zone, which includes a leaky water tower and clever African irises that squirt water.  At Base Camp, kids 8 years of age and up can soak each other with water cannons. This is a great place to spend time on a non-park day. These fun pools & slides will keep the kiddos busy all day long!  Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge serves award-winning, African-inspired specialties and classic American favorites for breakfast, lunch and dinner, amid a lush, wildlife preserve.  Animal Kingdom Lodge host to uniquely themed restaurants, BOMA – Flavors of Africa and Sanaa. Sanaa is a restaurant with African cooking with an Indian influence. It offers spectacular views of the savannahs at lunch and dinner.  (You can read our blog post on Sanaa, HERE.)  For parents who want to have a nice, quiet dinner alone at a Signature Dining restaurant, such as Jiko – The Cooking Place, Animal Kingdom Lodge offers Simba’s Clubhouse, a fun night of supervised activities, including arts and crafts, Disney movies, dinner and much more. (Cost for this service is in addition to your resort stay.)

Disney's Animal Kingdom LodgeThe Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has a special secluded feel. Its unique opportunities to view wildlife up close in open, natural habitats, makes this Deluxe Disney Resort one of my favorites.  If you ready for a relaxing vacation, filled with special and unique experiences, contact your Me and The Mouse Travel specialist. They can help you learn more about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

 

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

One of the most sought-after experiences of a Disney Cruise is having a cabana at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.  Our family has been fortunate to experience this luxury, which we like to label “peace, quiet and solitude.” Cabana at Castaway Cay

The cabana experience includes:

  • Bottled waters, cans of soda, and cold towels in a refrigerator
  • Fresh fruit, granola bars, and chips
  • Towels and sunscreen
  • Fresh water shower including foot rinse
  • Hammock
  • Lounge areas, changing area, storage, safe, ceiling fan, music, and outlet
  • Floats and tubes and one-hour bike rental
  • The Family Beach includes a private beach experience with beach loungers, chairs, umbrellas, snorkel equipment, and sand toys
  • Cabana host and service button

Twenty cabanas grace the Family Beach – including one accessible cabana – while four are at the adults-only Serenity Bay.


Cabana at Castaway Cay

The Experience

The experience is especially good for families traveling with heat-sensitive guests, elderly or small children.  My 80-year-old mother-in-law could not enjoy the island but for an hour during her first cruise.  On her following visit, she was able to stay on island the entire day thanks to the cabana and its fan that provided reprieve from the heat.  Families can enjoy still enjoy the experience while small children nap on the couch or in a complimentary pack-and-play.

The ship’s Concierge class crew services the cabanas, and guests summon the cabana host with a simple push of a button.  My husband’s parasailing experience was in question, and our host kept in touch with the parasailing hut and even re-scheduled the booking that was cancelled.  Without this service, he would have had to go all the way back to the hut by the ship to check the status.  Another host hung a birthday sign for our daughter that was visible upon her cabana arrival.  Cabana at Castaway Cay

Reservations

How do I get a coveted cabana?  Cabanas are typically snatched up by Concierge guests and Platinum status guests. However, I have even seen them available at Gold and Silver status activity booking openings.  Guests can cancel up to three days before embarkation, so many guests will check daily for cancellations.  You may also have your name added to a wait list at the Port Adventures desk upon boarding.

The luxury and service do come at a cost, however.  Many guests will offer other guests to share the cabana to help defray the expense.

  • Family Beach: $590.18, up to six guests included; up to four additional can be added at $53.75 each
  • Family Beach Grand Cabana: $966.43 for up to 10 guests; up to six additional may be added
  • Family Beach seasonal surcharge: $53.75 additional total cost late April through late September
  • Serenity Bay: $428.93 for up to four guests; up to six additional may be added

Cabana at Castaway CayIs it worth it?  This is the number one question most folks have, and that answer lies solely with the guests reserving it and their needs and wants.  We prefer to look at the cost by hour. We feel the privacy, peace of mind with our belongings and relaxed beach atmosphere is worth the splurge.

 

Jenniffer Sheldon

Guest Contributor

Disney Cruise Platinum Guest

 

 

While vacationing at Walt Disney World, there are a lot of things on your must do list.  Some of the essentials are getting to meet your favorite Disney character, enjoying some good food, and making sure you’re building unforgettable memories.  There’s one place that you can achieve all three of these things at the same time.  It’s at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ!  It’s a seasonal dining event that can be sometimes overlooked.  We stumbled upon it a long time ago, and now it’s on our must do when we vacation at Walt Disney World.

Mickey's Backyard Barbecue

What makes is so special you ask?  Well there are more than just a few things.  When you arrive at the pavilion at The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, you will have your choice of seating at one of many long picnic style tables.  Once the food is ready, everyone is able to get their food at their leisure.  It’s available throughout the entire evening and is a buffet of all of your BBQ favorites.  The food is outstanding! There also some frozen desserts available as well as all of the typical drinks, including beer and wine.  This is all included in the price of admission {or the 2 table credits from the dining plan}.

Mickey's Backyard BBQThere will also be times throughout the evening when you can venture off to the sides of the pavilion and get a quick autograph and picture with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, or Chip ‘n Dale, who are all dressed in their best Western attire!  Next, you will meet the MC’s for the evening who will be introducing a cowboy who will amaze you with his unbelievable rope tricks.  Followed by being able to dance with Mickey and friends to the music of a Country Western band.  The best part about all of this – the kids can come up close to watch the Cowboy or come out to one of the dance floors to let loose and have fun with their Disney pals.

It’s a great dining experience for the whole family.  One that the kids don’t have to sit still in their seat.  Actually, they are encouraged to get up and have some fun.  That goes for all ages of kids!  I would strongly recommend this if you are looking for something a little different, but something that will provide you with a fun, unforgettable evening.

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist

 

 

Loews Sapphire FallsAn exciting, new resort opened on Universal Orlando property in July 2016.  Loews Sapphire Falls is a beautiful resort conveniently located one mile from the entrance of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  Full of lush Caribbean scenery and breathtaking waterfalls, this resort hotel is sure to make you feel like you are in a relaxing tropical paradise, not in the middle of a theme park.

Walking in to the lobby of this resort was very impressive.  The spacious lobby is decked out with a giant beach ball chandelier. You can also see a view of Islands of Adventure from the windows. The check in process was absolutely flawless. The desk staff was extremely friendly and efficient.   It took only 10 minutes from check-in to being in my room!

Loews Sapphire FallsMy room had two queen beds and a standard view. However, I still had a great view of the water surrounding the resort.  Each room comes equipped with a Keurig coffee maker, flat screen television and mini refrigerator. The room was very clean. I loved the decor. The decorations are a stunning sapphire blue, white and tan matching but not overkilling the Caribbean beach theme.  I personally love the separated toilet and shower from the sink and vanity area. This helps families trying to get ready to go to the parks in the morning.

Loews Sapphire FallsOne of my favorite amenities at this resort is the huge pool area.  The 16,000 foot is the largest pool on Universal property, includes a waterslide, hot tub area and plenty of lounge chairs to accommodate the guests.  Around the pool, there are also several outdoor games, ping pong tables, a large screen for movies at the pool and an indoor fitness center.

The Sapphire Falls Resort offers several restaurant options inside.  First, the Dutch Trading Company is the quick service/grab and go option.  You will find quick service food as well as a Coke Freestyle Machine with the option of purchasing a refillable resort mug.  Amatista’s and Strong Water Tavern are also available if you are in the mood for a table service meal. Loews Sapphire Falls
Like all Universal Orlando resort hotels, Sapphire Falls offers benefits for staying on-site.  The complimentary water taxi will take guests direct to the parks and City Walk.   As a guest of Sapphire Falls, you are also eligible for early morning entry into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Overall, I was very impressed with my stay at Sapphire Falls.  It is truly a moderately-priced resort with the feel of a deluxe.  For more information, or to book this resort for your Universal Orlando vacation, contact your Me and the Mouse Travel specialist.

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

Viking River CruiseMy family recently enjoyed a family reunion onboard a Viking River Cruise on the Rhine River sailing from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland.  Viking made the journey worry free and easy, so we could enjoy your time together and not have to worry about any of the details. It was a first-class experience and exceeded our expectations.

This was the perfect vacation for a large family that included members in their 80’s and individuals who had never been to Europe.  Many people associate river cruising with grandparents, but I would estimate that the average age on our ship were in their 50’s with quite a few in their 30’s. Viking River Cruise

For us, there were many benefits to sailing with Viking:

  1. Traveling along the Rhine immersed us in the history and beauty of the region. The onboard activities include local musicians, dining to give you a taste of the local culture and speakers that discuss the local region.
  2. Each day had one included excursion at each port of call and optional excursions that we could add-on. The additional excursion options offered a variety of activity levels, so there was something for everyone. We were transported in luxury motor coaches.
  3. We had plenty of time on our own to explore cities. If our included excursions were in the morning, it gave us an opportunity to get the lay of the land so we felt comfortable venturing out on our own after lunch or dinner. Viking River Cruise
  4. The tour guides were exceptional and the groups were also well managed. Those that wanted to go at a slower pace or needed a little extra assistance were put into separate groups.
  5. Our meals were fabulous with all wine and beer included at lunch and dinner. We also had 3 members of our family with dietary needs and they were accommodated beautifully.
  6. We were on one of Vikings Longships, which is elegant, modern and provided a comfortable environment. The 190-passenger ship was small and intimate and all staterooms are outside cabins. We never had more than 2 flights of stairs to get anywhere, which made moving about the ship very convenient.

 

We will definitely enjoy a future vacation to discover other regions of Europe. The Viking hospitality has us sold.

 

Janene Jaroscak

Travel Specialist

Viking River Cruise