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.

 

Handle the Crowds Like a Pro
& Experience All Pandora Offers!

Pandora: The World of AvatarWhether you loved the movie, hated it or have no clue what it’s even about, Pandora: The World of Avatar is a “must experience” land. All Disney guests should be sure to visit it during their vacation.  The breathtaking scenery, attractions, food and merchandise are bringing in guests by the millions, which means you better go with a plan!  After attending the grand opening of this new land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, here are some tips to be able to experience all it has to offer.

Tip #1

Plan on going during the Extra Magic Morning Hours at Animal Kingdom.  Since the hours are for resort-guests only, you will have the least crowded hour in the park before it opens to all guests. This will be one of your best times to visit the World of Avatar. If you are taking Disney transportation, plan on being on the very first bus, which departs the resort 45 minutes prior to park opening.

Tip #2

Reserve your Fastpasses 60 days out from your check in date if you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel.  Since there are two options for Fastpasses in this land and you can only pick one to Fastpass, I recommend Avatar Flight of Passage.  This ride has had wait times up to five hours since opening, so having a Fastpass for this attraction is like having a golden ticket.  If you have a morning Fastpass reserved for this ride, go ahead and get in the standby line for the Na’vi River Journey.  If you are there for the Extra Magic Hours, you will not wait in this line for more than 20 minutes.  Pandora: The World of Avatar

Tip #3

Explore! Once you have ridden the two attraction in this land, take the time to explore and take photos.  Never have I ever felt a part of a movie like I have here.  Every detail is carefully crafted and more than worth exploring.  

Tip #4

Find the Photopass Photographers!  The photo opportunities in this land are countless and one is more amazing than the next.  You can get a standard shot of your family with the floating mountains in the background and you can even get magic shots featuring flying Banshees and other characters native to this land.  Use your My Disney Experience app to locate photographers and make sure you purchase Memory Maker so you can download all of your photos. Pandora: The World of Avatar

Tip #5

Head over to the Situ’li Canteen to get some much-needed sustenance after a busy morning exploring this other world.  With create-your-own rice bowls and other healthy alternatives, the Situ’li Canteen is a great place to take a break and have a meal or a snack before heading back to Earth. You can read more about the Canteen, HERE! The World of Avatar has several tasty places you can try, but we love Situ’li!

 

For more information or to book your Walt Disney World vacation complete with a trip to Pandora, contact a Me and the Mouse Travel agent today!

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

The anticipation of a Disney Cruise can be grand. There’s so much to plan, and for most travelers, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist will guide you in the best options for your travel party: before, during, and after your cruise.  One such option, is visiting the Walt Disney World Resort for a few days before embarking on your cruise that leaves from a Floridian port!

 

There are benefits to visiting the Most Magical Place On Earth BEFORE your cruise… Here are the Top Five!

 

  1.  5 Reasons To Visit Walt Disney World BEFORE Your Disney Cruise!You will be too relaxed (and tired) to visit the Walt Disney Resort after your cruise!

Cruising changes your mood, and changes your routine, to a Hakuna Matata lifestyle!  To then switch gears and amp up for a theme park visit is exhausting. Rest your tired feet, be pampered, and end your vacation refreshed!

 

  1.  By arriving a few days early, you will not have to worry about trip delays with airlines or traffic.

Day-of arrivals for cruises can be extremely stressful, as any major delay could keep you from boarding your cruise on time, or could prevent you from boarding at all!

 

  1. 5 Reasons To Visit Walt Disney World BEFORE Your Disney Cruise!You will experience world-class amenities at the Walt Disney World Resort hotel of your choice!

Not only will you enjoy perfectly themed rooms and resorts to fit your needs, but if you are flying, you will experience free Magical Express transportation from Orlando International Airport to your resort.  Transportation from your resort hotel to the port can also be arranged, but for a nominal fee, either with Disney transportation or with a private car service.  All of which, your Travel Specialist can assist with!

 

  1.  Room and package discounts often make a WDW stay cheaper than an off-site hotel!

And who doesn’t like to save money on vacation?  

 

  1. If you are that close to the Magic…why not?

5 Reasons To Visit Walt Disney World BEFORE Your Disney Cruise!Get the chance to experience an attraction, dine at a restaurant, or meet a character you’ve always dreamed of!  There’s no better time to do so!  Whether your first visit or your umpteenth, your Walt Disney World memories will stay with you forever.  Kids, and the “Kids-at-Heart”, agree that the opportunity to visit WDW along with the Disney Cruise was a great decision.  Every Disney experience is unique and worthwhile! Why not combine the best of both worlds and make unforgettable memories on Land and at Sea?  Especially if this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

 

You’re never too old to experience all the Magic that Disney has to offer!  Let your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist guide you through a few easy steps to add your Walt Disney World experience to the start of your cruise vacation, and add more memories that will last a lifetime! If you’re not yet connected with a Me and The Mouse agent, visit our contact page, and we’d love to pair you with one of our incredible specialists!

 

Amy Sowinski

Travel Specialist

I’ve Booked My Disney Cruise…Now What?

Keeping the excitement of a future cruise – especially one that is over a year away – can be difficult unless you are sailing with Disney!  Once you have booked your cruise with Me and the Mouse Travel, here are some things to do or consider.

1. Join the cruise Facebook group. 

Each Disney cruise has a Facebook group organized by an individual or group of individuals on the sailing, usually a DCL veteran.  In the Facebook search toolbar, type the name of your ship and year of your cruise i.e. Disney Wonder 2017, and you should be able to locate the group.  Groups are typically “closed” and a request to join is necessary.  It is a great way to get to know your fellow Guests, and many groups schedule a group meet-up or other private events on board.  It also serves as a wonderful resource to ask questions.

2. Join a Fish Extender or Secret Mickey group. 

Within each Facebook cruise group, an individual coordinates a gift exchange program.  Guests sign up and provide family name, cabin number, and additional information.  Many gifts are homemade and personalized, and you receive a set number of cabins to gift while you receive gifts from your group of cabins.  The Secret Mickey exchange is similar to Secret Santa, and you exchange with only one other cabin.  The recipients do not know who is giving the gifts until the end of the cruise or even after returning home.

 

3. Watch videos. 

Official and unofficial Disney Cruise Line videos can be found on YouTube to help keep you excited and see adventures posted by other Guests.
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4. Download the DCL Navigator app. 

While on board, the app will provide activity schedules, ship information and maps, dining room menus, free texting capability with other guests or groups, and more.  At home, a countdown clock is visible anytime you open the app once you enter your sail date.  Visit the iTunes or Google Play store to download the app for free.  A note about the messaging capability:  Guests do not share personal information.  Guests provide a designated chat number to other guests they want to be able to message.  Even if the chat number is shared, no personal information is provided to the recipient.  Parents have the capability of granting messaging access to children.

 

5. Schedule a character call.

Each reservation gets the opportunity to have a generic pre-cruise character call.  These are great to use for surprising kids with the trip.
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6. Review Personal Navigators from similar sailings. 

You can find Personal Navigators {daily activity schedule} from previous cruises here.  The more recent the sail date, the less the activity schedule changes.  These serve as a great resource for advance planning.

 

7. Submit dining room requests. 

If you would like to be in a specific dining room on a certain night, you can have your Me and The Mouse agent submit your request to DCL.  If you have severe food allergies, those can also be submitted in advance.

 

8. Book onboard activities and shore excursions. 

Each Guest has an individual booking window depending on their frequent cruise club status.  Click here to calculate your window.  Booking opens at midnight Eastern, so adjust accordingly to where you are located.  Any changes that are needed can be made until approximately three days before sailing without cancellation fees, depending on the item or excursion reserved.
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9. Complete your online check-in. 

You can complete this up to two days prior to sailing.  Have your travel itinerary, passports {if applicable}, and credit card ready.  Many people like to complete check-in when it opens at the same time as the booking window in order to get the earliest port arrival time possible.

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10. Review DCL gifts and photo opportunities available. 

Visit disneycruise.com and you can see the gifts available for purchase that can be delivered to your cabin or someone else’s cabin.  You can also make advance photo purchases, which offer savings versus while on board.

Don’t Forget: Pack and complete final preparations. 

Your Me and The Mouse agent will supply you with a packing list before you set sail.  If applicable, be sure to check in for your flight in advance and allow plenty of time to get to your airport.

 

You’re now ready to set sail!

Jenniffer Sheldon
Guest Contributor || Disney Cruise Platinum Guest

A Multicultural Treat for the Senses

Food and Garden Festival at Epcot in 2017Epcot is in full bloom every spring during my favorite time of year: The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival!  From now until May 29, guests from all over the world can experience the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Epcot in this sense-indulging experience.

 

Epcot is never more beautiful than during the Flower and Garden Festival.  Character topiaries not only greet you at the park entrance, but can be found all over Future World and World Showcase.  Food and Garden Festival at Epcot in 2017Fan favorites like Mickey and Minnie, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Anna and Elsa and many more are arranged beautifully with various plants and flowers.  My personal favorite is the Beauty and the Beast display in France.  Not only do they look gorgeous, but the aroma is every bit as tantalizing.  There are more than 100 topiaries all over Epcot, making for some wonderful photo opportunities.

Tip: Make sure you purchase Memory Maker if you are visiting Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival.  Not only will the Photopass photographers take wonderful pictures of your family with these beautiful backgrounds or even do a Magic Shot or two, but the stock photos that you can download from your Memory Maker of the character topiaries are fabulous quality! Food and Garden Festival at Epcot in 2017

 

Like the Food and Wine Festival, one of the highlights of the Flower and Garden Festival are the outdoor kitchens.  There are 15 outdoor kitchen booths located throughout Epcot specializing in small plate samples, desserts and alcoholic beverages.  The outdoor kitchens range in offerings from “farm fresh” to French, Chinese, Moroccan and other international cuisine.  The Frushi (fruit sushi) in Japan is a popular favorite for guests every year.  Who can say no to fresh pineapple, strawberries and melon rolled with raspberry coconut rice with a side of whipped cream for dipping?

Food and Garden Festival at Epcot in 2017Tip: Add a Disney Dining Plan to your package and use your snack credits for treats from the various outdoor kitchens.  With food prices at $5-$6 per item, it is a wonderful way to use your snack credits!

 

Also during this time, Epcot is rockin’ with the Garden Rocks Concert Series.  During the Flower and Garden Festival, guests can enjoy free concerts at the America Pavilion in World Showcase.  Some of this year’s acts include the Plain White Ts, Pointer Sisters, Gin Blossoms, Little River Band and many more.

Tip: Add a Garden Rocks Dining Package to one of 15 different table service restaurants located in Epcot for guaranteed seating.  Food and Garden Festival at Epcot in 2017

 
If you are visiting Walt Disney World in the spring, Epcot s an absolute must do.  Alive with color, tasty cuisine and music, there is not a more beautiful time to visit. If you would like to visit the Epcot Flower and Garden festival, contact a Me and The Mouse agent today.

 

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

You’ve been working with your Me and the Mouse travel specialist to plan your families magical Disney vacation and it’s all set. You have your resort, tickets, dining – everything to make this a wonderful vacation for your family!  Now what?!?!  Looking at your Disney countdown calendar, you have months before your trip!  By starting some of these tips NOW, you can ensure your Disney vacation will be even more enjoyable!

  1. Start walking now!  One thing you can count on for your Disney trip is that you will be walking A LOT!  On my last 6 day trip, we logged 55 miles worth of steps onto our Fitbits!  I started doing my “Disney training” with my treadmill months before we left. Although, I was tired by the end of the days at Disney, I was able to keep up and really enjoy the long days!
  2. Buy good comfortable shoes well before your vacation so that you have the time to break them in. Disney is not the place you want to break in new shoes and realize they give you blisters {yikes!}!
  3. If you plan on taking a backpack into the parks, try walking around with it on and loaded up so that you can ensure that it will be comfortable for your days at Disney.
  4. Visit our Me and The Mouse Pinterest Page, here!. We have several great ideas for how to countdown to your trip and fun outfit ideas! Prepping for Disney
  5. Download the My Disney Experience app on your phone and use it before you go so you know where to find the information you will be looking for in the parks. The My Disney Experience app has all of your reservation information, park maps, Fastpass picks and times, your dining reservations. It also has all park info like hours, parade times, character times, and wait times.  It is an amazing resource to use while you are in the parks.
  6. Purchase a portable power bank to charge your phone while you are in the theme parks. These are life savers. Typically, people use their phone often in the parks taking pictures, using the My Disney Experience app, and posting photo’s for all their friends to see what a great time they are having and it eats away at the phones battery. You will also want your phone charged to be able to contact other members in your group in case you split up during the day.
  7. Do some research on food you would like to try while you are at Disney! Disney has some fantastic food and snack options {Dole whip, zebra cakes, school bread} that are must try’s while you are there!  If you need any help coming up with ideas, make sure to ask your Me and the Mouse agent they are sure to have plenty of ideas for you!!!
  8. If your family is planning on partaking in pin trading, you can purchase pins on eBay to fill your lanyards for trading in the parks. My kids really enjoy interacting with the cast members while trading their pins!
  9. Your travel specialist is a great resource of information! We have a great team and are ready to answer any questions that will help your family have an enjoyable and memorable Disney vacation. Feel free to contact a Me and The Mouse agent today!

 

Beth Rodgers

Travel Specialist

I never thought I’d have the chance to travel to Disney World alone, however, my most recent trip presented an opportunity to explore Disney solo.  Since this was a once in a lifetime chance for me, I happily accepted!

What does one do when alone?  Anything they want!!  You may or may not have ideas of how to ideally spend your solo trip.  This is how I spent my unforgettable time!

  1. Stay at a new resort

Enjoying a Solo Day at DisneyI stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first time {You can read about this interactive resort, HERE!}.  After a day of travel, I relaxed and explored this breathtaking resort. I…

  • Viewed the animals in the savanna
  • Relaxed on lush seating in the lobby, took in the detailed architecture, and enjoyed the smells that wafted from Boma {Read about this amazing restaurant, HERE!}
  • Ate a quiet dinner at The Mara (chicken corn chowder soup and mixed tomato flatbread)
  • Sat by the indoor fire pit with my feet up
  • Walked the outside path listening to the running water
  • Took pictures from the overhead bridge
  • Shopped at Zawadi Marketplace
  • Grabbed a Zebra cake for dessert to enjoy in my room
  1. Visit your Favorite Park Enjoying a Solo Day at Disney

    I visited Magic Kingdom and strolled down Main Street, watched the welcome show, rode my favorite rides, and took in the details of each land. Just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean rides won’t be fun!  Take this chance to talk to people from all over the world.  You can have some of the best conversations with perfect strangers.

  2. Share with others

    I loved being alone, but chose to share some experiences via social media throughout my day. Facebook Live was a great way to share my views and sites with friends and family.  You can share with everyone or a customized group of people.

**Read Facebook’s copyright rules before posting.  Things like music played for the fireworks are copyright material that you’re not allowed to broadcast.

  1. Eat what you want Enjoying a Solo Day at Disney

    I indulged in my favorites: corn dog nuggets from Casey’s Corner, beef nachos at Pecos Bills, my morning iced coffee and coffee cake from Starbucks in a quiet spot overlooking Cinderella’s Castle, and a bag of popcorn during the fireworks.

  2. Park Hop

    With less of an agenda, being able to enjoy my next favorite park was not out of the question! I visited Epcot and enjoyed Soarin’!

  3. Explore Enjoying a Solo Day at Disney

    I took this chance to see details at resorts I usually don’t have a chance to. From the Ticket and Transportation Center, I walked to the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts.  I enjoyed views of the park, sandy beaches, and quietness along the way!  I then sat in the lobby of the Grand Floridian and listened to the piano while I rested my feet.  Exploration is endless at Disney….

If you ever have a chance to see Disney World alone for a couple hours or a full day, take it!  There is so much for the solo traveler to indulge in.  Enjoy…it is not a day you will soon forget!

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist