We all want to share that special Disney magic with our children, but determining when is the right time to start visiting the Happiest Place on Earth can prove more complicated than a simple visit to meet Mickey Mouse. Here are some tips to help you decide if your child is ready to experience all the magic that the World of Disney has to offer!

When is the right time?

  • Everyone around you will offer differing opinions, but no one knows your child like you do. When determining if your child is ready, there are several things you should factor in:
  • Does your little one require a nap?
  • Do you have a schedule that is hard to stray from without major meltdowns?
  • Does your child have any special requirements that will require extra planning or
    assistance?

You can plan half days for playtime in the park which would accommodate naps back at the resort, or you can take an extended break in the park if the stroller is a comfortable enough spot for a rest. Allow a few extra days to build in rest and pool time to keep everyone happy. Disney can be go, go, go all day, or it can be very relaxed.

Disney is great when addressing special considerations, including allergies, sensory overload, visual and auditory impairments, mobility issues, and more. Working with a travel planner who specializes in Disney can help alleviate your fears and provide you with information to best plan according to your family’s specific needs. Disney designates these agencies as “Authorized Disney Vacation Planners.” Not only can your Me and the Mouse specialist plan anitinerary specific to you, they can reserve strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters, notate allergies on dining reservations, help identify attractions with height or health restrictions, and even map out quiet zones for breaks.

The Experience

It’s important to understand what a visit to a Disney park will be like with a little one:

  • You will go at a slower pace, taking time to simply rest and people watch, maneuvering the crowds with a stroller, and taking breaks for diaper changes and snack times.
  • Much of your attraction experiences will be limited to areas where rides tend to be slower and calmer for younger guests. If a day at Disney isn’t complete without your favorite thrill attractions, perhaps just the big kids should go, or take advantage of the rider swap option which allows the adults to take turns enjoying the larger rides while one adult stays back with the smaller children.
  • Parades will be a highlight for all of you as you watch your children’s expressions! For very young guests, catch the earlier parade, if possible, as it often gets harder to keep them awake and happy the later in the evening you go.
  • The Baby Care Centers will be a blessing. Use them! Each park has a baby care center where you can find a quiet spot to eat, change diapers, use the toddler-sized potties, and nurse your young one. You can also purchase forgotten supplies, like diapers and formula. Read more about the Baby Care Centers here!

Will your toddler remember their visit to the parks? Probably not. Honestly, it really will be for Mom and Dad to experience the magic of Disney with them. You WILL, however, have some amazing photo opportunities when they see their favorite characters, take their first train ride, or fly high on Dumbo!

You know your children. If they can handle a busy day out and about in town, then it’s time to start thinking about that first Disney vacation.

Special note: Admission is free to children under the age of three.

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jen Morrison

Travel Specialist

My husband and I decided to celebrate our birthdays by trying out a new dining experience. Despite our many visits to Walt Disney World, we continue to strive to have as many new experiences as possible!

We entered the restaurant and we felt as if we had been transported to the Pacific Northwest. The ambiance was very warm and comforting. The décor was rustic yet with notable elegance. We were promptly greated by our server and presented with a beautiful leather bound menu! There was also an extensive, award winning, wine list . They offered over 130 wines from the Pacific Northwest wineries!

We began our meal with a selection of artisanal cheeses all from the Pacific Northwest as well. Each cheese came with a delicious seasonal accompaniments. We had marinated pairs and grapes, a fig and nut bar, a fruit mustarda, and fresh honey. The Point Reyes Toma was my favorite. It was very creamy and delicious on its own, but when paired with the fresh honey it was a whole different flavor explosion.

Artist Point is known for using seasonal ingredients for their “farm to fork” menu. The menu offered many incredible offerings. We both ordered the filet mignon, however my husband added the blue cheese enhancement. The biggest debate of the evening was what sides we were going to order with our entrée! We decided on the mashed potatoes and the truffle macaroni and cheese. We made the right choice! The potatoes were light and creamy and there was plenty to share. The truffle macaroni and cheese was one of the best I have ever eaten. The creamy rich cheese sauce, with the perfectly cooked orecchiette pasta with a crunchy crumb topping. The steaks were perfectly cooked to our specifications and simply presented with a large grilled bulb onion! We were unfortunately too full to order dessert, but they were incredibly tempting!!

Our service was impeccable and we truly savored our celebratory dinner!! Artist Point is a Signature dining location and would require 2 dining entitlements per entrée. Guests are asked to adhere to a dress code, but no fear a jacket is not required! The next time you are looking for a unique dining experience, with a fresh seasonal menu, this is your
place to try. Your travel specialist is here to help you find your next delicious dining experience!

Missy Zolecki

Travel Specialist

 

Tucked away in the World Showcase at EPCOT, guest can enjoy authentic Italian cooking at one of my favorite restaurants…  Via Napoli!  This family-friendly restaurant and pizzeria is not to be missed on your next visit to EPCOT.

Family style the Italian way is felt with the large table that stretches all across the whole width of the dining room.  Via Napoli is a warm, welcoming restaurant where guests can enjoy a culinary tour of Southern Italy with authentic Italian cooking, including hearty pastas, fresh salads and thin-crust pizzas that are perfected in a wood-burning ovens named after the 3 active volcanoes in Italy – Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius and Stromboli.

These mouth-watering pizzas are made with fresh mozzarella cheese, San Marzano tomatoes and real Caputo flour imported from Southern Italy. Water for the dough is even sourced from a spring similar to Italy’s Campania region.

Via Napoli is designed to be reminiscent of the architecture in Florence, Italy.  It features an open kitchen and prep area, where guests can watch pizzas be created.  Our family was sat in the middle of the restaurant at the “family table” with a great view of the ovens.  My children loved watching the chefs toss the dough, build each individual pizza and bake each pizza just under 2 minutes in the volcano ovens nearby. Our pepperoni pizza and baked lasagna were amazing!!

The World Showcase at Epcot is a dining destination for both local families and Guests to Walt Disney World.  If you are looking for a delicious Italian meal and family-friendly atmosphere, then Via Napoli will become a quick family favorite restaurant on your next Walt Disney World vacation!

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

I want to share one of Walt Disney World Resorts “Best Kept Secrets” for a mouthwatering Steak Dinner Introducing: Yachtsman Steakhouse located at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort in the Epcot Resort area.

Yachtsman Steakhouse is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are using the Disney Dining Plan in 2017, you will need to use 1 Table Service Credit for breakfast and lunch and 2 Table Service Credits for dinner. In 2018, the Dining Plan can only be used at Dinner and will take 2 Table Service Credits. Advance Reservations are recommended and can be made 180 before your vacation begins so be sure to contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Agent for assistance with your dining.

This Signature Dining Experience, guests are asked to abide by a dress code. Men may wear khakis, slacks, jeans or dress shorts and collared shirts. Sport coats are optional. Women may wear Capri pants, skirts, dresses, jeans or dress shorts. The following items are not permitted: tank tops, swimsuits, swimsuit cover-ups, hats for gentlemen, cut-offs, torn clothing and t-shirts with offensive language and/or graphics.

During our visit, we were impressed with how friendly and helpful everyone was. The high- quality, grain-fed beef is aged in-house. As our gracious hostess seated us, we were able to watch butchers hand cut steaks to perfection and we also checked out the chefs preparing dinner on an oak-fired grill in the open kitchen. We were fortunate to be seated by the window and got to enjoy the view of the Stormalong Bay pool. If you choose to experience this fine dining location – after being seated, be sure to look up so you don’t miss seeing the exquisite and intricate woodwork on the ceiling.

Paul was our waiter and had a warm and welcoming personality. He was very helpful making suggestions to enhance our dining experience and was happy to answer any and all questions we had. We could not have asked for a better dining experience! Paul added his own special “magical” touch to our meal.

My adult children and I each selected the Filet Mignon served with Mashed Potatoes and Cabernet Wine Sauce. My husband chose the New York Strip steak served with Potato Gratin with Peppercorn Brandy Sauce. Each steak was partnered with the perfect sauce and potato choice. I could not resist adding a side of Truffle Macaroni and Cheese and it did not disappoint. I reluctantly shared with my family. It was a “winner” by a unanimous vote. Other tempting choices offered on the menu for starters were French Onion and Lobster Bisque soup. Salad choices include a Caesar Salad and the Yachtsman Wedge Salad.

Appetizer choices included: Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Artisanal Cheeses, Tuna Tartare, and Quick-friend Shrimp and Calamari to name a few.

Steak choices were: Filet Mignon, New York Strip, Prime Rib-Eye Steak, Roast Prime Rib of Beef, Kansas City Strip Steak and a 32 ounce Porterhouse for two people. Additional Entrée selections included: Elk Tenderloin, Live Maine Lobster, Braised Beef Short Ribs, Sea Bass, All Natural Roasted Chicken and Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato-filled Pasta.

In addition to our favorite Truffle Macaroni and Cheese side dish, the Yachtsman’s Twice-baked Potato was very enticing as a side option. Caramelized Onions, Creamed Spinach, Spring Pea Risotto and Sautéed Mushrooms and Sautéed Vegetable Fricassee were also available.

We ended our meal very full, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to try (and share) The Admirals Cake. The Admirals Cake consisted of Valrhona Chocolate Brownie/Sponge Cake Layered Banana’s Foster Jam/Caramel Crisps/Sea Salted Ganache. We just couldn’t stop eating.

Additional dessert choices included: Chocolate Peanut Cake, Lime Semifreddo, Carrot Cake (a no sugar added dessert), Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake, The Yachtsman Sundae (a trio of Gelato), Seasonal Sorbet Trio, and Crème Brulee.

If you are bringing children, don’t worry, you are dining at Disney so children are not forgotten here. Yachtsman offers diverse kid menu options: Grilled Chicken Breast, Baked Fish of the Day, Macaroni and Cheese, Oak-grilled Steak Skewer, and Orecchiette Pasta and Meatballs.

I am excited to share my family’s experience with you and I hope you will consider visiting Yachtsman Steakhouse on your next visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Agent to assist your family with a “magical” dining experience at Yachtsman Steakhouse.

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

 

Walk-mans, Big Wheels, giant Mickey phones, 8-tracks….these things are imbedded in pop culture and their symbolism of the decades they represent will forever bring us back to those times in our lives. Disney’s Pop Century Resort celebrates iconic memorabilia from the 1950s to 1990s by making them the focal point of this fan favorite resort!

Pop’s appeal is without question its cleanliness, affordability, style of rooms, bus service, proximity to Art of Animation, and fun culture surrounding each turn.

Rooms

Rooms are currently undergoing refurbishment. The updates make its functionality something families desire while sharing limited space on vacation. Walking into an updated room, you’ll see a small table, two chairs, coffee maker, mini fridge, spacious dresser and counterspace with a large flat screen TV hanging above and a lot of USB ports to charge electronic devices.

You’ll also see ONE queen size bed. But wait…pull down the handle near the table to reveal another queen size bed. Being able to fold it up daily, increases the room’s floor space and makes it easier to move comfortably in a smaller area.

The bathroom updates are the biggest seller for me. The sliding door between the sink/dressing area and the beds is a bonus for guests needing privacy while family relaxes and others get ready. There’s a small open closet, plenty of cubby space for toiletries, a large brightly lit mirror, large single sink, and an added side makeup mirror.

The shower area is separated via a pocket door. Inside you’ll find a glass shower door and two shower heads. Wonderful and contemporary updates!

Resort Amenities

There’s a single bus stop area at Pop with individual lines for each park. The buses are not shared which makes its transit a definite perk!

Three available pools give each guest the chance to get some needed R&R during their stay. Perfectly spaced out, you don’t have to travel far to get your feet wet. The Hippy Dippy Pool (main pool 1960s) is the focal point behind Classic Hall. With flower shaped water jets, games with cast members, and the Petals Pool Bar, this is the most interactive. It’s also where Movie Under the Stars is enjoyed on select nights. The other two (Bowling Pool – 1950s and Computer Pool-1990s) have decade specific music piping through and a more laid-back feel.

This resort also has an added bonus that many others do not…two quick service food options. Don’t be confused…everything POP is Pop’s on-site food location, but many guests love taking the 10-minute walk across Generation Gap Bridge to the Art of Animation Resort to dine at Landscape of Flavors!

Staying here is like a walk down memory lane. Remembering the happy moments in our lives is what Disney was built on. This is why Pop Century Resort is highly talked about in the Disney community!

COMING SOON!

Pop will soon have access to the NEWEST form of transportation on Disney World Property…the gondolas (opening date is TBD). Follow the Me and the Mouse Facebook page for daily announcements to not miss when the news hits!

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist

 

Have you wondered what it is like to eat with a princess or several princesses? Dining for lunch in Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom is just for you. From the moment you walk in for your reservation to the moment, you leave, they treat you like royalty. When you first walk in downstairs, you are greeting by your host and introduced to Cinderella. She will then pose for pictures with you and your guests.

You are then escorted upstairs to begin your dining experience. When you arrive upstairs, you enter the grand hall of Cinderella’s castle and are shown to your table for a prince or princess. Princesses are given a magic wand, and princes get a magic sword. Each prince or princess is also given a wishing star.

You will feel like royalty through your entire meal as you are greeted by being called my lord and my lady. The food is delicious, some of what I consider the best in all the Disney lands. You start with an appetizer or salad, continue to your main entrée, and then have a special treat for dessert – all included in your price. Some entrée selections include beef tenderloin, shrimp, pork tenderloin and a summer vegetable couscous.

All the while you are eating, princesses are announced and enter the main hall, then come around to great each table and pose for pictures. In addition to princesses, a wish ceremony takes place with the your wishing start and magic wand or sword! Close your eyes and be dazzled!

After all the wishing and personal visits with each princess, when you finish you meal, you may bid adieu. Dining in Cinderella’s Castle has been one of my favorite places to eat in Disney World since my first visit when I was 4, and I have yet to miss a visit since.

Jennifer Lovell

Travel Specialist

The 1980’s saw a boom of Disney parks open across the world. In a 10-year span three new parks opened; Epcot, Disney/MGM Studios and Tokyo Disneyland as well as the idea for a park Europe. At this same time executives in Burbank, led by Michael Eisner, begin seriously planning for a second gate down the road in Anaheim.

In 1988, Disney purchased the Disneyland Hotel, which had remained under a licensing agreement with the company since 1955. They also looked at how to optimize the property around the park, including the purchasing of additional land. It was at this time the idea for the second park was finalized and in 1991 the company announced plans for WestCOT – a version of Epcot to built on the current Disneyland parking lot.

The park would feature familiar icons such as Spaceship Earth and the World Showcase. It would be much smaller than its east coast counterpart but still have eight city, country and continent destinations. London, New York, Africa, Asia, Paris, Tokyo, China and Toronto would be the stops in the World Showcase.

Spaceship Earth located near the entrance to the park was originally proposed to be gold not white or silver. Clones from Epcot would flank Spaceship Earth on both side, including Horizons, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, Universe of Energy, The Living Seas, Wonders of Life, and The Land.

A hub was planned to separate the entrance to Disneyland and WestCOT. Between the hub and the Disneyland Hotel would be a small lake and shopping district. The project called for improved transportation to the park and new parking lots in adjacent land.

So what happened? Neighbors felt Spaceship Earth would create too much of a light reflection and be an eyesore, the cost ballooned to an estimated $3 billion and financial issues at Disneyland Paris caused Disney executives to cancel the project in 1995. But the layout and foundation for the idea did not go away and at an executive retreat in Aspen, Colorado Michael Eisner and team came up with the idea for California Adventure.

The rest of the story is known. Disney’s California Adventure would open in 2001 and there would be an entertainment and shopping district. Parking would move off the main rectangle of property, transportation would improve and new resorts would open. Like many of Disney’s plans, WestCOT would be shelved only for elements to be used years later by the executives in Burbank and the Imagineers in Glendale.

Ryan Gross

Travel Specialist

Christmas is always a special time of year. When you add in being at Walt Disney World in Florida during this time of year, you get something extra special and magical. This winter, Hollywood Studios is transforming into an enchanted winter wonderland. It’s going to be filled with new Disney twists and characters.

Taking place from November 9th through December 31 st , guests will get wrapped up in the season as snow falls and the lights twinkle on Sunset Boulevard. Not only will all of the billboards change to tell a tale of iconic characters sharing their love for the season, but the ominous Hollywood Tower Hotel, a.k.a. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, magically transforms bringing to life the characters’ stories. Some of these stories include Mickey and Minnie reminiscing about a hometown Christmas, Toy Story characters guessing which new toys are coming this Christmas, Olaf pining over his holiday wish as music from Frozen plays in the background.

The only thing that could make the happenings on Sunset Boulevard complete would be a visit with the big guy in red. Well, consider that checked off your list! At Once Upon a Time store, you’ll find Old Saint Nick greeting good girls and boys. Be sure to visit with him before Christmas, as he’ll only be available from November 9th to December 24th!

On the other side of the Boulevard, Echo Lake will also be getting a merry makeover. It will be decorated with extra-large ornaments, colorful garlands and a giant Christmas tree centered in the water. Dinosaur Gertie will even be donning some festive attire!

A perfect way to wrap up your winter wonderland experience at Hollywood Studios is to make your reservations for the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party! Indulge in a jolly spread of specialty sweets and sips before settling in to watch a Santa-sized spectacular from a reserved viewing area. Relish holiday-inspired snacks, delicious desserts, wine, beer, specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages—and mingle with a VIP Disney Character.

You’ll then be able to enjoy 2 shows from your reserved viewing area, Disney’s Movie Magic and Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, a holiday special hosted by elves Wayne and Lanny From Prep & Landing. They feature state of the art projections, iconic music, fireworks and special effects. Disney’s Movie Magic builds to a festive finale that must be seen and heard to be believed.

As you’ve read, Hollywood Studios is going to be one of the merriest places to be this holiday season. It will be sure to add more magic to an already magical experience. It’s one not to miss!

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist

 

Kon’nichiwa! Greetings from Japan! Whether your family loves eating out at your local hibachi restaurant or you’ve never tried hibachi before, on your next Walt Disney World vacation be sure to have your Me and the Mouse travel agent reserve for you a lunch or dinner at Teppan Edo, a table service meal located in Japan on the far side of World Showcase Lagoon.

Check-in for Teppan Edo is located at the bottom of the stairs to the restaurant which is above the Mitsukoshi department store. After check-in, head up the stairs (an elevator is available for those that require it) and enter a calm and peaceful environment away from the hustle and bustle of Disney. Meals are served in one of several smaller rooms located along a hallway that overlooks Japan with a glimpse of World Showcase Lagoon. Four tables of 8 are located in each room and if your group does not fill a full table you will be seated with other Disney guests. Since everyone loves Disney, it’s a perfect ice breaker and before dessert you will become the best of friends.

Drinks, appetizers and sushi requests are the first thing offered after you sit down. The sushi options come with 8 pieces, perfect for sharing and they even have a sampler plate if you can’t decide between the various types of sushi. Please remember that appetizers and sushi are not included if you are on the standard Disney Dining plan but if you are interested in some of these I highly recommend the sushi sampler.

Once you have your appetizers and drinks, it’s time to pick the type of entree that appeals to you. Beef, chicken, salmon, shrimp, and vegetable options will all tempt you. Can’t decide? Select a combination meal. Garden salad, vegetables, and sukiyaki beef rice will accompany all choices. Now it’s time for the show! If you haven’t experienced a hibachi meal before, you are in for a treat. Each table will have their own amazing chef who will show off knife skills, toss food into the air, make a volcano from the sliced onions, and of course, being at Walt Disney World, you may also get treated to a hidden Mickey during your meal’s preparation. Once the show is over and your meal fully prepared, the food itself is delicious – a favorite on property for many.

Dessert is a choice between 3 different types of mousse cake and 3 different types of ice cream. My favorite is the mango mousse cake – a refreshing and light option.

Next time you have a day at Epcot, try something new and reserve a meal at Teppan Edo. You will not only have a great meal but an experience you won’t soon forget!

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist