Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (Almost)--Hidden Mickey at Epcot's Spaceship Earth!

Can you see it? The Hidden Mickey is a set of mouse ears incorporated into the 3 in the mural just as you enter Spaceship Earth in Epcot! Finding Hidden Mickeys is an adventure and fun visual sport. Capturing a photo while the line moves forward can be quite an adventure in itself!

Copyright 2012 Magical Mouse Tales

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Walt Disney World Vacation with Dining Plan in YOUR Future--Plan ahead for Best Results

Okay...I have to admit, the first time we did the Disney Dining Plan, we flew by the seat of our pants. Yes, that means we didn't schedule any ADR's (Advanced Dining Reservations). You read that, zip, nada. We didn't know any better. But fortunately for us, it was well in advance of the FREE dining plans that are now a regular perk with an onsite Disney vacation.

How did we manage? Did we have to resort to all quick dining meals? Not at all. We called the Disney Dining phone line a few minutes prior to when we wanted to eat and asked what restaurants in the park or at a nearby resort that had immediate availability. The upside of this lack of scheduling was that the dining reservation Cast Members were very knowledgeable of the restaurants and we were introduced to some now favorite restaurants like Ohana and Garden Grill. The downside was that we were disappointed that we couldn't get in to the Prime Time Cafe as it was completely booked. To avoid disappointment and frustration I was prepared called ahead before the next trip.

Yes, it does seem weird to be making dining plans 6 months ahead of time but that is what is necessary to get into some of the most popular restaurants in the world like Teppan Edo at the Japan pavilion. Be ready when you call too because you will get a confirmation number for every ADR you make. This number can save you if your reservation gets lost in the system. But keeping track of those ADRs can be confusing. If you make your reservations online, the system does keep a list of your ADRs but if you make them over the phone, they do not tie in with the ones online until after you check in. Your only record is what you write down so listen carefully and jot down those confirmation numbers.

So for our upcoming 8 day trip, we have about 14-17 confirmation numbers for everything from our Segway tour to the Candlelight Processional and Fantasmic as well as a dozen or so restaurants. In the past, I kept all my handwritten notes with all the numbers until I received a print out from the concierge at check-in. For this trip, I made a excel spread sheet to keep track of the reservations complete with the date, time, location and confirmation number. It took about 30 minutes to set the whole thing up but it is in one place and makes an easy reference if one of my sons asks when we will be eating at Chef Mickey's or seeing the Hoop de Doo Review!

Copyright 2011 Magical Mouse Tales

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Disneyworld on a Shoestring--Awesome Disney Souvenir Under $20

Okay, you've saved for the trip of a lifetime to Walt Disney World in Orlando but no one fully prepared you for the constant barrage of Disney souvenirs and keepsakes your kids would ask for. Around every corner there is a new kiosk with stuffed Mickeys and Minnies, colorful printed t-shirts, blinking Buzz Lightyear toys, sparkling princess tiaras and hundreds of Disney trading pins. It is tough to continually say no but you do have a budget.

I remember feeling overwhelmed by requests from my little ones during our first visit. We made two purchases right away. An autograph book and a Penny Collection folder. The autograph book was to keep track of all the characters we met over the 10 days we spent at the world. But the penny collection folder was a wonderful, dare I say, cheap find! For a few bucks our boys had a place to store their collection of squished pennies.

Not familiar with a squished penny? They are machines that for 51 cents turn your penny into a souvenir. Disneyworld is loaded with the machines and even if you completely fill 36 penny slots, your investment is less than if you purchased 3-4 pins, a shirt or a stuffed animal. There are 6 large slots for holding squished quarters too...these are a bit bigger investment as it takes 5 quarters to get one squished keepsake. But usually the dies for the quarters are limited to one year of use so they are more collectible too.

My kids found that searching for the penny flattening machines was part of the fun and  adventure. Pressed penny machines are located all over in the parks and resorts throughout Disneyworld. Similar to the trading pins, there are fun characters like Buzz, Dopey and Mickey as well as designs that commemorate a visit to a park, like Epcot or Magic Kingdom, a resort, like All Star Sports or Animal Kingdom Lodge, or an attraction like the Rockin' Roller Coaster or Test Track. And at 51 cents mom and dad can say yes over and over without breaking the bank!

Just one additional piece of advice...start saving the shiny new pennies for a few weeks before the trip as the new shiny cents make the best imprints!

Copyright 2011 Magical Mouse Tales

Monday, November 7, 2011

Playing with Fire--Spirit of Aloha at Disney Polynesian Resort

Saying there are options when vacationing at Walt Disneyworld in Orlando, FL is a serious understatement. There are plethora of choices throughout the parks including parades, characters, exhibits and fireworks.

But one person's "Disney must-see" can be inadvertently overlooked by another. For years our family opted to go to the Hoop-De-Doo Musical Review as a special treat. Dinner and a show...fabulous dinner at that with Ribs, Chicken, Corn on the Cob...all you can eat family favorites and a very entertaining family venue in Disney's Fort Wilderness & Campgrounds.

It is a fun filled night but after seeing it a few times, we thought we would venture outside of the Polynesian to see that dinner show instead. For several trips our favorite Polynesian Resort restaurant was inside at Ohana but once we tried the Spirit of Aloha we were hooked. While the dancing is fun to watch and the food is not just tasty, it is awesome, the big thrill of the show is the fire dancers. They want everyone to remain seated during these performances and for good reason. They are playing with fire! Amazing tricks that I would expect to see only at a luau in Hawaii.

If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, you are in luck! The Spirit of Aloha show is an option on the plan if you use 2 table services. The dinner and show are included and as a bonus, your tip is included as well! This is only one of a very few restaurants where you will not have to tip separately on the Disney Dining plan. And if you think you might work up a thirst watching the dancing, enjoy a beer or glass of wine as that is also included in the price of the ticket.

The food is as good as Hoop de Doo...we still have awesome chicken and ribs but the pineapple bread fantastic! Be careful not to fill up on the bread appetizer or you won't have room for the chocolate volcano dessert! Yum!

Copyright 2011 Magical Mouse Tales

Friday, November 4, 2011

Splurge a Little and Stay at the Beach Club Resort!

We have had the opportunity to go as a family to Walt Disney World several times. Our family of four fit very nicely in the children and budget friendly value resorts, the All Star Movies and All Star Sports on our first visits to Orlando. By staying onsite we were able to take advantage of perks like the extra magic hours and Disney's dining plan. However, once they opened Pop Century, that became our family favorite place to stay! But as our kids hit their teens, we found it impossible to cram 4 people into the rooms...and so on one trip we opted for two rooms and discovered there was no way to guarantee adjoining rooms! Not an ideal situation as we pack to share many supplies like shampoo and toothpaste.

So we were forced to upgrade...and found our new family favorite: Disney's Beach Club Resort! About a month before our trip, I received a promo key code to upgrade our reservations to the concierge floor! Boy were we spoiled. The view of Epcot from our room's balcony was epic! I was able to get shots of the fireworks from right outside the sliding glass door!

So now thoroughly spoiled our family is planning our next Orlando trip. We are going to give Animal Kingdom Lodge a try as the bunk beds might be a better option than the wooden day bed that left a few bruises on my 6 foot plus teens. No concierge this time since it was overkill for food and treats considering we were on the Deluxe Dining Plan. We will miss the proximity to the parks...It's awesome to walk into Epcot from the Beach Club.

The thing is, every Disney resort has it's perks and drawbacks. It takes a bit of trial & error to discover which will work best for your family. And what a fun idea it will be to "TRY" by visiting over and over again!

Copyright 2011 Magical Mouse Tales

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Help! I'm Addicted to Disney Pins and Need a GREAT Trading Pin Source!

There is nothing as exciting for a Disney Pin Collector than getting a new fabulous trading pin. This is an easy thing to accomplish if you are at Walt Disney World as there seems to be a pin seller around every corner. If you are a trader, there are dozens of cast members wandering through the park, so it won't take long to find a treasure, if you keep your eyes open. You don't even have to enter the parks in Florida as their is a wonderfully, overstocked pin store right in Downtown Disney. Heck now you can stop in a the Orlando Airport and pick out a favorite Disney character or two before your flight takes off!

But for the Disney pin collector that lives outside the Orlando, a good pin can be hard to find. Living in the Midwest, it is truly a treasure hunt when looking for bargain Disney pins. I have been able to get some affordable pins that are not scrappers.

Here are a few of my favorite Disney Trading Pin resources:

1. Craigslist--I search the local listings to find others wanting to sell their Disney collectibles and place posts that I will pay cash for Disney pins.

2. Thrift Stores--Every so often, I find a donated pin for sale at a great price. Most of the ones I have found have been older too. So it is quite a "SCORE" to get a sold out limited edition for a buck.

3. The Disney Store--Occasionally, I can snag a bargain on pins sets that are on sale online. I buy several when I find a good deal for traders!

4. Amazon & Ebay--Like thrift stores, there are bargains on Amazon & Ebay from time to time. But read the ads carefully to avoid scrappers.)

5. Promotional Pins--Every so often a large company will partner up with Disney and create a pin; Kodak and Smuckers have both participated in past promotions . When they do, I make sure to get at least one or two as these are usually sought after once the promotion is over.

Copyright 2011 Magical Mouse Tales

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Tiggeriffic Halloween Pic--With a Bit of Disney Magic!

Okay so the software I used to trick out the picture isn't from Disney but Vampire Tigger looks a bit more awesome but not a bit frightening with his new look.

Have a Magically Fun Filled Halloween!

Copyright 2011 Magical Mouse Tales