August 28, 2012

Book Review: Magical Mouse Schoolhouse

Like most parents, I can't stand it when my kids ask to watch TV because "there's nothing else to do." I understand that my kids may get bored of the same toys or activities day after day, and sometimes I just run out of steam trying to think up new activities to keep them occupied. Well, I think that problem has been solved! MAGICAL MOUSE SCHOOLHOUSE: Learn While You Play at Walt Disney World Resort, written by blog owner of Magical Mouse Schoolhouse Jodi Whisenhunt, offers 80 (eighty!) activities for you and your kids to do and learn from! What's even better is that they are ALL Disney related!! It's certainly more fun for my family if we can incorporate Disney into our learning!

Each chapter is written about a specific attraction found in one of the Disney theme parks or water parks. The chapter will begin with a brief history of the attraction, and include some fun facts - facts that even I had never heard of! Did you know that Tinker Bell (during her flight from the Castle during Wishes!) is sometimes "performed by a small-statured teen-aged boy, because the flying harness requires a performer weighing ninety pounds or less"? You'll read that and more Tinker Bell fun-facts in Chapter 15!

The second half of each chapter is called "Today's Takeaway" which suggests an assignment to complete, a family activity to do, or a recipe to make!  A fun family activity suggested in Chapter 49, titled "Camp Minnie-Mickey" is to have your own Summer Campout any time of year.  If weather does not permit, hold your campout indoors - even make your own S'mores in the oven (recipe & instructions included!)  Jodi even mentions a fun twist on giving your S'mores a citrus-tasting twist!

Magical Mouse Schoolhouse can be used by families with kids of all ages! There are plenty of activities and lessons geared towards little ones - such as making your own fossils using play-doh or trying 3 different recipes to make bubbles. Older students can attempt assignments such as making your own 3D pictures (using photo editing software), or making your own motion powered generator. There really is something for everyone within this book!

Toward the back of Yong Feng Shangdian (China pavilion) sits a weathered copper bowl on a pedestal, holding water... What else does this bowl do? Why can't you see feeding troughs, barriers or fences on Kilimanjaro Safaris in Animal Kingdom? In Shark Reef, at Typhoon Lagoon, you'll encounter nurse, leopard and bonnethead sharks - what about them makes it safe for you to swim with them? You'll find out the answers to these questions (and you'll learn so much more) in the excellent book Magical Mouse Schoolhouse!

Magical Mouse Schoolhouse can be purchased for $12.97 through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or CreateSpace.

And if you've read this far... be sure to enter for a chance to win a free copy of Magical Mouse Schoolhouse next week!  Contest will be held right here on WDW Hints from Sept 4th through Sept 10th!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Magical Mouse Schoolhouse to review. My reviews are not influenced by receiving a review copy, nor am I compensated any other way for reviewing books. I may provide affiliate links where books can be purchased, but I do this of my own volition.

August 24, 2012

Mickey Countdown Clipboard GIVEAWAY from 'About the Mouse!'

We've teamed up with About the Mouse to bring you this super cute Mickey Countdown Clipboard! Use it to write how many days until your next Disney Vacation in the chalkboard box on the clipboard, which always helps build anticipation for your next visit with the Mouse!

To enter, complete the Rafflecopter form below.  The contest begins at 12:01 AM, Saturday August 25, and ends at 11:59 PM, Wednesday Aug 29th.  Winner will be announced, Thursday, August 30th and contacted via email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Rafflecopter entries explained:
1. "Like" About the Mouse on facebook (2 entries).
2. "Like" WDW Hints on facebook (2 entries).
Additional (optional) entries can be earned by:
3. Comment on this blog post telling us how many days left until your next Disney Vacation OR what your favorite time of year is to visit Disney World (3 entries).
4. Post a link to this contest on your own facebook page - must make your post 'public' so that we can verify it (3 entries - which can be earned daily).
5. "Like" Mouse and Memos on facebook (5 entries).
6. "Like" Best of WDW on facebook (5 entries).

All entry options listed above MUST be confirmed using Rafflecopter above.  Simply click the green button confirming you have done the task.  Only #1 and #2 are mandatory for entering this contest, the rest of the tasks are optional but do increase your chances of winning if performed!  Good luck!!

August 23, 2012

The Five Senses at Walt Disney World

This past week I read a wonderful blog post entitled 5 Senses at Disney World about experiencing Disney World through the five senses, written by one of Chip & Co.'s amazing writers, Ashley.  (Ashley regularly writes for her own blog Disney: Done Right.) Ashley shared her favorite Disney experiences for the five senses.  It was a great article and immediately got me thinking about my favorite sense experiences at Disney.   I talked to Terri and we thought it would be fun to share our top choices!  So, here goes…

Amy’s picks:

Touch – For me, the best thing to touch at Walt Disney World (aside from a delicious sweet) is the spring-shooter on one of favorite attraction at Walt Disney World, Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios.  I can’t help cracking up as I zip through the attraction tying to pop balloons, shoot rings or break plates. It is pure fun and I’d ride it all day if there weren’t those endless lines!  

Sight – I think the best sight at Disney World is a “first.”  It’s the first time you walk under the train at the Magic Kingdom and see Main Street U.S.A.  It’s the first time you see the Tree of Life after walking through the Trees at Animal Kingdom.  It’s the first time you turn the corner in your boat and hear, “It’s a Small World” playing.  Every time I get to see a sight I have not seen since my last Disney trip is a perfect sight in a perfect place. 

Smell – It may be an obvious choice, but nothing beats the smell of the Confectionery on Main Street.  It’s cotton candy, popcorn, fudge, chocolate and candy all mixed together.  It smells amazing and all smells are calorie free!

Taste – There’s nothing like the crispy rice treats from the Confectionery on Main Street.  They are available covered in chocolate and topped with M&Ms or peanuts or sprinkles and they are delicious!  When I worked at Disney World in merchandise (the shops) on Main Street, we were often given these treats as we were closing down the shops at the end of the night.  Big yum!  Now, every time I’m at Disney World I have to get a crispy rice treat.  They taste great but also bring back such wonderful memories. 

Sound – “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow.” This song, heard in each scene of the Carousel of Progress, makes me smile every time.  There is just something about being able to experience an attraction created by Walt Disney himself that makes me feel like I’m experiencing something “truly Disney”.  Plus, I can’t get enough of the 80s clothes in the “modern” day scene.  Has anyone else noticed that?

Terri's Picks:

Well, it's going to be hard to top Amy's!  But I'll share my picks anyway...

Touch - I love the feel of the 'baby' plush animals, such as Tigger.  So soft!  The World of Disney shop in Downtown Disney has plenty!  So does Hundred Acre Goods (gift shop following the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction.)

Sight - The Opening Show at the Magic Kingdom!  It just builds great excitement to your day!  First the Mayor appears and gives his Welcome, then the Main Street dancers come out to sing, then the train comes chugging down the track carrying Mickey and all of his friends.  They all get out, Mickey Welcomes everyone and a countdown occurs concluding with fireworks, streamers and confetti!  It's a sight sure to put a smile on anyone's face - even Grumpy!

Smell - Soarin' affects 4 of the senses - sight, sound, smell and touch (if you count the feeling the movements and wind).  The smells on this ride are my favorite! The orange mist as you fly over the orange groves, and the pine scent as you soar over the forests.  Hint: Be sure to ride this earlier in the day if you want to smell the different scents.  As the day goes on, the 'smells' tend to blend together.

Taste - Any sandwich with homemade chips from Olivia's Cafe at Old Key West Resort.  You might say I'm crazy for suggesting a sandwich - the Turkey Club to be exact.  But I hadn't eaten a sandwich in over 3 years due to being on a gluten-free diet for Celiac disease.  The sandwich (served on a gluten-free bun) was fabulous!  It tasted 'normal' - as many GF breads have a dry texture - this one did not!  And the homemade chips were excellent too!  Olivia's Cafe was very accommodating, not crowded, and excellent food!

Sound - I can't pick just one - so I'm going to cheat and share two.  First, the Walt Disney World Railroad train.  The "toot" always makes me happy realizing "I'm finally here!"  Second, the screams of the Splash Mountain riders that are taking the huge plunge!  It makes me laugh, and just builds my excitement even more to ride it.

Well, we've each shared with you our Five Favorite Senses at Walt Disney World.  Care to share yours with us? Feel free to comment below OR write your own blog post on your Five Favorite Senses, then come back here and leave us your link!

August 22, 2012

Introducing... 'About the Mouse'!!!

Have you discovered the newest Disney-themed boutique?  They call themselves About the Mouse.  They design and make travel binders, countdown frames and clipboards, flip-flops, necklaces and other Disney-themed accessories!  We'd like to introduce you to the creators of About the Mouse - Brooke and Shanna.  Our interview with them below also showcases several of their products!  As an added bonus, to help them celebrate their grand opening on September 4th, we'll be giving away one of their super cute products in a GIVEAWAY next week! Enjoy!

WDW Hints: What made you decide to start 'creating' Disney binders and accessories?

Shanna: I am obsessive about planning my Disney vacations.  I want to have the absolute best trip and there is just so much to organize and do.  I started with a single spreadsheet and it just grew from there into an entire binder full of spreadsheets for reservations, park days money management and more.  In my former life (before coming home as mom) I was a Desktop Publisher.  So, I love putting together graphics for print.  It was a win win for me!  

Brooke: I too am obsessed with anything Disney and organization! I love to have everything all in one binder where I can access the information (park hours, reservation numbers, ADR times, etc) when I need to. Our next trip is June 2013 with my entire family.....14 people!!! Since I am the Disney fanatic, I was chosen to book everything!  My kid's love to countdown when the next trip is coming and love anything Disney!  

WDW Hints: How did the two of you meet?  When did you decide to 'join forces'?

Brooke started a local moms board BCSmoms in her town.  When Shanna moved there, it was the first place she found to connect and get support.  Brooke and Shanna met at a board event, and  would say they became fast friends.  They even had a trip to Disney together and it was so much fun!  When Brooke decided the idea should go public, it seemed like a no brainer. 

WDW Hints: What has been your most popular/purchased item?

Brooke: Right now it would be our Disney Travel Binders! Once people see what is in the binder and what they have to offer, they want one right away! 

WDW Hints: Do you take custom orders?

Brooke: Yes!  Custom orders are so much fun! We offer both ready to sell and custom. 

WDW Hints: I see prices listed next to your products, but what does shipping cost?

Brooke: We use USPS priority flat rate shipping with delivery confirmation, unless the customer requests another method.

WDW Hints: What items do you hope to create and sell in the future?

Shanna: The sky is the limit really!  I want to offer park bags and other sewn items as well.

Brooke: Like Shanna said, the sky is the limit! Would love to eventually offer Disney Travel Activity Bags and Countdown Party bags!  

WDW Hints: Thank you Brooke and Shanna for sharing with us!!  

We hope you've enjoyed looking at just a few of the cute products About the Mouse has created!  What's your favorite?  You can view more great products on their facebook page at About the Mouse.

August 15, 2012

Wonderland Tea Party

Today we have a special treat! Lacey is our guest blogger of the day. She regularly writes for her own blog From Niceville with Love. We hope you enjoy reading about this great experience for kids, the Wonderland Tea Party at the Grand Floridian Hotel!

First let me say what an honor it is to be a guest writer for such a fantastic blog! Being able to share my Disney knowledge with others is an absolute blessing. Now on to some insider tips and tricks for you wonderful Disney fans!

This week I'm sharing an exciting experience for anyone traveling with pint sized princesses (or princes). Being an Aunt to 5 lovable nieces and nephews I'm no stranger to being utterly exhausted by the energy that Disney seems to instill in young children, it must be something in all that sugar... But when my mother and I took my niece to Disney this summer to commemorate her 6th birthday we stumbled upon a hidden gem, known as the Wonderland Tea Party at 1900 Park Fare.

This is a one-hour experience for kids only, from ages 4-12. It is a Tea Party actually hosted by Alice and the Mad Hatter himself! Costing $42.60 per child and up to 25 children, this party is set up in the middle of 1900 Park Fare dining room with a long table to seat each of the young guests and their 2 storybook hosts. The children receive apple juice and are given cupcakes to snack on and decorate. I was informed that any allergies your children may have could be easily catered to with a prearranged cupcake. Once the doors close on this event and the adults are ushered out, the children enjoy an hour of playing and crafting, which include the "gifts" pictured below.

This allows for the adults to have a whole childfree hour to do whatever they like! I have friends and family that say they feel guilty placing their children in one of the "Disney Day Care" centers, but still want a little time to themselves, so in my personal opinion this may be the perfect solution for someone who just needs a little breathing room. My mother and I decided to spend our hour browsing the beautiful shops that Grand Floridian has to offer and having a spot of tea at the Garden View Tea Room. For those that have not been it is worth a visit. With picturesque windows and a stunning view of the Grand Floridian grounds is at your disposal, who wouldn’t enjoy sipping on a relaxing cup of tea while munching on a tasty treat. I was not able to eat dairy or gluten on our last visit and was pleasantly surprised that the chef came out and personally organized my menu for me! Also worthy of note is that each portion I received was larger than the last and what I had planned on being a light snack turned into a 3-course meal.

If dining in a tearoom is not on the agenda for you, feel free to bring a book or wander the grounds of the resort with a camera. The architecture is simply stunning and the view of Magic Kingdom from the beach isn't bad either. There is delightful quick service dining known as the Gasparilla Island Grill, but if you would rather sit in the lobby and enjoy the relaxing tones of the live orchestra or piano, that is always a perfectly satisfying option. When the spa reopens in 2013 there may also be the chance for a quick mani-pedi or 30-minute massage in your future!

As an added bonus for parents who don't enjoy waiting in long lines for autographs, this allows your child to truly have an immersive character experience that they will remember for years to come. Costumes are encouraged, but not in anyway required, also don't forget that to retrieve your child you must return with photo ID and the receipt from your payment of the experience when you dropped your child off.

Your child will return to you an hour later grinning from ear-to-ear, eager to tell you of their latest experiences, as well as bestowing you with their own piece of artwork they colored before their entry, signed by Alice and the Mad Hatter! An additional perk is that you will receive a photo pass with photos of your child taken by a Disney photopass photographer commemorating the event.

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"

2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

From Niceville with Love,

About the Author: Lacey is a second year Biomedical Engineering student at FSU College of Engineering. (Go 'Noles!) She lives life with a passion for Christ and a love for Disney World. She has big dreams in store for her life, and with God's help she can accomplish them! The title of her blog is in regards to her sweet hometown of Niceville, even though she might not live there full time it is her home and will always have a place in her heart.  If you found Lacey's article helpful, she's got plenty more for you to read over on her blog. You may also follow Lacey's facebook page - From Niceville with Love.

Editor's Note: Thank you for the wonderful article and information on the Wonderland Tea Party, Lacey!  

August 14, 2012

Let It Shine DVD & Soundtrack GIVEAWAY!

Are you letting it shine?
One lucky winner will receive 'Let It Shine'
on DVD and the Soundtrack!

We're teaming up with Chip & Co. to GIVE AWAY this cool prize pack of Disney's recent made-for-television hit, Let It Shine! We've got both the DVD and Soundtrack up for grabs to 1 lucky winner!  Follow Rafflecopter instructions below for you chance to win this great prize pack.

Here's a quick overview on the movie: 
Celebrating family and friendship, the story unfolds in Atlanta, Georgia, as Cyrus DeBarge (Tyler James Williams) and his best friend Kris McDuffy (Trevor Jackson) reunite with their childhood friend, teenage singing sensation Roxanne “Roxie” Andrews (Coco Jones), whose music label is sponsoring a songwriting contest at a teen club. Cyrus, who writes music under the name “Truth,” crafts a heartfelt and contest-winning rhyme about Roxie but to his dismay, his work is mistakenly attributed to Kris. Lacking the confidence to step forward, Cyrus stands by while Kris not only takes credit for the lyrics, but ultimately begins to win Roxie’s heart too. Now, it’s up to the true poet to overcome self-doubt, seize the opportunity to reveal his authentic self, and pursue his dreams. Bonus materials include an exclusive extended scene of Cyrus' rap battle!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to boost your chances of winning?  My Favorite Finds and Magical Mouse Schoolhouse are also giving away this exact same prize pack!  Go visit their sites to increase your chances of winning!!

August 9, 2012

Today's featured agent: Leigh Rosica owner of Mousekeplanner

Today, Leigh Rosica from Mousekeplanner will be sharing with us.  Like all the rest of the agents we've featured, Leigh and her agency are a 'no fee' Disney Destination Travel Agency.  You pay these agents the exact same amount that you'd pay if booking  Directly through Disney... but with these agents, you get the added benefit of their helpful planning services ~ all for FREE!
Photo courtesy of Mousekeplanner
WDW Hints: Can you tell us a few of your 'favorites' at WDW?

Favorite Resort: Beach Club and Polynesian
Favorite Restaurant: Boma and Le Cellier
Favorite Park: Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios
Favorite Ride/Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean and Rock n Roller Coaster
Favorite Character: Mickey Mouse and Tinker Bell
Favorite dessert (and where it's found): Dole Whips! Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom, and Captain Cook's at the Polynesian Resort

WDW Hints: What little known thing do you like to recommend to your clients to try at WDW?

Leigh: Try to go to Disney during a special event or a different season than usual. If you always go in the summer, try to go in the fall or winter the next time. It’s amazing how different your trip can be based on the time of the year that you are going. There is always something new and different going on at Disney!

WDW Hints: What made you decide to go from a "Disney fanatic" to a Disney Vacation Planner?  When did you become a DVP?

Leigh: Actually I had friends tell me that I needed to become a Disney Vacation Planner! I grew up in Florida and have been going to Disney since I was a child. After many many personal trips and after helping many friends plan their trips I took the next step and became a travel agent in 2011 and then opened up my own agency in February of 2012.

WDW Hints: Do you find yourself going on Disney vacations more, less or about the same since becoming a DVP?

Leigh: I have been going a lot more. Both with my family and then on my own for “research”.  Disney offers so many wonderful opportunities for us as agents to experience Disney. I have attended on site agent education programs and have taken advantage of special offers and rates for agents to be able to come down and experience Disney more. I truly believe the more I visit the more I can offer my clients! And I am not complaining!

WDW Hints: Is there anything tedious about the job?  (I've heard of some agents waiting on hold for hours with Disney reservations - is that true?)

Leigh: Yes it is true! I have been know to be on hold for up to an hour! But I wouldn’t call it tedious. I get up bright and early at 5:45, coffee in hand and begin to wait online to book Advance Dining Reservations for clients 180 days prior to their trip. And I have been known to apply special promotions or offers without them even knowing it! I am happy to offer those services to my clients. It just gives them the peace of mind knowing that these details are being taken care of for them.

WDW Hints: Do you book airfare for your clients?

Leigh: I can, but I usually do not. My clients like to be able to choose the best dates and times that work for them and their family.

WDW Hints: What extra perks or special gifts do you give to your clients that other DVPs may not give? 

Leigh: Well I don’t want to give away all our secrets! But we usually offer Disney Gift Cards or special Disney Florist deliveries to our clients. All of our cruise clients receive on board credit when they book with us. Right now we are offering a Princess Tervis Tumbler to all princess runners who are registered for the Princess Half Marathon when they book with us in one of our room blocks. But the most important thing is my constant monitoring of their reservation. I am constantly watching for Disney Promotions and deals and when they come out I will apply them immediately if they can benefit by them.

WDW Hints: I enjoy booking my own ADRs right at 180 days out, if I were to book my vacation through you, can I still have control over my own ADRs or do you take over everything?

Leigh: Of Course! We know that planning your Disney Vacation can be just as fun as taking it! Our clients can have full control over their trip, right down to their ADR’s.

WDW Hints: What fun opportunities have you been given since becoming an agent?

Leigh: So many! I have been able to attend agent education training at Disney and have met some wonderful colleagues that I now consider friends. I am very active in the running community and this will be my third year coming down for a runDisney event and the people that I have met through these groups are amazing!

WDW Hints: I just priced out the following vacation for Presidents week - can you beat the prices I found or offer an upgrade?  
   Dates: February 18 – February 23 (5 nights).  2 adults 2 children (ages 2& 4)
   Room only reservation at Beach Club (Garden room) = $2830.52 (from
   4-day Park Hopper Tickets through Undercover Tourist (using mousesavers secret link):  (2 adult, 1 child) = $916.86
   Grand total = $3747.38

Leigh: Actually I can beat that offer! Through out the year, Mousekeplanner partners with Disney Group Sales to bring our clients Agency Exclusives. Right now we have one running for the peak week of Presidents week that falls into Princess Marathon Weekend. With our promotion you choose your package components. Room with tickets and/or room with dining. This is a wonderful way for our clients to purchase the dining plan without having to purchase theme park tickets! However, if they do purchase theme park tickets with us, everyone gets a FREE water park admission or ticket to Disney Quest. PLUS, each registered Princess Half Marathon runner will get a Princess Tervis Tumbler.

Our total for the scenario above would be =$3162.46

WDW Hints: Do you have any experience with runDisney?

Leigh: I am a huge runDisney fan! I have ran the past two half marathons and am currently training to run Goofy in January 2013 (Goofy is when you run the half marathon on Saturday and then run the full marathon on Sunday). I will also go back down in February to run the 5th anniversary of the Princess Half Marathon.  If you are a runner who will runDisney for the first time, it’s nice to be able to get travel advice from someone who has experienced it.  I can help you with all the ins and outs of the action packed weekend!  

WDW Hints: Thank you so much for your time, Leigh!

Leigh: Thank you! This was a lot of fun and I am honored that you have included me!

Editors Note: You can contact Leigh through her website, Mousekeplanner, or on her facebook page and she'll be happy to assist you with booking your next Disney Vacation!

August 7, 2012

Best Disney Dining Values when Paying Out of Pocket

For those of you that stay off property and can't get the Disney Dining Plan (or for those of you that choose not to purchase it), here's a list of restaurants that provide meals considered to be of good value!  We've scoured the DisBoards, Mouse and Memos reviews, and Chip & Co. articles and have listed the restaurants that continue to be mentioned as a good value.  Whether it's a decent amount of food given for the price, or a 'lower than expected' price for a dish, we hope this helps those of you that are budget-minded on your next trip!  (Keep in mind, this isn't a comprehensive list!  We may have missed a good value meal - if so, please list your favorites in the comment section below.)

Disney's Animal Kingdom:
  • Flame Tree BBQ (QS) - 2 adults can share a chicken platter and an order of onion rings.
  • Rainforest Cafe (TS) - Breakfast is reasonably priced.
  • Tusker House (TS) - Nutritious selections and wide variety of options at the buffet.  Lunch is priced less than Dinner - yet the buffet menus are almost identical!
Disney's Hollywood Studio's:
  • 50's Primetime Cafe (TS) - Reasonably priced entrees that can be shared - such as the sampler.
  • Min & Bill's Dockside Diner (QS) -  Grab the frankfurter in a pretzel roll for under $8 - claimed to be so big that you won't even need chips or fries to go with it.
  • Pizza Planet (QS) - For around $10 each person gets a pizza, salad and drink - pretty filling.
  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (TS) - Lunches are reasonably priced.
Downtown Disney:
  • Captain Jack's (QS - Marketplace) - Quality of food is great.  Restaurant generally isn't crowded.
  • Earl of Sandwich (QS - Marketplace) - Great value, great food, quick service & great cupcakes!
  • Pollo Campero (QS) -  Try the family dinner of fried chicken, rice and pintos with some plaitains - it's more than enough to feed 3 people!
  • Wolfgang Puck Express (QS - Marketplace) - Reasonable price for the quality of the meal.
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse (TS - Canada Pavilion) - The burger is very good and not expensive.  (Keep in mind, other items like the steak are going to be expensive!)
  • Les Chefs de France (TS - France Pavilion) - Split a full 3-course meal for lunch (about $24).
  • San Angel Inn (TS - Mexico Pavilion) - Lunch portions are large, yet reasonably priced.  Families of 4 could buy 2 entrees, 2 appetizers & 2 desserts and then share.
  • Sunshine Season Food Fair (QS - The Land Pavilion) - Lots of healthy options.   The rotisserie chicken can be split between two. The seared-tuna salad is large enough to share, also! Or pick up a kids meal.
  • Tangierine Cafe (QS - Morocco Pavilion) - The platter can be shared.
  • Via Napoli (TS - Italy Pavilion) - Great pizza for a good price.
The Magic Kingdom:
  • Cosmic Rays (QS) - Split the chicken and rib combo for a great value!  The Bacon Double cheeseburger is also large enough to be shared.
  • Crystal Palace (TS) - The breakfast prices are the best out of all character buffet meals (some people have even claimed to pay out of pocket even if they have a DDP so they could use their credits on a more higher priced restaurant.)
  • Liberty Tree Tavern (TS) - Generous, share-able portions of food such as the Pot Roast or Turkey meals for lunch.  Also recommended was the Tavern Fried Cheese appetizer.  
  • Pecos Bills (QS) - The toppings bar makes it worth it for some.
  • The Plaza Restaurant (TS) - Plentiful portions, great service, desserts are large enough to share.
Resort Restaurants:
  • Big River Grille & Brewing Works (TS at the Boardwalk) - Appetizers are large enough to split, then you can order one of the 'cheaper' sandwich options as the portion sizes are pretty big.
  • Captain Cook's (QS at the Polynesian) - Tonga Toast is just $6 here, and yet it costs twice as much upstairs at the Kona Cafe!
  • Captain's Grille (TS at the Yacht Club) - Big portions of fish & chips on the lunch menu for reasonable price.
  • Beaches and Cream (TS at the Beach Club) - Prices are very reasonable, kid friendly atmosphere - even known to make items not on the menu (such as a grilled cheese sandwich).
  • Pepper Market (QS at Coronado Springs) - Breakfast and Lunch buffets at great prices!
  • Sanaa (TS at Animal Kingdom Lodge) - Not one that people realize has a decently priced menu.  Be sure to ask for a table by the window!
  • Trails End (TS at Fort Wilderness) - This is the cheapest buffet on Disney property!
  • The All Star Movies Food Court (QS) - Breakfast, taco salads and chicken parmesan are all priced fair.
The key to eating 'more cheaply' at Disney is simple planning.  Eat breakfast in your resort room.  Plan for lunch to be your 'big' meal' as lunch prices are less compared to dinner prices - many restaurants have the same or very similar lunch and dinner menus.  Then get CS or a snack for dinner.  Keep an eye out for dishes that you could split with your spouse or with your child.  Want to really save on Quick Service meals?  Order from the kids menu! You'll find that the portion sizes and price comparisons are unreal!  

Want to tell us about a meal that's of great value?  Let us know about the good deals you've found by commenting below!

August 6, 2012

Today's Featured Agent: Tabitha Woodard from "Mouse"cation

Today, we're featuring Tabitha Woodard from "Mouse"cation (affiliated with Academy Travel.)  Tabitha is a newer Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, but certainly not new to all things Disney!  She is very personable, quick to respond and willing to help you plan a great Disney vacation!
Photo courtesy of Tabitha Woodard
WDW Hints: Can you tell us a few of your Disney World 'favorites'?

Favorite Resort: Yacht Club and Polynesian
Favorite Restaurant: Le Cellier
Favorite Park: Magic Kingdom
Favorite Ride/Attraction: Soarin’
Favorite Character: Tinker Bell
Favorite dessert (and where it's found): Trio of Valrhona Chocolate at Yachtsman Steakhouse.

WDW Hints: What little known thing do you like to recommend to your clients to try at WDW?  

Tabitha: Don’t try to do it all – make sure you have fun and relax a little.  You will not see it all in one trip!

WDW Hints: What made you decide to go from a "Disney fanatic" to an Authorized Disney Travel Planner?  When did you become an ADTP?  

Tabitha: I have always liked to plan.  I am a homeschool mom and field trip coordinator for our co-op.  I research and schedule all field trips for our Co-op.  I then started helping friends that were going to Disney by doing research and finding them the best deals (I love number crunching).  My sister always said I missed my calling – she said I should have been a travel agent.  I started thinking about it and decided that I loved helping others so much that I wanted to do it on a regular basis and help others.  I applied back in April and became an authorized Disney Travel Agent.  Although I have not been an Agent for very long I am loving it!

WDW Hints: Do you find yourself going on Disney vacations more, less or about the same since becoming an ADTP?  

Tabitha: Since I have only been an Agent for a few short months I can’t really say I have gone on more trips but I am planning to go on several later this year and next.

WDW Hints: Is there anything tedious about the job?

Tabitha: I would say the only thing tedious is the number crunching but when I am helping my client save money I get excited.  I love to crunch numbers and find the best deal!

WDW Hints: Do you book airfare for your clients?  

Tabitha: I book airfare through Disney.  I do, however, recommend other ways, if there is a better way to save my client money.

WDW Hints: What extra perks or special gifts do you give to your clients that other ADTPs may not give? 

Tabitha: I sometimes give Disney Gift Cards to my client for new bookings if they qualify.  I also am going to give autograph books and totes in the near future.  I also do a spreadsheet itinerary for my clients on which park is the best to visit on a particular day along with all their dining reservations and anything else I reserved for them.

WDW Hints: I enjoy booking my own ADRs right at 180 days out, if I were to book my vacation through you, can I still have control over my own ADRs or do you take over everything?

Tabitha: Absolutely!  If my client wants to make their own dining reservations that is fine with me.  I can do as much or as little as my client would like me to.

WDW Hints: I just priced out my own vacation using - can you beat the prices I found or offer an upgrade?

Tabitha: My prices are the same as what you can get from Disney so that is the best deal I can get too.  I can, however, offer an autograph book and tote bag if you book through me.  If someone has school age children I do have a way to get better prices on park tickets if they are willing to take an educational class. 

WDW Hints: Are there better times to go to Disney that are not as crowded?  

Tabitha: Yes, the best time to go when crowds are low are from Sept to early December with the exception of Thanksgiving week.  Also January and February are also good times to go.
Photo courtesy of Tabitha Woodard
WDW Hints: Thank you Tabitha for taking the time to share with us!
Editors Note: Tabitha Woodard can be contacted via her website or you may visit her facebook page, "Mouse"cation.

August 2, 2012

Today's Featured Agent: Missy Smith with 3D Travel Company

Today I'd like to introduce you to Missy Smith, a Travel Specialist with 3D Travel Company!  Missy isn't just another Authorized Disney Vacation Planner... as you'll learn below, she has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Special Needs or Food Allergies at WDW.    
WDW Hints: Can you tell us some of your "favorites" at WDW?

Favorite Resort: Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Favorite Restaurant: Le Cellier, Via Napoli, and ‘Ohana (dinner)
Favorite Park: Magic Kingdom® Park
Favorite Ride/Attraction: Soarin’™ Attraction, Expedition Everest® Attraction, and It’s a Small World® Attraction  
Favorite Character: Ariel or Belle
Favorite dessert (and where it's found): Zeppole di Ricotta (Via Napoli)
Photo courtesy of Missy Smith
WDW Hints: What little known thing do you like to recommend to your clients to try at WDW?  

Missy: My 2 favorite hints to give my clients are 1) you can get free cups of ice water at almost every counter service at Walt Disney World® Resort, so you don’t have to use up your snack credits on drinks (if you don’t like water, you can bring little flavor packets of tea, lemonade, Kool-Aid, etc to add to the water) and 2) you can get autographs from Lady and the Tramp at Tony’s Town Square—you just have to ask!

WDW Hints: What made you decide to go from a "Disney fanatic" to an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner?  

Missy: A few years ago, my husband and I were going to Walt Disney World® Resort by ourselves, and I did a lot of research about for our vacation before we left. While we were there, I was telling him some of the things I had learned in my research, and he commented, “You know, you should be a Disney Travel Specialist.”  Well, the wheels in my brain started turning, and I thought it sounded like a fun idea.  

WDW Hints: When did you become an ADVP?  

Missy: I became an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner 2 years ago.  I discovered 3D Travel Company while doing some internet research on Walt Disney World® Resort and liked the things I learned about the Company—it was a small, family-owned company that had only been in business for a few years, it was made up of mainly homeschool moms (I’m a homeschool mom, myself!), and it is a company based on Christian principles.  I decided it was a great company that I would love to be a part of, so when Carol Beth Scott, the owner of 3D Travel Company, announced that she was hiring, I applied for a position with the Company and was hired!  Since joining 3D Travel Company, I have become even more impressed with the Company’s standards and family atmosphere.  The ladies and gentlemen I work with are some of my best friends!

WDW Hints: Do you find yourself going on Disney vacations more, less or about the same since becoming an ADVP?  

Missy: I find myself going on Disney vacations a bit more, since I became an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.  Our Company sponsors a great event every September, The Ultimate Field Trip for Homeschoolers.  This is such a fun event, I don’t want to miss it!  If I were not an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I possibly wouldn’t make a point of going to Walt Disney World® Resort every fall (I do love it, though, so maybe I would!).

WDW Hints: Is there anything tedious about the job?  (I've heard of some agents waiting on hold for hours with Disney reservations - is that true?)  

Missy: Oh, yes, it IS true!  Whenever Disney releases a new promotion, I am up and on the phone by 7am, working to book new trips for clients and modify trips that are already booked, so I can save some money for my clients.  Sometimes, you can be on hold for several hours.  That’s one of the advantages of using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, though—they sit on the phone for all that time, so you don’t have to!  Probably the most tedious thing about my job, though, is having to get up at 6am to book dining reservations for clients (I am NOT a morning person!)—I’m just glad I live on the East coast, so I don’t have to get up earlier than that!  I love my job, though, so this is a minor price to pay to have a job I look forward to each day  J

WDW Hints: Do you book airfare for your clients?  

Missy: I can book airfare for clients, if necessary.  However, they can usually get better rates by booking their flights on their own.  Also, if they book on their own, it is much easier for them to select their preferred flight times and rates.

WDW Hints: What extra perks or special gifts do you give to your clients that other ADVPs may not give?  

Missy: First and foremost, I give my clients great customer service.  I treat your vacation as though it is my own, and do my best to make sure your vacation is Magical, from the time we start planning till the day you arrive home!  We send our clients links for a couple of discounts, to enhance their vacation.  We send you a customized itinerary for your vacation.  We also send you some insider information that makes planning your Disney vacation even easier, as well as a final travel packet with some great travel tips!  Best of all, I am always checking to make sure my clients are receiving the best price available for their vacation! 

WDW Hints: I enjoy booking my own ADRs right at 180 days out, if I were to book my vacation through you, can I still have control over my own ADRs or do you take over everything?  (In other words, do you allow clients to be involved in their vacation planning as much or as little as they want?)  

Missy: I am happy to get up early in the morning to take care of booking your ADR’s, but if this is something you prefer, that is no problem!  I’ll be here to offer my advice on your meal-planning, if you like, but you can do as much of your planning as you want.  I have clients who put together their own spreadsheets, planning out their entire trip, and just have me there to offer my expertise and take care of any minor details; I also have clients who give me their travel dates and have me plan out their entire vacation for them, so they don’t have to worry about anything.  I enjoy letting my clients decide how involved they want to be in their vacation-planning.

WDW Hints: What fun opportunities have you been given since becoming an agent?  

Missy: Since I became an agent, the most fun opportunity I have had is being a part of The Ultimate Field Trip for Homeschoolers.  It is an event that is fun for the whole family, no matter how old or young (we have toddlers and babies coming, as well as grandparents!)  And this year, we have a special guest joining us—Steven Barrett, the “Hidden Mickey Guy,” will be at our Mega-Meet to greet our clients and sign autographs!  The other great opportunity I had is that I got to go with another agent from 3D Travel Company to an onsite training at Walt Disney World® Resort last June for 4 nights and 5 days.  We got to tour several different Walt Disney World® Resort hotels, as well as visit some of the Parks and restaurants.  It was exciting to get to meet travel agents from all over the country who all have a love for Disney!  We even got to attend a couple of special events, planned just for us, including a nice buffet dinner, followed by Disney taking us to a private viewing area for us to watch llumiNations: Reflections of Earth.

However, I think the best opportunity I have had since becoming an agent is all the great new people I’ve gotten to meet and become friends with!  Not only have I developed great relationships with other agents at 3D Travel Company, many of my clients have become my personal friends—we see each other at homeschool events or other community events, we are Facebook friends…I’ve even met up with clients who are visiting Walt Disney World® Resort at the same time I am there!   Who doesn’t need more Disney-loving friends?!?

WDW Hints: If I buy 4 day Park Hopper tickets (2 adult, 1 child) through a trusted discounted seller, I save $18.71 compared to buying tickets directly from WDW.  This seems like a "pro" to me, but tell me what the disadvantage is...

Missy: Yes, you will save $18.71 up front on tickets, but you may be able to save so much more buying your tickets directly.  Keep in mind, if you purchase your tickets through me and Walt Disney World® Resort, you’ll be able to purchase one of the Disney Dining Plans, which can save you up to 20% off of the cost of paying for your food out-of-pocket.  If you purchase your Park tickets through an outside vendor, you will NOT be able to purchase a Disney Dining Plan.  If you've got young children, I’m sure you’re going to want to go to at least 1 character meal during your Disney vacation.  And, who wants to have to nickel and dime their meals on vacation, ordering the least expensive thing on the menu, or missing out on a Dole Whip or Mickey Mouse ice cream bar, just to save a few dollars?  With the Disney Dining Plan, you will get 1 table service meal credit, 1 quick service meal credit, and 1 snack credit for each night of your stay for you, your spouse, and your child, as well as a resort refillable mug (value of $14.49+tax each) for each of you.  The savings you’ll receive by purchasing the Disney Dining Plan will definitely outweigh the $18.71 you’ll save by purchasing your Park tickets from an outside vendor.

WDW Hints: What is the best advice you can offer someone going to Walt Disney World® Resort for the first time?  

Missy: Make sure you have at least 2 good pairs of shoes, and get them “broken in” before you leave for your vacation.  You may walk up to 9 miles a day at Walt Disney World® Resort during your vacation.  Sore feet do not make for a Magical vacation!  Go out and walk some with your family prior to your trip, so your body is up to the task.  Again, it’s hard to feel Magical if you’re feeling tired and sore.  Don’t feel like you have to do EVERYTHING—that’s what future Disney trips are for!  Get up early, beat the crowds, then go back to your resort midday and take a nap, swim, or just rest a bit.  Then, you’ll feel refreshed for dinner and an evening in the Park.

WDW Hints:  What suggestions can you make to someone who is traveling with a family member with Special Needs?  

Missy: I am actually a parent of a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild form of autism), so I have had experience with this.  Disney has a great program to help guests with Special Needs be able to enjoy a Magical vacation at Walt Disney World® Resort, just like anyone else.  I have been able to help my clients who have family members with Special Needs utilize this program, enabling them to almost feel like a “normal” family while they are vacationing.  Because of things I have learned from my own experiences, as well as from those I have worked with, I can offer some suggestions to these clients to make their vacation less complicated.  It’s actually amazing to hear the miracle stories of leaps and bounds that Special Needs children and adults have made during Disney vacations.  It truly is a Magical place!

WDW Hints: How difficult is it for someone with food allergies/sensitivities to vacation at Walt Disney World® Resort?  

Missy: I would have to say, Walt Disney World® Resort is one of the best places to vacation if you suffer from food allergies/sensitivities.  I find that the chefs at Disney work hard to ensure that everyone is able to have a wonderful dining experience.  Since becoming an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I have had a lot of experience working with guests with severe food allergies (peanut, tree nut, dairy, etc), as well as issues such as Celiac Disease.  I have seen firsthand how chefs at Disney work to keep their guests safe, while making sure that they are also very satisfied with their dining experience.

WDW Hints: What would you say is the craziest trip you’ve planned as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner?  

Missy: I actually booked someone’s complete weeklong vacation in a 24 hour period.  She called me at the last minute, wanting to go to Walt Disney World® Resort, and I was able to put together a Magical vacation for her to arrive 3 days later.  I’ve found that last-minute vacations can be a lot of fun to plan!  It can be more difficult to get great discounts that way, but I understand that some people just aren’t able to plan their vacations far in advance.  I still work to get the best prices for these clients, though, and they love the fact that I can work Magic for them that quickly.

WDW Hints: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Missy!!
Missy: It's been my pleasure!  Thank you so much for letting me share with everyone!

Editor's Note: You can contact Missy Smith through 3D Travel Company, or you can visit her facebook page!