Bring a Cooler into WDW

Did you know you can bring in a soft sided cooler into the WDW Theme and Water Parks? Yippee! Another way to save money!! It is also a way for those with dietary issues can enjoy without worry.

Here are the official cooler rules:

Theme Parks:

  • Coolers must be smaller than 24″L x 15″W x 18″H
  • Coolers can be stored in lockers (the above size would fit in the large locker)
  • Wheeled coolers are not permitted
  • Must be a soft sided cooler
  • No glass allowed
  • No alcoholic beverages permitted
  • No coolers are allowed at Animal Kingdom for the safety of the animals

Water Parks:

  • Coolers are permitted, including wheeled coolers
  • No glass allowed
  • No alcoholic beverages permitted
  • No cooler storage is available
  • Wagons are not permitted

Some Tips from The Mouse Ear Momma:

  • Make sure you inform the security upon entering the park that you have a guest with food allergies/intolerance, diabetes, or metabolic disorder.
  • Freeze water bottles and use as ice packs in your cooler
  • Remember that Central Florida is steamy (and can be at any point of the year)
  • Pack food that will not spoil; avoid lunch meat, dairy products, and anything that will smash or bruise easily (like bananas). Think PB&J, apple juice, squeeze apple sauce, fruit strips.
  • Pack small portions; you will want to a quick grab and go pick me ups between rides.
  • Don’t forget your Ziploc bags; helpful if you have any leftovers from your stash or a restaurant.
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Fastpass +: Your questions answered!

Goodbye my old friend Fastpass…Hello FastPass + and My Disney Experience!

FastPass + at PoohI have to say that I am nostalgic about the old system because most of us frequent WDW visitors had that down to a science. But as of this month, the old fastpass machines at the entrance to the most popular rides are no more! Instead, all guests are now expected to take part in the new My Disney Experience, My Magic+, Magic Bands and FastPass + (FP+) online system.

Things work differently depending if you are staying on property or off site.

This is the same for all guests:

  • You select (and can change) your return time for the ride/experience.
  • You can only choose 3 FP+ per day
  • You can only get your 3 FP+ in one park each day
  • FP+ includes character experiences and seating for fireworks & parades
  • You can change your FP+ selections at any point, even during your return time(if you get to your ride return and see no line, you can adjust your FP+ at the entrance for a different ride) Continue reading

What you need to know about park tickets…

One of the most common questions is about the different types of park tickets. This can be very confusing for anyone who is not a WDW nut like myself. So here are the answers to those questions!

Theme Park Tickets:

  • These are tickets for admission into the 4 Walt Disney World Parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, & Animal Kingdom)
  • Adult tickets are for ages 10 +, Child’s tickets are ages 3-9, Children under 3 are free of charge for tickets (and dining plan)
  • Base Ticket: Allows entry into ONE park per day. You can leave and reenter later in the day, but you must return to the same park.
  • The ticket cost varies based on how many days you purchase. The per day ticket cost is less per day for each additional day you add. The longer you play, the less you pay! is the tagline used by WDW.
  • Park Hopper option is an add on to your base ticket that allows you to enter more than one park per day.
  • Water Parks and More option is another add on to your base ticket that gives you access to the following: Blizzard Beach & Typhoon Lagoon Water Parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports, DisneyQuest Indoor theme park, Oak Trail Golf Course, Fantasia Gardens & Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Courses.
  • WP&M option does have some limitations. You cannot hop between these activities, you can return to the same one. Mini Golf must be played prior to 4pm as well.
  • Each of the add on options are a flat rate per ticket of $62.84/ticket including tax, but if you add both it is $89.46/ticket including tax. This is the cost for both adult and child tickets.
  • Tickets expire 14 days after the first use.
  • Tickets cannot be used by more than 1 person. Disney uses a biometric finger scan upon entry to guarantee this.
  • This is a great site to look at the prices from www.allears.net

There are reputable discount ticket agents out there, but I prefer to purchase mine through WDW. If you purchase through a second party vendor and there is a problem, Disney is less flexible about assisting you. I have priced AAA as well and when you include the tax, AAA can be more expensive than buying from WDW directly. Now, if you are someone who needs a travel agent to handle the details, then go for it. In this day and age of Internet, it seems much easier to make your own arrangements and do  your own research. I have found that travel agents are happy to make the commission but might not have the knowledge of all the aspects of Disney outside of a training session.

mymagic+What are the MYMagic + bands you ask…Soon there will be wrist bands instead of cards that will contain all of your information for ticketing, dining, room key and charging back to your room. In May, they had the RFID readers at Hollywood Studios and Epcot and you just placed your card in front of the Mickey and waited to the biometric scanner for your finger. It will also include your fastpasses if you so choose, but you will need torfid at pooh schedule your fastpasses prior to leaving for your trip similar to dining. But that is a topic for another article. This is an example of one at the Winnie the Pooh ride.

Words of warning:

  • Do not purchase used tickets! Disney uses biometric scanners to link the ticket to the individual. You can’t use anyone’s ticket but your own. So avoid eBay and Craigslist for discount tickets.
  • If you have old tickets with no expiration, you must trade them in at a ticket window or WDW hotel concierge desk. Disney now uses RFID technology and you need a ticket with a chip to get past the scanners.
  • Your tickets do expire 14 days after the first use, so make sure you use all your days or get the no expiration option. I find the no expiration a waste of money, but I plan my days to utilize them.

Resorts for Grown Ups

Everyone thinks of Disney as a travel destination for parents with small children but this is not the case. There are tons of adults that love Walt Disney World and may want to enjoy the parks without the kids (or grandkids). Here are my recommendations for resort hotels that are more suitable for adults. These are based on location, amenities, restaurants/bars on site and the general grown up feeling of the resort. Yes, you will find families there but it’s Disney World and you can’t avoid that! Most of the resorts I recommend for adults are in the Deluxe category because you will find more and more families when you go to moderate and value resorts. Continue reading

Star Wars Weekends 2013

stm736501SMALLI love Star Wars and I love Star Wars Weekends. The artwork has been released for this year’s Star Wars weekend and I love it. Return of the Jedi is my favorite of the original trilogy and I have a soft spot for the Ewoks. This year is particularly special because it is the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Episode IV: Return of the Jedi. I don’t know about you but I remember seeing this one in the theatre when it was released, so now I feel old… It is also going to be interesting this year because it is the first Star Wars Weekend in which Disney now owns the Star Wars empire.

But know that this is not for the first time Disney traveler. Star Wars Weekends are hot, crowded and confusing if you don’t know your way around Hollywood Studios. If you are a seasoned veteran of WDW and you (or your children/spouse) are a fan, this is the weekend for you to visit!

The full schedule is not released but here is what is available now. Star Wars Weekends will take place May 17-June 9, every Friday, Saturday, & Sunday.

Celebrity Guests: You can get a fastpass to meet and get autographs from the celebrities.

  • James Arnold Taylor: The Official Celebrity Host for all 4 weekends. The voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars series. He performs a one man show about voice talent.
  • Ashley Eckstein: Also a Celebrity Host for all the weekends. She is the voice of Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars. She hosts a talk show about the cartoon series. We had the privilege to meet Ashley a few years ago at SWW and she made a wonderful impression on my daughters and made them feel like it is ok for girls to like Star Wars. (I keep telling them that the boys will think it is the coolest thing someday!)
  • Ray Park: Darth Maul from Episode I: The Phantom Menace for Weekends 1 & 2. He is also a martial arts expert and in X-Men & GI Joe. He does a martial arts show during the weekend.
  • Warwick Davis: Wicket W. Warrick (my favorite Ewok) for Weekends 2 & 3

The schedule should stay the same for the most part. Character greetings and autographs from the bunches of characters from all the movies and cartoon, specialty merchandise, Jedi Training, Padawan Mind Challenge, Hyperspace Hoopla, Star Wars Stars Motorcade Parade with stormtroopers and various characters.

I will update more as soon as the information comes available, so stay tuned!

A list of the Character Meal Options

I have so many people ask me about the various Character Dining options in Walt Disney World. I have compiled a list with descriptions for each to make deciding easier for you! I have previously written about my favorites if you want to take a look. This is a basic list that tells you the facts, not my opinions of each (which I have many).

Character meals

(Organized by Character type)

Mickey & Friends Continue reading

How to have Happy Holidays at Walt Disney World. Part 1: Decorations

This is the first in a series of posts about spending your holiday season at Walt Disney World. I have been during November/December Holiday season 5 times in the last 7 years and it is obviously my favorite time of the year to visit. Last year was the first time I had ever been there during Christmas and I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Today’s focus is on holiday decor both in the parks and at the hotels.You can spend days just wandering around Walt Disney World looking at all the wonderful decorations. It is amazing to see the scale of the decorations and how much effort is put into each detail. I previously posted a video of the Magic Kingdom decor change from Halloween to Christmas. It is amazing what they do overnight while the guests are snug in their beds. If you decide to travel any time from November 1-January 1, you will be in full Disney Christmas World. It is a wonderful time to visit and it makes a completely different experience compared to traveling in the summer months.

The Resorts:

Disney does an amazing job decorating the resorts. My favorite decorating feat I have ever witnessed was at The Boardwalk a few years ago. We were taking family pictures out and around The Boardwalk and they started to put in the poinsettia plants. One guy used this power drill auger to dig the perfect hole while another was right behind him plopping in the plants. A third man followed behind and backfilled the dirt. They did this with hundreds of poinsettia in just an hour or two. It was amazing, my dad was particularly enthralled with the process.

Every resort is decorated for the season with the theme of the hotel. Boardwalk is old school Atlantic City and the entire structure is trimmed with lights. Yacht and Beach Clubs are nautical with ornament of little sail boats and anchors. Polynesian is a pacific theme with hibiscus flowers adorning the garlands, while Grand Floridian is over the to with gold and rich textures. All the Deluxe resorts have a gingerbread structure in the lobby. Usually, they sell cookies, hot chocolate or small gingerbread houses for your hotel room. These gingerbread structures are worth a trip to see even if you are not staying in them. They are usually built sometime right before Thanksgiving.

The Parks:

  • Magic Kingdom is by far my favorite when it comes to Holiday decorations. I love the garlands and wreaths hanging over Main St. USA. It makes the perfect backdrop for pictures with the castle glimmering in the background. The Cinderella Castle itself is a wonder with millions of lights to make it look like it is covered in icicles. Every night around 6 they have a castle lighting with Fairy Godmother and Cinderella. There are details everywhere you look, including The Emporium windows with scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
  • Epcot has Holidays around the world with decor to match the spirit of every nation in The World Showcase. Along with storytelling about the country’s holiday traditions, you also can learn how people in each of the represented countries.There are large, lit decorated trees and other muted decor throughout Future World.
  • Hollywood Studios has a massive Christmas tree at the entrance of Hollywood and my favorite is when it is decorated with giant popcorn and retro plastic Santa faces. The best part about Hollywood is the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (not Ozzy but a family from Arkansas) on The Streets of New York.
  • Animal Kingdom: Animal Kingdom is also themed with the area (Africa, Asia, etc.). Compared to Epcot, the holiday theme isn’t as in your face. The Jingle Jungle parade has the characters in holiday gear, but it is not as Christmasy as the Magic Kingdom parade.

So, are you ready to go to WDW during the Holidays? It is not for the faint of heart and it is not for First Timers. But…it was more wonderful and magical than I could have ever dreamed it to be!

 

I’m Back…

Sorry, I haven’t blogged in quite a while. We just got back from the most magical place on Earth and then school started 2 days later. Talk about cutting it close! On top of all of that is the fact that this was our longest Disney vacation yet (7 nights/8 days) and we were all exhausted. I had planned on writing while there but let’s face it, spending time with the family was more important.

It was such a magical trip! We did almost everything on our Disney bucket list and still had time for swimming and some great meals. Here are the highlights and I will post more details on everything later: Continue reading

My favorite Disney apps

There are bunches of apps for smartphones to help you on your Disney vacation. Some of my smartphone apps are helpful with planning and others are in constant use while on my vacation.

Here are my favorites: Continue reading

Update: Disney’s Photopass Service

I love Disney’s Photopass Service. I think that it is totally worth the money if you utilize it correctly and plan ahead. Our first few trips, we didn’t use photopass and I regret that because we have so few pictures of our whole family. The photographers will take pictures with your camera, but their photos will be better!

To get the most bang for your buck, stop at every photographer you see in all the parks. Let’s be honest, you can’t have too many pictures of your family in front of the castle! There are photgraphers in every park. Here is a map and some tips of all the photopass photographers. Disney Photopass Map

Continue reading