Magical Express: One of the best Disney deals around!

I live just far enough away from Disney World to make driving a chore.  We like to save up our credit card points and cash them in for airline tickets as often as we can.  For others like me, who like to arrive via the friendly skies, Disney has a great option for their resort guests  - The Magical Express.  Essentially, the Magical Express is a shuttle service from the main Orlando airport (MCO) to your resort hotel at Disney World. 

So what makes the Magical Express magical?  Well for starters, you do not need to go to baggage claim upon arrival.  You simply deplane and follow the Magical Express signs.  Once you are checked in you hop on a bus to your resort - and leave the baggage claim to Disney!  They will collect your baggage for you and deliver it to your hotel a few hours later.  Genius!

So what else makes the Magical Express magical?  If baggage handling and delivery is not enough of a perk for you, how about the cost - it is FREE!  There is no charge for Disney to collect you (and your luggage) from the airport and take you to your Disney resort.  They will also take you (and your luggage) back to the airport at the end of your stay at no charge.  In fact, for certain airlines, you can check in from your resort and have your boarding passes printed and ready to go!

When you pack your luggage at home, be sure to pack a small carry on bag of items that you will need upon arrival as well as any medication and other important stuff.  If you are arriving from the frozen tundra and are hoping to start your Disney day poolside, be sure to stick a bathing suit and sunscreen in your bag!  Also, if you are arriving later in the evening, you may want to make sure you have your toothbrush, sleep wear and fresh clothes available for the next morning...just in case.

A few other need to know items:
  • You must make a reservation for this service.  I like to collect this from my clients at final payment time to make sure that there is plenty of time to get luggage tags ordered.
  • The time it takes to get from the airport to Disney can vary greatly based on the number of bodies being moved!  You can expect to arrive at your resort anywhere from 75 minutes to 3 hours from the time your plane lands, with the average commute time being 2 hours.  You can expedite the process by making sure your tags are properly attached to your bag and that you bring the voucher included in your booklet with you.
  • If you arrive after 10 pm or before 5 am, you will need to collect your own bags.
  • You luggage may not arrive to your room for 3 hours, so plan accordingly!
  • You will be notified of the time that the Magical Express will be returning to drag you away pick you up from your resort.  The pick up time is usually about 3 hours prior to your departure, 4 hours for international flights.
  • If you are scheduled to depart prior to 8am, you will need to check in a the airport.
  • Sorry, but unless Fido and Fluffy are service animals, they cannot board the Magical Express.
  • Although it is rare, mistakes happen!  Be sure to confirm you flight information and resort against your pre-printed baggage tags.  If one of your bags does not arrive, contact bell services and let them know of the problem.
  • Planners beware!  Don't make the mistake of over-scheduling your arrival day.  Scheduling a coveted reservation or pre-purchasing tickets for an event is inviting trouble.  Instead head straight to your favorite counter service spot, lounge by the pool, check out your resort, or knock of some of the less popular attractions on your to do list.
  • Finally, the Magical Express drivers are usually friendly and helpful.  If you are pleased with their service or if they help you with your carry on bags it would be nice to acknowledge their efforts with a few dollars.  At departure, it is also customary to tip bell services if they collect your bags from your room.
  • For anything else you wanted to know about Magical Express, check out this great post from Everything Walt Disney World
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the teaser video...you are almost home!


Characters: Let the Hunt Begin!

I am counting down the final days to my next visit to the world (the kids STILL don't know!) and realized it  is time to do a little character recon.  Part of the fun of the trip is magically stumbling upon your favorite characters as you wander through the park.  For some, the character hunt is a full time obsession!  My crew falls under the minorly obsessed.  I know that meeting Belle would be on my oldest daughter's must do list (if only she knew she was going) ;)  Tiana and Minnie are must meets for my youngest princess.

There is a lot to know about meeting the characters.  You may remember my previous posts on that topic, if you missed it or need a quick refresher here it is!
Meeting the Big Cheese: The Basics
Meeting the Big Cheese: Autographs

So now you know all about meeting the characters, the big question is where can you find your favorite friend?  Believe it or not, character meet and greets change on a monthly basis.  And while you tend to find certain characters in the same area (Let's face it, Buzz is not going to be hanging out by Big Thunder Mountain!),  Disney does change things up a bit to keep it fresh.

There is a great Disney Blogger out there, who devotes her time to keeping up with this information.  You can find her at  Unofficial Disney Character Hunting Guide.  There is a wonderful checklist of the characters for each park and where to find them.  In addtion, you can check out the attire for the characters in each park in case you want to find them looking extra spiffy! 

If you are planning on a attending a hard ticket event like the Halloween or Christmas Party be sure to scope out the "guest list" in advance.  Mickey and Minnie...work on those smiles because I think you are going to be included on our Christmas card this year!



Disney has just announced some nice room discounts to get you through the spring!  Let TMC Travel - The Mouse Connection help you book your next magical vacation.  Just follow the link or click on the banner ad above for more information.  Remember, in addition to lots of great advice and helpful tip cards, TMC Travel offers a free gift with every 4 or more night stay!
January - April 2011 - Save up to 35%

Valid for select nights 2/6/11 - 4/16/11, must book by 12/31/10
  • Save up to 35% off the non-discounted price when booking a room at Walt Disney World for stays most nights 2/6/11 - 4/16/11.
  • Save 20% on Select Disney Value Resorts and Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Save 25% on Select Disney Moderate Resorts and Polynesian Resort
  • Save 35% on Select Disney Deluxe Resorts and Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts
Discounted rate is available most nights 2/6/11 - 4/16/11. All discounts are subject to availability, certain restrictions apply; including a minimum length of stay requirement for Friday or Saturday arrivals. The room inventory for this offer is limited. This offer excludes suites and 3-bedroom villas.


February - April 2011 - Save up to 30%

Valid for select nights 2/17/11 - 4/16/11. Must book from 1/1/10- 2/13/11 
  • Save up to 30% off the non-discounted price when booking a room at Walt Disney World for stays most nights 2/17/11 - 4/16/11.
  • Save 15% on Select Disney Value Resorts and Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Save 20% on Select Disney Moderate Resorts and Polynesian Resort
  • Save 25% on Select Disney Deluxe Resorts
  • Save 30% on Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts

Discounted rate is available most nights 2/17/11 - 4/16/11. All discounts are subject to availability, certain restrictions apply; including a minimum length of stay requirement for Friday or Saturday arrivals. The room inventory for this offer is limited. This offer excludes suites and 3-bedroom villas.


Military Room Only Discount October 2010 - October 2011

Valid for most nights 10/1/10 - 10/1/11 for Guests presenting a valid military ID when checking in at select Walt Disney World resorts.   
  • Select Disney Value Resorts 30% off
  • Select Disney Moderate Resorts and Cabins 35% off
  • Select Disney Deluxe Resorts 40% off

Discounted rate is available most nights excluding 11/24-11/26/10, 12/26-12/31/10, and 4/17-4/20 All discounts are subject to availability, certain restrictions apply. The room inventory for this offer may be limited.

Don't Forget...there are still a few weeks remaining on the super popular Free Dining Offer! 

October 2010 – September 2011
Free Dining Offer!
Valid for select nights 10/01/10 – 09/29/11, must book by 12/20/10
  • Book a Walt Disney World vacation package that includes a 4-night/5-day stay at a Walt Disney World resort and a 5-day Magic Your Way base ticket, and receive the dining plan for free.
    • Book a Disney Value Resort and get the Quick Service Dining free!
    • Book a Disney Moderate, Deluxe or Deluxe Villas Resort and get the Regular Dining free!

 Free dining available most nights 11/27 – 12/2/10, 12/10 – 12/21/10, 1/1 – 1/5/11, 1/9 – 1/13/11, 1/21 – 2/3/11, 2/11 – 2/17/11, 2/25 – 3/3/11, 5/27 – 6/2/11, 8/19 – 9/29/11. All discounts are subject to availability, certain restrictions apply. The room inventory for this offer is limited.
Please give me a call if I can help you take advantage of one of these great deals!  Thus concludes the self promotion part of this blog...but hey, a girl's gotta support her Disney habit however she can, right? ;)



Know Before You Go....Closures, Rehabs, and Refurbs

No matter what you call it, the result is the same.  You favorite attraction may be out of commission for your trip.  The only thing worse than finding out that you "must do" is undergoing a face lift before you leave home is finding out when head over to get in line.  If you have young children and said attraction is "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" then you may have a pint sized mutiny on your hands.

I highly recommend that you take a few minutes before you leave to read up on exactly which attractions may be closed during your stay.  And notice that I said "may".  It is not unheard of for a refurbishment to take longer than expected, so be sure to check out what may be scheduled to re-open just prior to your visit.  The good news is that you are more likely to luck out and find an attraction is open earlier than expected.  Sometimes Disney has a "soft open" after a major refurbishment (or before a major launch) to iron out any wrinkles before an official opening day.  These soft openings may be sporadic and only last for a few hours at the time, so if you see a favorite open unexpectedly, hop in line..don't double back later, as you may be out of luck.

While there are no absolute rules set in stone, there are some closures that you can predict...most of them water related.  Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park typically closes for it's annual spiff up in November and re-opens in early January.  As soon as Typhoon Lagoon re-opens, it is usually Blizzard Beach's turn.  Splash Mountain is often off line in January as is Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom.  And it is likely no surprise that most work done to resort pools is done during the winter months.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break are super busy times at Disney World.  Disney seems to really try to have as much open as possible during these times.  And while I am a total "value season" kinda girl, the downside is that you are more likely to find ride closures and buildings behind beautifully painted scrims.  For our upcoming trip, I may have found the perfect balance...the little pocket of value season between Thanksgiving and Christmas...a low crowd time nestled in between major holidays.  Too much going on around the parks and too little time to bring too much offline!

So now you know...before you go, be sure to check for closure, rehabs and refurbs.  I really like to head over to Stitch Kingdom for the latest.  They also have a great feature that will email you if a closure is announced that may affect your trip.  For warned is for armed!


Netflix Fun - The Mickey Mouse Club

Recently, I spent some time on Netflix building up my queue for the kiddos.  As I was looking for some Disney fare, I came across the Mickey Mouse Club.  They of course had the "Justin, Britney and Christina" series, but I was most drawn to the "old school" club from the 50's.  As a child of the 80's (or 70's if you are foolish enough to believe my driver's license) I remember tuning in to watch these old black and white gems.  I remember I would frequently crawl up into my Dad's lap and watch.  During the commercials he would tell stories about watching the Mickey Mouse Club when he was a child.  Apparently, the show made quite an impression, because even though my Dad has never been to Disney World, he has sported a Mickey Mouse watch off an on for as long as I can remember.

I was really excited to see the red Netflix envelope appear in my mailbox, because it had been YEARS since I had last seen the show.  As soon as the girls got home from school, I grabbed us a snack and popped it in.  In spite of the lack of color, the low production value, and the old fashioned feel of the show, my kids were enchanted.  I guess some things really are timeless!

And what is it with the theme song?  When I hear the first few bars on the bus to the Magic Kingdom, I always get excited.  All it takes is hearing the song once, and it will stay in your had for days...and  not in a bad way like an 80's pop song.  My girls also sing it all the time.  One will spontaneously shout Mickey Mouse!  and the other will reply with Donald Duck! It makes me smile every time.

The DVD is a collection of five half hour episodes.  The episodes are spread over several years, but there is an episode for everyday of the week. Personally, I think the title is a bit of a misnomer - I would not say it is "The Best of" - but it is still a lot of fun to watch.

So head over to Netflix and add The Best of the Mickey Mouse Club to your Netflix queue.  If you would like to add it to your Christmas shopping list, you can find it for less than $12 at Amazon.  In the mean time, enjoy the theme song:

Hope you enjoyed a Mickey Mouse blast from the past, but now it time to say goodbye to all our company.  M-I-C  See you real soon!  K-E-Y  Why?  Because we like you!  M--O--U--S----E.  (Sorry, couldn't resist!)


A Dozen Great Uses for a Ziplock Bag at Disney World

As I was reviewing some recent posts, I noticed something odd....I seem to have a growing addiction to Ziploc bags.  If you look in my pantry, I have them in all sizes.  No joke - I love me some Ziploc! 

I was going to do a top ten list in honor of David Letterman, but I could not stop at 10.  So...here are a dozen great uses for a Ziploc bag at Disney World:
  1. Autographs - Keep you pen and book together and dry.  As soon as you get in line, grab your autograph bag and you are all set!
  2. Daily Plans - Soggy touring plans, tip cards, and dining confirmation numbers do you no good!
  3. Bringing in Snacks - It is more economical to keep a big of pretzels or other snack and put them into snack size bags to bring into the parks.  (Diet tip - I do this at home to help me keep my portion sizes reasonable!)
  4. Dividing Up Snacks - Bought a box of popcorn on Main Street?  Avoid arguments and grubby little kid hands in the box by using the extra baggies that you were smart enough to store in your park bag to break the big box into individual servings.
  5. Avoid Dripping Toiletries - At some point in your life you have probably had shampoo, sunscreen, or something even worse ooze out of its container during travel.  If you put everything in a bag first, then any mess as a result of spillage will be minimized.  Of course, if you are flying remember that all gels and liquids must be of appropriate size and sent through security in a 1 quart Ziploc bag.
  6. A Mini Diaper Bag - I used to fill a gallon size bag with a few diapers, a change pad, and some travel wipes.  Everything stayed dry and together.  If a change was necessary, I could pull out only the essentials and head off in search of a changing table.
  7. Packing Kid Clothes - You may remember this from a post awhile back.  I pack one one Ziploc bag of clothes per child per day.  I grab a bag, toss it to the appropriate child, and they have clean undies, socks, outfit and accessories ready to put on all by themselves.
  8. Wet Poncho Storage - I want my poncho off asap.  I loosely fold it (ok...wad it up) and put it in a Ziploc as soon as it stops raining.  When I get back to the hotel, I pull it back out, make sure it fully air dries and then properly refold it.
  9. Electronics Storage - Surprise rain storm or scheduled water ride?  Tuck your cameras and cell phone safely in a bag to make sure they stay dry.
  10. Bathing Suit Storage - If you spend the day at a water park, you can store your suit in a bag for the ride home.  This is also a good idea if you go for one last swim at your hotel on departure day.
  11. Mug Storage - Did you enjoy your morning coffee in your Refillable Resort Mug?  If so, bring an extra bag for it.  When you are done drop it in the bag, seal it up, and toss it in your park bag.  That last drop of coffee will stay in the bag instead of all over your stuff!
  12. Remote Control Germ Control - I once saw one of those germaphobe Dateline shows where they discovered that the remote control was the dirtiest thing in a hotel room....constantly handled by unwashed hands and never cleaned by housekeeping.  The expert interviewed said the first thing they do in a hotel is Ziploc the remote control.  It still works, and the you avoid contact with everyone who has used it before you.  I am not sure that even I will go that far, but after watching that show, I do always at least give the phone, remote, and bathroom door handles a quick wipe with a  Clorox wipe!
So with one simple box of plastic, you can stay organized, keep things dry, contain wet things, manage snack time, and control germs.  These little see through gems will also help save you time as you go through security in the parks.  If a security guard can check your bag with a quick glance instead of opening every little pocket of opaque bag, then you will be that much closer to getting that first fast pass of the day!

Anyone else love the bag?  Share your favorite use in our comments section!


Going to Disney: How to Tell the Kids

If you have caught even one Disney commercial in the past month since the "Let the Memories Begin" campaign started you have without a doubt watched a cute kid react to the news:  "You are going to Disney!"  Some react with disbelief and with others scream so loudly,  you can only hope the poor parents had ear plugs handy to prevent permanent hearing damage.

Whether you tell them a year, a month, or an hour in advance...it is so much fun to make the announcement.  Here are some of the fun ways to break the news:
  • A Gift for Special Occasion -  Make the news part of a birthday or holiday gift, or to celebrate something special.  You can just announce it, or wrap in up in a nice box or card
  • Slide it into a Normal Conversation - As you are discussing day to day things, try sliding that news in with a mundane list of things to do.  You can actually watch their little wheels turn as they try to process such big news in an insignificant conversation.
  •  Drop the Bomb - Be loud, be proud!  Of course, this is more fun if you are waking them up in the morning!  A friend of mine picked her child up from school early and had the elementary school principal page the child to the office  "...please come to the office.  You mom is here to take you to Disney World."
  • Make it a Game - If you are one of those creative types, think of a puzzle or game that they will need to work out.  The classics are all good - Word Searches, Scrambles, Cross Words - make them "earn" their trip!
  • Scavenger Hunt - Again, this is for the creative among us...leave clues around the house that lead to the Disney Treasure.
  •  Don't Tell Them - Just wait...they will eventually figure it out!
We are Disney World bound in just a few weeks.  I am in the final countdown and planning phase...and my little princesses still don't know.  I have sufficiently thrown them off the trail.  At this point they are convinced that their trip is still months away.  In fact, this weekend, the seven year old asked me to wrap up the name of our hotel and give it to her for Christmas!  Instead, I will be wrapping up their personalized, pre-ordered Mickey Ears with a note for each of them to be opened the day we leave.  It will also be my Dad's birthday and I will tell them I got them a little something as well.  Big Sister will get her ears first with the news that we will be staying at the Polynesian (her first choice).  The 4 year old, who is most proud of her early reading skills will get the note that says "We are going to Disney today!"  I am DYING to watch their reaction.  My money is on tears of joy from Big Sister and squeals of delight from the tidbit.

No matter how you tell them, be sure to have the video camera rolling.  Who knows, your little darling may end up on a Disney commercial or on the side of Cinderella Castle! 

Let the Memories Begin!!!!


Going To Disney: When to tell the kids

A trip to Disney World is a major trip in the life of any child lucky enough to go.  As a parent, one of the fun things is deciding when to tell your kids about the trip.   There are a few schools of thought on the topic...

Right Away
Many parents prefer the "right away" method.  Some families prepare a year or more in advance.  It is fun to let you kids know way ahead of time so that they can have input into the planning process.  They can interview friends, vote on the resort, check out menus, read up on the attractions, and start the countdown.  While all of that can be fun - especially for an older child - the wait can seem positively endless!  And if you think "how much longer" can drive you crazy in the car, try counting down for months!

Getting Close
Lots of parents prefer the "getting close" method.  Mom and Dad can get the resort and dining booked and then wait until a holiday or special occasion to spill the beans.  Sometimes letting the kids know a month or even a week in advance is perfect.  That gives the kids enough time to get excited and make some plans without having too much time to drive the rest of the famliy crazy.  If you are taking your child out of school for a few days, it also helps if they can get a head start on the work they will miss.

The Surprise
A few parents manage to pull off the "surprise".  I know kids who thought they were off to visit Grandma up until the minute they rolled under the official Disney World welcome sign!  The look of shock and delight is most definately picture worthy and the surprise is always great fun.  Of course that does have a bit of a trade off, as the planning,counting down, and anticipation are all part of the fun.

The Hybrid
My family goes the "hybrid" route.  Our kids know we are going, but they just don't know when.  For our family this works out perfectly.  We are able to openly discuss out trip and make plans for resort, dining, and parks.  We avoid the calendar obsessing that my girls are famous for.  I often joke that in our house we operate on a "Need to know basis, and my children don't need to know!"

For our last trip, we woke the children up and told them to get dressed because we were hopping on a plane and would be at Disney by lunch time.  My daughter was still having trouble with her "R's" and kept asking, "Aww you seaweous?"  After assuring her that, in fact,  we were serious, her little face just lit up.  One of my favorite memories. Ever.  In fact the girls, enjoyed the hybrid approach so much they told me that they want to do it again.  They asked for us to surprise them on the actual day of the trip.

My oldest is a pretty smart cookie and likes to think that she doesn't miss a trick, so I have been playing into her cute little hands.  Our trip is in December, but at least once a week I will "slip" and say something about "When we go to Disney in Feb---I mean whenever we go to Disney..."  Now she is convinced that she is one step ahead of me because I have accidentally let it slip that our trip is in February!  Mwaaa-haaaa-haaa! (or insert your other favorite evil laugh here.)

What works for your family?  Have you tried multiple approaches?  Let me know in the comments section!


Diary of a Park Bag

If you have ever been on a Disney fan board, you have inevitably read at least one thread about park bags.  What style, size and brand to bring are endless discussed.  You can also find post after post about what people put in their park bags. 

Since I am about 30 days away from our next trip to Disney World, I have already pulled out my park bag and reviewed its contents.  While everything was all spread out I decided to arrange it neatly and snap a photo to share with you guys.  Of course, I did all of this when my darling husband was not home, lest he decide to have me committed.

First of all, let me explain the strategy that works for our family...  My kids are young enough that we still make use of a stroller.  We really use it more as a pack mule that as a stroller.  My kids could probably do the parks on foot, but whining really annoys this mama!  As a result, I like to make judicious use of a stroller when I know a lot of walking will be involved, or on particularly long days.  Because of the pack mule option, we pack 2 bags and perhaps a small cooler.  One bag contains "the valuables" and is kept with us at all times.  The husband and I take turns carrying it.  In it you will find both of cameras (video and still), a cell phone, and anything else that would ruin our vacation if we lost.  The other bag contains the "extras" that make our life easier in the park.  Nothing in that bag is "mission critical", so I am ok with assuming the risk of leaving it in the stroller.  Are you shocked?  Well, don't be. people leave things in strollers all the time!  Most people never have any problems leaving their things behind.  That being said...DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING VALUABLE IN A STROLLER.  If it will ruin your vacation, or even your day, keep it with you!  My general criteria:  If it will take more than 10 minutes and $3 to replace any item then don't leave it behind!
As for what kind of bags to use...I bring a plain old standard issue backpack.  I think I got it at Walmart for $10.  It is not a fancy hikers day pack, it does not contain a camel back, it is just a simple backpack.  My husband - the primary valuables carrier uses his old college back pack.  Surprisingly, it has not yet dry rotted.

Drum roll please....here is a list of what I actually carry in my bag:

  • Rain Gear - Heavy Duty Ponchos, Ziplok bags to store them in when we are done, and a chammy cloth (nice for wiping down a stroller or wet bench!)
  • "The Drug Store" - Ibuprofen, Dramamine, Tums, Lip Balm, Contact Lens drops, tissues, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, wet wipes,  a stain remover pen and ear plugs for my princesses who are not fans of loud noises.
  • The First Aid Kit - I bought a little pre-fab kit and supplemented with some extras.  I have band aids of all sizes, a new Neosporin Spray that is the size and shape of a credit card, tweezers, nail clippers, safety pins, moleskin for blisters, alcohol wipes, insect repellent, and insect bite relief.  Probably overkill, but it all fit in the little white box, so I don't care!
  • Kid Stuff - Glow Sticks, colored blinking "flashlights", perhaps a snack or something to keep them occupied if the lines are long.
  • Miscellaneous - Disposable Ponchos for water rides (we toss them or pass them along when we are done), extra zip top bags, Autograph books, and some spare change for penny press machines and fountains.
  • "Back in the Day" items included an extra diaper or two, some wipes, and perhaps a change of clothes...Loved having toddlers, but I don't really miss the extra stuff that comes along with them!
  • And of course...I always have my daily itinerary, dining information, and the World at a Glance Card, Disney Fun Fact Cards, and tip cards provided exclusively by TMC Travel.  (Yes, that is a shameless plug!)
So, there you have it...all of the stuff that I schlep around with me!  If you do not have a stroller pack mule, I would suggest a locker or streamlining a bit.  How about you?  What essential did I not mention that you must have?