Merry Christmas from TMC Travel and The Mouse Connection!

So it is Christmas day. If you celebrate Christmas and are reading this blog either your family has driven you crazy, or you really should think about entering a twelve step program for Disney addicts. Either way the ladies at TMC Travel - Teri, Tracey, Lori and myself would like to wish you (and the family that has possibly driven you crazy) a very Merry Christmas!

Thanks for reading my labor of love.

May all of the joy and blessings of the holiday season be yours now and into the new year.



I'm ba-aack! Notes on the exhaustion and irritability factors.

Well, actually I have been back for a few days now.  I must finally face the facts.  I am getting older.  Disney World is exhausting.

We had a WONDERFUL time at Disney World, (in spite of the cold temperatures).  We were at Disney for a full week and I even managed to wear out my 4 year old - you know the one...the little one with the boundless energy.

We started every morning with "Rope Drop" as our goal.  About half the time, we missed it by a few minutes, but I was ok with that given the low crowds.  Most days we took an afternoon break, but there were a few that we just "pushed" through".  While it sounded like a good idea at the time, there was an irritability factor that was impossible to deny come sunset...and I am not talking about the children!  We also "paid the price" the next day.  I was so looking forward to really "digging into" Animal Kingdom this trip, but I was kind of too tired to really enjoy it.  I must remember to follow my own advice - afternoon breaks are important, very important!

I managed to get the kiddos and the husband into bed at a reasonable hour most nights.  I am an inveterate night owl and going to bed at 9 or 10 o'clock sounds like torture to me.  I foolishly headed back out into the parks by myself.  It was fun - a lot of strollers to wrangle, no agenda to follow, and no body's wish list to consider.  Such freedom!  Of course, the freedom came with a price - I did not get to bed  until after 2 am most days and with a 6:45-7:15 am wake up call there was not much time for sleep.  I would have been ok for a few days, but it was a grueling pace to keep for a week.

Every trip, it is not difficult to pick out the children that have been pushed to far and reached the "melt down" point.  They are easiest to spot in the afternoons due to a missed nap, or after dinner as they are begging to be put to bed.  This trip, however, I noticed more than a few couples had reached the breaking point.  I witnessed marital spat after spat.  It is quite possible that I may have even participated in one.  Fortunately, the better rested spouse of mine was able to pull back and give me some perspective.  I HATE bickering, and we were headed down that path.  I am thankful for the even temper of the wonderful man I married, and the gentle reminder that I was about to turn us into one of "those couples".  His advice is best here..."It's Disney World, and we can have a big argument about nothing because we are tired, or we can just get over it, be thankful that we are here.  Let's fix this now and enjoy the rest of our day."  Nicely said, husband.

And that is all from me for now.  It has taken me several days of going to bed before 11:00 - something I have not done since Jr High - and even a few afternoon naps to muster the energy to even get this quick post done.  I hope to return to a more regular schedule soon.  Now, if only those Christmas Cards would address themselves!

Busy Times Ahead - Prepare for Park Closures due to Capacity

Not a Disney Crowd,
but you get the idea!
If you are traveling to Walt Disney World during peak times, particularly over Christmas and Spring Breaks be prepared for the parks to close due to capacity.
Disney World closes in stages based on crowd conditions.  On busy days, you can expect the parks, particularly Magic Kingdom to close in stages as follows:
  • Stage 1 - Parking lot closures.  You can only access the parks if you use Disney Transportation.
  • Stage 2 - Ticket booths closures.  No new tickets will be sold, but previously issued tickets can be used.
  • Stage 3 -  Things start getting serious!  Only Disney resort guests can enter the park or those guests with an Annual Pass.
  • Stage 4 - Really serious!  The park is closed to new guests.
Turnstile counters are used to monitor traffic in the park, so Disney knows exactly how many people have entered each day. You can expect the staged closures to increase through the late morning and early afternoon.  The park will also re-open in stages as crowd levels drop.  It should be noted that each stage kicks in based on a specific head count, so once the park closes, the total head count has to fall below a certain number before it will re-open.  Do not expect to be allowed in the moment you see a family the same size as yours exit.

So what does this mean to you?
  • BEWARE OF DINING RESERVATIONS! If a park is closed and you have a dining reservation you will not get in!  No matter how much you beg...even if you have proof of your reservation.  Having to come up with alternate meal plans is no fun - being charged a no show fee because you failed to show up for you lunch reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table is really not fun.  If you have a dining reservations in a park that may close due to capacity, get there early and do not leave.
  • CONSIDER PARK HOPPING!  If you leave a park for a mid day break and it closes in your absence, you will not be able to re-enter.  If you only have a base ticket, then you are out of luck!  If you have a park hopper you can atleast cruise over to another park. 
  • GET THERE EARLY!  You won't get kicked out if you are already inside, so get there early and stay put!
  • BE SMART! - The Magic Kingdom will likely close first, so if you are park hopping make that your first stop.  Animal Kingdom is the least likely to close, so let that be your stand by or afternoon park.


I'm going to Disney World!

I am off to Disney World in just a few hours! And the coolest part?...My kids STILL don't know! Our plan is to wake them up feed them breakfast and the spring the news. It is my Dad's birthday (Happy Birthday, Papa Bear!) and I am going to give the girls a little something as well...some personalized mouse ears for the trip they think they are taking in February!

Then the big news... One will open a present saying that we will be staying at the Polynesian and the other ( my new little reader) will get to open the note announcing that we are leaving today!

ETD for airport...30 minutes after we spring the news!

I am so excited for them (and for me!). I am looking forward to getting lots more tips and tricks to share as well as lots of dining reviews. So stay tuned!!!


Tips on Tipping at Disney World

As we were going over our "pre-trip" checklist, my husband asked a great question... "How much cash to I need to have on hand, specifically for tips?"  Instead of answering him like a normal human being, I ran off to my computer to blog all of the ins and outs of tipping at Disney World.  (Don't worry, I will send him the link when I am done.)

Tipping is a very personal and touchy subject for a lot of people. What you choose to do is your decision, but if you are unsure of what is customary, read on!  These are general guidelines, but you should let service be your guide.  As former waitress who only got paid a wage of $2 per hour, I can testifiy that a dollar here or there can make a huge difference.  Even though my darling husband never had to work for tips, he is still a generous tipper - and it is one of the many reasons that I love him!  So be sure to budget for some hard working folks that make your trip great!

Luggage Handlers
  • Airport - If you check you bags with a skycap, you should tip at least $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag. 
  • Bell Services - It is not customary to tip bell services when you arrive at Disney World, as you luggage is frequently delivered in your absence.  If you request Bell Services to collect your bags prior to your departure, the $2/$1 rule listed above applies.  If you are an over-packer (and you know who you are!) and your bag feels as if it has been stuffed with rocks, be generous.
  • Magic Express or Shuttle Service - A few dollars for an enjoyable ride is a nice thank you. If your driver helps stow and remove your luggage from under the bus, consider them luggage handlers and tip $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag.
  • Taxi Service - You should tip atleast 15% for satisfactory service.  Again, luggage handling rules apply if they help load your bags. 
  • Town Car / Limo Service -  20% of total bill.  If you purchased a round trip fare, divide the fare in half and tip 20% on each leg.
  • Valet Service - $1-2 per car, but I tend to be more generous if it is raining or if there is some running involved.
  • Disney Bus Drivers (Parks) - No tip necessary.
  • Housekeeping (or "Mousekeeping")
    • For the general daily cleaning, consider leaving $2-5, more if you are a large family sharing a villa (and leaving a messy kitchen).
    • For special requests $1-2 per item, including forgotten items and turn down service.
    • Consider tipping your attendant daily, as your room may be serviced by different people during your stay.  Also, make sure the tip is clearly marked, tucked inside the "Room cleaned by " card, or left under a pillow.
  • Concierge - $5-10 per visit
  • Table Service Restaurants - 15-20%.  If you are a large party and gratuity has been added, feel free to leave something extra for superior service.
  • Buffet Restaurants - 10-15%
  • Counter Service Restaurants - No tip required.
  • Bartenders - $1-2 per drink
  • Room Service - 15% of total bill
The Fun Stuff
  • Spa Treatments  - 15-20%
  • Main Street Barbershop - 15-20%
  • Bippity Boppity Boutique - Tipping is appreciated
Keep in Mind...
  • Some employees are not permitted to take tips.  If you tip is politely declined, consider taking note of the Cast Member's name and writing a note to the manager praising their service.  Hopefully, their "tip" will come in the form of a nice raise. In fact, I would recommend a nice note for great service whether or not a tip is accepted.  The management staff does take the time to publicly acknowledge employees who recieve such notes.  If you happen to see a manager near by, grab them and let them know, they will be happy to hear it!
  • You should tip on the pre-tax amount of your bill, prior to any gift certificates or vouchers being applied.
  • At restaurants, tip your server based on their performance.  If the kitchen is slow, or your food is not good, do not take it out on your server.  If your server is attentive, polite and keeps your drink glass filled on a hot day, take care of him/her regardless of the food quality or speed.
  • Plan ahead!  The husband is in charge of keeping small bills on hand to take care of our tips.  We also set aside envelopes for tips so we do not fumble around at the last minute.  Tipping our Mousekeeper, Bell Services and our Magical Express Bus Driver is a given.  I stuff and pre-label envelopes for each tip.  I provide my children with lots of stickers and allow them to "decorate" the envelopes as they see fit.  It is a perfect time waster on the plane!
I hope this helps answer some of the murky questions about tipping at Disney.  Now if you will excuse me, I have an email to send to my husband!