No Free Dining for Early 2013? Disney Discounts Announced for Early 2013.

Today not one , but two discounts were announced for select dates from Jan 2 to March 7.  One of the promotions is the typical Room Discount that we all know and love.  The second offer is for a discounted package that includes dining.  While the "Stay Play and Dine"  discount is more substantial than the room only discounts for the resorts I priced out, they are not quite as good as a free dining discount would be.  This leads me to believe that we might not see free dining this time around, folks.  My guess is that Disney feels they can fill the rooms with a more modest discount based on the buzz surrounding the Fantasyland expansion - and I have a feeling they are right.

As a reminder the discounts announced today can only be booked by Disney Visa holders at this time.  This offer will be made available to the general public beginning on October 10.  (Not October 14, as I was mistakenly told this morning.)

I would recommend that you take advantage of these offers while you can and not hold out for free dining, as I do not think that is in the cards for this winter.  If you are not a Disney Visa holder, but would like to go ahead and book you trip in anticipation of the discount rolling out on the 10th we can certainly get started, and I will just apply the discount that morning to your existing reservation. 

If my gut is wrong and they roll out free dining later, I will simply change your reservation to take advantage of it!

Here are the off the Disney Visa website.

PS - I have no idea how the Stay Play and Dine offer is actually being calculated.  Is it a flat discount on a total package?  Is it a free day?  Is it a discount on a component?   I can't seem to put my finger on it and nobody that I have spoken with at Disney has been able to tell me.  Once I get my head around it I will let you know if there is any way to structure you trip to take better advantage!

Free Dining for 2013, not yet! Room Discounts are here for Jan-Mar!

There is still no official news, or even a reliable rumble about if or when free dining is coming for 2013.

Room Only Discounts are out today for Disney Visa Holders, in varying amounts up to 35% for stays Jan 2 - March 7.

Offers to the general public will be available on Oct 14.

These offers are available through the end of the year, subject to availability.

Please let me know if I can help plan your Disney vacation. As always if we get you booked on one offer and a better offer becomes available, we will automatically switch you over to maximize your savings!

Email me today!


Free Dining is Back for Fall! 2013 Packages are on the way!

***5/6/2013 NOTE***
We have some offical news!

***3/7/13 NOTE****  This blog post was from last fall. Disney announcd free dining for fall at the same time they announced that they were releasing 2013 vacation packages.  Google has unhelpfully combined the two separate headlines.  As of this writing, no dates for free dining has been released for 2013.  If you would to to be added to our free dining watch please email ginger@tmctravel or better yet start planning your vacation. 

I hope that we will hear about free dining in September in March or April.  We will likely not hear anything about free dining in October-December until mid to late July.  That said, I really do recommend that you go ahead and get the ball rolling in terms of planning.  Because that time frame is typically a "free dining" period there is a run on dining reservations as soon as the announcement is made. (IF an announcement is made! :))  I like to have my families already booked and ready with their dining reservations made. That way the morning any discount is announced I am able to just apply it to their reservations.  If we guess the dining window accurately, we are all set.  If we miss by a day or two we just make a few minor adjustments.  If we totally miss then we can go back to the drawing board and are no worse off than if you waited until the announcement to book.

As a reminter, there is absolutely no charge or fee for my services.  I have the same prices and discounts that you find on, and I have to abide by all of their booking rules.  Just like booking with Disney there is a $200 deposit required to hold your package and that is FULLY REFUNDABLE AND CHANGEABLE until your final payment date 45 days prior to check in.  That means that if your trip is dependent upon a free dining announcement that never comes, you can cancel your reservation and have your deposit fully refunded as long as you do so 45 days prior to travel.

Once we get you booked, we need to wait until about 6.5 months before you travel for the crowd estimates park hours to come out.  Once it does, we can use that information to map out a plan.  Crowds can fluctuate SIGNIFICANTLY at that time of year, particularly at Magic Kingdom.  So we make sure we make the most out of your time.  Once we know which park you will be in each day we can plan your dining reservations around that.  I will be happy to make your reservations for you or give you all of the information you need to handle it on your own.

There are a lot of extra perks for using TMC Travel to book.  First of all we offer worry free booking.  If a discount comes out after you book, we automatically apply it to your reservation.  You do not have to keep up with the latest and call to ask me to apply it to your reservation...I just "handle it".  If another discount comes out, I crunch the numbers and make sure we have your family on the best possible discount.  I have changed discounts 3 times for some families to insure they have the best deal!

Other perks include a free gift for everyone in your travel party, a referral program ($20 gift card for anyone that is not traveling with you that books with me), tip cards to keep you organized, and finally I can help with last minute questions you may have.  

Please let me know if I can help!

This week looks to be a busy one!  As hotly rumored on the internet, Free Dining is back for fall.  If you are a Disney Visa holder...Congratulations!  You can start booking your trip today.  If you are not a card holder then your booking window is set to open on Thursday. 

That is the good news....the bad news is that the dates seem a little more limited than they have in years past.  Here is the scoop:

Free dining is available to guests checking in on the following dates:


As long as you check in during free dining, you will have it for the duration of your stay.  There is a minimum of a 3 night stay with  a 2 day ticket, and a maximum stay of 14 days.  You must book by 9/29, pending limited availability.  Little Mermaid rooms at the Art of Animation resort are excluded from the offer. 

The guests at value resorts will get the quick service plan free, but can upgrade to plus dining for just the cost difference between the two plans.  Guests staying a moderate resorts, deluxe resorts, and deluxe villas will get the plus dining plan free.

In other news...
2013 Vacation Packages will be released on Wednesday.  If you have been waiting to book next year's vacation, it is almost "go time"!

As a reminder, I am a no-fee travel agent specializing in Disney.  I would love to help you plan your free dining Disney extravaganza, your 2013 trip, or anything in between.  There is no additional cost for my services, and I offer free gifts for everyone in your travel party with a 4 or more day package.  Please feel free to contact me at .  

December Dining News!

Chef Mickey's for Christmas lunch anyone?
It appears that Disney has opened up lunch reservations during the Christmas crush.  I think a nice later lunch with Mickey on the way back to the resort for an afternoon break sounds like a FANTASTIC idea!   

Candlelight Processional News
The popular Candlelight Processional Dining Package will be available for booking tomorrow.  You will be able to book these reservations ONLINE!  In case you missed last week's announcement about narrators:

November 23 to November 25, 2012 — Isabella Rossellini
November 26 to November 29, 2012 — Neil Patrick Harris
November 30 to December 1, 2012 — Whoopi Goldberg
December 2 to December 4, 2012 — TBA
December 5 to December 7, 2012 — TBA
December 8 to December 10, 2012 — TBA
December 11 to December 13, 2012 — Jodi Benson
December 14 to December 16, 2012 — Olivia Newton John
December 17 to December 19, 2012 — TBA
December 20 to December 22, 2012 — Trace Adkins
December 23 to December 25, 2012 — Gary Sinise
December 26 to December 28, 2012 — TBA
December 29 to December 30, 2012 — Marlee Matlin / Jack Jason

As a reminder there are 3 shows 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15.  The 5:00 show will have late lunch times available for dining.  The 6:45 will have very early dinner times.  More "reasonable" early dinner times will be available for guests attending the 8:15 show.


Shoud I Buy a No Expiration Ticket at Disney?

Question from the mailbag:

(Okay, so it is not officially a letter, I mean, who actually writes letters anymore?  But "mailbag" is much catchier than "people call and ask me this question a lot", so work with me.)

We are are going to Disney World for 5 days this summer. We know that we want to go again next year, so should we just by a 10 day ticket and add on the No Expiration Option?  I think we can save $57 per ticket, that sounds like a good deal.  Is it?

The No Expiration option can be a good deal, but it is not without it's pitfalls!  When considering this option, there are a few things to consider.  When you look at the pricing of the No Expire tickets, be aware that the price of the ticket is based on the total number of days on your original ticket, not the number of days that you want to "save" or carry over to your next trip.  So if you want to break up a 10 day ticket for use on two 5 day vacations, you would need to purchase a 10 day ticket for $318 and then add $275 for the 10 day no expire option, for a total of $593.  This is a savings over the $536 you would pay for a pair of 5 day tickets.

Saving money is good, so no expiration it is!  Right?  Hold on...there is more you need to know....

The Pros
  • Saving Money - In the example above, you would save about $57 per ticket with the no expiration option. Depending on how your family vacations, the savings can be even more significant.  I have a friend who visits family in Florida several times a year.  She often tacks on one or two Disney days.  Over a period of 2 years, she will visit the parks a total of 10 days, going 1 or 2 days at the time. In that case a 10 day No Expiration ticket is REALLY good deal for her.  She would save $291 per person purchasing a 10 day non expiring ticket instead of purchasing three 2 day tickets and 4 single day tickets.
  • "Savings Account" - You can consider the remaining days on your ticket as a little Disney savings account.  Your tickets are paid for and ready to go when you are.  That next trip seems a little more affordable, right?
  • Price Protection - As we saw over the weekend, Disney raises prices every year.  If you hold your No Expire tickets over a period of a few years, you have hedged yourself against the inevitable price hikes.
  • Kids Grow Up - If you purchase Junior a No Expire ticket when he was 8 and you return when he is 10, you can still use that ticket, even though Junior is technically considered an adult.
The Cons
  • You May Miss a Discount - Several times a year, Disney offers a free dining plan with the purchase of a room and ticket package.  If you already have a ticket, you are out of luck.  You can work around this buy buying a ticket with a minimum number of days (usually 1 or 2) for everyone in your party in order to get the free dining discount.  This often ends up being the better deal than not taking the discount at all.  However, it completely eliminates the savings that you got from purchasing the No Expire option in the first place.
  • No Upgrades - Once you are 14 days past the first use of your ticket, you can no longer upgrade your ticket.  So if you purchased a base ticket on your first vacation and decide you want to park hop on your second, you are out of luck.
  • Tic-Tac, No Tradeback - You cannot apply the remaining value of your tickets to any other vacation package.
  • Don't Lose That Ticket - If you are like me and you organize your world by using the "Stack System" then this could be an issue for you.  When you get home, put those tickets in a safe spot and don't forget!  If you loose your ticket you are out of luck.
  • Keep Count - You need to remember the number of days remaining on your ticket.  I would put all tickets in an envelope and label the number of days remaining.  Wouldn't it stink to get there thinking you had 6 days remaining only to find you have 3?!?
  • It May Not Be the BEST Deal - Let's hop back up to the example above....the family planning a pair of 5 day vacations.  If they schedule their trips within the same year (For example, Trip 1 October 25, 2012 and Trip 2 October 15, 2013) then the Annual Pass would be the way to go.  Instead of $593 for the 10 Day No Expire, they would only pay $574 for the Annual Pass.  That would also allow them to better take advantage of "half days" on arrival and departure day...possibly give them 4 more days in the parks on the same 2 vacations.  Plus they could take advantage of the other Annual Passholder Discounts.
  • Time Value of Money - It is a little known secret that this mom turned blogger turned Disney Travel agent, actually started out with a degree in Finance with a concentration in Financial Management (believe it or not, I used to design, test, and train mortgage lending software!).  As I look through this conundrum through the lens of my Finance degree, I am reminded about the old "Time Value of Money" issue.  I will not bore you with the math, but needless to say, you have to think about the opportunity cost of having the extra cash sitting in your bank account vs having a cute pair of tickets sitting in your underwear drawer for safe keeping.  Money in tickets is money that is not working for you. This is compounded if you hold your tickets for a longer period of time.  If you are purchase your tickets using a credit card that you do not immediately pay off, you are eating up your savings in interest. 
The Bottom Line

Disney offers these tickets because on average, they make more money doing so.  They do not offer them out of the kindness of their hearts.  That is not to say that these tickets are not a good deal for some people.  If you pop in for a day or two at the time over a period of a year or more, then you should strongly consider this option.  Otherwise, take what you would have spent, and start saving for your next trip!

Work the system, don't let the system work you!


Kiddo Control: Or how not to lose your children in a theme park!

It is every parents fear. Just the thought of loosing a child in a busy theme park is enough to make any parent's heart pound and palms sweat. Our daughter was a very independent 4 year old on our last visit to Disney World and I was terrified of loosing my grip on her little hand after a parade and being separated as the crowds surged. Fortunately, there are a few common sense steps you can take to help keep your kids safe.

Label them - If you read my previous blog entries, you know I am a fan of my label maker. When it comes to my children I take it a step further. I ordered a dog tag for each child...not military...canine. I put their names on one side and my name and cellphone number on the other. I attached the tag to their little shoes. This insured that my "late talker" would not need to try to communicate any information should she get lost, and my fearful 4 year old would not have to try to remember our contact information when she was already scared. You could also use an id bracelet, or, if your child is a little older a Sharpie and their little forearm will work just fine.

Match them - I am lucky on this front. I have 2 little girls that love to coordinate their outfits. If can find a matching outfit for them to wear to a park, pool, or playground I will definitely have them wear it. If matching outfits are not an option, a shirt in a similar color is a good alternative. It really helps you locate your children in a crowd. Scanning a crowd or an play area is much easier when your eye is looking for only one color. If one child gets separated, you won't be put on the spot trying to remember what they put on that can show any cast member what your other child is wearing.

Photograph them - What else are you going to to when you are waiting for the bus or for rope drop? Snap a quick picture as you start the day and then you have a current picture of your child in the outfit they are wearing. Hopefully, this will be photograph you will never need.

Teach them - Talk about what they should do if they get lost. Show them what a cast members name tag looks like and let them know that is a good place to start if they need help. If a cast member is not nearby or if they are uncomfortable asking a cast member tell them to ask a mommy. Most mommies will drop everything for a child in need and will not leave them until they are back where the belong. If your child is not especially verbal, be sure you show them where your contact information is located.

Corral them - A stroller is great for keeping a little one (or even a not so little one safe). Encourage your child to use a stroller for as long as you can safely stuff them in one. If your child must walk, have a hand holding rule. If your child is young, or prone to go darting off consider a backpack type tether. I must admit that I hated the thought of a "leash" before I had children. They are children not dogs. Then I realized I put my dog on a leash for the sole purpose of keeping her safe...suddenly the "leash" did not seem like such a bad idea. I promise if you have your child on a leash I will not judge you...unless you are jerking him around like a misbehaving pup...then I will judge you...HARSHLY.

Drill them - A great thing to teach your child is to stay put if they get lost. You can quickly back track your last steps and find them. Practice "losing" a parent. Once you notice Daddy is missing you can back track your steps and find Daddy waiting calmly. When you discover him, he can confirm he was scared, but knew you would be back for him. Have him reiterate that was staying right where he was when he realized he was lost while he was looking for a cast member or a mom to help.

Prepare them - Tell them to answer your calls. This sounds totally ridiculous, but it is absolutely true. I remember a little boy named Michael getting lost on the beach. His mother became frantic. The entire beach moved into action. People formed human chains to "drag" the ocean floor. I can still remember the chilling screams of his mother as she called his name. After about 20 minutes we really began to fear the worst. About a half hour into the ordeal Michael was located. He was sitting in a tidal pool about 20 feet from his mother. He heard her frantic screams and ignored them. Why? He thought he was in trouble. He figured if he just laid low for a little while she would cool off and he would not be in trouble anymore. Tell you kids they will not get in trouble.....just answer your calls!

Should the worst happen and you find your self separated from your child, take a deep breath and don't panic. Hopefully, they will remember the stay put rule and if you back track a few steps you will find them waiting for you - perhaps never even knowing they were lost in the first place. If you cannot find your child within a minute, notify a cast member immediately. Cast members deal with lost children every day and they are pros at handling the situation. Children who have misplaced their parents are taken to the Baby Care Center or Guest Relations. A cast member will show you the way. If you have two adults, send one to the Baby Care Center and have the other stay in the general vicinity. Also, be sure to have you cell phone in hand. Hopefully, whoever locates you child will spot the id tag and call you immediately.

When it comes to keeping track of your children I am a firm believer that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Hopefully, these tips will help keep your kiddos with you, or at least speed up the the reunion should you get separated.


Disney Visa Discounts for Art of Animation!

Attention Disney Visa Card Holders!

Disney Visa Holders can save 15% at Disney's new Art of Animation Resort from June 18 - September 27.  You must book by 6/14 to take advantage of this offer. 

As of right now, only the Nemo themed Family Suites are open, with  other areas of the resort schedule to open in phases.

Finding Nemo Family Suites
Opening May 31, 2012
Cars Family Suites
Opening June 18, 2012
The Lion King Family Suites
Opening August 10, 2012
The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms
Opening September 15, 2012

As a reminder, this may not be the best discount, if you are traveling in September, be sure that you look for free dining first to make sure that you find the best deal...or better yet...Give TMC Travel a call and we can crunch some numbers for you!  While it is not necessarily the best discount Disney has ever announced, I think getting any sort of discount over the popular summer season or at a new resorts is a good deal - combined, it is a good as it gets!  Give us a call if we can help!


More than Four (or Five)? Disney Accomodations for Larger Families

Hi folks!   I would like to welcome back our very first guest blogger Lori Potter.  Since her first blog post with us, she has officially joined the TMC Travel family.  Lori is a mom of four and has great experience travelling with a larger brood!

New Innova Bed at Art of Animation.  Is it a table or a bed?
Photo courtesy of Disney
We have a family of 6, which according to Disney it makes us a large family.  And because of that it makes our accommodation options at Disney a bit more limited.  Thankfully Disney is finally realizing that more and more families have more than 2 kids and has just built the beautiful Art of Animation resort which adds a ton more family suites into their inventory at a more affordable price.  So what are the on-property resort options for a family of 6?

The most economical way to go is actually 2 rooms at a Value resort.  If you are a family traveling together with one adult in each room then Disney will give you priority on adjoining rooms.  If you don’t mind Value accommodations this is a great option.  However, there are some more options if you want to all stay in one room. 

The Value resorts All Star Music and Art of Animation have Family Suites that are specifically designed for a family of 6.  My family just stayed in a Family Suite at the All Star Music and we really enjoyed our time there.  It is a Value resort so the doors open to exterior hallways and the linens are well, not as nice as some resorts but all in all it was a great fit for us.  When you open the door you walk into the family room.  There is a sofa (that turns into a double bed), a chair (which makes a twin size bed) and an ottoman (that folds out into a bed!).  Off to the side there is a vanity area with good storage for suitcases and a bathroom.   There is also a “kitchenette” which has a microwave, small fridge and a counter area.  There is a bedroom (with a door) that has a double bed, TV and desk area.  Across from the bedroom is another bathroom.   So two bathrooms, beds for 6 and ample storage space!  Our suite was in Jazz Inn 9.  It was sort of in the middle of the resort.  We didn’t have to walk too far to the pool or the main building which houses the food court and the bus stops.  There was also parking close to our room which was convenient for us since we drove.  Art of Animation is a brand new resort and will have a similar layout for their family suites.   However, instead of an ottoman there will be table that folds out into a bed!  A table!  Can’t wait to see these in person and hopefully stay there at an upcoming trip. 

In the moderate resort category the Cabins at Fort Wilderness are a great option.  The cabins are individual buildings set at the beautiful Fort Wilderness campground.   They are equipped with a full kitchen, one bathroom, bedroom with a double bed and a set of bunk beds and a family room that has a pull down double Murphy bed.  Each cabin also has a private patio.  We love this option as we don’t have to worry too much about the kids being so loud they disturb neighbors.  We also love having the bedroom for the kids so we can stay up later (well that’s the though anyways..we are usually more tired than the kids!).  Fort Wilderness is a fun place to stay – there are always tons of activities going on around the resort like nightly movies and a Chip and Dale Sing-a-long by the campfire.  It has a great restaurant – Trail’s End and a fabulous dinner show – The Hoop De Doo.  Transportation can be a little bit of challenge – the resort is very large so there are buses to take you around to different spots around the resort as well as to the Disney transportation areas.  It is a quick boat ride to the Magic Kingdom and you take buses everywhere else. 

If you are looking for a little more luxury in your resort stay Disney has several Deluxe Villas that will accommodate a family of 6.  There resorts are part of the Disney Vacation Club are designed with luxury and comfort in mind.   There are 8 villas that have 2 bedrooms that will fit a family of 6:  Saratoga Springs, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Old Key West, Animal Kingdom (both Jambo and Kidani), Wilderness Lodge and Bay Lake Towers.  Fair warning – these resorts can be very pricey and the two bedrooms at some of them (Bay Lake Towers) are pretty hard to come by since Disney Vacation Club members have priority for them.  However, the villas are spacious, beautiful and very comfortable (and they have washers and dryers!).  A great option if it fits your budget.  These resorts all have full kitchens and at least 2 bathrooms. 

We’d love to help you find a great resort fit for your family of 6 or more!  Call us today!!


Good things are happening!

Over the past week there have been lots of good news coming from Disney.  Nothing so earth shattering that I felt compelled to drop everything and start typing, but if you look at the whole picture there are a lot of little changes that will add up to a much better guest experience.  So here goes...

  • WI-FI-nally - All Disney resorts now have wifi available in guest rooms and most public spaces including pools and lobbies.  Finally.  I have taken some flack on some message boards for criticizing Disney for not having Wifi available in the resorts.  (Perhaps it had something to do with me asking if there was indoor plumbing and if the toilets flushed - I was feeling unusually snarky that day.) Yes, it is a vacation and some people like/want/need to unplug.  However, sometimes you just have to keep in touch with your real life, even at Disney World....not to mention that wifi is often involved with how people spend their leisure time.  I always felt that it was a bit incongruous that they did not have wifi long ago, for a company that is often on the leading edge of technology, this took awhile.  But it is done, so good for you Disney! 
  • The Fridges are coming!  The Fridges are coming! - Value resort guests are getting an extra perk in the form of refrigerators included in the room.  Formerly, Disney charged an additional $10 for the night to have a refrigerator in the room.  The cynic in me wonders if they just got tired of playing Frigidaire Shuffle.  What ever the reason, it is a meaningful upgrade to a lot of families!
  • Improved Channel Lineup - While I don't go to Disney with the goal of sitting in front of the television, it is certainly nice to have something to do when the kiddos fall asleep.  So now you can visit Mickey and not miss out on what ever crazy stuff the Real Housewives are into.
  • Story Book Circus -  The first section of the Fantasyland expansion is open.  The newly re-themed Barnstormer is open (same track, new look) as well as half of the "Dueling Dumbo", complete with a cool water feature.  The new train station is open as well.  The reviews and photos look great.  I am excited to see what more is in store for the former footprint of Toon Town.  Technically, the area is in a "soft opening" stage, meaning that it can open and close on a whim. I will be hitting the park Thursday and this area will be my first stop!
  • Kim is out and Perry is in! - The Kim Possible Missions at Epcot will be getting a face lift this summer.  Kim is out and Perry is in, or should I say Agent P is in!  The Kim Possible Wold Showcase Adventure is a very well done attraction.  It is a great use of technology and is a perfect distraction for the kids while Mom and Dad enjoy the World Showcase.  The only problem?  Who is Kim Possible?  It was a bit surprising that Disney chose the less than popular franchise to begin with.  Phineas and Ferb seem to be growing in popularity, and Perry is a big hit in our household.  We are excited to see what Agent P has in store!
  • The Fantasy - Disney's newest ship has its inaugural sailing at the end of the month. I am excited to be going on a preview cruise later this week.  Stay tuned for more information, or even better hop on over to Sail Disney and enter their very first GIVEAWAY!


Disney Cruise Review - Girls Gone Goofy - Part 1


I could stop right there, but I think some supporting documentation is in order!

As you may remember, a few weeks ago I left my sweet girls with my husband and skipped off to Florida for a "Girls Gone Goofy" cruise.  I have to say, as I shared the news of my trip, everyone had the same initial response..."Without your KIDS?!?!"  At my confirmation, there was one of two follow up responses..."Why do a kids cruise with another adult?" and "Good for you!"  Since the ladder requires no further comment, I will address the former.  Yes, I did a Disney Cruise, without my children.  Yes, I was on a boat with a lot of other children.  No, this did not bother me in the least.  You see, Disney knows that grown ups want to have fun, too.  Whether you are with your kids and they ditch you for the kids clubs, or you are traveling sans kiddos there is so much to do!

The check in process was a piece of cake!  We arrived at the terminal, a nice gentleman took our non-carry on bags and scolded us to stop smiling.  "Whadda ya think this is?  The happiest place on earth, or what?"  Cue bigger smiles.  Before we entered the terminal, they did a quick check to make sure we had the proper travel documents.  We stood in the shadow of the ship (it is HUGE...and BEAUTIFUL!)  as followed a quickly moving line to enter the terminal.  As soon as we entered the building we went through an "old school" style airport security check (keep you shoes on!) and headed up the escalator to the main part of the terminal. 

The terminal itself is cavernous, and very blue.  We headed straight to the line to check in, and within minutes were cleared to board the ship.  I did stop for a quick picture of Mickey standing in front of the model ship.  As we entered the big yellow Mickey ears to board the ship, two lines quickly formed.  One for pictures and the other to just get on the ship.  Quick tip:  Just get on the ship.  There are plenty of other photo ops later.
My first of many Mickey sightings!

As we boarded the ship, our names were announced over a loud speaker..."The Disney Dream would like to welcome Ginger and Kelly!".  We walked through a "tunnel" of smiling applauding cast members.  While I knew that was part of their standard protocol, and that they do it for every family, I was surprised at how welcome it made me a total VIP!  Immediately, we were impressed at the huge 3 story lobby, exquisitely decorated  and crowned with the most amazing crystal chandelier.
Is it me or does this look like a painting?

As soon as we embarked, we headed right up to Cabana's for a great buffet lunch.  We found a nice little table outside and enjoyed our lunch with a great view of the port and even the NASA launch pad.  I had no sooner sat down when a cute waiter in white shorts appeared with a tray full of Bahama Mamas - the drink of the day.  Cabana's proved to be one of my favorite dining spots!
A bathtub full of shrimp -
Bahama Mama
In general, your stateroom will not be ready until about 1:30pm.  Since it was just before 1:00 we decided to wander around the ship and take lots of pictures.  I quickly found what would be my favorite spot. (Head all the way up to Deck 13 and walk all the way forward.)  It is a cool lounging bench that allows your legs to stretch out in front of you.  And do you notice the little brown drink ledges?  They thought of everything!
After our impromptu ship tour we headed to our room.  Since this was a bit of a budget trip, we opted for an ocean view room on Deck 2.  It was a fairly small, but efficient space.  It was great for a pair of friends.  While technically our room would sleep 4, I think I would find it pretty tight sharing the space with 3 other adults or friends.  I think it would be a cozy fit for a family with a few kids.  The split bath was really nice.  There was a toilet and sink in one room and a tub and sink in the other.  This made it much easier for us to get ready.  We unpacked our stuff and checked out the Daily Navigator.  The Navigator is your daily calendar of events.  It is your key to all shipboard activities.  We noticed that they were offering a Spa Tour, so we headed on up!

The Senses Spa, is a pretty and quiet little place.  We did a quick tour and learned about all of the services they offer...mani, pedi, haircuts & styles, massage, facials, personal training, and all kinds of other treatments.  We were tempted by the Rainforest Experience.  At only $15 per day, it seemed like a very reasonable treat.  We went ahead and booked the experience and we were so glad we did.  We enjoyed the aroma showers, the saunas, and the hot tubs.  I also found another favorite spot...the heated tile loungers...HEAVEN!!!  More to come on our spa day...

We finished up our Spa Tour in time for the Assembly or Muster Drill.  It is quick, painless and absolutely necessary.  We met at our assigned spot, our names were checked off a list and we were given instruction as to what to do in case of an emergency.  If you want to get this done quickly SHOW UP ON TIME!  I think we spent more time waiting on stragglers than we did on the drill itself.

After the drill we headed up to the pool deck and enjoyed the Sail Away party.  There are some catchy songs, some choreographed dances, and lots of characters.  Before you know it, the ships horn blasts the first few notes to "When you wish upon a star" and you are off!  At that point, the deck party continues with regular dance music and lots of movin' and groovin'.  I have to say that pulling out of port felt a little disconcerting.  You cannot feel any movement, so it seems as if the rest of the world is moving by.  It is a bit of an odd feeling, but you get used to it quickly.  Aided by the fact that you loose sight of land and all reference points fairly quickly!

Since we had a VERY early wake up call around 4am, we decided to head down to our room, have a glass of wine, relax and get ready for dinner.  Our dinner time was not until 8:15 and we were feeling a bit hungry.  We decided to order a cheese tray from room service to enjoy as we got ready.  It ended up being a GREAT decision, and one we repeated every evening.

The first night of our dining rotation sent us to Animator's Palate.  We enjoyed a little time with Nemo's friend Crush as we enjoyed a delicious dinner.  I loved the theme of the restaurant, and the food was good, too!

 After dinner we enjoyed a few minutes of a lovely evening breeze and then headed back to our staterooms to turn in. We had a long but fun first day on board.  When we returned to our stateroom, we found that our Stateroom Hostess had been busy in our absence.  Our beds had been turned down, a chocolate treat was left for us to enjoy, and the next day's Navigator was awaiting our perusal.  After a quick look and discussion of our plans for Day 2 we were off to Sleepytown!

Stay tuned for "Girls Gone Goofy" Part 2!


Free Dining on the Way???

Thanks to a tip from an on the ball client (Love you, Suzanne!)  I just checked my email from my Disney Rewards Visa.  Inside, I found an offer for Free Dining from August 25th - September 29th with the purchase of a 5 day Magic You Way Package.  It appears to be the same promotion offered in years past with the quick service dining plan included with the Value resorts, and the regular dining plan included with all other resorts.

As you may know, his usually means a similar offer is on the way for  the general public.  So grab your calendar, pick some dates and give me a call!  We can get your trip planned and apply the discount as soon as it becomes available!

UDATED: Sources indicate that this offer will be available for the general public beginning March 5th.


Check out for the latest in Disney Cruise News!

I think it is safe to say that I have been bitten by the Disney cruise bug.  I recently returned from a girls only weekend getaway on the Disney Dream.  In a few weeks I will be lucky enough to check out the Disney Fantasy on a preview cruise before the inaugural sailing.  A week after that I will be taking the husband and kids on the Disney Dream for a Spring Break cruise. 

I am all boned up with Disney Cruise knowledge to share, so I have joined forces with some of the other members of the TMC Travel crew and we are launching today!  Our goal is to provide you with all the latest news, tips, and tricks for all things Disney Cruise.

I will share some of my cruise experiences over here, but in a more limited manner, as this little corner of the web is reserved primarily for my Disney World obsession.  For those that are interested in reading a little more about cruising, please hop on over to Sail Disney.  Oh...and be sure to like The Mouse Connection and Sail Disney on Facebook! We have some great giveaways on the way, so stay tuned!


Changes coming to the unofficial FastPass policy

Disney diehards have long been aware of Disney's official unofficial FastPass policy, namely to honor a guest FastPass anytime after the return time printed on the ticket.  This policy would allow guests to squirrel away FastPasses during the less crowded morning hours and then ride them whenever it was convenient (or crowded) later in the day.

As of March 7, 2012, a new FastPass policy will go into effect.  The new policy will more strictly enforce return times.  The new policy will allow guests to ride as early as 5 minutes before their window opens, which will hopefully alleviate some of the milling around in front of attractions for those that arrive a little early.  The policy will also allow a 15 minute grace period for the stragglers.

As you can imagine the Disney-geek universe is buzzing about the changes.  The strict rule followers feel are either neutral to the changes or even happy to have a level playing field.  Those that have always taken advantage of the never closing window feel slighted.  After all, the current policy for the most part works and people are happy.  Why mess with it?

No, really.  Why mess with it?  Most think the answer lies with the rumored Next Gen / X-Pass initiatives.  While much of the NextGen stuff sounds SUPER cool (read more here), the X-Pass concept (think premium FastPass) is getting a much more luke warm reception.  Theme Park Tourist has a harsh, though not unfair critique here.   I am anxious to see how the X-Pass is actually implemented.  I am not a fan of creating a class based Disney park experience based on how much you are willing to spend.  Although I have no problems creating a "class" based system between folks who are willing to do a little research for their trip before they go.  I always am amazed at the people willing to wait in line 90 minutes for an attraction that has FastPass open and available.  If they had done even 30 minutes of reading they would know that FastPass (in it's current incarnation) is free and fantastic!

But I digress...back to the implications of the anticipated policy change.  So here are some issues that are bound to come up.
  • ADR's - If you get held up waiting for Pooh to visit your table, or if you have an unusually long time to wait to be seated you could miss your window.  So make sure you pay attention to the return times before you grab the FastPass....any allow for things to go wrong.
  • Unexpected Delays - What happens if you get stuck on Splash Mountain for 45 minutes?  By the time they get you off, your window may have closed.  Will there be some sort of grace period?
  • Unexpected Downtime - What happens when the ride that you are holding a FastPass goes down?  I can only assume that they will give you a open pass to return anytime later in the day?
  • The Meltdown / Or Planned Afternoon Break - I must admit that I was most likely to take advantage of the late return when I had to leave the park in the afternoon.  Sometimes, it was for a planned break and others it was because someone in my party (child or adult - ahem - me) hit the meltdown point.  So if now parents are in the position of pushing an exhausted toddler an extra 15 minutes so they can use their FastPass, or they have to give it up.  That is not good for anyone in the parks! :)
  • Grace Period - With a 15 minute "grace period" being offered what happens if I show up 16 minutes late?  Am I out of luck?  What if my watch says 14 minutes?   What if the reason for the delay is that there was only one poor security guy checking bags at 5pm when I tried to re-enter the park.  (Yes, I am still bitter about almost missing my Le Cellier reservation over that!)
  • Bad Manners will abound - Can you imagine the poor cast members that are going to have to explain the policy.  "I know that you have arrived late for every FastPass you ever had, but now you can't.  Now you must wait 95 minutes to ride Toy Story Mania standby or you are out of luck."  As badly as I feel for the verbal assault that that castmember is going to take, I will feel equally as bad for the FastPass holder immediately behind that guest who just wants to get on the darn ride!
Whether or not you favor the changes or not...whether you are a fan of NextGen / XPass or not....there are sure to be some growing pains.  It will be interesting to see exactly how the new policy is implemented and if it will "stick".  Stay tuned....

    I am going on a Disney Cruise!

    Hi friends!  First of all, let me apologize for the long break.  Life has just gotten in the way.  It seems that as soon a folks pack up the last holiday decoration they are ready to think Disney for spring!  And who can blame them - I have the Disney Dream on my mind. 

    First of all, I have the best job ever.  Helping people plan vacations is just plain old fun....and the fact that Disney pays me to do it is even better.  If there is any downside to my job, it is that I have to do a lot of talking...and after awhile I am truly sick of my own voice.  So after a fabulously busy and  productive January (in a good way!)  I am sneaking off to Disney with a girlfriend for a 3 day cruise on the Dream.  It will be my first sailing on the Dream (she just celebrated her first birthday, you know!) and I am beyond excited.

    My girls were a little annoyed that I was leaving without them, but when they realized that that meant they had their favorite manservant (their father) at their beck and call for the weekend, they decided it was not so bad after all.  So they are sending me off with their blessings.  I am trying not to take offense.

    So what am I looking forward to the most?

    Fabulous company aside, I am looking forward to ridiculously sweet and expensive cocktails served in the DCL hurricane glasses as we leave Port Canaveral.  I am anxious to see what my friend Crush has been up to at Animator's Palate.  I am ready for the warmth of sunshine on my face and sand between my toes - even if it means that there is a bathing suit involved.  I am hoping that the water is warm enough for some snorkeling on Castaway Cay.  I am anticipating a delicious dinner in the relative peace of Palo.  I want to wander around the Straw Market in Nassau to find some treasures to bring home to my babies and the hubs, whom I will miss terribly. 

    As for said babies and the hubs....they will get their time on the Dream in April.  I am excited to be able to take 2 cruises in such a short period of time wearing two different hats.  This cruise is all about the grown up stuff, I want to try a mixology class, check out Serenity Bay and all there is for grownups to do.  Next time it will be about the kids - the characters, the clubs, the pools.  This trip is an oceanview stateroom, on deck is a veranda on deck 8.  This trip we are flying in and out and pushing the time limits to do so. The next we will drive and check out a hotel near the port.  This trip is 3 it enough?  Next trip is 5...will it be too much?

    I will find out and let you know!  I have a lot of work to do as soon as I land in Orlando in only a few short hours.  I know, I know...It is a tough job.  But by know you know that my dedication to my job is boundless!  :)  Also, keep checking back for  news about our new blog dedicated to Disney cruises.  It will be launching soon!