More to the Mouse

DisneyRocketsThursday

Many people go to Walt Disney World or set sail on the Disney Cruise Line to escape reality. Let’s face it, the real world can be an ugly and scary place.

For me, this is the main reason why I return to the various Disney properties time and time again. I want to escape.

Another benefit of going to the parks time and time again can be because you can apply the Disney principles to your everyday life.

A lot of different corporations implement the Disney management style to their businesses.

But on a smaller scale, what if you could apply the Disney principles to your everyday life?

For myself and my family, we look at the world through the lense of Christianity. Others might look through a Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or other spiritual lense, and that is the great thing about Walt Disney World. Walt Disney was very careful to not exclude any religion in his films or vacation properties.

However, if you are of the spiritual faith there are some books available that can marry the two together.

One book that I really enjoyed is “Faith Trust and Pixie Dust” by Mark I. Pinsky.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Pinsky, who is a religion journalist, according to the book’s Amazon listing, wanted to take a deeper look at one of the biggest influences on children: Disney.

Each chapter looks at a different film and the biggest message it tries to impart on the viewer.

For example, “Dumbo” looks at a mother’s love while “Robin Hood” looks at tax rebates.

This book does not really have a Christian leaning, or any other denominational leaning. It is more a look at morality and the Disney influence.

For anyone looking for a more direct approach to Chrisitianty and the Walt Disney World vacation, check out “A Christian’s Guide to Walt Disney World Resort” by Jeff Chaves.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Unlike “Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust” this book definitely is geared toward the Christian denomination.

This is sort of almost a “Bible study” type of book that takes a look at a Walt Disney World attraction, attaches a Bible verse to it, a little bit of details about the attraction, how it can connect to Christianity and questions for further discussion.

For example, Space Mountain, located in Tomorrowland of the Magic Kingdom, the author uses the verse “God is Involved in Every Detail of Our Lives” — Matthew 10:30-31.

It further tells people to look out for the Earth that is shown at the end of the coaster and how God is involved in everything that goes on on Earth.

There are then four different questions that can help develop a deeper discussion of the connection between the two.

This format continues through the rest of the book.

Two books that go together well that combine one of literature’s most beloved characters, as well as a bear that has been a part of the Walt Disney World family for many years is “The Tao of Pooh” and it’s companion book “The Te of Piglet,” both by Benjamin Hoff.

These two books explore Buddhist principles through the lense of Winnie the Pooh and his fellow Hundred-Acre-Woods neighbors.

I have only read “The Tao of Pooh,” but I really enjoyed it.

The author interacts with the characters and uses many of their stories that are told in their books as an example of Buddhist teachings.

Hoff even talks about the different personalities of the character factor into the principles as well.

I really enjoyed these books because they are an easy way to learn about what is Tao and offer a different perspective on life.

Obviously, these are just a sampling of these types of books that are available out there. There are lots that look at the connection between spirituality and Disney. A simple search will bring up many of them.

Is this something you are interested in, or do you prefer to keep everything at an entertainment level when it comes to Disney? Leave a message in the comments below.


Eat to the Beat Lineup Announced

It is hard to believe that Fourth of July is almost here and plans are already in motion for the fall at Walt Disney World.

One of the highlights at Epcot during this time of year is the Eat to the Beat concert series that is included in the price of admission.

These concerts, running from Aug. 31-Nov. 13 often feature interesting acts that you might have to pay a pretty good price to see elsewhere.

If I lived down in the Florida I would be making frequent trips to check out a lot of these concerts.

This year’s concert series will feature 32 different acts who will take to the stage at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. each day.

This year’s festival includes:

Aug. 31-Sept. 1 — Delta Rae “Bottom of the River”

Sept. 2-3: The Hooters “And We Danced”

Sept. 4-5: Baha Men “Who Let the Dogs Out”

Sept. 6-7: Fuel “Shimmer”

Sept. 8-10: STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas “We Built This City”

Sept. 11-12: Lauren Alaina “Road Less Traveled”

Sept. 13-15: Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah”

Sept. 16-17: Sister Hazel “All For You”

Sept. 18-20: Air Supply “All Out of Love”

Sept. 21-22: David Cook “Light On”

Sept. 23-24: Everclear “Santa Monica”

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Everclear (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.) (As a side note, in my other life I had the chance to interview the lead singer of the band for my work. Really nice guy.)

Sept. 25-27: Sugar Ray “Every Morning”

Sept. 28-29: 38 Special “Hold on Loosely”

Sept. 30-Oct. 1: Mark Wills “19 Somethin”

Oct. 2-3: American Authors “Best Day of My Life”

Oct. 4-5: Christopher Cross “Sailing”

Oct. 6-8: Devon Allman “Ragged and Dirty”

Oct. 9-11: Dennis DeYoung: The Music of STYX “Come Sail Away”

Oct. 12-13: Taylor Dayne “Tell It to My Heart”

Oct. 14-15: Jeffrey Osborne “One the Wings of Love”

Oct. 16-17: Postmodern Jukebox Various Hits

Oct. 18-20: 10,000 Maniacs “Because the Night”

Oct. 21-22: Toad the West Sprocket “Walk on the Ocean”

Oct. 23-24: Kenny G “Songbird”

Oct. 25-26: Billy Ocean “Get Outta My Dreams”

Oct. 27-29: Tiffany “I Think We’re Alone Now”

Oct. 30-Nov. 1: Hanson “MMMBop”

Nov. 2-3: Blue October “Into the Ocean”

Nov. 4-5: Living Colour “Cult of Personality”

Nov. 6-8: Boyz II Men “End of the Road”

Nov. 9-11: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy “Go Daddy-O”

Nov. 12-13: Squeeze “Black Coffee in Bed”

If you want to make the concert a complete event there are also 15 popular Epcot restaurants that you can eat either breakfast, lunch or dinner at and will give you confirmed seating for a same day performance.

Which concert are you most interested in? Leave your comments below.


Meeska-Mooska-Get Early Reservations-ska

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

There are a few restaurants in Walt Disney World that are very difficult to get “advanced dining reservations” (ADRs) for because they are a very coveted dining experience.

One such place is Chef Mickey’s located in the heart of the bustling Comtemporary Resort situated on the monorail line.

There are a couple of factors that contribute to making this dining location so popular including the fact is it is on the monorail line, is a buffet and features a character meal with some of the most popular characters on property.

Menu

Chef Mickey’s is open for all three meals and features a buffet that is sure to please all sorts of pallets.

Breakfast

Seasonal melons and fruit, smoked salmon, quinoa salad, hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese scramble, carved ham, tofu scramble with spinach, chef’s specialty pancake of the day, Mickey waffles, Minnie muffins and more.

Brunch

Peel-and-eat shrimp, assorted salads, yogurts and toppings, barbecue pork ribs, baked salmon with seasonal garnish, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and more.

Dinner

Fresh mixed fruit salad, baked chicken, carving station selections, chef’s selection of pasta, seasonal bread pudding, create-your-own sundae bar and lots more.

Dinner and a Show 

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World 

In addition to being visited by the characters table side, there is also some music, dancing and even napkin twirling that takes place that makes the experience so much fun.

Cost

The cost of Chef Mickey’s is pretty much on par with other character buffets within the resort.

For breakfast and brunch for an adult it is $41 and for a child it’s $25. Dinner is $50 for adults and $30 for children.

If you have the dining plan you can use it at Chef Mickey’s.

When to make reservations

You will want to make reservations right when you reach 180 days out. Like I said earlier, it is a hard ADR to secure, but it can be done.

Breakfast is the most coveted and dinner is a close second, so you might want to try for brunch during an off eating time. Another benefit of brunch is you get to taste both breakfast and dinner foods.

Does Chef Mickey’s seem like a restaurant you would like to try out? Leave your comments below.

For more tips about where to grab something to eat at Walt Disney World, pick up your copy of Mousekatots.

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Pandora’s Box

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Photo courtesy of thedisneyblog.com

If you haven’t heard yet, Pandora, the world of the Avatar films, has been having a soft beta opening this past week.

A group of lucky guests have had the opportunity to explore this incredible, new world situated in Disney’s Animal Kingdom before it opens to the public on May 27.

Here is a round up of some of the early reviews on what people are saying.

To Eat

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When it comes to food, Pandora has two options that have items for both the timid and adventerous palate.

The first is the Satu’li Canteen, a quick service restaurant.

The food looks amazing, and what I have heard it tastes just as good, too.

Being a vegetarian, I am happy that they have plenty of options available that would qualify as a full meal.

One of the best deals here are the different bowls (slow roasted sliced beef, chopped woodfire chicken, sustainable fish bowl, or the chili-spiced crispy tofu bowl). Chalk full of vegetables and Boba balls, you get a pretty good bang for your around $12 buck.

Another option, if you are looking for a quick beverage (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) can be found at Pongu Pongu.

There are a ton of exotic looking drinks here to wet your whistle including the Mo’ara Margarita in a Souviner Mug with a Glowing Unadelta Seed for $18.25.

To Buy

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

Inside of Pandora there is one store that sells souviners called Windtraders.

Here you will find cultural artifacts of the Na’vi, science kits, specialized apparel and even some of the region’s more colorful creatures.

To Do

Let’s face it, the main reason why people are in the area is to experience the attractions that this area has to offer.

The first is the Na’vi River Journey.

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

Think of this attraction as a sort of high tech Small World. You go on a boat where you look at the amazing flora and fauna and the super sophisitcated animatronics.

People have been saying this has been blowing guests away. It is beautiful and you swear that the animatroics are real people.

The other attraction in Pandora, Flight of Passage, has been blowing people away for a wide variety of reasons, not all of them good.

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

On this ride you board your very own banshee and take to the skies of Pandora.

While on the ride vehicle you wear special glasses and view a large screen that is similar to Soarin’.

People who have been on the attraction have been raving about how amazing the experience is and that is like none other in the entire resort.

However, the Disney community has also been up in arms over the attraction as well.

When the rider steps onto the vehicle they have to sit on it like a motorcycle. Then a support comes up and pushes against the back while two braces come behind the calves and they also push forward.

The problem is that many people who are either tall or of the “Winnie the Pooh” shaped variety are having a difficult time fitting onto the ride and are subsequently being asked leave the ride.

One early previewer said that she had estimated 22% of the people that were slated to ride were asked to leave.

Another person said that in one group four out of 12 and seven out of 12 were asked to leave.

Some people are saying that because of the calf area being tight, people with either larger calves or taller people couldn’t fit properly into the restraints.

Supposdly, cast members are taking note of how many people are asked to leave the vehicle and the reason, so there is hope that this issues will be fixed in the future.

Are you looking forward to visiting Pandora? What are you most looking forward to?


Best Bites: Snacks Magic Kingdom Edition

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

When you are treking all over Walt Disney World you can work up quite an appetite.

In between meals you can be wanting a little something but not a full meal. Luckily, there are a lot of places within Walt Disney World to pick up a quick bite.

However, not all snacks are created equal. This is especially true if you are on the dining plan where you receive two snacks per night booked at the resort.

A few years ago, Disney changed what was considered a snack on their dining plan.

One of the easiest ways to identify a snack is looking for a little white and purple box next to the item. If you have this, then you know it is a snack.

However, any single serve item is considered a snack (box of popcorn, ice cream bar, etc.)

But, a smart vacationer knows how to use the snacks to their favorite.

For example, you can use a bottle of water for a snack credit or you can use it on a cup of chili at Columbia Harbor House.

Below, are my top choices for how best to use your snack credits in the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

Breakfast 

Liberty Square Market: This location has a variety of fresh fruit available, yogurt and even a Mickey pretzel. It opens at 9 a.m.

Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies: This quick service restaurant offers smoothies that would make a quick breakfast on the go. It opens at 10:30 a.m. (This however is not on the dining plan so you will have to pay out of pocket.)

Main Street Bakery: Here you can use your snack credit to get your Starbucks fix for the day. The bakery opens at 9 a.m.

Lunch/Dinner

Aloha Isle: This is my personal favorite, Dole Whip. This creamy (yet vegan) frozen treat is an icon of Disney cuisine. You can also get a pineapple spear. This location opens at 10 a.m.

Columbia Harbor House: This, in my opinion, is the biggest bang for your snack buck. Here you can get a cup of vegetarian chili, New England Clam Chowder, Steamed Vegetables and coleslaw. Columbia Harbor house opens at 11 a.m.

The Friar’s Nook: Sometimes when it is really hot in WDW you will want something that will cool you off in the middle of the heat. Here you can get a frozen lemonade that should do the trick. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m.

The Lunching Pad: Another location to get your Mickey pretzel fix. This location opens at 10 a.m.

Those are just a few of my favorite ways to make a meal out of a snack in the Magic Kingdom. For more tips on using the dining plan pick up your copy of Mousekatots.

mousekatots

 

 


Visiting the Mouse on a Mouse Sized Budget

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Walt Disney created Disneyland with the principle that it was for everyone. That it would be a place that families could come together and enjoy the parks as a way of bonding.

Yes a Walt Disney World vacation can be expensive. You can spend a lot of money on a vacation, but it can also be done while being budget conscious as well.

Here are 10 money saving tips for your Walt Disney World vacation.

1. Be Seasonally Smart

If you are able to be flexible with when you can take your vacation, you might want to look at the off season. This is typically during the month of January. Bonus: if you go early enough in the month you will still be able to check out all the Christmas decorations at the parks and resorts.

2. Be Resort-ful 

Your resort choice can have a big impact on the final dollar amount of your trip. If you are looking at your resort as a place to just sleep and you plan on spending most of your time at the parks then you might want to stay at a value resort. While a rate for a value resort might hover around $120 a deluxe could be over $400.

3. Choose the Right Dining Plan

We are big supporters of the Disney Dining plan. For us it makes sense, but this isn’t the case for everyone. If you do decide that you are going to purchase a dining plan, you might want to buy the Quick Service dining plan that allows you two quick services, a snack and refillable drink mug. Also, remember that the snack can be any single serving item so you can get a pretty hefty snack and make it your lunch for the day.

4. Shop Around

There are plenty of travel agencies and vacation packages out there for Walt Disney World. Do your research and compare prices. Last year we were able to find a really awesome deal for the Beach Club Resort with tickets, dining plan and airfare through Southwest Vacations for a great price. This deal wasn’t found anywhere else.

5. Buy Gift Cards to pay off your vacation

A lot of grocery stores offer fuel perks for purchases that you make in the store. A lot of these places offer Disney gift cards. If you purchase the amount of gift cards that you need to pay off your trip you will get a lot of money back that you can use to get a bunch of free gas.

6. Go for buffets (especially if you have a Mousekatot under 3)

Buffets are the way to go when you are trying to get the most bang for your buck in Walt Disney World. These are often character meals and you get a wide variety of food that will most likely please everyone in your party, Also, if you have anyone under the age of 3 they will get to eat for free with the purchase of an adult meal.

7. Assess the Park Hopper

For an added fee Walt Disney World offers guests the opportunity to add onto their ticket a park hopper which lets them visit as many parks as they want in one day. This means that with out the Park Hopper you can only visit one park each day. If you think that you would only be interested in visiting one park each day only, then skip the added cost and opt out of the park hopper.

8. Take Off Days 

If you are staying for a long period of time you might want to skip buying tickets to the parks every day and spend a few days at the hotel pool or visiting Disney Springs. These are either free or included with the price already and can save you some extra change.

9. Rent DVC Points

Walt Disney World has a “timeshare” program called the Disney Vacation Club. Instead of buying a particular property, DVC members purchase points that can be used at any of the DVC resorts. When a member can’t use their points they have the option to rent out their points through a third party company. If you are someone that wants to stay at a deluxe resort this may be a way of doing this that will save a little bit of money.

10. Order in

If you plan on being at Walt Disney World for a week or more you might want to have groceries delivered to your room. This way you can eat your breakfast before heading out and this can save you some money. Places like GardenGrocer.com or even Amazon Prime can deliver groceries right to your resort. You just need your name and the address for the resort and the groceries will be waiting for you at the front desk.

These are just a few tips for you to save money on your Walt Disney World vacation. Just like everything else you need to find out what works best for your family and adjust accordingly.

For more tips on saving money and planning your Walt Disney World vacation with toddlers pick up a copy of Mousekatots available as both paperback and ebook.

mousekatots


Worth the Money: Disney Dining Plan

BeachesandCream

One of the biggest questions people have when they start planning their Disney vacation is if they should purchase the Disney Dining plan.

It seams for most people there is no middle ground. You either love the plan or you think it is a waste of money.

We have been traveling to Disney almost annually since 2007. I would say for eight out of 10 of those trips we have purchased the dining plan and the only reason why we didn’t purchase it those two times is because our stay was too short to qualify for the dining plan. So I bet you can guess which camp we are in when it comes to the dining plan.

Speaking of qualifications, in order to be able to purchase the dining plan you must be staying on Disney property, in one of the Disney owned resorts, and have purchased at least two days worth of park tickets. So if you are just going to be visiting Disney for a few days and will only visit the parks once, then you will not be able to get the dining plan.

Another big consideration for people is the cost of the dining plan.

Disney has three tiers of dining plans.

The first is the quick service plan. This entitles each person to two quick service meals (which is a place where you walk up to the counter and order) and two snacks (any single serve item is considered a snack. This includes the vegetarian chili at Columbia Harbor House in the Magic Kingdom and the Smuckers Uncrustables.) You also get a refillable mug that you can use for unlimited beverages at your resort only.

This plan costs $48.19 for adults and $20.88 for children ages 3 to 9 per day.

The next step up is the regular (base) dining plan.

What is included in this plan is one quick service, one table service (which includes soft drink, entree and dessert) and one snack each day. This tier also includes the refillable mug.

The cost of this plan is $69.35 for adults and $24.95 for children ages 3 to 9 per day.

The top tier is the Deluxe Dining Plan includes three meals (your choice of either quick service or tables service), two snacks and refillable mug.

The price of this plan is $106.68 for adults and $38.75 for kids ages 3 to 9.

There are a lot of different options available for different prices and budgets.

In my opinion, I think the dining plan is worth it for adults. If you have a child who is a picky eater or doesn’t eat that much you might want to skip the dining plan.

The greatest thing is that you can order anything off the meal including the most expensive items and you can enjoy some of the best character dining experiences that would end up costing almost $60 for just one meal.

Do you prefer to use the dining plan or do you pay out of pocket? Leave your comments below.