Kris’s Tips… and other musings

November Trip Report Part 1

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you are enjoying this holiday season! I thought I would share some new updates after being in the parks along with some lessons learned form our most recent trip last month!

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I took my wife and 2 kids on what has turned into an annual trip over the Thanksgiving holiday. This was a unique trip for us as it was a first trip since our daughter has been diagnosed with several food allergies. Because of these allergies, we scheduled several table service meals where we knew a chef could make her a meal fitting her dietary needs. We at at Trattoria al Forno at the Boardwalk, 50′s Prime Time Cafe at the Studios, Kona Cafe and Ohana at the Polynesian, San Angel Inn in the Mexico Pavillon in Epcot,and the Wave at the Contemporary Resort. At each location upon checking in and being seated, we communicated our allergy concerns to our server. A chef would then come out, ask us about our allergies and then explain what my daughter could have. Let me just say, these chefs did a fantastic job of making our kiddo feel special and making sure she had a great meal. At no point did we ever feel she was getting a second tier meal. If you can’t do the table service meals, don’t worry! 

The quick service places are great too. If you have ever dealt with allergies at Disney, you know about “The Book” at QS locations. These books have a list of every ingredient used in the dishes at that location. We were prepared to go through the book to figure out what Sophie could eat. What we weren’t prepared for was how Disney has streamlined the process! Almost every quick service location we went to now has a printed allergy friendly menu. These menus showed what dishes were safe for what allergies. On most menus there were separate sections for Milk, Soy, egg, gluten, and tree nut allergies. For these menus some cross referencing might be necessary if you have multiple allergies. Some locations would have dishes listed and then under that particular dish would be a list of all allergies this particular dish was safe for. As you can tell, Disney goes to great lengths to make sure people feel safe about the food they are eating. I cannot recommend Disney enough if you have allergy concerns! Here are a couple of shots at the menu at Liberty Innin the American Adventure in Epcot!

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Also, here is picture of the dessert Sophie got at our dinner at Ohana. Since she couldn’t have the bread pudding (which is amazing) chef made her a Sundae with Rice Dream Ice Cream, Allergy friendly chocolate chip cookies, and allergy safe chocolate syrup!

So, on to other things! This trip was a special one for us. I have just finished my doctoral work and my bride turned 40 recently, so as a surprise I booked two nights at one of our favorite resorts, The Boardwalk Inn and 5 nights at one of our Bucket List Resorts, the Polynesian! The kids figured out about the Boardwalk when they saw our Magical Express tags, but no one but me knew about the Polynesian! So first, the Boardwalk. This is one of our favorite places to stay for a reason. You can walk to Epcot (5 minutes to the International Gateway entrance) and to Hollywood Studios (10-15 minutes to the front entrance). It serves as great home base to explore these two parks. The convenience is amazing and the theming is really great. The pool is wonderful with a fun waterslide, but it was a little too cold for us to enjoy it on our nights there. There really is an old fashioned boardwalk with great food and nightly entertainment that is so much fun to walk around and enjoy. You can rent Surrey Bikes to ride around and the Boardwalk and Beach/Yacht Club resort areas. This really is a great resort area and if you are a fan of Epcot and the Studios, you cannot beat the location! 


As for the Poly, this was something that has been a dream for a long time! I caught a GREAT deal that made it doable for us and put my plan into motion! I scheduled a dinner over there on our check in night and told my family some lame story about needing to swing by the front desk to check on a client. When they came over after looking in the gift shop, the front desk Cast Member informed them that they were the clients and that we would be staying at the Poly! I even had personalized our Magic Bands to say “Aloha Welcome 2 Our New Hotel.” It was great. It took a minute for them to believe that we were actually staying there! With a monorail stop at the hotel, a walkway to the Ticket and Transportation Center for a quick ride to Epcot, an amazing pool (see below), and a stand that sells nothing but Dole Whips, the Polynesian is an amazing place to stay if you ever get a chance!

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The monorail resorts are the most expensive on property, so for most people, this wold be a very special, perhaps even once in a lifetime, stay (ourselves included). The question clients often ask me is whether or not they are worth it. There is no doubt the Poly was amazing. To be so close to the Magic Kingdom, to have the monorail stop at the hotel, and to be able to see MK from the beach at night are all wonderful things to have access to! If you have the ability to stay here or another Monorail resort even for a couple of nights, it is an amazing experience!. If you do this, plan on your time at the resort being MK or Epcot focused. Just as when we are at the Boardwalk we took advantage of the proximity to Epcot and the Studios, any stay at a monorail resort should take advantage of the proximity of the MK. As far as Epcot goes, it was actually quicker for us to talk to the Ticket and Transportation Center from our room and go directly to Epcot rather than taking the monorail at the hotel all the way to the TTC and then switching monorails to go to Epcot. Had we done the resort monorail, we would have had to wait through stops at the Grand Floridian, Magic Kingdom, and the Contemporary before getting on the correct monorail to Epcot. This is a good reminder of making sure that you understand how transportation at Disney works. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean its the best thing for you to do!

I will write more later about some new experiences that we took part in on this trip, including thoughts on the Soarin, Frozen Ever After, and experiencing Animal Kingdom at night! Until then, if I can help with any of your trip planning needs, with no fees attached, please let me know!

I Went to Universal...and I Liked It

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure with a group I was leading. Now I am a Disney guy. I hadn’t been to Universal since late 2002 and it really didn’t bother me that I hadn’t been.  Nonetheless, I was excited to go and check out the park especially with all the Harry Potter additions. I have had several clients go to Universal so I was glad to be getting some first hand experience to better serve my clients. So I’d thought I’d share a few thoughts from my day at the park.

First off, I think the best ride in all of Orlando may be found in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! The Forbidden Journey inside the Hogwarts Castle is nothing short of amazing. I rode twice. The first time I utilized the single rider line for a shorter wait which meant I skipped the regular line which frankly I don’t recommend, but more on that later. The ride itself is unlike anything I have every experienced. It uses KUKA robotic arm technology to lift and move the riders throughout the ride. The concept of the ride is that you are playing Quidditch and the technology combined with screens and 3D glasses gives you the sensation that you are actually flying. It is unbelievable. The second time I rode was later at night and the standby wait was low. I went thorough the regular line which is an attraction in itself. Guests walk through Hogwarts Castle seeing the gardens, hallways with pictures that come to life and Dumbledore’s office. If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is a must do!

Another highlight of my time in Universal was experiencing the attention to detail they put into the Harry Potter areas. You feel like you are walking through Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. The shops and stores, give you the opportunity to totally immerse yourself in the world of Harry Potter. Of course, there is also ample opportunity to try Butterbeer. Upon the recommendation of friends, I went with the frozen version, and it did not disappoint! 

While there are other rides including the intense Dragon Challenge rollercoasters and the Flight of the Hippograff, the other highlight is Escape from Gringotts. This ride takes you into Gringotts Bank where an adventure awaits. Again, the line to wait is as much an attraction as the ride itself! Universal did an amazing job with the characters your encounter along the way!

What Universal did with the Wizarding World is nothing short of amazing and really served as a game changer in the theme park industry. As a Disney fan, what I am excited about is the fact that Disney now has to answer the challenge of Universal with the upcoming Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios. Disney is going to have to improve upon what Universal has done and after being there to see it, they have their work cut out for them.

As for the rest of the park, outside of Harry Potter, for me its a mixed bag. There is no doubt that there are many thrilling rides in the park. The Mummy is both fun and very intense. Transformers and Spider Man are essentially the same ride with different characters. This leads to my biggest complaint about the park.  There are so many screens and 3d glasses. You feel like every ride is similar because of the dependance on the 3d screen technology. It’s impressive, but feels very repetitive.

This is not to say that there are not some other highlights. Rip Ride Rockit is an amazing coaster with a near vertical drop. The Hulk Coaster is a great launch coaster, but unfortunately it was down while we were there. The Seuss Landing area is a great place for kids that has amazing attention to detail. Some of the park hasn’t aged well (I’m looking at you E.T.), and some of the updates have givennew life to old attractions like the transformation of the Back to the Future Ride to the Simpsons.

Last thing, you do want to get a park to park ticket! One of the highlights of the day was riding the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley. This train ride is full of surprise encounters but the only way you can ride is by having a park to park ticket. Universal put Harry Potter Elements in both parks so to ride the train you have to have the park to park! All in all it was a great day and I look forward to going back with my daughter Sophie! 

Why Disney?

So maybe a yellow eyed Jawa is not what you think of when you think Disney, but this picture is part of why I love taking my family to Disney World. This picture represents the unexpected surprises that you can find around every turn. Sophie and Ben are emerging Star Wars fans so going to Star Wars Launch Bay in Hollywood Studios is a must do for our family. Inside there are numerous props from the movies and lines to meet Kylo Ren and Chewbacca. Both are excellent meets but it is the Jawas that are some of my favorites. These characters roam the area looking for someone to trade with them. The picture is a result of a very successful trade. Sophie traded the Jawa something bright and shiny (their favorite) for a piece of a droid. The Jawa was so excited about his trade that he there his arm up in the air and invited Sophie to do the same. 

Disney magic isn’t only found in the popular rides or character meet and greets. It is often in little details like the chance encounter with a Jawa, the windows on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom that pay tribute to Disney pioneers of decades past, the cast members that sprinkle your party with “pixie dust” with a fun surprise, and so much more. People often ask, why Disney? Why do you take your family there so much? Why did you go into business as a travel agent that specializes in Disney? The answer is simple. We love the Disney “magic”! We love seeing our kids be kids without a care in the world. We love seeing them try new experiences whether it’s a new to them ride (Tower of Terror on the last trip), or a new food. We love time together as a family without the interruptions of life. Disney is not reality. We know that. And it is certainly a luxury. But if you have the time, and you have the resources, I promise you that you will not be disappointed going to Disney World.

At Travel to the Mouse, I make sure that you are in the best position possible to experience all the magic Disney has to offer. Client after client have come back saying they could not believe how much help my services were! Maybe you are asking yourself right now, “Of all the vacations I could go on, why disney?” Contact me today to see why Disney may be the perfect vacation for you! Let me help you make all your Disney dreams come true!

New discounts released

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well today and that you had a wonderful Christmas! Our family’s Christmas was a little different since I came down with the flu two days before Christmas! I was not a happy camper! Thankfully, all is well now! I wanted to write and let you know that yesterday, Disney released new discounts through the Spring. There is both a package discount if you wish to include a room and tickets, and there is a room only discount as well! Either way, you can experience significant savings when you book your Disney trip for the first half of 2016! Contact me today to begin the process of planning your trip! Remember, when you book a package through Travel to the Mouse, I do all the planning work for you and it doesn’t cost you anything extra!

The picture below is from our recent trip at Thanksgiving! We had an amazing time and loved seeing the parks decorated for Christmas. It is such a beautiful time to go!

New website!

Just a quick post to say welcome to the new website! I have an amazing friend named Bennett who has set this up, and it looks amazing! My goal is post here more often so be on the lookout soon for a trip report from my family’s recent trip to Disney World! In the meantime, if you have questions about planning a trip, let me know!!!

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