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July 2017

Magic Kingdom Secrets

1) Arrive 30 minutes before the Magic Kingdom opens to see the opening ceremony in front of Cinderella's Castle!

2) Try to make at least two of your FastPass+ selections for Space Mountain and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before your vacation.  Then, enter the Magic Kingdom when it opens and walk expeditiously over to Frontierland to ride Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.  The attractions will have minimal waits for about the first hour after the park has opened.

3) When you enter under the railroad look to the left.  There is a spot next to City Hall where a character will be located to take pictures and give autographs.  It will usually be a character you do not see very often.

4) If you are traveling with small children, go to Fantasyland early in the morning and ride Peter Pan.  Then, experience Dumbo in Storybook Circus.  The crowds will be smaller here early on.

5) There is a shortcut from Main Street to Tomorrowland and back to Main Street that goes through the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant.  You can avoid huge crowds this way.

My name is Jeffrey Merola and I am the owner of Mouse Vacation Planning.  I am the author of 8 Walt Disney World guide books and have been on Walt Disney World property hundreds of days.  Contact me to book your Walt Disney World vacation and I will assist with the Walt Disney World vacation planning!

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June 2017

Avoid Waiting in Lines in Walt Disney World

     How do you avoid standing in a line that seems to go on forever in Walt Disney World?  When you are in one of these lines and think you must be close and then you enter a room which contains what I call the "hidden lines room."  This is where you find hundreds of people that are still in front of you in line!  Finally, there is the dreaded question that every parent does not want to hear, "Are we to the front of the line yet?"  

     Can these lines be avoided?  The answer is "Yes!"

     1) If you book a Walt Disney World resort package that includes theme park tickets you can sign up for FastPass+ 60 days in advance.  This can be done at 7am through your mydisneyexperience account.  FastPass+ allows you to get to the front of the line at 3 of your favorite attractions per day!  People that are staying off site can only make FastPass+ selections 30 days in advance.  This is significant because there are a limited amount of FastPasses given out for each attraction per day.

     While making your FastPass+ selections try to have the 3rd one end at around 1pm.  You will have a greater chance of obtaining a 4th one while in the theme park.

     2) When your Walt Disney World vacation has been booked, you will want to make character meal reservations.  By eating with multiple characters during a meal it will save you hours of wait time in the parks.  For example, if you eat at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Resort, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, & Pluto will come to your table to take pictures and sign autographs.  It could easily be a 30 minute wait per character if you wait for each character inside of a theme park.

     3) Arrive 30 minutes before a theme park opens!  By getting ahead of the crowds you will always be one step ahead of everyone else.

     4) After you have arrived in the Magic Kingdom 30 minutes before the park has opened, go directly to Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.  The wait time in the standby lines will be minimal during the 1st hour after the park has opened!

Here is a partial theme park itinerary for the Magic Kingdom with children ages 8-12: (Assuming you have made FastPass+ selections for Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Space Mountain.)  Enter when the park opens, Visit Princess Fairytale Hall, Ride Splash Mountain, Ride Big Thunder Mountain, Use your FastPass+ for Big Thunder Mountain to ride again, Ride the Haunted Mansion, Use your FastPass+ for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Experience The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Ride the Tomorrowland Speedway, & Use your FastPass+ for Space Mountain.

My name is Jeffrey Merola and I am the owner of Mouse Vacation Planning.  I am the author of 8 Walt Disney World guide books and have been on Walt Disney World property hundreds of days.  Contact us to book your Walt Disney World vacation and learn hundreds of other tips to save time & money in Walt Disney World!

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April/May 2017

My Mother's Return to Walt Disney World

     In February of 2006 I wanted to give my mother some Walt Disney World magic so I invited her to travel along with us on our Walt Disney World vacation.  This was her 1st trip to see the "Mouse" since 1977 when 29 years earlier she took me as a young child.

     My wife, 2 children, my mother, and mother-in-law entered our first theme park in 2006, the Magic Kingdom, and strolled down Main Street, U.S.A.  We were admiring Cinderella's Castle in the distance.  By the time we had made it to our character breakfast at Crystal Palace, my mom had gotten misty eyes.  She wiped some tears of joy, turned on a huge smile, and gave us all a kiss.

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March 2017

Wonderful Walt Disney World Memory

     One of my favorite Walt Disney World memories was when my wife and I took our daughter, Megan, for her 1st Walt Disney World vacation in February 2003. She was only sixteen months old, but we wanted her to experience Walt Disney World at any early age. Our parents thought we were crazy to bring a child that young. But, we ignored their advice, planned our Walt Disney World vacation, packed our clothes, got the diaper bag together, and jumped in the family truckster (i.e. our van). 

    The 1st theme park we took Megan to was Disney's MGM Studios, which is now named Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was the first park to open that morning, and I was anxious for her to meet the "Mouse."

     When Megan got into the park, I turned to look at my wife and she had tears of joy in her eyes.

     It really touched me beyond anything I could imagine to see how much this meant to my wife, who always wanted to go as a little girl, but never did. She was now fulfilling that dream through her daughter's eyes.

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November 2016

Tips to save Time and Money in Walt Disney World


    Parents all over the world want to make their children’s dreams come true and take them to Walt Disney World.  Planning a Walt Disney World vacation is a herculean task and can be expensive and overwhelming at the same time.  With families struggling to save enough money to take that magical Walt Disney World vacation, they are constantly asking themselves some pertinent questions.  How can I save money in Walt Disney World?  How do I navigate Walt Disney World without becoming stressed out because of the throngs of people at every turn I make?  This list will help you save time and money in the happiest place on Earth!
1) Save money on food, theme park tickets, and water!  
    It can be very expensive to eat in Walt Disney World, so families have the option of investing in one of the Disney dining plans when they purchase a Walt Disney World package.  There are two dining plans that are the most cost effective for the family trying to deal with the high cost of food.  The quick service dining plan includes two counter service meals and two snack per person per night in a Walt Disney World resort.  Everyone will also receive a resort refillable mug!  The Disney Dining plan includes one table service, one counter service, and two snacks per person per night and a resort refillable mug.  These two dining plans can possibly save a family 15% on food costs.
    If families plan their theme park visits correctly, then the park hopper option will not be necessary.  This will save a family about $65 per Magic Your Way ticket.  A family of four will save well over $200.
    Instead of buying bottles of water in the theme parks everyone can get water for free!  Walk up to any counter service location and ask them for tap water with ice.  They will gladly give it to you.  This can be a savings of $168 for the week.  Since a bottle of water costs $3.00, and if everyone in a family of four requires two bottles of water per day, which works out to $24 per day.  After a seven day vacation that totals $168!
2) Make a dining reservation for the Fantasmic Dining Package!  
    The Fantasmic Dining package will guarantee everyone a seat in the Fantasmic show in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Fantasmic is a breath taking night time experience in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Mickey takes on the evil villains that Disney has created over the years.  Instead of standing in line over an hour before the show and being herded like cattle, families have the opportunity to enjoy more of what Disney’s Hollywood Studios has to offer.  Approximately 30 minutes before Fantasmic begins, families will proceed to a special entrance and enjoy the show.
3) Take advantage of FastPass+ by staying in a Walt Disney World resort!
    Fastpass+ is a time saving experience in Walt Disney World.  Families can visit mydisneyexperience.com and schedule Fastpasses well before they arrive to see the “Mouse” on their Walt Disney World trip.  Fastpass+ allows families to reserve a time at their favorite attractions instead of waiting in a long line, while they enjoy the rest of a theme park.  Currently you can schedule up to three Fastpass+ reservations per day 60 days in advance.​ Let Mouse Vacation Planning do the Walt Disney World vacation planning for your trip. Click below to receive a free quote!

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October 2016

Don’t be left in the crowd at Walt Disney World

    Walt Disney World is affectionately known to guests as the “Happiest Place on Earth.”  Indeed it has been for millions of people over the last 40+ years.  It certainly can still be magical for young and old alike in 2016, IF you are properly prepared.  Walt Disney World has advanced technologically just like every other part of the world, and it can be quite complicated and overwhelming.  My hope is to help people have a stress free magical experience so you do not have to get your own B.A. degree in Disney 101.  I can provide that for you!
    There are three main components that are extremely important to follow when considering visiting the “Home of the Mouse.”  First, I highly recommend staying in a Walt Disney World resort.  I have heard people say all the time, “I can get a cheaper hotel off site and the hotel has complementary shuttle service.”  This isn’t completely true.  The off-site hotels have shuttles that only operate a few times a day and cannot get anywhere near a theme park entrance.  Walt Disney World resorts offer free transportation to all theme parks and their buses run every 15 to 20 minutes, all day and all night long.  My clients with young children can take them back to the resort for a nap at any time.
    Guests who are trying to save a buck can stay in a value resort and Walt Disney World resort guests can take advantage of numerous other perks such as: Disney’s Magical Express which is complementary from Orlando International Airport and the return trip too, the option to purchase a dining plan which will save up to 20% off food, take advantage of extra magic hours in a theme park, and FastPass+ can be done 60 days in advance.  People staying off-site have to wait until 30 days in advance.  The number of FastPass+ times are limited per day.  It is possible to get shut out of certain experiences and have to wait in long lines with the other naive guests as my clients walk by in the FastPass+ line with a smile from ear to ear!
    FastPass+ is the 2nd component to master and it is free.  Families are able to make three FastPass+ selections per day per person.  This will give the families a time window of an hour to arrive in the FastPass+ line with little to no wait for the chosen FastPass+ attraction.  
    Some people say, “I don’t have to do that.  I will get this done when I arrive in the theme parks.”  However, people who wait until then find out that many attractions will have no FastPass+ times available and will have to experience the dreaded standby line.  During the busiest times of the day the standby line is another name for the human cattle herding line and when it looks like the end is near, nope, there is a hidden room with hundreds more waiting!
    The 3rd component is to make dining reservations beginning 180 days in advance.  I am sure some people are saying, “I have no idea where I want to eat in 6 months!”  However, if this is not accomplished, then the family will get shut out of many of the most popular restaurants.  Family members will be glaring and tweeting to all their followers with the hash tag #thisvacationstinks since the Chef Mickey’s hostess said, “We are all booked tonight.”
    Dining reservations can be made at locations such as: Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, Cape May, Chef Mickey’s, Crystal Palace, Tutto Italia, Tusker House, and T-Rex to name a few.  When these are experienced everyone in the family will be tweeting #bestvacationever!


February 23, 2016

Top 5 FastPass+ Tips in Walt Disney World

​     The new FastPass+ system in Walt Disney World is innovative and technologically advanced.  If you are staying in a Walt Disney World Resort you can sign up for FastPass+ 60 days before your vacation by selecting 3 FastPass+ attractions per day at the website mydisneyexperience.com.  These selections are magically saved to your MagicBand.  If you are staying outside of Walt Disney World you can make 3 FastPass+ selections per day 30 days before your vacation.
 
Tip #5 – FastPass+ is not needed for Fantasmic
     Fantasmic is an astonishing night time show in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  However, do not use a FastPass+ on the attraction.  Why you ask?  The simple reason is this.  You can get reserved seating instead by using the Fantasmic Dining Package!  To obtain this package you need to call (407) WDW-DINE.  The dining package works at the restaurants The Hollywood Brown Derby, Hollywood & Vine, or Mama Melrose.  Ask the Disney dining representative for availability at one of these restaurants for the Fantasmic Dining Package.  Make the reservation and you are set to go.  Please note that if you are on one of the Disney dining plans, the Brown Derby is 2 table service credits per person instead of one.
Tip #4 – Make FastPass+ selections 60 days in advance
     Always make your 3 FastPass+ selections per day 60 days in advance at mydisneyexperience.com.  You can begin to do this as early as a few minutes after midnight.  All FastPass+ times could be gone for certain attractions 59 days before your vacation or 40 days before your trip.  For example, FastPass+ times for the meet and greet at Princess Fairytale Hall with Anna and Elsa will be gone about 60 days in advance.  There will be no more FastPass+ times for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train about 40 days in advance.  Another location where FastPass+ times will go quickly is for Toy Story Midway Mania.  They could be gone approximately 30 days in advance.  Make your family happy and mark the 60 day date on your calendar!
Tip #3 – See Illuminations or Wishes without a FastPass+
     It would be a waste to use a FastPass+ for Illumination or Wishes.  I do not mean that these nighttime attractions are not worth seeing.  Quite the contrary.  I do mean that Illuminations can be seen without a FastPass+ in numerous locations throughout World Showcase in Epcot. 
Wishes can be experienced in many areas throughout the Magic Kingdom without a FastPass+.  By not using a FastPass+ for these shows, it frees you up to make FastPass+ selections at other attractions.
                                               

Tip #2 – Make FastPass+ selections for attractions with traditionally long waits
     You may already be asking, well what attractions have traditionally long wait times? In the Magic Kingdom these attractions will be: the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, and Splash Mountain.  These would all be considered thrill rides, however, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is much slower than the three “mountains.”  The wait times can become long during the day for Enchanted Tales with Belle, Winnie the Pooh, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, and the Haunted Mansion too.
     Over in Walt Disney’s imagined community of tomorrow, namely Epcot, the attractions with long waits include: Soarin, Test Track, and Spaceship Earth.  The wait times at Mission: Space are typically about 25 minutes, so I would not include this attraction as horribly long.
     Disney’s Hollywood Studios contains some breathe taking attractions that are extremely popular.  The two most popular thrill rides with long wait times are the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a family favorite, and the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.  Toy Story Midway Mania will have a wait time that will get to well over an hour very early in the day and may even get as high as a two hour wait.  Star Tours and For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing - along can have long wait times too!
     In Disney’s Animal Kingdom there are three spectacular attractions that you need to choose as a FastPass+ selection.  They are: Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and Kilimanjaro Safaris.  While riding Dinosaur you will travel back in time to see real dinosaurs.  You will come face to face with the Yeti when you experience Expedition Everest and you will visit the African savannah on Kilimanjaro Safaris.
 
Tip #1 – Your 3rd FastPass+ should end by early in the afternoon
     When you sign up for your initial 3 FastPass+ attractions per day you will be able to choose from four different sets of time.  Make sure you have the 3rd selection end by late morning or early afternoon at the latest.  Why you ask?  Let them know the answer Johnny! (4th grade humor) You will then be able to make a 4th FastPass+ selection at an in-park kiosk early in the day for an attraction that still has times remaining.  You could even get a 5th or a 6th.  A 7th? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves!  On the contrary, if your 3rd FastPass+ ended at about 6pm, then the FastPass+ selections for the day could be gone. 
     Make sure you are happy with the time windows you have selected for your 3 FastPass+ selection through the website mydisneyexperience.com.  If not, you can easily change them by clicking update FastPass+ and the times can be changed if time slots are available. 


November 2014

My Daughter riding the Tower of Terror?

My daughter, at the age of 4, entered MGM Studios, which is today Disney's Hollywood Studios.  My wife and I had mentioned to her about the attraction we both love, "The Tower of Terror." She, mind you, has never shown fear of anything!  We went over what to expect. "You ride in an elevator and it will drop you 13 stories." We both took her by the hand. She looked us both in the eyes and said, "I got this. No problem."

We turned to head towards the Tower of Terror, which is housed in the Hollywood Hotel.  It was looming in the distance.  It had definitely seen better days, since the outside looks very run down, obviously for effect.

We stepped ever closer and closer towards the Tower of Terror and the outside windows opened to allow all of us to hear, "AHHHHHHHHH!"

Guests are screaming just when they are dropped back down the elevator shaft.  Will this new sound of fear shaken her confidence in anyway?  I look at my daughter's face for the answer.  Does she have a frown on or a look of fear or even tears in her eyes?

Nope!  I feel a tug on my hand and she says to my wife and I, "Can we go on it twice?"

Make sure you ride the Tower of Terror in Walt Disney World. Please click here to contact me to book and plan your entire Walt Disney World vacation. Click here to check out my Walt Disney World books!