Must-Read Summer Book Series

Must-Read Summer Book Series

I love to read! When I have the opportunity to get lost in a really good book, I soak up the chance.  I am constantly looking for must-read book series especially during the summer months. That is exactly what I found with the Kingdom Keepers series!

Full disclosure…..I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  It took me a bit to jump on the bandwagon, but once I did, I read all 7 books in just under 3 weeks (all while working and raising a 2-year-old).  Yes, there were a LOT of sleepless nights when I just couldn’t put the books down.  I tell you this so that you will understand my love of young adult fiction series. One of my favorite things is to get to know the characters of a good book so well that I feel emotionally connected to them.

On one of our trips to Walt Disney World, I found the Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson. What could be better than a book series focused on my favorite place?!?! I bought it immediately and quickly devoured that one so that I could buy book two.  The series centers around five teenagers hired by Disney to be hologram guides within the parks, but at night, the teens crossover into the parks to protect what Walt has built.  They find themselves battling villains and aligning with heroes to protect the magic of Disney.

Image result for kingdom keepers

Ridley Pearson has done a beautiful job of transporting you to Disney every time you crack open the cover! While reading, I can picture walking through the parks, and I often wonder if the “secret” areas that he describes really exist.  You will fall in love with the characters and become immersed in the story.

If you want Disney brought to your home this summer, click here to purchase Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark.

Have you already stumbled across this series? What did you think of the books? Once you read it, I would love to hear what you think!

 

Join us every Wednesday as we take you to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, on Disney Cruise Line, and everywhere in between on our Addicted to the Mouse Podcast!

We can always be reached at danandleslie@addictedtothemouse.com and would love to hear from you!

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7 Must-Dos When Driving to Disney World – “Are We There Yet?!”

7 Must-Dos When Driving to Disney World – “Are We There Yet?!”

We have driven to Disney World more than once and for an eighteen-hour drive, it can be tedious.  That said, we actually really enjoy our road trips to Orlando.  That’s because we are sure to incorporate these 7 must-dos when driving to Disney World.

  1. Make the decision to drive.  First, you have to be really sure you want to drive.  There are four of us.  When we are all going, we check the prices of flights from Tulsa to Orlando.  We have flown value airlines into Sanford and major airlines into Orlando International.  Certainly, both are on the table.  That said, if flight prices exceed $400, driving is on the table.  If prices exceed $550, driving is the only option.  It’s just not worth it to spend that much on transportation that will take away from the fun we will have on the vacation.  Even with stopping and getting a hotel midway on the way to and from, driving to Disney still saves a fortune.Leslie and I driving to Disney World
  2. Bring pillows.  Second, bring pillows for all passengers on long car rides.  We have made this mistake before. Especially with little ones, it can get pretty uncomfortable riding in the car.  Make them as comfortable as possible.  Trust me, you won’t want to hear it otherwise.
  3. Entertainment for them.  In the car, we have them (the kids) and us (the unsuspecting parents hoping to make it more than 30 minutes before someone has to pee).  Bring something to occupy their attention and your sanity might remain intact.  We prefer iPads with pre-loaded movies.  How did we ever make it on long drives as kids without iPads?
  4. Entertainment for us.  Okay, so we need entertainment too.  I prefer podcasts and I hear this one is incredible: https://addictedtothemouse.com/podcasts/.  Seriously, we do love listening to all kinds of podcasts and there are so many to choose from, you can always find something you like.  Of course, it does make sense to listen to a Disney podcast on the way to Disney World.
  5. Get Waze.  Next, you need Waze.  This is a community-based driving app that populates real-time data from other drivers’ updates.  Simply put in your route and it notifies you of any changes such as traffic jams (and routes you around them), speed traps, and even pot holes.  Here is the website to check it out: https://www.waze.com.
  6. Get SunPass.  I cannot for the life of me figure out Florida’s toll system.  They have multiple names, some are electronic only, and don’t get me started on the traffic.  My suggestion to you is to get their prepaid setup, SunPass.  First, you buy a transponder.  Then, you put money on it.  Finally, you stick it in your car and don’t worry about stopping to pay tolls.  Here is their website: https://www.sunpass.com.Aidan waving
  7. Enjoy it!  Finally, don’t forget to have fun.  Yes, I know you are going to the most magical place on earth, but the road trip itself can be fun too.  Not to mention, when you get to Disney World, you will have your car, which gives you a lot of flexibility.  And don’t overlook the fact that you don’t have to mess with airport security!

Hopefully, these tips will help you on your next drive to Disney World.  What do you do on your road trips that we haven’t thought of?

Join us every Wednesday as we take you to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, on Disney Cruise Line, and everywhere in between on our Addicted to the Mouse Podcast!

We can always be reached at danandleslie@addictedtothemouse.com and would love to hear from you!

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5 Dad’s Tips for Surviving Chef Mickey’s

5 Dad’s Tips for Surviving Chef Mickey’s

Gentlemen, we all want to please our kids at Disney World and part of that will most likely include meeting characters.  You have two options to do this: stand in long lines in the parks or pay for character meals.  My advice is to pay for the character meals.  One of the most popular character meals in Disney World is Chef Mickey’s for a few reasons.  First, it is close to Magic Kingdom.  Second, it is a buffet with pretty good food (including the famous Mickey waffles) and the characters come right to your table.  Third, and most importantly, you get to meet the “Fab Five,” Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy.  That said, there is a strategy on how to do Chef Mickey’s and get the most out of it.  Here are the top tips for Dads for Surviving Chef Mickey’s.Chef Mickey's sign inside the Contemporary

  1. Do Chef Mickey’s for Breakfast – First, you should be eating here for breakfast.  Chef Mickey’s is not a five-star restaurant.  To be fair, it has pretty decent food, but people are not going here for the food.  They’re going here for the atmosphere and the characters.  So, breakfast is really safe.  I mean, who can go wrong with Mickey waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and donuts?  Additionally, breakfast is cheaper than dinner (adults cost $41 for breakfast and $50 for dinner).
  2. Take a Break from the Magic Kingdom – Second, Chef Mickey’s is in the Contemporary Resort.  You can eat here on a non-park day if you want to maximize your park time.  However, we love going to rope drop at the Magic Kingdom and taking advantage of shorter lines at the beginning of the day for a couple hours.  Then, we will walk over to the Contemporary Resort for a late breakfast, which gives us a much needed break after some hard play time early on.
  3. Take Something to Sign – Third, one of the coolest keepsakes that you could bring home is an autograph from a character.  That said, take some different things for them to sign.  Leslie has taken a cardboard picture frame mat, a Disney canvas bag, and most recently, these little gems:Signatures from characters at Chef Mickey's
  4. Get Two Meals in One – Fourth, this is a great tip!  If you decide to capitalize on Tip #2, make your breakfast reservation for around 11am.  Chef Mickey’s switches its buffet from breakfast to brunch at 11:30.  If you get there at 11am, you can fill up on all your favorite breakfast food and enjoy the characters.  Once your food has settled a little bit, head back to the buffet for some lunch items.  Bonus tip – They tend to switch over the dessert line first, so get your breakfast pastries first or you might miss out on them!Aidan, Jennings, and Pluto make the best of friends
  5. Dining Plan  – Finally, if you have a dining plan that has table service meals, use it here.  Character buffets are by far the best use of Disney dining plan credits.  Chef Mickey’s will cost one table service credit per person, but it is totally worth it.  Don’t opt to pay cash if you’re on the dining plan for any character meals, including this one.

Hopefully, these five tips will give you a different point of view on how to make the most of a fantastic experience eating at Chef Mickey’s.  To be clear, you won’t have a bad experience here no matter how you do it.  But, these have have really helped us enjoy a great venue that much more.

So, how does your family do Chef Mickey’s?

 

Join us every Wednesday as we take you to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, on Disney Cruise Line, and everywhere in between on our Addicted to the Mouse Podcast!

We can always be reached at danandleslie@addictedtothemouse.com and would love to hear from you!

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When to Push Kids to Ride Disney Thrill Rides

When to Push Kids to Ride Disney Thrill Rides

I probably should have ended the title of this post with a question mark.  As you can probably tell by the main picture, I might have pushed my youngest a little fast to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  If anyone has a definitive answer to this question, it isn’t me.  That said, I have encouraged both of my kids to ride Disney thrill rides.  Sometimes, it worked out well.  Other times, the pushing blew up in my face.  So, here’s my experience and I would love to hear yours.

The first time we took our kids to Disney World, Aidan was 6 and Jennings was 1.  Aidan was big enough to ride almost everything, so I pushed him a little further than he was comfortable with.  He really enjoyed many bigger rides, including Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids.  He nearly pulled my arm out of socket escaping from Tower of Terror (understandable, I think).  And he had mixed reviews on some.  Expedition Everest is the one in particular that I remember.  He was pretty excited to ride it with me at first before the rider swap.  But when it came time to ride with mom, he did not want to do it again.  Eventually, he went back on and now it is his favorite ride!

Jennings, on the other hand, is a different story.  Our July 2015 trip was the first time he was finally big enough to ride some Disney thrill rides.  Needless to say, he did not care for Mine Train.  Here is the pic of him on Splash Mountain:

He refuses to go on both Mine Train and Splash Mountain to this day.  So, the next trip we took it easy on him.  Last July, however, I thought it would be a great time to encourage Jennings to ride Space Mountain.  I mean, who wouldn’t like a really fast roller coaster in the pitch black, right?  He got off that ride and burst into tears.  Here it is, if you can bear to watch this torture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq3KcONOmIc&list=PLMLSh4FYMx2z8GsKgc_TIijHcfmaogdiL&index=2

In our most recent trip over Spring Break this year, we didn’t push Jennings.  He still has yet to step out of his shell, but I think that’s okay for now.  I pushed Aidan and it worked out well.  Now, he loves the thrill rides from Space Mountain to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  Here he is from two weeks ago on Expedition Everest (believe it or not, he is loving it):

The bottom line is I think it is up to the kids.  In my opinion, I think it is up to us Dads to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone.  That said, I also think it’s up to us to recognize when we are pushing them too far.

So, what is your experience with kids and thrill rides?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Dan can be reached at danandleslie@addictedtothemouse.com

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Top 5 Reasons to Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner

Top 5 Reasons to Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner

All right ladies, planning a Disney destination vacation is overwhelming, especially when traveling to Walt Disney World.  So often, I hear someone say that they love planning and organizing but there is just “so much information” when it comes to planning that magical trip.  An Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (i.e. travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations) can save the day in these situations.  Here are the top 5 reasons to use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner on your next Disney vacation:

  1. Entirely FREE! I don’t know anything better than this reason.  Someone helps you navigate everything about your vacation, and it isn’t going to cost you a penny?!?!? What’s the catch? There isn’t one. Disney offers an “Earmarked” program giving agencies the title of Authorized Disney Vacation Planners.  This allows them to provide their services to you at the same cost as if you booked the vacation yourself!
  2. Considered experts in their field!  Most, if not all, Authorized Disney Vacation Planner agencies require that their agents have extensive travel experience to multiple Disney destinations prior to hiring them.  In addition, the agents graduate from the College of Disney Knowledge (best college courses I have ever taken).  Agents always must stay current in these courses.  Because of this, expect that your agent is an expert on most things Disney. Now, we all know that no matter what field you work in, we can’t know everything. The important thing is knowing where you can find the answers and these agents do.  The support that agents receive is unbelievable.  If a client stumps me with a question, I have a private Facebook group with my agency.  I also have an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner priority line that I can contact.  On top of all of this, any agent who specializes in Disney vacations began this journey because they are passionate (some say obsessed) with all things Disney! Who better to help you plan that magical trip?!?!?
  3. Never miss out on a promotion or potential discount! Agents who specialize in Disney destinations constantly watch the promotions released by Disney. Your agent applies these to your vacation if it is available, even after you book!  I always encourage my clients to book a vacation that they are comfortable with while I watch for the discounts.  When Disney releases promotions, a limited number of rooms are included in the discount. Sometimes, not all categories of rooms or resorts are included in these promotions.  Your agent will often look at other options for your travel party to see if you could save money by staying somewhere else.  One of the best feelings as an agent is calling your client to tell them their vacation is now $400 cheaper because of a promotion you applied!
  4. Itinerary planning! From advanced dining reservations to fast passes, tons of pieces go into planning your magical vacation.  You can count on your agent to do all of the research, discuss the best options for your travel party, and make all of the reservations.  This includes where to stay, where to dine, and where to play.  Your agent keeps track of all dates that things need to be done with your vacation.  For example, Advanced Dining Reservations are available at 180 days at Disney World and 60 days at Disneyland, fast passes can be booked at 60 days when you stay onsite but at 30 days when you stay offsite (WDW), final payments, personalizing magic bands, and online check-in.  Those “hard-to-get” reservations often require booking as soon as they are available, if you want a chance of doing them. This is another area where your agent can shine!  With that being said, if you want to have more control over the planning, your agent can be as involved or as hands-off as you desire.  I have clients that simply tell me a general budget and time of year they want to travel and want me to plan everything else. Then, I have clients who present very detailed plans and simply want me to help watch for promotions and deal with issues. 
  5. Available during your vacation for any issues! Let’s face it….no matter how well planned your vacation is, things always come up that need to be addressed.  Contact your agent, and they can call Disney to fix the problem or change the reservation for you.  Then, you simply continue your stress-free magic while someone else handles the issues.

Hopefully, this has convinced you of the huge value that a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations provides during your magical vacation planning.  While we recommend Fairytale Journeys as our preferred Authorized Disney Vacation Planners, several wonderful agencies and agents are out there.  Just make sure that you “click” with your agent and they provide you with what you need because you depend on them heavily during this process!

Please contact me if you need help with your next Disney vacation.  Click the above Fairytale Journeys image or email me at ftjbyleslielowry@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading, and let me know what your favorite reason to use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner!

7 Best Disney Cruise Tips for Dad

7 Best Disney Cruise Tips for Dad

Gentlemen, I’ve got good news and bad news.  The good news is that planning a cruise is WAY less complicated than planning a Disney World trip.  There are no dining reservations to make, there are no FastPasses to try and get, and you don’t have to pick and choose between a seemingly endless stockpile of hotel room configurations and resort themes.  The bad news is…there’s no planning to do.  You pick the cruise and room, pay your money, and that’s about it.  Okay, so there are a few things you can reserve ahead of time (mainly shore excursions), but you’re really not mentally committed to the Disney cruise like you are when you plan a vacation to Disney World.  But rest assured, these 7 Best Disney Cruise Tips for Dad will give you plenty to plan for.  So let’s get to it…

  1. The Shower – I’m not going to sugar-coat this.  The showers in the stateroom are not great.  They’re tiny.  For a guy that is 6’2″, tiny is not a good thing.  However, you can go to Senses, which is the spa area that has the gym attached to it.  The spa costs extra money, but the attached gym is included.  Part of the gym is the men’s locker room.  Inside the men’s locker room is a sauna and two large showers.  Free for your use are clean slippers, robes, razors, shampoo, conditioner, etc.  Basically everything you need is there and it is amazing.  The best part is that not many people know that they are there.  Trust me on this.  Use the showers in the locker room.
  2. The Beer – I’m not talking about the beer on the boat.  Yes, they have it.  No, it isn’t included (or cheap).  You can, however, bring on board a six-pack for each adult in your party in your carry-on.  There is a mini-fridge in your room for your convenience, which is perfect for cans of beer.  However, the only readily available empty cups are small and made of styrofoam for soft drinks.  Ask for a grown-up cup (my words, not theirs) from one of the bars on the upper decks and you’re all set.  You have craft beer (please don’t take domestic, for all our sakes) for about $1.50 each.
  3. The Food – It’s included.  A Disney cruise includes all food.  I will say that again.  The cruise includes all food.  You can have as much as you want, pretty much whenever you want (room service is included as well).  Every evening at our sit-down dinner, I ordered two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts.  I didn’t order three because I didn’t want to be ridiculous.  First, take advantage of the great cuisine on board and order whatever sounds good to you.  Then, plan your diet after the Disney cruise while waiting on your last dessert to arrive.
  4. The Tastings – Make a point to visit Guest Services when you board your Disney cruise and check out the itinerary that has the different tasting options.  To be totally upfront, these do cost extra.  We signed up for a mixology class, a beer tasting, and a whiskey tasting and they were all about $20 per person.  That said, they are totally worth it.  The whiskey tasting includes four good pours of really great whiskey.   Then, the bartender gave us all two more pours.  Here is a picture of the first four.
  5. The Adult Area – We all love our kids.  However, we all want time away from them too.  All Disney cruises have an adults only section with an exclusive pool and bar sans kiddos.  Enjoy!
  6. The Kids Only Area – So, how do we ditch our kiddos?  Disney cruises do not have casinos like most cruise lines.  Therefore, they dedicate almost an entire deck to kid spaces.  There are several great things about these places.  First, adults who don’t work there are not allowed in the space and you need a secret password to get the kids out.  Second, you can use the cruise app on your smartphone or the portable phone that is inside your stateroom to be notified if your kid has a problem or wants to be picked up.  Finally, the cast members in these areas are amazing.  They do some pretty impressive activities that the kids absolutely love and really want to be a part of.  Here’s a picture of one of the themed kids areas.  Can you tell which movie it’s from?
  7. The Bars – So, if your carry-on beer doesn’t last the entire cruise, Disney has you covered.  They have several really cool bars on board, both inside and out.  Outside, you will find your typical pool bars.  Inside, however, you can find an upscale bar and a themed bar at a minimum (adults only area).  On the Disney Wonder, you will find the Cadillac Lounge as the upscale bar and is decorated like a Cadillac, complete with authentic leather seats.  The Crown and Fin is the themed bar and is an authentic english pub.

So, there you have it.  These 7 Best Disney Cruise Tips for Dad will set you up for an incredible cruise.  I wish I had known all of these tips before I went on our first Disney cruise, but I was sure to incorporate all of them after that.  If you want to see any of these things live, I will be posting videos of our entire cruise and more on our YouTube channel, WorthMelting4.  Here is the link – www.youtube.com/worthmelting4

Thanks so much for reading and please let me know your thoughts about these tips.  I’d also love to know if you have any more tips to share.

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