Lysa’s Holiday Trip to Disney World Part 1 – Episode 21

In this week’s episode, for February 12, 2017, Jon and Lysa will be discussing Lysa’s recent trip to Disney World during the holiday season as well as taking your listener questions on Disney travel.

Please send any questions about the show to host@mousedreamsblog.com and visit our website, www.MouseDreamsBlog.com for more information. Also, like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MouseDreamsblog and follow us on Twitter @MouseDreamsBlog.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors and friends at Big Dreams Travel, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Visit them at www.bigdreamstravelusa.com to help with your next vacation.

You can submit Disney trip planning questions for us to answer on the show by e-mailing us at podcast@MouseDreamsBlog.com, by tweeting your question to @MouseDreamsBlog on Twitter, or by visiting the listener questions page on our website at www.MouseDreamsBlog.com/podcastquestions. We would love to answer your questions on travel including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise Line. Have a great week everyone and thanks for listening!

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Jon’s Summer Disney World Trip – Episode 15

cropped-NEW-Icon-Edit-A.jpgIn this week’s episode, for November 20, 2016, we will be discussing Jon’s most recent summer trip to Disney World.

Please send any questions about the show to host@mousedreamsblog.com and visit our website, www.MouseDreamsBlog.com for more information. Also, like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MouseDreamsblog and follow us on Twitter @MouseDreamsBlog.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors and friends at Big Dreams Travel, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Visit them at www.bigdreamstravelusa.com to help with your next vacation.

You can submit Disney trip planning questions for us to answer on the show by e-mailing us at podcast@MouseDreamsBlog.com, by tweeting your question to @MouseDreamsBlog on Twitter, or by visiting the listener questions page on our website at www.MouseDreamsBlog.com/podcastquestions. We would love to answer your questions on travel including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise Line. Have a great week everyone and thanks for listening!

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Review of Disney’s Pop Century Resort

When staying at Disney World you are always faced with the choice of what level of hotel that you are going to spend your vacation in. Sometimes a deluxe resort is calling your name and sometimes a value is calling your name. Well, the value may be calling your pocket book more than your name, but regardless I’m here to give you a review of one of those value resorts and try and convince you it is still a place where you can have a great Disney vacation. We have stayed at Pop Century a few times now and every time we have left with a positive view of the resort in our minds.

Our experience at this resort has always be fantastic at check in. The cast members have always been extremely helpful and this time was no different. We had a very helpful cast member welcome us, but we were able to go straight to our room as I had already received the text giving us our room number. This process worked flawlessly and we were given a room in the exact location that we had requested. We had a nice view of the lake, had a pretty quick walk to the main area, but were on the back side of the building so the pool noise was kept to a minimum.

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Another thing we always love about Pop Century is the nice icons around the resort. It is always a fun resort to take the kids to walk around and get pictures with the larger than life figures.

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The rooms and beds are small, but again, this is a value resort. We have found the room to be enough space for us, at least at this point with small kids, and the rooms have always been clean and comfortable.

Another area of the resort we really enjoy is Everything Pop, the food court and shopping area. Though this food court is often overshadowed by the nearby Art of Animation food court we really enjoy this one as well. The menu has enough variety to be enjoyed by everyone, but they execute all of the dishes fairly well. They also always have plenty of seating and the drink area is large enough that you do not usually have to wait in line to get refills.

Another of our favorite areas are the pool at Pop Century. It is always such a fun and festive atmosphere in the afternoons when the pool party is going on. Another great positive here with the main Hippy Dippy pool is its close proximity to the food court, which makes it very easy to grab a refill in your mug or get a quick snack. The pool is also a great area to sit in the mornings and watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee!

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The final area we really have always had good luck on at Pop Century is the bus service. I have heard other people were not so lucky, but in our several stays here up to this point we have always had a pretty good experience. The busses to the parks have always been fairly frequent and this year we ever got to ride on the new double length busses a couple of times to and from Magic Kingdom. Those double length busses seem to have been a big difference maker in transportation to the values and moderates as they can hold so many people.

Overall, Pop Century is a great option for two types of trips. First, if you are traveling with small children the size of the rooms should not be a big issue for you and Pop Century will serve you well. Second, if you are using this resort for a short trip or for a trip where you plan on spending almost all of your time in the parks this could be a nice fit even if your kids are older. Either way Pop Century has a great atmosphere, has a great staff, and certainly provides a distinctly “Disney” experience.

Magic Kingdom Evening Touring

Trip Review SaturdayIn this weeks edition of the Saturday Review I’m going to discuss an evening visit to the Magic Kingdom. Just like always we are a family with a toddler and were visiting on an evening in the middle of the summer. We began our evening touring at 6:30 PM after our dinner inside the park and had the goal of being out by around 9:00 PM.

This plan is a look at what you can do if you are able to go into the evening time with at least two Fastpass+ reservations still available to you. We had a Fastpass set up at Peter Pan that we used as we started touring. Peter Pan is always a good use of a Fastpass in the afternoon or evening and this time was no exception as we passed a 60 minute standby line and were on the ride in about 5 minutes.

After Peter Pan we headed into one of the most nostalgic rides for our family, Mickey’s Philharmagic. The ride was charming as usual and is still one of our favorite evening attractions at the Magic Kingdom. We stopped and got in a ride for the three year old on the carousel before heading over to use our other Fastpass+ reservation at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Many of you might want to know if we took the toddler on the ride and the answer is yes. We gave him the choice, let him watch the ride, and told him it goes pretty fast and he still said he wanted to go, or in his words “I want to ride high ho.” He loved the ride and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get right back on. I tried to explain that the line was about 80 minutes, but he didn’t like that answer very well!

After Seven Dwarfs we decided to do another ride the toddler would enjoy and headed back to Storybook Circus and took a ride on Dumbo. What a great ride at night! The lights and the water just make a great little experience and of course you get great views of the park once you get up high. It was about 8:00 at this point so we started heading back towards the front of the park. We stopped so I could take a ride on Space Mountain as I had picked up a child swap pass when my wife had ridden that morning. It was a great ride as always and then we of course had to take a spin on the Peoplemover on the way out of the park.

By the time was had finished the Peoplemover it was about 8:30 and we began our walk to the exit. They did have the back path open behind Main Street and we took it since we didn’t have any shopping to complete that day. We were out of the park by 8:45. So overall, we did seven attractions in about two hours and 15 minutes with the aid of a couple of Fastpass+ reservations. I’d say that’s a pretty production evening at the Magic Kingdom. Happy Trip Planning!

Animal Kingdom Families with Children Morning Plan Review

AnimalKingdomEntranceFor this weekends edition of the trip review article I’m going to go through a morning visit we had on our last trip to Animal Kingdom. This is not going to be a step by step touring plan for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it will give you a good idea of what to expect and one specific way to tour this park with the use of Fastpass+. For clarification we are a family of two adults and one child who is too young to ride Expedition Everest and this trip took place in June, so summer crowds were in effect. (Picture to the Left Credited To: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia)

We arrived at the park via our resort bus at 8:25 AM before a 9:00 AM opening.

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The park opened at 8:47 AM, but keep in mind Disney had been changing things up with Animal Kingdom’s opening procedures, so it may very well be slightly different from this. After walking to the back of the park we ended up arriving at Kilimanjaro Safari just before 9:00 AM and had to wait a couple of minutes for the ride to open. They opened right at 9:00 AM and we were soon boarding a safari vehicle. Here are a few pictures of our safari, which was good as it usually is in the morning.

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We were off the ride just before 9:30 and were well ahead of schedule. We had actually planned on visiting the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and we would have had about 25 minutes to do so, but we decided we would rather spend the time grabbing some breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery. Our plan was to attend the 10:00 AM Festival of the Lion King Show as we knew it would be not very crowded and we could show up very close to showtime. We arrived at 9:55 AM and walked right into about a half full theatre and enjoyed a great show!

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After the show our plan was to use our first Fastpass+ of the day. Now, for our family we have a hard time deciding what to use our third Fastpass+ on. We usually use one on Everest and Dinosaur, but our son is not quite into Kali River Rapids yet and my wife and I don’t care to ride it without him like we do Expedition Everest. The attraction we settled on to use our Fastpass+ for is the Mickey and Minnie Meet at Adventurers Outpost.

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We have done this meet before and it is a really unique meet and greet as you actually get both characters at the same time, which is not the case at most meets. We arrived at 10:40 and were meeting Mickey and Minnie by 10:45 which bypassed about a 20 minutes standby line. Not a huge jump, but Character meet and greet lines are notoriously boring and some of the least fun ones to wait in. After a great meet it was about 10:55 and our next plan was to head for some lunch. We enjoy having lunch at Restaurantosaurus or Flame Tree BBQ in this park. Flame Tree certainly has better food, but it was very hot and we decided on Restaurantosaurus as the seating area is air conditioned. I’m not going to do a full dining review here, but I will include a picture of my entree, the Mac ‘n Cheese Dog. We enjoy the food here, although it is nothing special, but the air conditioned seating area is a big positive.

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The next step on our agenda was that we stopped at about 11:30 for a ride on Triceratop Spin and had to wait about 10 minutes. Next we were heading to the 12:00 PM performance of Finding Nemo: The Musical. We arrived about 11:50 and got a seat on the first row of the top section and it was perfect.

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The show was over by 12:40 and we headed at this point to use our next Fastpass+ at Expedition Everest. Of course one of us has to stay with our son so it took us about 25 minutes to both get our ride in. After riding Everest we headed back to Dinoland to use our final Fastpass+ at Dinosaur.

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We arrived at 1:20 and I was able to ride walk right into the pre-show. While one of us rides the other likes to take our son and ride Triceratop Spin as the line is usually about the perfect length to take up the time the other person is at Dinosaur. When I got off at about 1:40 my wife had decided she didn’t want to ride so we were ready to head out of the park. Here is what we accomplished in about 4 and a half hours at Animal Kingdom in the summer.

  • Kilimanjaro Safari (Standby)
  • Breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery (Would have had time for Pangani Trail)
  • Festival of the Lion King Show (Standby)
  • Meet Disney Pals Mickey & Minnie at Adventurers Outpost (Fastpass+)
  • Lunch at Restaurantosaurus
  • Triceratop Spin (Standby)
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical (Standby)
  • Expedition Everest (Fastpass+, 2 Times due to Young Child)
  • Dinosaur (Fastpass+, Other adult and young child did Triceratop Spin)

We were very pleased with our day, especially considering we were able to see both Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo, which is kind of a difficult task in just a half day of touring. We hope this plan helps you in planning your morning at Animal Kingdom. Thanks for reading and happy trip planning!

A Magic Kingdom Morning Toddler Touring Plan with Columbia Harbour House

For today’s Trip Review Saturday article I wanted to talk a little about a Magic Kingdom morning plan we used on our last trip. This is a great plan to use if you have young children traveling with you, but keep in mind we only have a little boy in our party, no girls, so something like Anna & Elsa is not on our radar, and honestly, I can’t say that disappoints me! Our strategy was to get several things in Fantasyland done before the park got super crowded on a crazy summer day. We were waiting for the park to open by 8:15 AM and here was our view…one of my favorite views anytime, anywhere!

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Now, to give you a little more perspective here is that shot zoomed out a little so you can see some of the crowd at 8:15 in the morning.

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Yikes! I was a little shocked. Being 45 minutes early, even last summer would have gotten us pretty close to the rope, now we were 20-25 people back. Oh well, most of these people were headed to one of two attractions anyway, Anna & Elsa or Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and we are certainly not heading to either of those. After watching the awesome welcome show we were let into the park at exactly 8:46 AM.

So, like I said while almost everyone else was heading to Anna & Elsa or Seven Dwarves Mine Train, we took the opportunity to get a jump start on everything else in Fantasyland. If you can get FP+s for those two popular attractions this is a great touring order for a family with young children to follow. As you will see we are going to get a lot of things done by lunch time and get out of this park at a reasonable time so that we can all get rested up for the evening.

We headed down main street, not having to hurry since no-one else was headed where we were, and went towards our traditional starting point, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. We were on the ride by 8:55 AM and off and heading for something else before the actual park opening time. We then hit up one of our son’s favorite attractions, the Barnstormer. We even got to do it twice as there was no one else in line yet! After flying with the Great Goofini on his coaster we headed over to take a spin on Dumbo. Guess what time it was when we finished…if you guessed 9:15, you are correct. We had already done four rides and the park has only been officially open for 15 minutes.

Let me give another great tip for this area of the park if you have a stroller, but your kids can walk some for short distances. We parked our stroller at Dumbo before we rode Barnstormer and we did not pick for over 45 minutes. There are some great things close to that location and it is very nice to not have to load up in the stroller after every attraction. After Dumbo our plan had been to head in to see Goofy and Donald at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, but we were moving so quickly Pete’s wasn’t open yet. It opens at 9:45 AM most mornings if the park opens at 9:00, although I would check the times guide. I believe it opens at park opening some select days. We left the stroller by Dumbo and jumped ahead to our next ride, Under the Sea. It was about 9:20 by this point and there was no line here at all and we were done by 9:30. We still had 15 minutes to waste before Pete’s opened and our son begged and begged to do Barnstormer again, so why not, there were no lines in this part of the park yet. So after our third ride on Barnstormer we headed to get in line for Pete’s as it was about five minutes from opening.

They opened promptly at 9:45 and a nice tip is if you are first in line the characters will open the doors and meet you and then take the kids hands and walk them through the line to their meet and greet area. We weren’t at the front, but it made the day of a little girl and I love seeing that Disney magic. After a great meet with Goofy and Donald we stopped for a quick chocolate croissant and some water in Gaston’s Tavern before heading all the way across the park to Frontierland. We had done a lot of attractions already as well as a meet and greet and it was just 10:00. We arrived at Big Thunder Mountain, the next thing on our list, and the wait time was listed as 10 minutes, but right as we got to the entrance a cast member was shutting it down because the ride was broken. So, I cannot give an accurate wait time for 10:00 AM on a summer day, but the posted one had been 10 minutes before they closed. With a Splash Mountain FP opening at 10:40 we had some time to kill so we headed into the air conditioning at Country Bear Jamboree. “There…was…blood on the saddle!” After the world famous performance we headed over so my wife could use a Splash Mountain FP. It was close to 11:00 as we had done some walking around in Adventureland as well before the show. Our son was not ready for Splash just yet so we got a child swap and he and I headed over to get set for lunch at Columbia Harbour House.

I ordered lunch while my wife rode Splash Mountain and the time worked out about perfectly as she walked up to our table about the exact time that we sat down with our food. We found a perfect seat at an upstairs window that looked down into the park and I would recommend anyone having a meal here to always go sit upstairs if it is open. We were early enough to beat most of the lunch rush, so it wasn’t too crowded, but even when it is the upstairs is usually still very peaceful. The food during our meal was good as always. My wife and son both got kids meals and I ended up going with the fish and chips as I usually do.

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The fish is always very good, in my opinion, for a quick service restaurant and everything else we had was great as well. Our son loved the mac ‘n cheese here and my wife loved the kids meal she got which had the perfect amount for her of one piece of fish and a few chicken nuggets. The entire experience at Columbia Harbour House is always great as it is a nice peaceful spot to stop and each lunch. My tip to anyone needing lunch in this part of the park is to definitely stop here and find one of those tables upstairs by a window. It is a great break from the craziness of the theme park and the food is good as well.

After lunch it was 11:45 and we had done a lot already that morning and were ready for a break so we just decided to head back for a nap and some swimming. There was a show going on while we walked out so of course we had to stop and watch for a few minutes.

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It was all in all a great morning at the Magic Kingdom. We visited around 10 attractions in just about two hours and finished our morning off with a visit to Columbia Harbour House, our favorite lunch spot in this park. Thanks for reading and happy trip planning!

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Our Final Visit to Downtown Disney

World of DisneyRecently Disney has made the long awaited name change from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs, but I want to take today’s Saturday Review article to look back at my last visit to Downtown Disney. I knew this visit was a goodbye to Downtown Disney for me and my family, but I also knew it was a chance to see some of the new things that had already been unveiled for Disney Springs.

We arrived via a bus from our resort and we had already been touring Disney World for four days, so needless to say we were a little tired and this was a day we were set to rest, but we were also changing resorts. With the resort change happening we needed somewhere to go for a part of the day until we could get into our room, so what better place than a visit to Downtown Disney. We were not at all sure how long we would make it with a three year old and we wanted to get to our new resort and relax as much as we could on this rest day, but we were going to give it a go. We also had planned for this to be our only visit to Downtown Disney on this trip. You see, this was the middle of summer in 2015, when Downtown Disney/Disney Springs construction was at its height, and for this reason we did not have much of a desire to spend much time here.

We arrived at the bus stop, which was only available at the Marketplace at this time and stopped in one of our favorite stores, Days of Christmas. We have the tradition of purchasing a Christmas ornament every year and what better place to start than here. I did snap a picture of one ornament I thought was pretty cool, it was a mixture of Mickey and Spaceship Earth.

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After days of Christmas we had to stop in the Marketplace Co-op. This is probably my favorite addition so far to the Marketplace side of Disney Springs. I love the Disney Centerpiece area as I am a huge fan of the vintage plates, cups, bowls, decor, everything in this area that deals with rides and attractions. I won’t get much deeper, but you’ll see what I mean later in this article. My wife is a fan of the Cherry Tree Lane, mainly because she is in love with Vera Bradley…the bags, not the lady!

After finishing in the co-op we began to start seeing the evidence of the large scale construction projects that were taking place. I am a huge fan of what they are doing to Disney Springs and am extremely excited about seeing it completely finished, but construction kind of stresses us out. The crowds are closer together and we are just fans of waiting until something is finished to see the final product. We pulled ourselves together and headed on down to World of Disney, because it is an unwritten law that everyone who comes to Disney Springs must buy something from this store.

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Once April and I get inside this store we just naturally go our separate ways, me to look at a variety of things and her heading to the closest selection of “cute stuff”, which most often involves more Vera Bradley bags. As I browsed I found more of the vintage kitchen accessories that I love and I ended up getting a full set of these cups to add to the plates and bowls that I already had at home.

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We also wanted to find a t-shirt for our three-year-old son and it seems like the only ones we can ever find in a small size like that are the yearly shirts that have the year on it. Well…this year was no different. The 2015 theme shirt is what we settled on and he loved it because it had Mickey on it, and that is all he really cares about!

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After finishing up at World of Disney we headed over and spent a little time letting our son play in the Lego store before heading down to get one of these beauties, a Cookie Bits Sundae. We discovered this on a previous trip and it has become a requirement for April and I at Downtown Disney, and you can bet it will still be a requirement ever after the name change to Disney Springs!

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After we finished our sundae we headed back into the fray, and by that I mean endless construction walls as we ventured into the old Pleasure Island area. The crowds by this point were very thick and the construction walls were very tight, and those two things do not go well together. We shopped around a little bit, but by this time it was about 2:00 and we were ready to get into our hotel room, and the youngster was ready for a nap, so we made the trek back to the Marketplace bus stop.

All in all our last visit to Downtown Disney was a success. The Marketplace area was almost completely construction free in the areas that were open and we had some nice shopping time and a nice snack at one of our favorite places. Once you left the Marketplace though the construction was a little more in our faces, so we said, “So long Downtown Disney, we’ll see you next time.” And next time we are around Disney Springs should be completed or nearly completed and that is something I am very excited to see.