Universal Studios Tickets Explained

Universal Studios Tickets

Be sure to check out this post containing all the information you’ll need to better understand Universal Studios Tickets and features. From Base tickets to Unlimited Express passes, we’re covering it all!

Save The Sea Turtles

save the turtles

Save The Sea Turtles

The Carnival Cruise Line “Save A Sea Turtle Experience” allows you to rescue baby sea turtles from their nest in Cozumel and release them in the ocean. We recently cruised with Carnival to Cozumel, Mexico and spent the day doing the “Save A Sea Turtle Experience” with Carnival Cruise Line. We had an amazing time and I wanted to share it with you.

About the Turtles

Cozumel has the most sea turtle nests per kilometer than any other place in Mexico, by a 3 to 1 ratio. This excursion works with biologists in the area who have mapped out over 2,000 sea turtle nests on the island! The biologists monitor the nests that hatch overnight on the protected beaches and that’s where the volunteers come in. You are given the opportunity to help dig up the turtle nests to save the turtles that couldn’t make it out on their own. As the first few turtles in a nest start to hatch, they push the sand down over the other turtles. It makes it really difficult for some of the turtles to make it to the surface. Did you know that only 80% of the hatched nest has the energy and stamina to make it to the surface? That’s where you get to make the difference.

The beach in Cozumel, Mexico

The Experience

This experience was booked directly through Carnival. That means that transportation from the cruise port was provided, as well as security in knowing you won’t get left behind if the excursion runs late! We had a meeting point right off the Cozumel pier. After we checked in with our guide, Alfredo, we boarded a large air conditioned tour bus. Alfredo begin telling us about the island of Cozumel, and how important the turtles are to the region. We stopped by a small roadside market and had a chance to shop for a little bit, buy a cold drink or take some pictures at the overlook of the ocean. Make sure you have some cash if you would like to shop. The vendors will haggle with you, so don’t feel pressure to pay full price. This stop is going to be your one and only bathroom break on the excursion, so don’t skip it! In the interest of full disclosure, this is not your typical bathroom. It’s a step above a port-a-potty, but that’s about the only positive thing I can say.

save the turtles experience
We got some ice cold glass bottles of Mexican coke at the stop and they were delicious!

After we boarded the bus again, Alfredo got in contact with the biologists to determine our work site, and then he demonstrated how we were would work the turtle nests. It’s a labor intensive process, and following the instructions is critical. Each volunteer is given a rubber glove to make sure that the turtles aren’t exposed to any germs on our hands. We were also shown the proper way to hold the turtles by using our pointer fingers and thumbs to grasp the outside of the shell, making sure to never touch the underside of the turtle. Their stomachs are coated in oils that are critical to their safety in the water.

save the sea turtles experiences

Working Your Nest

Our nest marker. There are thousands of these markers around the beaches.

5 nests hatched the prior night. Our tour group had 28 people, and we were divided up among the nests. Our family of 6 worked the first nest. Each group was set up with a beach umbrella for shade, a bucket and verbal instructions to help safely remove the turtles. We had to draw a small circle in the sand around the marker location, and then draw another circle just beyond the first circle. The inner circle indicates where you will dig, and the outer circle is the line in which you shouldn’t cross with your body weight. This part is very important. Each person digging is to lay on their stomach in the sand and scoop the sand out with their gloved hand. You place the removed sand outside of both of the circles so you don’t get a pile of sand in your way.

save the sea turtles experiences

Finding The Turtles

Our mama turtle laid her nest on a hill, right at the edge of some shrubbery, so it was somewhat awkward to work the nest. We took turns scooping the sand out and roughly a foot down we came across our first turtle.

Words cannot describe what it felt like pulling that small sea turtle out of the sand. It was something I’ll never forget. The turtles are very sluggish when they are first pulled out, so don’t be alarmed. We gently placed the first turtle in the bucket and within a few seconds he was all over the place!

save the sea turtles experiences
The baby turtles are so cute!
save the sea turtles experiences

We took turns working the hole until it got so deep that my husband had to reach the bottom. We pulled out 14 live baby turtles! I even got the honor of pulling a turtle out as it was hatching from its egg! Part of your job is to make sure you remove all the turtle eggs and shells from the nest. You group them into piles of 10 so the biologist will be able to determine how many eggs were laid, how many hatched on their own, and how many were rescued.

save the sea turtles experiences

The Save the Sea Turtles Experience was hands down the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had on a cruise excursion. Pulling those precious baby turtles out of the sand was something I’ll never forget. We counted over 90 eggs in our nest! We unfortunately pulled out several eggs from our nest that didn’t make it, but we pulled out 14 live babies! That is 14 baby turtles that wouldn’t have survived had it not been for the turtle rescue! We loved our Save the Sea Turtles experience!

save the sea turtles experiences

The Release

After the nests were completed, the turtles were collected in a large bucket. We formed a line along the shoreline and each of us were given a baby turtle to release. It was amazing at how strong those little babies are. Feeling those little fins moving against my fingers was awe inspiring. At release time everyone stands in a straight line at the edge of the water. You need to make sure you don’t move as the turtles were heading out. The turtles are placed in the sand so they “learn” where they came from. This teaches them where they will return in 10-15 years.

Be Very Still!

The waves would wash the turtles right back in and if we moved we would risk stepping on them. Some of the babies washed back into the shore line several times. They kept on until they finally reached the water and swam away. We did 2 releases where everyone had their own turtle, and then the final release was about 50 turtles at the same time. It was completely joyful watching those turtles scurry across the sand as they headed out into the water. I’ll never forget watching those baby turtles swim away! We released 4 loggerhead sea turtles from one nest and 125 green sea turtles from four nests. 129 baby sea turtles were set free by this unbelievable volunteer opportunity!

You will be given the opportunity to purchase a picture of your group at the nest, as well as souvenir t-shirts. Make sure to bring cash if you think you will be interested in either!

Things to Know Before You Book

  • The Save the Sea Turtles experience excursion is available in Cozumel July through November. It costs $79.99 for children ages 4-12 and $89.99 for teens and adults. Yes, you are paying to volunteer, but it’s worth it! As always, prices are subject to change.
  • You can book online prior to your cruise, or onboard your Carnival ship. The excursion may sell out.
  • The excursion is 4 hours long, and there is no minimum age.
  • If you are pregnant or have heart or respiratory problems, you are not permitted on this excursion
  • The cruise has a moderate activity level. You could be walking down hilly terrain to reach your nest, laying on the ground digging, and standing for extended periods. You will get dirty, hot and sweaty. It is a very physical excursion!
  • The excursion left at 9 and it was almost 2 when we got back on the ship. Lunch isn’t provided. You may want to bring some snacks with you.
  • There is a good chance you will encounter baby turtles that didn’t survive. Prepare young children for this possibility.

What to Bring With You

  • Comfortable shoes for walking in the hot sand.
  • Comfortable clothes for being in the sun for an extended period of time. We wore our swimsuits and swim shirts/cover ups, and flip flops. You can rinse your cool your feet in the ocean.
  • Sunscreen, but don’t apply it below your wrists. It can wipe off on the turtles.
  • Cash if you would like to shop in the marketplace.
  • Bring a towel to wipe off.
  • Bottled water and possibly snacks. You will receive cold water at the end of the excursion, but you could get extremely hot and thirsty in the sun on the beach.
  • Camera. Trust me on this, you are gonna want to take pictures and video of your adorable baby turtles.
  • Gratuity money for your bus driver and tour guide. They deserve it and work so hard for it!
save the sea turtles experiences

Memories for a Lifetime

This excursion was the highlight of the cruise for our family. We will cherish the memories, and hopefully in 10-15 years our turtles will return to this protected beach in Cozumel and continue the legacy for future generations of sea turtles!

How to Book

For more information, or to book the Save the Sea Turtles Experience excursion, please visit Carnival’s Excursion Site. As with most travel options, utilizing a good travel agent is always the best way to go. They already know all of this information and will be able to advise you on what’s best for you and your travel party. If you’ve already got an agent you work with, then great! Contact them today! Need an agent? We’d be happy to help you plan! Check out our bio page for information on how to contact us and get your own vacation planning going!

5 Things to Know About Hurricanes and Disney Travel

hurricane
Pandora: The World of Avatar

Traveling during the Atlantic hurricane season, typically June 1 to Nov 30, can be tricky. The odds of traveling during a major hurricane at Walt Disney World are extremely low. However, it’s always a good idea to know what you’re getting yourself into when planning a vacation during this time. Even more so, if you’re traveling during the season peak month of September! We have you covered though!

Closures Due to Hurricanes are Rare

hurricane

Orlando’s central location within the state of Florida makes it a much safer place to ride out a larger storm. Did you know the structures throughout Walt Disney World were designed to withstand gale force winds? It’s no wonder that since its opening in 1971, Walt Disney World has only ever closed for hurricane weather a total of 4 times!! The most recent was almost two years ago for Hurricane Irma. While a closure can be frustrating, it’s better to know that things are closed and everyone is safe.

You Can Change Your Travel Dates Without Penalty if a Hurricane Warning is Issued

According to Walt Disney World’s official hurricane policy,

“If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area—or for your place of residence—within 7 days of your scheduled arrival date, you may call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.

If you have products and services provided by third-party suppliers included in your vacation—such as airlines, hotels, car rental agencies or vacation insurance companies—you will continue to be responsible for any non-refundable payments, as well as cancellation or change fees assessed by those suppliers. The policy does not apply to certain special events or dining experiences.

hurricane

This policy also applies to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort or Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in the event a hurricane warning is issued for those destinations.”

Travel Insurance is Key

Whether you’re planning to travel during the hurricane season or not, travel insurance is always a good idea. One of the many things it can cover is the ever-unpredictable weather situations that can and do affect travel. It’s good to remember that each travel insurance plan is different. Your travel agent can explain more about what’s covered. Unfortunately, most insurance plans can’t be added onto a paid in full vacation package.

hurricane

Be thinking of the potential for hurricanes and whether you should select travel insurance when you first book your trip. Furthermore, most insurance plans will help cover costs associated with travel such as airfare to and from your destination. Remember: Even though Disney may reschedule your vacation without penalty, other third-party vendors that you have bookings with may not allow a reschedule. For more information on Walt Disney World’s travel insurance, click here. For more information on Disney Cruise Line’s insurance policy, click here.

Disney Has Safety Protocols In Place for Guests On-Site

Hurricane

While it’s no secret that Florida gets its fair share of hurricanes, it may be surprising to some that Walt Disney World is designed to withstand gale force winds. In the event that Orlando sees a direct, or even near-direct, hit from a hurricane, guests staying on property will be protected and even entertained! Many guests who’ve ridden out recent storms like Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma have reported that they’ve participated in games, movie marathons, and even unannounced character meet and greets within their resorts’ lobbies and food courts! Additionally, most resorts will allow guests to ride out the storm in their rooms. However, should the storm become more intense, each resort has an interior space to relocate everyone.

Disney Cruises Are Subject to Change

While Disney Cruise Line makes every effort to maintain its fleet’s schedule, safety is always paramount. Unfortunately that means that sometimes Disney has to make tough decisions. If the safety of any of Disney’s ships is in jeopardy, Disney Cruise Line assesses that risk and plans accordingly. This can often be as little as diverting around a storm or mixing up the port days during each sailing. Sometimes though, the risk is too great and Disney will make the call to cancel sailings. As of August 28th, Disney Cruise Line has posted a tropical weather update that states, “We are closely monitoring the path and progress of Hurricane Dorian to ensure our Guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of our Guests and crew is always our foremost concern.

At this time, based on the current predicted storm timing and path, we do not anticipate any changes to the Disney Fantasy sailing on Saturday, Aug. 31. We are closely monitoring potential implications for the Disney Dream sailings on Friday, Aug. 30 and Monday, Sept. 2. We encourage Guests to monitor our website for updates.”

hurricane

If you are considering a trip to Walt Disney World or a Disney Cruise during hurricane season, just remember to stay prepared and flexible. Safety is the most important thing! Stay weather prepared and keep an eye on Disney’s official sites for the latest information. Additionally, for more information on rainy days at Disney, be sure to check out our other blog post here.

Hidden Secret: Relaxation in the Rainforest on Disney Cruise Line

Ssshhhh…..I’m about to let you in on one of the best kept secrets for Disney Cruise Line: the Rainforest Room in the Senses Spa & Salon.

The Rainforest Room is a hidden gem in the Senses Spa on board all of the Disney cruise ships. Each Rainforest room is slightly different, but each of them feature the same idea – rest and relaxation at an affordable price! This limited access area is available to guests as a single day pass, or a pass for your entire voyage. Because there are a limited number of passes sold, the Rainforest room will never be too crowded. I purchased the single day pass on our last Disney cruise, and it did not disappoint! Let me show you around!

The Changing Room

Rainforest Room

When you enter the Senses Spa, you are given a bracelet that allows you to access the Rainforest room, and taken to the appropriate changing room. Trust me on this…these changing rooms aren’t your typical locker rooms. These are amazing! Marble counter tops, immaculately clean, and amenities to boot! There were vast supplies of complimentary spa quality lotions, soaps, and razors and you can even borrow hair dryers. The shower stalls were very spacious and super clean. There are stacks of plush towels and you are given a robe and flip flops to wear around the spa.

Rainforest Room
Rainforest Room

Bonus Tip!

The changing room showers at Senses Spa are available to you throughout your cruise – with or without a visit to the Rainforest Room. I ended up showering in the changing room showers at the spa a few times. The showers are very large, super clean and the complimentary spa products are amazing! It was nice having a larger area to get ready in when we were all cleaning up for dinner.

Rainforest Room

Each locker is very spacious and you use a custom numerical combination for the lock. You just need to remember which locker you choose, and the combination. Don’t worry – if you have a problem the spa staff are there to help!

Rainforest Time!

When you’ve gotten your stuff into your locker, now it’s time to get ready for the Rainforest room. First thing to know….everyone wears a swimsuit! The Rainforest room is co-ed, and no nudity is allowed!

Rainforest Room

Once you enter these doors, get ready for rest and relaxation!

Rainforest Room

The first thing you will notice is how beautiful it is. There is stone work everywhere, and the whole environment oozes calm and serenity. When you enter the Rainforest room, enjoy a cool glass of fruit-infused water or a cup of hot tea before you head into the shower room.

Rainforest Room

This is where the fun begins! The Rainforest shower room has five aromatherapy showers, each of which have different water temperatures, scents and strengths. Some are truly relaxing with warm or hot water, and others are more invigorating with cool or cold water. Check out the options and then hang your spa robe up on the hook outside the shower and try it out. Since everyone is wearing swimsuits, you don’t have to worry about it being co-ed. I loved the shower experience. I wasn’t a big fan of the super cold showers, but the warm showers were amazing!

Rainforest Room

When you are done showering, it’s the perfect time to check out the heated ceramic loungers. These are usually in high demand, so you may have to wait for just a bit for one to free up. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. The angle of the loungers were perfect for relaxing, and they are just warm enough to make you want to fall asleep and take a nap. Feel free to take a book with you, or doze off. However you choose to relax is up to you. I absolutely loved the loungers. My only problem is that I don’t have one at home!

Rainforest Room

The heated loungers overlook the ocean for a truly relaxing experience at the spa. I visited the Rainforest room on our Nassau day, so my view was another cruise ship which was cool in other ways. I enjoyed chilling out while watching the activities on board the Royal Caribbean ship next to us!

On the Disney Dream there are two hydrotherapy Jacuzzi tubs right off the the heated lounger room. These have the same view as the lounges do. One Jacuzzi tub was a regular hot tub with – you guessed it – hot water. The other tub was cooler water and it was Heaven! I loved soaking in the cooler tub enjoying the view.

Rainforest Room

After I was sufficiently water logged I checked out the steam rooms: the
Laconium, the Caldarium, and the Steam Hamam. I only visited these in passing because being hot just isn’t my thing. I live in Alabama. I have enough heat and humidity in my every day life.

Rainforest Room

I spent several hours at the Rainforest enjoying the amenities. For the price point and relaxation, it is definitely something I would do again on our next Disney cruise.

Know Before You Go

  • Day passes are available for purchase before you board by calling 1-800-601-8455, or you can purchase multi-day and couples multi-day passes when you board.
  • If pre-purchased, Day passes are $16 plus 18% gratuity.
    The Day passes are $27 if purchased on board.
  • The passes allows you entry for as long as you want for an entire day, or you can come and go as you like. It’s up to you!
  • Guests must be 18 years of age to enjoy the Rainforest Room.

Have you visited the Rainforest Room on a Disney Cruise Ship? If so, what did you think? If you haven’t tried it out, is this something you would like? Let’s chat in the comments! ~Amy ºoº

7 Ways to Beat the Heat at Walt Disney World

Extra magic hours are a great reason to stay on property at Disney World.

If you are planning at trip to Walt Disney World you need to know that Orlando can be H-O-T! The average temperature in the summer months is in the mid 90’s, and the humidity can be brutal. I’ve lived in Alabama my whole life, and the summer still kicks my tail. If you are from a cooler climate, I can promise you that you will experience heat like never before if you visit Walt Disney World in the middle of August. It isn’t just the heat that is oppressive, it’s the humidity which will suck the life out of you. If you are traveling to Walt Disney World during the hotter months of the year, you need to be prepared. Here are 7 ways to beat the heat and stay cool at Walt Disney World Let’s get started!

7. Prepare before you leave home!

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Break out your walking shoes and hit the road to get used to physical exercise in the heat before you get to the parks. The average guest walks 8-10 miles a day at Walt Disney World. If you aren’t used to the heat or exercise, you are going to feel like death warmed over. If you are a professional couch surfer with the air conditioner blasting at 68 degrees, you will be in for a rude awakening at the parks. Spend some time outside just acclimating to moving around in the great (and hot) outdoors before you attempt to pull a 12 hour day at the parks. Bonus tip – make sure you are wearing comfy shoes that breathe!

6. Pack accordingly!

Visit your Walmart or sporting goods store before your visit and stock up on items that will help you stay cool. Check out frogg toggs, cooling rags that are amazing when they are wet. Whenever they start to get warm again, just run them back under some cool water, or throw some ice cubes in them, wrap them back around your neck and you will be good to go again.

Grab a few small spray bottles with cooling fans before your trip. They are usually available for purchase in the parks, but you will save tons by bringing them with you. Add some ice and water, and you will be ready to rock and roll. These are great for kids and adults, and are good at moving the hot, sticky air away from your face when the breeze has disappeared. You can even clip one on your stroller to keep your little ones comfortable. Don’t forget to throw in a hat or visor and shades in your bag to keep the sun at bay.

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When packing for your trip be sure to think carefully about the clothes you are putting in your suitcase. Avoid dark colors, and look for fabrics that breathe and dry quickly. I throw in a change of clothes in our bag for our kids because sweaty, wet clothes are miserable, and who wants a miserable and whiny kid at WDW? Not me!

Another bonus tip: throw in some diaper rash ointment and Gold Bond No Mess Powder Spray in your bag. The diaper rash ointment is great for irritated and damp skin (even for adults). The Gold Bond spray is a total game changer for anyone dealing with “chub rub”.

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5. Utilize Extra Magic Hours!

Walt Disney World Resort guests have the perk of being able to use Extra Magic Hours either in the morning or evening at the parks. The schedule is posted for the parks months in advance, and resort guests can either get into the parks before non-resort guests, or can stay later, depending on the schedule for that day. Use these hours wisely! If you get to the parks at 8:00 in the morning, you can spend several well planned hours hitting all the major attractions, eat lunch, and then take a few hours to relax during the hottest part of the day. After a break, head back to the parks for more fun. If Extra Magic Hours are offered during the evening, you can hit the parks until midnight, or even later, with the temperatures being much more manageable. 

4. Party After Hours!

Purchase Disney After Hours or Disney H20 Glow Nights tickets! Let’s start with Disney After Hours….These 3-hour nighttime events allow guests to enter the parks at 7:00 pm and enjoy attractions and experiences with little-to-no-wait time. You can find Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park! You will be able to have smaller crowds which will let you really enjoy popular attractions and Character Greetings. Ice cream, popcorn and select beverages are all included with the cost of admission! Tickets start at $125.

Cinderella Castle at dusk

At Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, guests can enjoy the H20 Glow Nights where the water park atmosphere transforms into an electric celebration overflowing with splash-tastic surprises. Along with shorter wait times for popular waterslides, you can look forward to a:

  • DJ-hosted dance party on the sandy beaches of the Surf Pool
  • Playful mix of Toy Story-themed experiences including Character Greeting with Buzz Lightyear, Woody and Jessie
  • Tempting array of limited-time food and beverage offerings
  • Special area—The Wharf—just for adult partygoers, featuring entertainment and a bar with refreshing libations available for purchase.
A water tower sign reads Disney H2O Glow Nights and glowing water splashes Toy Story characters

Tickets for H20 Glow Nights start at $59, and are available on select nights from May to August.

3. Take a break!

Leave the parks during the hottest part of the day and spend a few hours either relaxing in your resort pool or taking a nap. You will need it because the heat just zaps energy, and the break will be well appreciated! After a few hours, you can head back to the parks and start the fun again.

Or, you can spend a day at one of Walt Disney World’s water parks, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, to beat the heat and have fun playing at the same time. Win/win!

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2. Get inside!

There are so many attractions around Walt Disney World that are inside! These are perfect for hot park days, or even for the inevitable pop-up showers that Orlando is so famous for. Plan accordingly to visit some of the most popular including Space Mountain, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, the indoor playground at Dumbo, all at Magic Kingdom. You can take time to watch stage shows like Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo at Animal Kingdom and the Frozen Sing-A-Long or Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Hollywood Studios. Plan to spend time exploring the the Living Seas Aquarium at Epcot. There are so many indoor attractions around Walt Disney World that are the perfect escape from the heat!

Taking a few minutes to pop into a quick service restaurant to have a cool drink, a scoop of ice cream or a snack is also a great way to beat the heat. Seek out the air conditioning and it will definitely improve your day!

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1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! 

And by “hydrate” I mean to drink water! August in Orlando is not the time to attempt to drink your way around the World Showcase at Epcot. Tequila and 95 degree temps don’t mix well. Pack a water bottle or camelbak and drink, drink, drink! And don’t forget that all counter service restaurants will give you cups of ice water for free, so you can even save some money without purchasing bottled water. I made it a habit to get some ice water just about every time we saw a counter service restaurant, because by the time you feel thirsty, dehydration has already started. Stay ahead of it!

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So there you have it! My top 7 tips for beating the heat at Walt Disney World. Do you have any tips? Let’s chat in the comments! ~Amy ºoº

How To Make Money At Disney

Make Money at Disney

How to Make Money at Disney

Make money at Disney? YES, PLEASE!!

We recently returned from a family trip to Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World. At check-in we were given the option of declining daily “mousekeeping” service in exchange for a $40 Disney gift card. For awhile now I’ve heard about these gift card offers, and I was glad that I got the chance to try it out for myself. The $40 Disney gift card was a nice bonus. I was curious to find out if our family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids) could manage 5 nights in a hotel room without having any cleaning services.

Make Money at Disney

How It Worked For Us

In a nutshell, our family had absolutely no issues with skipping mousekeeping. We were able to request fresh towels from guest services as needed, and we also grabbed a pile of the pool towels to use for our boys when they needed a fresh towel. We had groceries delivered to the resort which left us with a big pile of trash from boxes. Our boys took the trash down the hall to one of the outside trash cans, and repeated the process as the trash cans in the room got full. It really worked out just fine for us. I made sure that we cleaned up along the way, and the whole process was definitely painless for our family.

Honestly, our family was neater during our trip to Disney than we are at home. We made sure to make the beds before we left for the parks in the morning, and that made a huge difference. We would straighten up the counters, remove trash and pile up the wet towels if it was time to swap them out. I kept most of our clothes in the suitcases, and would “straighten” them up before we left. It felt more vacation like when we arrived back “home” to a clean room.

Make Money at Disney

Something to Consider

Know your limitations and what you expect during your resort stay. If you look forward to someone else cleaning after you and your family on vacation, or making your beds up every day, this may not be the best choice for your stay.

Tips for Declining Mousekeeping

  1. Tidy up as you go. It made it much easier to come back into the room after a long day in the parks if you know the room isn’t a disaster zone.
  2. Be kind to guest services. They will bring you fresh towels and toiletries whenever you need it. Tipping is always a nice courtesy to them!

Opting out of mousekeeping services isn’t always a option given to every guest. You can request it to see if it is available when you check in. The Disney Gift Card offer worked just fine for our family stay. Would it work for your family? Would you consider giving up mousekeeping for some extra souvenir money? Let’s chat in the comments!

~Amy

How to Handle Grief on a Disney Vacation

Have you ever been on a magical vacation and received not so great news? Did you receive bad news before said vacation and decide to travel anyway? It happens more often than we think. This is a personal story from our very own Meredith about her real life situation. Read her take on how she handles grief on a Disney vacation.

How to Handle Grief on a Disney Vacation

To begin, I never set out to write this as a blog post. I just needed to edit my travel photos from a year ago and couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just sat down, and something compelled me to login here and write. You see, most of what we write here on The Mouse and the Monorail is informational or instructional in some way because we love to help you all get the most out of your Disney vacations.

However, this post is going to be different. Let’s talk about something entirely different. Let’s break the blog post mold today. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay. Buckle up, this may be a bit heavy both with subject matter and number of photos. You’ve been warned.

grief

Grief is Part of Life

We’ve all heard of the story of little Lane Graves and how a family vacation changed that family forever. Just the other day I read of another family who had a Make A Wish trip and lost their sweet little girl on their day at Walt Disney World. How magical and incredibly sad all at once! My heart goes out to all those who’ve experienced some sort of loss while vacationing.Sidenote: Did you know they’ve erected a memorial for Lane? Note to self: visit at the Grand Floridian next time I’m there.

Okay, so it’s not what you were expecting on a happy and fun blog about all things Disney, right? The thing is, though, life still happens regardless of when and where you are. It often happens in the moments you weren’t expecting. While many people see Disney parks as the happiest and most magical places on earth, there are many others out there who have experienced sadness there as well. Here I am trying my best to not cry with one of my favorite Princesses, Tiana.

Unexpected News on a Disney Vacation

My experience is a little more drawn out than most. You see, it all started last summer when Sarah, Amy, and I decided we’d like to plan a Mouse and Monorail squad trip to Walt Disney World. It coincided with training Amy and I were doing and was a perfect time to have fun on a ladies only getaway. I couldn’t wait to go and come back to share all the wonderful things we got to experience. We were going to report on how amazing it is to travel sans kids. We were going to cover Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and talk about experiencing a passholder preview. I even happily snapped photos of the poinsettias and giant Christmas tree Disney had on display as they were my grandmother’s favorites during Christmastime.

It’s Not Always Magical

But then, like a Disney villain coming to pop our overpriced Mickey balloons on Main Street, life came knocking. Three out of the seven of us got calls during that week that our grandmothers weren’t doing well. Sarah and Jennifer are cousins, and I’m glad they had each other when finding out their news. My call came later in the week, during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. How am I supposed to enjoy myself here at the Magic Kingdom and celebrate Christmas when my elderly grandmother is being admitted to the hospital?

Coping with Grief on Vacation

I managed. That’s the short version of the story. In my own head though? I was a mess! The party was still nice and I would definitely attend it again. I was glad, though, that we were heading home the next day. Things didn’t get better for my grandmother, and she remained in the hospital before passing away on November 19, 2017. We attended the November 9th party and she was gone in ten days. Everything stopped for me. That’s it, I thought. No more grandparents left. It’s a hard pill to swallow if you’ve lived to be 36 years old with at least one living grandparent. Unfortunately, Sarah and Jennifer were in for a similar fate as they too lost their grandmother in the coming days.

The Magic of Friendship

What I didn’t expect out of this trip was that I found a group of ladies that were there for me at just the right time. I couldn’t have asked for better women to be surrounded by during this time, even after we were back at home in various parts of the country. Not only had we all met in a single location and enjoyed a wonderful trip, we had gained true friends. To my squad ladies specifically, you will never know how much your kind words meant and still mean to me. I’m forever grateful.

Meredith’s Background

As an aside, before setting out to become a Disney blogger and travel agent, I was a photographer specializing in portraiture, but loved photographing anything and everything. I even went crazy one year and completed a full 365 day photo blog project with a friend. I still love photography and very much enjoy photographing my travels and experiences. I’ll be sharing more over our on Instagram account if you’d like to follow along.

Animal Kingdom is going to have an INCREDIBLE summer!Usually returning home from Disney means time to have fun editing all the photos. This time, however, I just couldn’t bring myself to even look at how happy I was. I didn’t want to revisit it because I knew it would stir emotions in me. I didn’t want to revisit the sadness. Even if I did get them edited, I didn’t want to share them because it would look like I was happy to everyone when, really, I was hurting. Insert more life stuff happening and it soon became a matter of time as well. I had so many things going on, I just couldn’t squeeze it in.

Sailing Away with Disney Cruise Line

Fast forward to April, and I set sail with my family and extended families (both sides!) on the Disney Fantasy. We enjoyed the Western Caribbean itinerary and loved our Star Wars Day at Sea.Upon returning home, it was back to normal life. I was already so far behind with editing the squad trip photos that I didn’t edit the cruise photos either. Don’t get me wrong, I shared some. The cruise was a much needed break from reality and was a wonderful way to have my own moment to say goodbye to my grandmother. She was fortunate enough to be able to sail with us in 2016 and made our Castaway Cay day quite memorable.

It was bittersweet for me revisiting Disney’s magical island. I cried on my own and had a moment to reflect on all that we were able to do with her. I also grieved the fact that my uncle wasn’t with us. He passed before we set sail and making the phone call to remove him from the reservation was rough! That said, I’m so grateful to have had that cruise with my family, including my Aunt who still came along with us despite her loss.

What’s So Special About Disney Anyway?

Traveling with loved ones is something that I hope all of you are fortunate enough to experience. For a long time, I didn’t want to edit the photos because I didn’t want to feel those emotions again. In short, I didn’t want to end up crying at my desk. Last night, I sat down and began to finally cull through the thousands of photos I shot. What I found was all the joy I felt while experiencing it all. It’s okay to be happy in the moment! What’s more is that it’s okay to be happy remembering those happy moments too!To those who say to “put your phones down and just enjoy the moment” are oversimplifying things. While I agree we should live in the moment with those that we’re with, we should also take care to capture the moments we don’t ever want to forget. If that means having the phone up because it’s also conveniently a camera, then so be it! Record and capture it all! I promise you’ll want to look back on that experience one day.

grief

After editing a half days’ worth of photos and enjoying all that we did just on the first day, I took a break. I began to browse through the past vacations we’ve taken through the years. My grandmother went with us on many of those trips and I’m so thankful we were able to experience those moments with her. I’ll always cherish this photo of her and my oldest daughter enjoying the soon to be extinct Illuminations show at Epcot. There are many more of her enjoying all that Disney had to offer back then. Each one of them a snippet of time that I hold I precious. 

Why We Go Back to Disney

Many people ask why we love to go back to Disney time and time again. It’s so absurd to them to be the first in line at rope drop only to wait hours and hours for a ride later. Why on earth would we want to go see the same show over and over again? That’s okay though. I get it. Disney is not for everybody.Revisiting Disney destinations time and time again means holding on to the magic with your loved ones for as long as you can. It means squeezing every bit of baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary school, middle, high school, college, and every moment in between with our babies. It also means being able to reflect on past visits with those that are no longer with us. Somehow, it allows us to enjoy the current visit knowing that they’re there with you in your heart because you’re been there together before. We go back to hold those memories precious and near to our hearts. My grandmother had the most wonderful times at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Dream with us and those times will be near and dear to our hearts always.

It’s always going to be a bit sad, but we can make the best of those moments too! So next time I’m revisiting Disney without my Grandmother, I’ll be looking for all the little things she used to love and point out. Her favorite were always the flowers, and every time I snap another flower photo at Disney, I’ll have her with me. I’ll choose to let it make me happy to remember her and have her with me in that way. We carry our loved ones with us always and Disney can help us recall some of the happiest times together. I will always cherish the moments I’m able to travel with my loved ones! ~Meredith º0º

S2E19: Incredible Summer at Walt Disney World

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Season 2: Episode 19

Incredible Summer at Walt Disney World

Sarah, Meredith, and Amy are back to discuss Disney’s Incredible Summer going on over at Walt Disney World. From an actual incredible family to a Xandarian Music concert, we’re ready to talk details!! Not to mention a little land opening called TOY STORY LAND! What are you most excited about?

As always, please share with us if you’ve got something to add to our discussion! Did we miss something? Please share your story with us! Post to our facebook page or tag us on instagram!


If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please let us know. For more Disney tips, tricks, tutorials, packing lists, dos and don’ts… Okay, you get the picture. We’ve got a blog! www.mouseandmonorail.com You can also find us on the following socials: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, & YouTube.

S2E18: Solo- A Preview Chat

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Season 2: Episode 18

Solo: A Preview Chat

There’s no denying that Meredith and Sarah love Star Wars. They’re back to discuss the excitement and buzz around the newest stand-alone Star Wars film, Solo. With the movie set to be released on May 25, this is the perfect time to discuss!! Are you planning on seeing this new movie? What character are you most looking forward to seeing a younger version of?

Wanna see Sarah’s Solo blog post we mention? Check this out!

As always, please share with us if you’ve got something to add to our discussion! Did we miss something? Please share your story with us! Post to our facebook page or tag us on instagram!


If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please let us know. For more Disney tips, tricks, tutorials, packing lists, dos and don’ts… Okay, you get the picture. We’ve got a blog! www.mouseandmonorail.com You can also find us on the following socials: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, & YouTube.

S2E17: Star Wars Day at Sea

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Season 2: Episode 17

Star Wars Day at Sea

Sarah, Meredith, and Amy are back to discuss Disney Cruise Line’s specialty sailing that includes Star Wars Day at Sea. Now that you’ve caught up on specialty sailings (if not go back and check out S2E3), we’re ready to talk details!! From Imperial Food to Pool Patrol, we’re talking about it all! Would you/have you ever book(ed) a sailing like this?

Wanna read about the book we discuss? Check this out! We’ve got loads of fun Star Wars stuff here too!

As always, please share with us if you’ve got something to add to our discussion! Did we miss something? Please share your story with us! Post to our facebook page or tag us on instagram!


If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please let us know. For more Disney tips, tricks, tutorials, packing lists, dos and don’ts… Okay, you get the picture. We’ve got a blog! www.mouseandmonorail.com You can also find us on the following socials: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, & YouTube.

S2E16: Infinity War Review

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Season 2: Episode 16

Infinity War Review

Sarah, Meredith, and Amy are back to discuss Marvel’s Infinity War movie. Now that you’ve had a week to see it, we’re ready to talk details, so be warned this episode contains SPOILERS!! You’ve been warned. So let’s get to it! Have you seen Infinity War yet?

Haven’t seen Infinity War and wondering what you should be before you go? Check this out!

As always, please share with us if you’ve got something to add to our discussion! Did we miss something? Please share your story with us! Post to our facebook page or tag us on instagram!


If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please let us know. For more Disney tips, tricks, tutorials, packing lists, dos and don’ts… Okay, you get the picture. We’ve got a blog! www.mouseandmonorail.com You can also find us on the following socials: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, & YouTube.

Star Wars Books

Star Wars Land Construction

Star Wars Books

We love Star Wars! My family just sailed on the Disney Cruise Line for a fantastic Star Wars Day at Sea. We had so much fun! Be sure to check out all the great info we’ve got on these specialty sailings over on our podcast here.

Star Wars Day at Sea

May the 4th be with you!

Unless you’ve somehow escaped the Star Wars fandom over the last 41 years, you’ve heard the phrase “May the force be with you” a time or two. Whether you’re a fan or not, there’s always no time like the present to dive right in! But before we get to Star Wars Books, let’s talk about Star Wars.

For Non-Fans

There are lots of ways to jump into the Star Wars fandom. The first and most obvious way is by watching the movies. While I could talk your head off for hours about the movies and which way to first consume them, I’ll save you the time. Just watch them all! Next up, tv shows!

Star Wars Land Construction

If you’d like to get into some of the newer Star Wars stories, then don’t miss their animated series. Star Wars Clone Wars, Rebels and the newly announced Star Wars Resistance, are all great ways to explore more of the Star Wars universe. I especially love the characters we’ve met through these series and I’ll get to those soon!

Disney Archives

For Star Wars Fans

Whether you’re properly caught up on the Star Wars world from my above tips or just came here for the book list, let’s do it! But first, some background information for you. Upon acquisition of Lucasfilm, Disney announced that Star Wars Clone Wars and Rebels should be considered canon. That means that most series and comics etc produced before April 24, 2014 are no longer canon. That’s what I’m going to stick with today. I’m sure there are many awesome Star Wars books out there that predate 4/24/14, but we’ll just leave those be for now.

My Favorite Star Wars Books

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor

This book is extensive! This is a great read for anyone wishing to know all those extra little details. More so than some of the actual canon Star Wars books I’m about to mention, this book is for those true Star Wars fans. Even if you think you know it all, you’ll most assuredly learn something new reading this comprehensive look at the most enduring space opera in history!

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Like the book above, this book is for those true fans. More specifically, Leia or Carrie Fisher fans. I very much enjoyed the audiobook version of this book as Carrie does much of the narration, with journal entries read by her daughter Billie Lourd. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like for Carrie to go from being “Debbie Reynolds’ daughter” to the most recognized princess in the galaxy, then this book is for you!

Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

This young adult novel is the first book I read featuring a character from the animated series. Ahsoka Tano was a favorite of mine since the moment her Jedi Master, Anakin Skywalker, first met her. She’s been featured both throughout the Clone Wars series, as well as in Star Wars Rebels. It’s yet to be determined if we’ll see her in Star Wars Resistance, but one thing’s for sure. If you’re looking for more Ahsoka, this is the place to go! Fun fact: this audiobook is great as well! Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka on the animated series, narrates this novel as well. It even features sound effects! Pew! Pew pew pew!

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

If you’re looking for an interesting look at a very methodical and calculating villain, then look no further! If you’re familiar with the ghost crew’s thorn in their side, then you know Thrawn is always playing the long-game. But how in the galaxy did he end up with the Empire? This story will delve into more obscure Star Wars lore including languages and species. This book definitely had me thinking differently about the Empire. Oh, and it too has a fantastic audiobook!

From A Certain Point Of View by Various Authors

This book is perfect for the more casual fan looking for snippets of story within the movies’ stories we all know and love. Rather than being a full-length novel, this book of short stories delves into the moments that we all know in a new and exciting way. If you’ve ever wondered what Princess Leia was looking at as she begged for Obi Wan’s help by way of Artoo, then don’t miss this one! There are so many fun stories in this book! It’s also perfect for someone looking for something short to read here and there.

It’s Your Universe by Ashley Eckstein

I’m so excited to share about this one! I was fortunate enough to meet the author, Ashley Eckstein, on my recent Star Wars Day at Sea cruise. Being the third person in line for the autograph signing, I actually got to see her mention that that moment was the first time she had even seen them printed! So exciting!! (I just stood there probably gaping because I just popped in and bought it no big deal a few minutes prior). She was such a sweet person to meet too.

autograph

Already this book has me aspiring to do anything and everything I can dream up! While Ashley is known for her Star Wars fame, she grew up with Cast Member parents. Being a Disney kid is something she talks about and she definitely makes it all seem magical. What’s even more is that she has the power to make us all believe that too! The book is in collaboration with Disney and is set to be released on May 8, 2018. You can preorder your copy here.

 

That’s a wrap folks. Want some more fun Disney Book recommendations? Be sure to check out my summer reading 101! And while you’re at it, don’t miss all our Star Wars fun here on our blog!

 

Until next time, May the 4th Be With You! ~Meredith

S2E15: Short vs Long Cruises

Season 2: Episode 15

Shorter vs Longer Cruises

Tuesday : Short vs Long Cruises

Shorter vs Longer Cruises Shorter vs Longer Cruises

Today’s topic is all about the pros and cons of shorter versus long cruises! From 3 nights to the 14+ nights, Disney Cruise Line has sailings for every budget! So if you’ve ever wondered whether or not a longer sailing is right for you, don’t miss this episode!

Shorter vs Longer Cruises

As always, please share with us if you’ve got something to add to our discussion! Did we miss something? Please share your story with us! Post to our facebook page or tag us on instagram!

Shorter vs Longer Cruises

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please let us know. For more Disney tips, tricks, tutorials, packing lists, dos and dont’s… Okay, you get the picture. We’ve got a blog! www.mouseandmonorail.com You can also find us on the following socials: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, & YouTube.

Shorter vs Longer Cruises