Tips for Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival from Disney Vacation Planner

Disney Vacation Planner tips for Food and wine Festival
Enjoy a taste of Food and Wine from All Around the World

We just got back from our fall Walt Disney World vacation and we were there during the time of the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  Your Mouse Expert (Authorized Disney Vacation Planner) visited Epcot several times during our stay there and I can tell you it is more popular than ever.  If you are a foodie and enjoy wine tasting this is the place to be!

As an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I often help my clients make plans to attend this event.  It is a lot of fun and is one of Epcot’s premier events and is held annually.  This year, as always. each time Your Mouse Expert was in the park it was crowded, which is a testament to how much people love this event.  Since the Food and Wine Festival is such a big attraction I thought it would be a good idea to offer few Mouse Expert tips that will help guests navigate through the event.  

Find out How it All Works

Tips from Disney Vacation Planner for Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Every Country Offers Its Best!

Your admission to the park is all you will need to partake in the festival.  So when your  Disney Vacation Planner purchases your tickets, you are all set to enjoy the event.  This year the International Food and Wine Festival is held August 31 – November 13, 2017.  

All around the World Showcase at Epcot, there are kiosks situated with various food and wine offerings.  The appetizer-sized portions available at each kiosk usually range in price from $4.00 – $8.00.  These dishes provide the perfect opportunity to try the traditional cuisine from around the world.  If guests are using the Disney Dining Plans, they will note that many of the offerings can be purchased with a snack credit.  Your Authorized Disney Vacation Planner can help you purchase one of the Disney Dining Plans available and will explain how to use them.  

If you love to cook as well as eat, make sure you visit the Festival Center.  At the Festival Center workshops are offered and guests will have the opportunity to learn culinary skills from chefs and bakers such as; Jamie Deen, “Cake Boss”, Buddy Valastro, Art Smith, Robert Irvine Cat Cora and the cast of ABC’s “The Chew”.  There will be many new chefs appearing this year as well, so make sure you check out when your favorites will be appearing.  

Purchase a Gift Card for the Event 

Disney Vacation Planner tips for Food and Wine Festival
Epcot Food and Wine Festival

If you are going to be at Epcot for a few days and want to spend a few relaxing afternoons or evenings wondering around the showcase, consider purchasing a Food and Wine Festival gift card to pay for your purchases.  Remember you are carrying food and drinks around so anything you can do to make things easier, will make the event more enjoyable.  Not having to search around for a wallet or purse for money will make things more convenient with each purchase.  With a $200 activation, you’ll receive a specially themed lanyard and sleeve.  

Your Disney Vacation Planner Recommends – Get a Map

Whether guests know the park or not, a map will just make it easier to plan the right amount of time needed for each kiosk.  Utilize the map to help determine the locations and culinary delights to make sure to try.   Knowing where everything is and what is coming next will help guests to ensure not to fill up at the first few kiosks. 

Pack Lightly

As mentioned earlier, guests will be carrying food and drinks from place to place, and it can get crowded.   Although there are tables set up all along the World Showcase route, carrying bags, jackets, merchandise bags, and hats, will make the event much less enjoyable.  Another option, if you are concerned about the weather or have purchased items to carry, is to rent a locker and store items you don’t need to carry with you until you are done with the event.  

Stay Hydrated

We all know that drinking adult beverages can be dehydrating so make sure that you drink water along the way as well.  To add to that, when we were there it was very hot and humid.  Since it really doesn’t cool off much in Florida, this Authorized Disney Vacation planner suggests you make frequent stops to drink and take your time going around the World Showcase.   The heat will make dehydration happen even faster.  No point ruining the fun for want of a little water.  

Avoid Crowds by Timing Your Visit

We were in the area for an entire week and were at Epcot several times during that time and we took note of when it was super busy.   We noticed that, although still pretty busy, the middle of the week was better.  Keep in mind that Florida residents love the festival too and they visit on weekends.  The very busiest times are the weekend evenings, and if you enjoy the festive atmosphere of crowds you will be fine.  But if you prefer a little less action avoid weekends, and try for early afternoon to make your way around the showcase.  

Try to Go More than Once

Although this may not always be possible with the time you have for the parks, if at all possible go more than once, and for only a few hours at a time.  There is so much to take in and in the opinion of this Mouse Expert, if you break the event up into smaller time frames, you will enjoy it much more and feel less pressure to hurry.  If you can only do one day, pick your top 5 or 6 cuisines and thoroughly enjoy them.  Remember, there is always next year.  

The International Food and Wine Festival is a much loved and well-attended event.  Expect it to be busy and expect to take your time going around to each kiosk.  Don’t plan to rush through the event and you will enjoy this truly exceptional Disney event. 

Your Mouse Expert Explains Disney Dining Plan

 As a Disney vacation planner, I am able to offer all my clients the option to purchase one of the  Disney dining plans for their trip.  A Disney Dining Plan is a great way to make your vacation “all inclusive” and allows guests to pay for everything in advance of their trip.  Purchase of a Disney Dining Plan is by no means necessary, but it does allow guests to take in as many attractions as possible without having to worry about where to eat, it is all planned, and depending on your plan choice, reservations are already made.  

However, guests often shy away from buying a dining plan because it is something new to learn or they feel it is too expensive.  Because Disney has tried to create a meal plan for every budget, in my many times visiting the parks I have always found it to save us money.  Since most of us rarely think of how much the overall cost of food is as we are purchasing it, buying meals upfront seems expensive, but after doing the math on food at the parks and resorts, I have decided it is either cheaper or the same as paying as you go.  We love the convenience and we never go hungry and generally never need to buy something in addition to the plan.  An additional feature of all the dining plans is the free refillable mug which can be used for coffee or soft drinks.  Take your mug with you to your quick service meals and drink for free.  The table service meals include a free beverage.  

The first time to use the plan can be confusing, so this article is designed to help guests understand how the meal plans work and how to get the very most out of them.   In a previous post, I explained that there are three meal plans to choose from and they give guests a wide variety of choices and flexibility.  This post is designed to help guests understand how flexible the plans are to use and ways to save money in the process.

There are three references that are important to learn to truly understand how to utilize the Disney dining plans.  The first term is “entitlements”.  An entitlement simply means what you are “entitled” to receive from whatever plan you purchase.  There are Snack entitlements, Quick Service entitlements, and Table Service entitlements.  Each meal plan is made up a combination of some or all of these terms.  Let’s look at what each term means and what’s  included on the meal plans.

Disney Dining Plan – Snack Entitlement

This type of entitlement is included in all the Disney dining plan and is the most flexible of all entitlements to use.  As the name implies it can be used during the day for a ”snack” or you can be saved and used for a variety of items such as cereal, pastries, and fruit and eaten for breakfast or lunch.  At quick-service restaurants, outdoor carts, and select merchandise locations there are a variety of other types of foods and drinks to be used as a snack entitlement at any time, such as; frozen treats and ice cream, popcorn, packaged milk or juice, soft drinks or bottled water.  My personal favorite use of the snack entitlement is at Starbucks.  Since Starbucks has arrived at Walt Disney World, they have made all their beverages, of any size, a snack entitlement.  We love to enjoy a Vente Iced Latte on a hot day, for one snack

Disney Dining Plan – Quick Service Entitlement

One of Your Mouse Experts favorite meals on Disney Dining plan
Buffalo Burger – Geyser Point

A quick service restaurant is, as the name implies a meal, a restaurant that offers meals that do not require reservations or wait staff and is a quick in and out.  They can be accessed anytime, no reservation necessary.  The Disney Quick Service Plan and the Disney Dining plan both utilize quick service restaurants.  The quick-service entitlement is usually a full entree at a quick service venue.  On the Quick Service plan, each individual has two quick-service entitlements per day and that entitlement includes an entree, and a non-alcoholic drink or a dessert.  On the Disney Dining Plan, each individual receives one Quick Service entitlement.  Quick service restaurants are located in all the Disney Resorts and in every park.  

Disney Dining Plan – Table Service Entitlements

A table service restaurant is one in which guests are seated and served by wait staff.  It includes; an appetizer, entree, dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage.  The Disney Dining Plan and the Disney Deluxe Dining plan utilize table service entitlements. There are Table Service restaurants in most Disney resorts and in all Disney parks. On the Disney dining plan, each guest receives one Table Service entitlement.  On the Disney Deluxe Dining plan, each guest receives three Table Service entitlements. This means that all meals may be enjoyed at a full-service restaurant.  It is also important to note that a table service entitlement can be used at a quick service venue, but a quick service entitlement can only be used at quick service venues.   Also important to note is that while the meal plan includes the cost of the meal, guests are responsible for gratuities at time of service.  The table service entitlements are the only meals that require gratuities. 

The Disney Deluxe Dining plan is the most expensive plan and offers guests the option of enjoying a sit-down meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  As I said in my last post if you consider yourself a “foodie” this is the plan for you.  This plan will offer a large variety of restaurants, many with world-class chefs and amazing fresh cuisine.  Additionally, if guests are traveling with a large group, sitting down for meals offers guests a chance to interact and enjoy each other over great food.  

Although Disney World is known for its parks, rides, and resorts, Disney also offers guests the chance to dine at amazing restaurants run by world-class chefs.  So an additional feature of table service entitlements is that they may be combined to enjoy one of Disney’s more expensive dining experiences.  Although most of the table service restaurants available throughout the Disney parks and resorts require only one table service entitlement per visit, some of the more expensive restaurants will accept the Disney Dining Plans, but they will require two entitlements for a meal.  Guests can decide to purchase another meal at a lower priced restaurant and then use that table service entitlement to dine at one of the fine dining restaurants like California Grill, located in Contemporary Resort, or Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge.   Another option is to use some snack entitlements to create a light meal and save the table service entitlement to be combined with another entitlement to enjoy one fine dining experience.  If guests are looking for a true epicurean dining, Disney has much to offer.  

Once you have chosen your dining plan, you can link it to your “my Disney experience app and then make your meal reservations right from the app.  Your Mouse Expert can help you get started and offer suggestions to get you started.  

Making the Disney Dining Plan a Part of your Disney Vacation Package

Geyser Point a Quick Service option on Disney Dining Plans
Geyser Point – Quick Service

With the advent of the “Disney Your Way” special offers, the Disney Dining Plan is an option that can be added on to the vacation package.  Everyone is always a little leery of the Disney Dining Plan because it can be a little confusing.  Also, many people feel that they will spend more money on the plan and they can opt out of it thinking they can save money on their own.  I do believe that the meal plans will save money in the long run, but your Disney vacation plan will be just fine if you decide not to add the Disney Dining Plan.  

An additional advantage is that not only do you create an “all-inclusive” vacation, but you have an opportunity to plan all your meals ahead of time.  You can take some time to study the types of restaurants you would like to try and make reservations for the times you prefer to dine. 

Part of the reason many people avoid the dining plan is that for first-timers it can be a little confusing.  So let’s break down each plan to avoid confusion.

Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan

Quick Service meal option on Disney Dining Plan
Bison Burger from Geyser Point

Of the three plans, this is the most economical and is quick and simple.  If you are looking for an option that offers lots of the spur of the moment flexibility, then this is a good plan for you.   You’ll dine at Quick-Service locations, located throughout all the parks and in the resorts.   This plan allows you to stop when ever you like at Quick Service venues that do not require a reservation.  So when you’re ready to eat just stop, order at a counter or register, and then find a seat. In 2018 I believe guests will have several new beverage options including non-alcoholic specialty beverages and, for guests 21 and older, beer, wine, and cocktails.  

Disney Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plan is a great option for those who enjoy some fine dining but still want some flexibility.  This plan provides everyone in the party ages 3 and over with 1 quick service meal, that is a meal at a quick service venue in the parks or resorts, 1 table-service meal, that is a sit-down meal, usually requiring a reservation and 2 snacks.  

This is a nice flexible plan and guest usually buy a breakfast or use some snacks to buy breakfast options like oatmeal or muffins etc.   For lunch, they get a quick service meal when they are out at the parks.  Then, for dinner, they enjoy and nice quiet meal at one of the many great restaurants.  Additionally, each guest ages 3 and over will receive a refillable drink mug, which is eligible for refills at self-service beverage islands at Quick-Service locations at any Disney Resort hotel.

New for 2018 vacation packages guests will have several new beverage options available including non-alcoholic specialty beverages and, for guests 21 and older, beer, wine and cocktails.

We enjoy this plan because it allows us to enjoy some great meals at the end of a lovely day and still is quite flexible for our plans during the day.  Guests with children will enjoy this option as well because there is no rushing around to get to a breakfast reservation and no need to stop for a reservation in the middle of a day. 

The Disney Deluxe Dining Plan

This plan if for true “foodies”.  If you enjoy trying different types of food from all around the world, Disney is the place to do it and this is the plan to do it with.  

The plan includes 3 meals to be used as either quick service or sit down meals, although the best value for this plan is to make three meal reservations a day. In addition to the three meals, each guest has 2 snacks per day.  We have used this plan often and it is a lot of fun to try new and interesting cuisines for each meal.  Usually these restaurants require reservations, and it is a good idea to book well in advance for some of the more popular restaurants.  

What Happens to Your Disney Vacation Plan when it Rains?

Even though Florida is one of the sunniest places around, it still rains.  The chances of your vacation getting completely rained out are pretty low, but there are months that are rainier than others.  So, what happens to your Disney Vacation Plan when it rains at Walt Disney World®.  

All is not lost, your Disney vacation plans can be altered and you will still HAVE FUN!  Some parks are a little easier to navigate during rainy weather and others not so much.  Depending on your heartiness, you don’t need to change much about your Disney vacation plan.    

Magic Kingdom

Your Disney vacation plan in the rain
The Magic Kingdom – Your Disney Vacation Plan

This park is great in rainy weather.  Most of the queues are indoors or under a covered area and the attractions are close together so there is less walking between them.  It is also good to remember that if you did not come prepared for the rain, all the stores sell ponchos and umbrellas.  

That said, if you are in a complete downpour consider trying to get into some of the rides that are completely covered like; Monsters Inc., Space Mountain, Mad Tea Party, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s flight, Under the Sea, It’s a Small World, Pirates, etc.

The ones that are a little less covered are rides like Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Since the rides themselves are outdoors they may close down because of water on the track, so technically there is nothing you can do. 


Epcot - Your Disney Vacation Plan in the Rain

If this park is your plan for the day, and you are expecting rain, this is one park you really want to bring some rain gear.  If you are dressed appropriately this park is quite fun in the rain.  

For long periods heavy rain you can check out some of the places that offer big spaces and things to look at.  The aquarium is a good option since there is a lot of space inside to wander around and look at the fish, the manatees and Turtle Talk with Crush.  You can also go into The Land and stand in line for Soarin’, tour the Land greenhouse or even just sit and enjoy coffee at the restaurant. 

This is a great time to do a complete tour of The World Showcase because, with the exception of walking between pavilions, everything is inside.  Movies about the countries can be found in Canada, France, and China. Shopping in every country is a fun experience, check out what is unique like hunting for pearls in Japan. The Voices of Liberty in the American pavilion is an amazing way to spend fifteen minutes any day, but even better when escaping rain. Keep in mind in the rain these pavilions may be busier but they are large enough to help you get out of the rain.  The Mexican pavilion has a cool attraction called the Grand Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros which is an indoor boat ride.  Additionally, this pavilion is filled with shopping and dining, it is a nice place to enjoy some time. Adults, this is also a good spot to grab a drink out of the elements if you like margaritas. La Cava del Tequila is a hidden gem within the Mexican Temple.

The Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

Animal Kingdom - Your Disney  vacation plan in the rain
The Gorilla Exhibit

These two parks are a little more difficult to fit into your Disney vacation plan when it is raining.  Animal Kingdom park is mostly outdoors and if it raining the animals may or may not stay out for you to enjoy.   There are however some shows to take in, Nemo and Friends and the Lion King.  Sadly one has to wait in line out side but if it is not pouring you should be fine.  There is now also Pandora to enjoy and the queue for those rides are mostly indoors as are the rides. 

Hollywood Studios is at this writing has a lot of rides under construction, but we have often gone to our favorite ride there, Toy Story to avoid the rain.  Most of the queue is inside and once inside it is a nice place to wait.  

Water parks

If it is a warm rain and there isn’t any lightning, the water parks are a great option since the crowds drop significantly and you’re supposed to be wet.  It is Florida and most of the time, rain is not that unpleasant since it can be warm.  You can also go swimming at your resort.    

Rain is not always fun and can put a bit of a damper on your Disney vacation plan, but it doesn’t have to spoil your fun.  There are so many things you can do and usually, the rain passes fast and you can get on with all your outside activities.  

If you would like some help creating our Disney vacation plan, contact Your Mouse Expert and I am happy to help. 

If you would like some information about one of the many Disney Destinations available, contact me for details.  

Disney Vacation Planning at Christmas

Include in your Disney Vacation plan Christmas Celebration Choir at Walt Disney World
Christmas Celebration Choir at Walt Disney World

Disney vacation planning during the Christmas season is magical indeed! I know, Disney is magical any time of year but Disney during the holidays pulls out all the stops.   If you love Christmas, then you will love Disney at Christmas.  The decorations alone are worth a visit, even a short one, during that season.   When our children were young we have even spent Christmas at Disneyland as an entire family.  It is truly memorable.  That said, when you are doing your Disney vacation planning remember the busiest week of the year is between Christmas and New Year’s so if you hate crowds that would be the week to avoid.  But,  the Christmas holidays begin in November in Walt Disney World ® so there is plenty of time to enjoy the season and still not get too swamped with crowds.   If you must visit when the kids are out of school, I suggest the week before Christmas. Typically the crowds are significantly less than the week after.

The Magic Kingdom and the Very Merry Christmas Party

Include in your Disney Vacation plan Tree Decorations at the Animal Kingd
Tree Decorations at Animal Kingdom Park

Like the Not-So-Scary Halloween party, this is a special ticketed event.   And,  also like the Halloween party, it is a great event to experience because the attractions are more available because there are fewer crowds in the park.  At the Christmas party, however,  there are unique character interactions and specially designed parades and firework.  The party typically features Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, “Holiday Wishes,” and  “A Frozen Holiday Wish”.  In the past, the parade and fireworks are shown nightly after the last party which is December 22ndthis year.

A Frozen Holiday Wish Occurs nightly at 6:30 pm on the Castle stage.  Watch all your favorite Frozen characters put on an awe-inspiring display.  


Include in your Disney Vacation plan the America Gardens Theatre at Epcot
America Gardens Theatre at Epcot

Epcot is also a magical place during the holidays with every country in the World Showcase displaying amazing decorations and wonderful traditional foods from around the globe.  Additional there will be special food and drink kiosks featured all around the World Showcase adding to the festivities.

American Adventure – American diversity is on display at the American Pavillion with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the highlights of Hanukkah traditions and the spirit of Kwanzaa. The Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers—an outstanding a cappella group, sings a special repertoire of classic songs.

Canada – The Canadian Holiday Voyageurs take viewers on a musical tour through the customs of the Great White North.

China – Feast your eyes on the colorful Chinese Lion Dance, which brings good fortune and happiness to all during major celebrations like the Lunar New Year and Lantern Festival.

France – Discover the magic of Père Noël and the joy of the season through a Christmas letter from a child.

Germany – Listen as Helga tells the story of the first Christmas tree and the tale of her first Nutcracker.

Italy – Meet the kind-hearted witch La Befana who arrives on the eve of the Epiphany to grant gifts to good children.

Japan – Hear the fascinating story of the Daruma doll and the Japanese customs of the New Year.

Mexico – ¡Feliz Navidad! Join mariachis and dancers as they bring color and excitement to the music, dances, and traditions of a holiday fiesta.

Morocco – Come! Take a journey through the seasons of holidays in Morocco, where celebrations are “the spice of life.”

Norway – Spend time with Sigrid and learn about Julenissen, the Christmas Gnome.

United Kingdom – Delve into the vivid stories of Father Christmas, dating back to 15th-century England.

Include in your Disney Vacation plan you can see More exquisite Disney tree Decorations
More exquisite Disney tree Decorations
Include in your Disney Vacation plan the Beautiful colors everywhere and the Red flowers are everywhere?
Beautiful colors everywhere and the Red flowers are everywhere?
Include in your Disney Vacation plan the Chocolate Carousel
Chocolate Carousel












When you doing your Disney vacation planning at Christmas time, remember to include The Candlelight Processional.  It is one of the most anticipated holiday offerings that many Walt Disney World Resort guests look forward to and return for again and again each year. The show takes place at the America Gardens Theatre at Epcot and features a celebrity narrator retelling the traditional Christmas story, as well as live music from a 50-piece orchestra and mass choir.  The Candlelight Processional performances are nightly starting at 5 and the tree lighting is at 6. As the night goes on the Processional will get busier.  Since this is a local holiday highlight, it may be wise to enjoy this event during the week, since weekends will be busier.    The celebrity narrators for the Christmas story are announced usually in the late summer.

Epcot's Disney Vacation Planning for Christmas can make even Florida seem like a winter wonderland.
Epcot’s Disney Vacation Planning for Christmas can make even Florida seem like a winter wonderland.

Illuminations will have a special seasonal conclusion typically from just after Thanksgiving through December 30th.  The show will feature holiday greetings in native languages from the countries of World Showcase, along with the beloved sounds of the classic song “Let There be Peace on Earth”.

Include the Disney Resorts in Your Disney Vacation Planning

Include in your Disney Vacation plan Wilderness Lodge Christmas Tree
Wilderness Lodge Christmas Tree
Include in your Disney Vacation plan visiting the Winter Village Scene
Include in your Disney Vacation plan the Winter Village Scene
The Grand Floridian manages to make their Disney Vacation Planning for Christmas elegant and enchanting.
The Grand Floridian manages to make their Disney Vacation Planning for Christmas elegant and enchanting
Life-sized ginger bread store in the Grand Floridian Lobby add to Disney Vacation planning.
Life-sized ginger bread store in the Grand Floridian Lobby.
Santa is included in all the Disney Vacation Planning at every corner.
Santa is included in all the Disney Vacation Planning at every corner.

Since the festivities extend to all the resorts, make sure your Disney vacation planning includes time to visit the resorts to enjoy more fun and festive attractions.  Fort Wilderness, Sleigh Rides For up to 4 adults (Or 2 adults and 3 small children) take a horse drawn carriage ride ($79) We have had mixed reviews on it. It is really neat for the kids but not sure it is worth the extra time and money to trek over for it. However, the way the campers decorate their sites is pretty neat.

Fort Wilderness, Disney’s campground offers Sleigh Rides For up to 4 adults (Or 2 adults and 3 small children).  It is fun for the kids and if you plan a visit to Whoopy-do Review, you may want to include this as well.  

Yacht/Beach Club Lobby boasts a life-sized Edible Holiday Carousel and the construction includes 96 Lbs of bread, 100 pints of eggs, 50 Lbs of chocolate, 100 Lbs of icing.  There is also a Holiday Village with Train.

The Beach Club Lobby offer live gingerbread decorating and a visit from Chip and Dale and even Mickey himself. 

The Grand Floridian Resort features a Giant Gingerbread House in the main lobby, complete with a working store inside.  

The Contemporary Resort has a holiday display on the fourth floor featuring a Christmas tree that is 17 feet fall and 6 feet wide.  Chef Mickey will pass out gingerbread cookies.  

The  Boardwalk Inn has a Holiday Gazebo in the lobby made completely of gingerbread and chocolate with lots of hidden Mickeys.

The Boardwalk Bakery also offers mini gingerbread houses and shingles for sale.  

These are just a few of the highlights available at the resorts and offer an alternative to crowds a the park.  Take a short break in your plans and see a few of the festive sights.

Holidays at Disney Springs

As Disney Springs has grown and changed, the new attractions for Christmas 2017 should be exciting.  In past years guests have enjoyed Santa and his helpers at their charming cottage across from Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. Guests will be able to pick up a pager upon check-in to secure their place in a virtual queue line.  Santa begins visiting the area around November 11th through December 24th.  Other Christmas attractions are:

  • Santa Goofy available to meet from December 25 – 30th.
  • Nightly tree lighting ceremony at the Once Upon a Toy fountain play area.
  • Sightings of Toy Solider stilt walkers, and Snowflake performers, as well as, a Kwanza Celebration, Hanukkah medleys, and specialty foods abound.
  •  Hanukkah songs and stories at Waterview Park in the Landing, with evening performances from December 24th through January 1st, 2017.

Keep in mind this article about  Magical Holiday happenings is based on years past. Undoubtedly there will be additions and subtractions or alterations from years past.  But whatever is planned will be amazing and ensuring that you create well-laid vacation plans will help you get the most of your time in the park.  

If you need help with Disney vacation planning, contact me and I can help.  My services are free, but I can help you make sure that you create the vacation that meets all needs.  The benefits of planning make all the difference.  

Add Disney’s Halloween Party to Your Disney Vacation Plan

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Not-so-Scary Halloween Party
Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

As a Disney vacation planner, I would be amiss if I failed to mention Halloween at Disney Parks.  Every year Disney puts together a party for Halloween enthusiasts that is fun and scary “Disney style”.   There are dozens of attractions that you can enjoy in each land at the park especially decked out for Halloween.  Costumes are encouraged for children and it is a great way take the kids out for Halloween.  If visiting during the Halloween season, this is definitely something to consider enjoying.   Back again this year it is a chance to collect candies, sweets while the park hosts ghosts, entertainment and all kinds of fun Disney characters.  And what is so exciting is that it is safe to bring children of all ages to this event because it is, as the name implies, “not-so-scary” at all.  

When to Attend, What to Wear and More

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party takes place on the following dates:

  • August 25 and 29, 2017
  • September 1, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26 and 29, 2017
  • October 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29 and 31, 2017
  • November 1, 2017

Although Disney encourages everyone to enjoy the season with costumes it is a good idea to make sure you know the rules.   It is important to remember that Disney parks are geared toward families, so be sure to follow their guidelines when attending the party.  

  • Layered costumes or costume props that surround the entire body are strongly discouraged and may be subject to additional security screening.
  • Costumes may not reach or drag on the ground.
  • Clothing with objectionable material, including obscene language or graphics excessively torn clothing.
  • Capes may be worn if the length does not go below the waist.
  • Themed T-shirts, blouses, sweatshirts and hats are acceptable.
  • Acceptable accessories include transparent wings, plastic light sabers, toy swords, and tutus. Headwear may be worn as long as it does not cover the face.
  • Masks of any kind may not be worn by adults but partial masks may be worn by children.
  • All Guests may dress as their favorite character, but may not pose for pictures or sign autographs for other Guests.
  • Clothing which, by nature, exposes excessive portions of the skin that may be viewed as inappropriate for a family environment
  • Clothing with multiple layers are subject to search upon entry
  • Objectionable tattoos

That said come and enjoy some fun with the Boo to You Parade, Happy Hallowishes Fireworks show, Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular show and the Cavedar Dans Barbershop Quartet.  The cost for the event is $74 per ticket and is worth it considering the park is closed to all but those who purchase tickets for the event.  

Favorite Ride at Animal Kingdom Park for this Vacation Planner

Lion Photo from this Vacation Planners favorite ride
The Rarely Seen Lioness at Animal Kingdom Park
Rare siting of Male Lion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Anyone who knows me knows I love animals so no trip to Walt Disney World is complete without going to Animal Kingdom Park.  There are so many very fun things to do in this park and with the advent of Pandora, the list just got longer.  I know that as a Vacation Planner specializing in all things Disney, I really should not have favorites, and technically I will go to any park pretty much anytime, but…that said, I love the Safari Ride.  

In fairness, I have not yet ridden the Avatar Flight of Passage, which I am pretty sure I will enjoy, however, since it falls into a “fantasy” category I will probably not lose my love for the Safari Ride.  We have had an opportunity to enjoy the Na’vi River Journey which was beautiful, but I still find I love to see the animals.  Naturally, a vacation planner has to ride all the rides, right? So it is on the list.  

Animal Kingdoms grazing animals
Amazing Animals Grazing
This vacation planner loves Ankole Cattle
Ankole Cattle

The Safari Ride is called Kilimanjaro Safaris, and it is located in the African section of the park.  The ride is meant to depict a safari through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve in East Africa.   It simulates the various terrain around the Safi River valley and the open bush country of the Serengeti Savanna.  African animals on view during the ride include real live elephants, giraffes, antelopes, gazelles, crocodiles, monkeys, hippopotamus, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, African wild dogs, warthogs, ostriches, rhinoceroses, ducks, storks, pelicans, flamingos, wildebeests, okapis, and zebras.  During the ride, the driver points out animals and provides facts about the various animals we view.  As I say, this ride gets two thumbs up from this vacation planner!

This Vacation Planner loves to watch the great apes
Great Apes Exhibit

Even though the ride rarely changes, the animals are always interesting to watch.  Speaking strictly as a vacation planner, the best time to take the ride is first thing in the morning when the park opens.  We usually go through the entrance lineup and head straight for the ride, which, as a bonus,  eliminates too long a line.  The animals are usually more active in the morning so there is a better chance of catching them on camera.  It also does not hurt to fast pass this ride, and for my clients who love animals, I have them fast pass it for later in the day to see different animals out and about. 

Vacation Planner on Africa Trek tour
Africa Trek Tour Hanging Bridge

We have also done the more personalized Africa Trek tour and when my clients ask me to suggest something fun, I suggest they purchase this tour.  On this smaller, private tour we walked along a grassland path crossed a rope bridge and rode in a rugged safari vehicle across the savanna.  We had great opportunities to see and photograph animals much closer than the main attraction ride.  We also had a personal tour guide share information about the animals in more detail as well as learn about the park’s dedication to animal conservation.  We enjoyed an interesting African lunch on the Savanna.  I highly recommend this tour for anyone who loves animals and wants to enhance the park visit. 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is full of amazing things to do, so stop back as I share some of the other fun things to do in the park.  And when you are ready to plan your next vacation to any Disney Destination remember to contact Sharon Schierling, your Vacation Planner specializing in all things Disney.  






An Authorized Disney Travel Planner’s Favorite Disney Trivia

Walt Disney World has been around for a long time and has an amazing and interesting history.  True Disney fans, as well as, this travel planner love all things Disney are fascinated by the little know facts and trivia about Disney.   I thought I would pick out a few things that I have found particularly interesting in my quest for knowledge of all things Disney.    

  • Because it is tremendously expensive to clean up gum from under park benches, tables or any other place it gets stuck, Disney does not sell gum in any of its parks or resorts.  
  • Hidden Mickey’s can be found everywhere.  A hidden Mickey is the 3 circle silhouette of the head and ears of Mickey Mouse disguised and subtly hidden in decor, rock formations, table settings and designs of all sorts. Thousands of hidden Mickey’s have been recorded and more included with each park update.  You can even buy books to help you track them all down.  
  • Guests in Walt Disney World are never more than 30 steps away from a trash can.
  • “Mortimer Mouse” was the original name of Mickey Mouse before Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian, convinced him to change it.
  • The First Disneyland Admission Ticket ever sold was purchased for $1 US  in 1955.
  • Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney theme park outside of the U.S. It was opened in April 1983.                                                                                                                         
  • Picture by Authorized Travel Planner Sharon Schierling
    Epcot’s The Land Tour

    More than 30 tons of fruits and vegetables are grown at The Land pavilion at Epcot and are served in Walt Disney World restaurants.

  • The “Liberty Oak,” which is the focal point of the Liberty Square area in the Magic Kingdom, is the proud parent of more than 500 young trees. They all started out as acorns harvested from the majestic oak.
  • 450,000 mowing miles are traveled each year to maintain 2,000 acres of turf. For the record, those mower miles are the equivalent of 18 trips around Earth at the equator.
  • Each year a horticulture staff plants 3 million bedding plants and annuals and
    Picture by Authorized Travel Planner Sharon Schierling
    One of many Amazing Topiaries at Epcot

    maintains millions of other plants including more than 4 million shrubs, 13,000 roses, and more than 200 topiary.

  • Stormalong Bay, Disney’s Beach Club Resort swimming area, holds 750,000 gallons of water, making it the largest sand-bottom pool in the world.
  • The fountain at Epcot Innoventions Plaza can shoot water 150 feet in the air — within 30 feet of the top of Spaceship Earth. If all of the shooters were fired at once, there would be 2,000 gallons of water in the air.
  • Spaceship Earth, the visual and thematic centerpiece of Epcot, weighs 16
    Picture by Authorized Travel Planner Sharon Schierling
    Spaceship Earth

    million pounds — more than three times that of a space shuttle fully fueled and ready for launch. The outer “skin” of Spaceship Earth is made up of 11,324 aluminum and plastic-alloy triangles. Also, did you know that rainwater never falls off the sphere? It’s channeled into the ball and funneled away.

It is not necessary to know all the trivia around Disney to have a fun time.  It is important, however, to plan your trip well to get the most out of the time and money you spend.  With the help of a travel planner whose primary focus is helping you get the exact vacation you want you can save both time and money.  A travel planner costs the clients nothing, but the benefits are priceless.  As an Authorized Disney Travel Planner, I help you navigate the resort options, travel to and from the airport, figuring out how to feed the group, fast pass arrangements and all the little extras your group will enjoy.  

Park Hopper Ticket at Walt Disney World

Visit Walt Disney World's  Epcot Park in the Morning...
Visit Walt Disney World’s Epcot Park in the Morning…

When visiting Walt Disney World® Parks, the three pieces of your trip that need to be considered before we start building your itinerary, your resort reservation, your park tickets, either the Base Ticket or the Park Hopper Ticket,  and whether or not you will use a meal plan.

One of the confusing pieces of the trip puzzle for many people is choosing the right ticket package, the Base Ticket or the Park Hopper Ticket.  If you leave that until you get to the park, it can be very confusing standing in line trying to make the right choice.   That is why I like to help my clients with these choices before they begin the trip.  Let’s look at your options available.   

  • The Magic Your Way Base Ticket at Walt Disney World allows you to visit one park per day for the number of days the ticket was purchased. For example, if you bought a three-day ticket, you could visit one of the parks each day for three days.  You can come and go at that park that day, but not to other parks that day.  If you tried to go to more than one park on any given day, you would not be able to enter.
  • The Magic Your Way Base Ticket with Park Hopper® Option at Walt Disney World allows you to visit multiple parks in one day. As you can imagine, this option costs a little more. However; the good news is the additional cost is a flat fee per ticket, regardless of the number of days purchased.

So what is the advantage to adding the Park Hopper Ticket feature? That depends a little on your situation.  The Park Hopper feature offers a level of flexibility, time management when we build your schedule.  However one can have lots of fun either way.  

With the Magic Your Way Base Ticket, you can simply plan to go to your park of choice for that day.  If you go early and stay late it could be exhausting, but you are able to leave and come back to that park later.  For example, go to the Magic Kingdom when it opens and visit your favorite rides, then go back to your resort and relax by the pool.  Return later and take in more rides on your favorites list, and stay for the fireworks at night.

That all sounds great and anyone can have lots of fun using the base ticket, so don’t be discouraged if your budget only allows for the base ticket.  This is “The Magic Kingdom” after all, you are still going to have fun.  

Use the Walt Disney World Park Hopper Ticket to visit the Light Show at The Animal Kingdom Park in the evening.
Use the Walt Disney World Park Hopper Ticket to visit the Light Show at The Animal Kingdom Park in the evening.

But there are some benefits to the Park Hopper Ticket feature to consider and the primary benefit is the flexibility it gives your trip.  By using the Park Hopper feature you can take advantage of crowd patterns in various parks to cut down on lines, making the trip a bit more leisurely.  By going to the Magic Kingdom® Park when it opens, you can enjoy the popular attractions before the lines get too long. Then, by using the Park Hopper Ticket you can take a mid-day break before heading over to the Epcot® World Showcase for touring of the countries and a leisurely dinner. The next day you could go to Epcot® in the morning for the popular attractions there and then visit  Disney’s HollywoodStudiosTM later in the day. Repeat this for four days and your Park Hopper option will allow you to enjoy at least eight park-visit variations during your four-day vacation. 

If, as we suggest, you stay at a Walt Disney World® Property,  you will also be able to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours benefit.   Extra Magic Hours means Disney has added extra park access, or extended open hours, to a selected park either in the morning or at night.  By coupling this feature with the Park Hopper option, you can be at one park early in the morning, then when it starts to get busy you can move to another park or spend time at your resort then go to Extra Magic hours that evening in another park.  It takes a little planning on your trip, but this can greatly enhance your Disney experience by allowing you to enjoy more attractions and fewer lines.  

Whether or not you add the Park Hopper feature is a personal preference. Hopefully, you now you have more information to make a decision you and your traveling companions can feel comfortable with. Good news though, if you choose the Magic Your Way Base Ticket and decide during your trip you want to add the Park Hopper feature, you can!  Guest Relations in any park will be able to help you.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 214-264-7146. We look forward to “helping you create your own mouse magic.”

A Travel Planner’s Favorite Activities in Disney World

Travel Planner Favorite Number One - Cinderellas Castle
Travel Planner Favorite Number One – Cinderellas Castle

As a travel planner for Disney destinations, when I am at Disney World I like to spend time trying to see all the parks from the perspective of my clients, many of whom are there for the first time.   I try to take pictures from all kinds of angles just to be a little different.  I highly recommend when you take your first trip having one of the many Disney photographers take your picture in front of the castle.  They do a great job and you can always buy it if yours does not turn out the way you would like. 

Fireworks Over the Castle
Fireworks Over the Castle
Other Ways to View the Castle
Other Ways to View the Castle






But experimenting with other ways to capture the castle if fun too. 

Travel Planner Favorite Number Two - Topiaries

As an amateur gardener, I love the gardens in all over the parks.  Epcot has the most topiaries but they can be found all over in all the parks.  I am always amazed at what the professionals can do.  

Disney Travel Planner Favorite Number Three - The Animals at Animal Kingdom
Travel Planner Favorite Number Three – The Animals at the Animal Kingdom

The safari ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park offers the most amazing selection of animals that we don’t necessarily see in everyday life.  The male lion is very hard to catch awake so this photo was fun to catch.                                                                                                                       

Disney World Travel Planner Favorite Number Four - Taking a Long Walk Away for the park Crowds
Travel Planner Favorite Number Four – Taking a Long Walk Away for the park Crowds

                                                                                                                                                                     Taking a walk away from the crowds at the parks can be very relaxing.  If you take the boat to the Wilderness Camp Ground you can walk through the camp grounds and you can find this great trail that takes you to Wilderness Lodge. 

Disney Travel Planner Favorite Activity Number 5 - Going to see the Disney Horses.
Travel Planner Favorite Activity Number Five – Going to see the Disney Horses.

On your way through the camp grounds, you can stop by the ranch where all the horse that you see pulling carriages all around the Magic Kingdom spend their free time.  You can see them being groomed or just hanging out enjoying life.  I love to go and check on them whenever we are there.  

Disney Travel Planner Favorite Activity Number Six - Fireworks
Travel Planner Favorite Activity Number Six – Fireworks

And of course, no “favorites list” would be complete without fireworks.  I love all the fireworks shows at Walt Disney World and we try to make time to see fireworks in all the parks at least once during any trip.  

A Walt Disney World vacation can be whatever you want it to be.  These are just a few of the fun things I like to do when I am there.  I sure you can come up with your own amazing mouse magic.