Cruising Disney Style

Photos from The Disney Fantasy

Photos by Amanda Casey



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Disney Fantasy is a masterpiece of design and engineering boasting Art Nouveau allure alongside modern technological advancements. Set sail for exotic destinations aboard this 130,000-ton marvel while enjoying Disney magic at sea.


Mousekeeping Envelopes: Waste of Time or Your New Favorite Craft Project?

First, let me address the Dumbo in the middle of the blog…..  I hardly ever see a more controversial topic on Disney chat boards.  For whatever reason, whether or not to tip a housekeeper seems to get folks handily riled.  Personally, I’m almost always going down on the side of pro.  Housekeeping is a hard job and some of these men and women go above and beyond to make a vacation special all the while doing a job that I shan’t be bothered to do while I’m on vacation.

At Disney World, these folks are affectionately referred to as Mousekeepers.  Most of the time, they get the job done and often with a little Disney flair (towel animal, anyone?).  Are there poison apples in the bunch?  Of course there are.  But, I want to devote this post to the ones we love and a fun craft to work on prior to your trip with which to reward them.

A few notes on tipping:  My personal philosophy and what I recommend to my clients is to tip $1 per person for each night of your stay and maybe a few dollars above that on the day you check out.  So, my little family of 3 tips $3 per night and usually $5 on check out day for the more extensive overhaul they’ll be doing to prepare the room for the next guest.  It’s important to leave a tip each morning before you leave as your Mousekeeping staff may fluctuate so you don’t want to miss someone by leaving one big tip at the end of your trip.  If you forgo the envelope, leave the money in a prominent place (like by the Mousekeepers little calling card) as they will not take money that is not clearly intended for them (yes, I know poison apples will take it, but again, we’re not talking about them today, ok?).

Typically in the month before we leave, I start planning my Mousekeeping Envelopes.  There are many ways to do this; here are two of the easiest:

  1. Buy some envelopes, and amass your stash of stickers, glitter, markers, glue, etc. and sic your kids on those babies while you sit back and watch the next episode of The Voice.  It’s a fun craft for the kiddos and a great trip countdown activity.
  2. Print them from a template and assemble them.  The only supplies required are a color printer, paper (I prefer card stock to give it more of a heft), scissors, and glue or tape.

There are some super cute Disney themed templates available online.  Here are a few links to some great Disney blogs with available templates:

WDW Prep School Mousekeeping Envelopes

The Main Street Mouse Mousekeeping Envelopes

The Mouse for Less Mousekeeping Envelopes

If you don’t have a good color printer, you can also download the templates to a thumb drive and have them printed at an office supply store.  Most of the templates include the assembly instructions (basically fold here, glue here) so this really doesn’t take that long to do.  Once assembled, I pre-load them with cash and pack them in my purse so they are ready to go once we’ve arrived.  There was at least one trip in which I came home with a few unused envelopes because we chose the “Do Not Disturb” option for a few days.  It’s nice to have one less thing to worry about once we’re there and I’m less likely to forget to do it because it’s already done and ready to go each morning.

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Making Mousekeeping envelopes is one of my favorite pre-trip rituals.  It’s my way to share a little magic with a cast member at a place where I’ve been shown so much magic over the years.  It’s a small gesture, but aren’t those the ones we need day-to-day?

Feel free to contact me at any time for more information or to assist you in booking your next vacation!  You can find me on Facebook at Magical Vacations by Tracy or email at  You can also follow me on Instagram HERE.  See you soon!

Tracy PhotoTracy Hurdle is a work-at-home mother of one and a former social worker turned travel agent.  She’s always had a love of travel planning and couldn’t be happier at being given the opportunity to do so on a broader scale with families just like yours.

Three Reasons To Take Your Toddlers To Disney Now

Three Reasons To Take Your Toddlers To Disney Now

Everyone wants to take their children to Disney right? But when is the right time to take them? Do you wait to take them till they can ride all of the big ticket thrill rides? Or do you take them as soon as you can? Let me give you three reasons to take your toddlers to Disney now. And don’t quit till you reach the end. I am saving the best reason for last.

Under Three Is Free!

That’s right if your child is still in the terrible twos (or younger) the Mouse house will let them in for free! Free as in won’t charge you anything to walk right onto Mainstreet USA and into a world of dreams. Well the children are free everyone else still has to pay.

Of course you still have to feed your munchkins but they are free to eat off your plate even if you are dining at a buffet or family style restaurant. If you are at a counter service restaurant and your little prince or princess to have their very own meal you will have to pay for that or you can share from your plate. Normally there is enough on the plate for an adult and a toddler to share.

Once they hit three they are charged admission but it is still a reduced rate till they hit age ten. They are also no longer able to share off your plate at buffet or family style restaurants. So taking them before that magical third birthday saves you money on tickets and food.

Main Street rain

They Aren’t In School Yet

So what? Who cares if the kids are in school or not. Well you might care more than you think.

You see Disney resort hotels, like every other hotel in the world, charges based on demand. When the most people want to travel they charge the most.

When do most families want to take a vacation? When school is out. So if you can travel when everyone else’s munchkins are in school you can follow the yellow brick road to savings! Not only are the base prices cheaper Disney offers the best discounts during these same time periods. You might even get free dining.

Mickey Mouse Is Real

Well no he isn’t really real. It is just someone (probably a female ironically) in a costume. You know that. I know that. A toddler does not know that! To them the magical mouse jumped right out of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and onto Mainstreet USA.

And Mickey’ isn’t the only thing “real” to little ones. I have seen children trying to grab the 3d Donald Duck who flies off the screen during Mickey’s Philharmagic.

To put it simply there is just nothing like the smile on a child’s face because they believe! But time passes all to quickly. Before you know it they will know it. It’s not really Mickey. It’s just a girl in a mouse suit. Take advantage of your short window of opportunity! The looks you will see on your child’s face are worth it.
mvbm dpi


Ready to plan your own Magic  Your Way vacation to any of the great Disney destinations? Click here to get free concierge service on your next Disney vacation.

About the Author: Christopher has to been to Disney more times than he can count. While not at Disney he is the owner of and part of the Magical Vacations By Me team.





Disney Magic Your Way

This article is not about Disney Magic My Way. It is about Disney Magic Your way! What do I mean by that? Well Disney fans are passionate. Sometimes they are too passionate. They will insist that you must stay the same place they stay, wait in line for the same things they wait in line for and eat the same things they eat. If you do not it is implied you are at best doing something wrong. At worst, you may be ruining your vacation!

But what do you do when two Disney lovers disagree? (And when they disagree do they ever disagree!) This article is here to help you figure out that very thing.

Disney magic your way

Disney Magic Your Way

Let’s start by establishing a few very important principles:

  1. There is more than one way to have a great Walt Disney World Vacation
  2. There is no best way that fits everyone.
  3. You want to find what is best for your travel party!

You can find all kinds of lists with titles that run something like “Must Do”. “Best Attractions at Disney”. and “Top Five Disney”.  There are even articles that focus on the worst attractions at Walt Disney World.

There is nothing wrong with articles like that. I encourage you to read them. But read them critically. If someone says the best attraction at Walt Disney World is Toy Story Midway Mania and does not take the time to explain why just file that little piece of advice in the trash can.

I am not saying the author is completely wrong. Obviously to that person it is the best. But unless that person is paying for your vacation their opinion does not count. You are looking for what is best for you! It’s Magic Your Way. Remember that.

What you need are the details. What makes this so great? What makes that so bad? Maybe what the writer thinks is great you will think is terrible. And maybe what you love the author hates.

Let’s take these principles a little farther as we look at where you should stay and which parks you should visit.

Where To Stay

When it comes to where to stay there are two types of hotels, On Property and Off Property. On Property hotels have a lot of benefits that Off Property Hotels do not. But Off Property hotels are normally less expensive (sometimes a lot less expensive!)

Some people swear by the benefits of On Property hotels. Those benefits include getting into parks early or staying late and free transportation to the parks. Those can be great benefits but can you still have a great Walt Disney World trip and stay Off Property? YES you can!

Other people swear by the money you save by staying Off Property. To them the extra hours in the parks and the free transportation are not worth the extra money spent.

So who is right? They both are! They are planning their vacation not yours.

Keep in mind if you decide to stay On Property there are still some decisions to be made. Disney divides its resort hotels into categories ranging from Deluxe Villas to Value. Deluxe Villas offer a lot more space and service. They also are built, decorated and landscaped to immerse you in different times and places from turn of the century Florida to Africa. Value resorts are also heavy on architecture and decorations but lack the elegance of the more expensive resorts.

You have to decide, is it worth the extra money to see a giraffe at breakfast (yes that is possible) or watch Wishes from my balcony or is it just a place to crash.

Which Parks Do You Go To?

Once you have settled the question of where to sleep it is time to determine which parks you want to see. Disney has four theme parks and two water parks.

Each theme park has both its lovers and haters. Take a look at the attractions that each theme park has and compare them to your travel party. Just because someone hates an attraction does not mean you will. The same is true of an attraction someone loves.

The Magic Kingdom has the most attractions and most of the attractions are very kid friendly. Animal Kingdom has been accused of being a zoo. Does that mean if you are taking kids that you have to skip the Animal Kingdom and only do the Magic Kingdom? Depends on your children. Make the decision that suits your family! But do not let someone else decide for you. Remember it is Magic  Your Way!

So Where Should You Stay and Which Parks Should  You Visit?

I don’t know! I don’t know you. If I did I would be glad to make suggestions but that is all they would be. At this point you have two options, do some research or contact an Authorized Disney Vacation planning agency (like the one that sponsors this page!) If you do contact an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner find one that takes time to get to know you, your family and your dreams.

While there may not be a best way to do Disney World there is almost no wrong way to do it either. Just relax the point is to have fun!

Remvbm dpiady to plan your own Magic  Your Way vacation to any of the great Disney destinations? My name is Christopher and I offer complimentary travel planning services.  Click here to get started!


8 Ways to Save for Your Next Disney Vacation

If you are anything like me, you would take any chance you had to visit Walt Disney World or any other Disney destination in the world. You dream about it day and night, plan out dream trips that you may not really take, and count down the days until you can visit again. Unfortunately, if you are still anything like me, you can’t always afford it! Disney vacations can be expensive, especially if you are traveling during the peak seasons. I usually plan my vacations a year or more ahead of time giving me time to scrimp and save as much as possible to make those dreams a reality. As soon as Disney releases the rates on the dates I want to travel, I go into planning and saving mode. I have found the following 8 ways extremely effective over my many years of Walt Disney World vacation saving. Every little penny adds up when trying to get yourself just one step closer to the Mouse.

1. Spare Change
This is one of my most successful ways of saving money. Whenever I have cash on me and I buy something I ALWAYS break the dollar. I never use change to pay for anything, even if my bill comes out to $6.01. If you put all of that change in a jar, over time it will really add up! Even more fun is to decorate a “Walt Disney World Vacation Jar.” It will make it all the better to throw the change in there when you can get really excited about what it is going towards. I roll it up every couple of months and deposit it into my special vacation savings. Which brings me to money saving tip #2.

2. Vacation Savings Account
Open a savings account specifically for vacations. Make sure it is an account that does not charge fees if you have too low of a balance or when you take the money out to use for your vacation. When it’s all in this special account you won’t dip into it as much as if it is just money in your everyday savings or checking account. If your work offers direct deposit for their payroll and they allow you the option to deposit into more than one account, that is an easy way to put a little aside each payroll check. I have mine set up for a small amount of my check each week to go directly into the vacation savings account. It’s small as to where it doesn’t affect my life but nice to see the account grow over time. I also put all of the change that I’ve collected into the account each month. Instead of letting it all sit around in jar, I deposit it as soon as I have a good amount so I can also receive interest. The interest really is not much depending on the type of account you have opened but hey, it’s something!

3. Disney Gift Cards
Lots of retailers sell Disney gift cards and you can actually use these gift cards towards the payment of your vacation. Places like Target or Costco even discount the price of the gift card. For example at Target if you have their credit card you will receive 5% off the purchase of a Disney gift card. So if you buy one for $50, you will pay end up paying $47.50. Usually if I am in one of these stores and my budget allows, I will grab a gift card either to put towards the payment of my trip or to use as spending money while there.

4. Popular Grocery/Shopping Apps
There are several grocery and shopping apps that I have become obsessed with in the last year. They actually pay you to shop for items you already are most likely shopping for. Best of all, these apps are completely free and typically deposit the money directly into your paypal account (some still send paper checks). My absolute favorite right now is Ibotta. If you purchase any of the items shown on the Ibotta app, you simply scan the barcode, upload a picture of your receipt and they put the rebate into your account. For example, a bottle of Yellowtail wine will earn you a $1.00 rebate. Once you have earned $10 you are able to redeem it and send it to your Paypal account. I have already earned $125.00 in rebates just about 5 months of using the app. Other favorites of mine are Shrink, Checkout 51, and Ebates. Ebates so far has been my best earner. It is not grocery related, it is all shopping. I do a ton of online shopping and if you click through their app to go to your online store of choice, you earn a percentage back on all of your spending. For example, Old Navy frequently runs 8% back on purchases. They deposit any earnings to your paypal account about once a month no matter how much you have earned.

5. Bottle Returns
In the good ole state of Michigan, I have the privilege to return bottles/cans for cash. It is only 10 cents per bottle or can, but if you never spend any of that money and put it immediately away into your savings it will add up nicely.

6. Yard Sale & Auction Sites
Get all of your old stuff together that you no longer want and have a yard/garage sale. Not nice enough outside to do that yet? Try selling your things on Ebay. Most auctions will not be charged an insertion fee and you will only have to pay a small fee if the item sells. You can also use if you have books or media to sell. Unlike Ebay, you can list your books or media on for as long as it takes them to sell. The site will take a small percentage of the final value but there are no fees to list.

7. Extra Money
Any extra money that I receive other than my work paycheck, I will normally throw into the vacation savings. For example, when I switched phone service providers, I had a credit on my account from my old phone. They sent me a check for the balance that was remaining on my account. Before I began these saving techniques I would have put that into my checking account where most of my everyday spending money would go. Since this is money that I wouldn’t normally have, it makes much more sense to put it towards your vacation. I use this mentality with any type of “extra” money I receive. Other examples of this would be money from birthday cards/Christmas gifts, extra work you do for someone that they may pay you for, mail-in rebates, a bonus from work, etc.

8. Disney Visa Rewards Credit Card
Lastly, the Disney Visa Rewards credit card from Chase offers several perks to its cardholders. Most notable would be the reward dollars you can earn from everyday purchases. The current rate of reward dollars on the card is $1 per $100 spent. Once you reach an initial rewards amount of $20 you can then redeem for a gift card that can be used at the parks, the Disney Store, and the Disney Store online. Being a cardholder also gives you different perks at each of the theme parks such as private meet and greets, discounts on tours, exclusive pins and 10% discounts on merchandise at the parks, 10% discounts on select dining locations, and more. Now it is true that the rate of reward dollars is not great. There are a ton of other credit cards out there that offer better rewards. With that being said however, one of my favorite things about the card is when you use the card to pay for your Disney vacation, you are given 6 months to pay for the vacation with 0% interest. I do this every time we plan a vacation and then make sure the trip is paid off within the 6 month term. This helps my situation especially because I usually travel with family members who don’t live in my household. I charge the entire vacation and this gives them time to get me their money without demanding it right away. Also the reward dollars earned from the price of the trip are mighty nice! We usually use the gift card we received to pay for tips at our sit down restaurant reservations. Combine that with the free dining promo (if available) and you have actual straight up FREE dining.

Hopefully theses tips will be helpful when you plan your next vacation, and they might even make it a little more fun to save. How do you save for your Disney vacation?


Katy Maxwell

Soarin’ over California will close in January at EPCOT*


Soarin' over California, Epcot Soarin', Disney's Soarin', Disney's Soaring

Are you looking for reason to go to the Walt Disney World Resort?

Soarin’ over California is arguably one of the most popular attractions at EPCOT. It is not uncommon to have wait times that exceed an hour and a half. Rarely are you able to find last minute fast passes for the attraction. In March of 2015, Disney announced that they would be adding a third theater to help reduce the wait times. It is set to open in summer 2016. So in terms of Disney, that means sometime between June and September 2016. The two current theaters will get a full over haul. A new screen and sound system for each. If you look at google earth, you can see the new theater being built behind the Canadian Pavilion in World Showcase.

The film will also be refreshed to have a more global appeal. No official title has been given but it will include soarin’ over some of the most incredible places all over the world. It was rumored that in January 2014 is when the new Soarin’ scenes were filmed over the Walt Disney World Resort during the Marathon/Dopey Challenge Weekend.

All of these amazing experiences will take time to build and enhance. The back stage rumor mill is churning with dates that are all over the calendar; however, most are saying early January 2016 will be the end of Soarin’ Over California and it will reopen during summer 2016 with fan fare like only Disney can bring.

With the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights going away at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Soarin’ Over California leaving EPCOT, it is time to take that last minute trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. You could say good bye in one magical weekend.

If you would like more information please contact our friends at

Magical Vacations by Me LogoIf you would like complimentary travel planning services, Magical Vacations by Me offers it for their clients. 404-414-6198





LOVE DOING THINGS FROM YOUR PHONE!!!!!!mickey cell phone cover

Easy Ways to Save for a Vacation


gift cards

By Frances

Being a travel specialist, I have the honor of helping hundreds of clients a year plan their magical vacation whether it be to Disney or Australia or somewhere in between. Budget always comes up during a conversation and sometimes it’s followed up with “I really want to but just can’t afford”. YES YOU CAN! You may not be able to go on your vacation next week, but with some planning you will be able to make your dream vacation come true. Here’s how!

1. Do some research online: Go to some popular vacation destination sites and see how much your dream vacation is. Set a budget but searching your dream high end vacation, your dream realistic vacation and your dream minimal vacation. If you are lost or confused at this point, you can contact a Magical Vacations by Me agent. Be upfront with them that you are just setting a budget and just starting. They will be more than happy to help you.

2.Set your goal vacation dates: This date could be in 6 months or 3 years. Make it as realistic as possible.

3 Set your budget: Set your budget between the dream high end vacation and the dream realistic vacation. This will allow for some flexibility if pricing should increase. This also allows for “Life” situations to happen and if needed you can still go on your dream minimal budget.

4. Start Saving: Easier said than done, right? Here are some easy ways that make it easier.

~ Purchase Gift Cards: Sooo many places have gift cards at the check out or at kiosk in the middle of the aisle. Pick up a gift card each week that will help you get to your goal. Think about how you are getting to your dream vacation. How are you going to eat and where are you going. Gas Cards, Airline Cards, Fast food & Restaurant cards, Starbucks, Disney, Universal etc. Throw in a Target or Walmart gift card just in case something should come up that you need while you are on vacation. It is easier to add $25 a week to your budget than you realize. It doesn’t have to be $200 at a time. Also, when you are shopping think about things like “I really want those Oreo’s but that is $3 that I could put towards my vacation.” You will be amazed at what you won’t miss as far as your grocery budget goes. Many stores offer discounted gift cards or special incentives. Check with Costco, BJ’s, Target and your local grocery store.

**Tip: Purchase all gift cards in like amounts. Example: Purchase gift cards in $25 increments. That way you don’t have to remember how much is on which card. OR write on the back in with a sharpie how much is on there before you tuck it away in your dresser.

~ Grandparents, Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy & Cupid are your best source for extra gift cards: Let all of them know that you have are planning a dream vacation. They can easily pick up a $10 gift card that can be used on the trip and a small toy. On, it’s free to personalize gift cards. there is a huge selection to choose from as well. If your child earns a great report card, you can send them a $10 personalized Disney gift card in the mail.

~ Save your change: Don’t spend the coins! Take all the change that you can get. If something cost $9.34, give the cashier a $10 bill and throw the change in your piggy bank. You will be amazed at how quickly it will add up.

~ Save your cash: If you have more than 5 $1 bills, take them out of your wallet and place in an envelope. Also do this when you just happen to have some extra cash from a friend that paid you back for lunch. This will add up as well.

~ Open a special banking account: A lot of banks are now offering free checking or savings accounts. If you have direct deposit, you can have $10 a week deposited into this special account. Make sure that it is a little harder to get to so you aren’t tempted to use that money for a new pair of shoes :-)  But it’s accessible if an emergency arises.


If you would like more information or discounted tickets to Universal Orlando, please contact our friends at

Magical Vacations by Me LogoIf you would like complimentary travel planning services, Magical Vacations by Me offers it for their clients. info@magicalvacationsbyme.com404-414-6198



What could you do with a $250 Disney Gift Card?


The final hours are fast approaching! The last chance to enter for your chance to win a $250 Disney Gift Card or other cool prizes.

There are so many things that you could do with the gift card if you won it.

What would you do?

Place a deposit for your next Walt Disney World Vacation?

Go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party?

Get a spa treatment on the Disney Dream?

Buy the new Vera Bradley Disney Collection Hand Bag?

Splurge on matching T-shirts for the whole family?

You can share the post for an additional 10 entries each day

Enter for a chance to win here!!

If you would like more information or discounted tickets to Universal Orlando, please contact our friends at

Magical Vacations by Me LogoIf you would like complimentary travel planning services, Magical Vacations by Me offers it for their clients. info@magicalvacationsbyme.com404-414-6198

Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando wait times rival Anna & Elsa

Gringotts wait time

It is no surprise that the new Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando is already a huge hit. Due to the first days of demand, USO execs opened up the park at 5:45am to start allowing guests to line up inside the park vs outside. That helped keep the crowd tame and the line moving. With wait times for Gringotts being an estimated 7.5 hours, USO employees were handing out return passes so guests could enjoy other attractions through out the park.

One great way to get ahead of the crowd is to book a Universal Vacation Package. It allows you to enter the park one hour prior to opening so you are able to get ahead of most of the crowds. If you stay at one of the three Deluxe resorts at Universal Orlando resort (Hard Rock Resort, Lowe’s Royal Pacific or Lowe’s Portofino Bay) you are given an Express Pass which will allow you to skip most of the wait times for attractions one time per day. It is included in your resort stay.

If you aren’t staying at Universal Orlando Resort, you can purchase the Express Pass starting at an additional $39.99 per day per ticket. Pricing is based on the day you visit and the crowd levels expected. The more crowded it is expected… the more expensive the ticket.

Universal Studios Florida®
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit®
Universal Horror Make-Up Show
Animal Actors on Location!SM
A Day In The Park with Barney™
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster®
E.T. Adventure®
MEN IN BLACK ™ Alien Attack™
Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue™
TWISTER…Ride It Out®
Revenge of the Mummy®
Shrek 4-D
Fear Factor Live
Disaster!SM A Major Motion Picture Ride…Starring YOU
The Simpsons Ride™
Transformers: The Ride- 3D
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
Universal’s Islands of Adventure®

The Cat In The Hat™
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish™
Poseidon’s Fury®
The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad®
Dragon Challenge™
Jurassic Park River Adventure®
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls®
Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges®
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man®
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall®
Storm Force Accelatron®
The Incredible Hulk Coaster®
Flight of the Hippogriff™
Universal Studios Florida
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™
Hogwarts™ Express
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™
Hogwarts™ Express
Pteranodon Flyers®

Date selection is required before entering ticket quantity
There are only a limited number of passes available for sale for each date.
Not valid for separately ticketed events, such as Halloween Horror Nights or Rock the Universe.
Limit eight (8) tickets per transaction.
Your ticket may not be copied, transferred, or resold.
Tickets are non-refundable.
Parking is not included.
NOTE: Applicable sales tax will be added to all ticket products.


If you would like more information or discounted tickets to Universal Orlando, please contact our friends at

Magical Vacations by Me LogoIf you would like complimentary travel planning services, Magical Vacations by Me offers it for their clients. 404-414-6198


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