Planning My Solo Trip to Disney World

IMG_7405Now that I have returned from my solo trip to Walt Disney World, we should review the planning for this trip. This will allow us to discuss in my future posts whether these plans worked and if any rescheduling was needed during my time in the parks. The planning steps i mention here will work for any type of Disney World vacation.

As with any trip to Disney World, planning for The Mature Mouse™ always begins with a call Jennie Nowers. I had a fixed budget and a short span of time for traveling, so Jennie helped me figure out my choices of resort, park tickets, dining plan, and plane flights.

IMG_1838Pop Century is the resort I chose for this trip. This is a value resort with rates ranging from $95 to $186 per night, varying according to the season in which you stay. The resort is themed after the pop culture of the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. These last two decades are reflected in the same unit within the resort. As a middle-aged vacationer, The Mature Mouse™ can certainly relate to the theme of this resort. Pop Century is just one of the few resorts to feature dedicated buses that travel directly to and from the various parks, without any additional stops at other resorts. Here is a link to a previous post about Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

The next step in my planning process involves researching expected crowd levels in the 4 theme parks during my stay. I rely on Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 11.54.10 AMfor this information. The site is simple to use, and it offers subscribers the ability to create personal touring plans for each day of their trip. You pick a park and attractions you wish to experience, then add the start and end times for your time in the park, along with lunch and rest breaks, and the site creates an optimized plan to avoid long lines. As you can see from this example, the plan even includes a map of the park. They have an excellent track record.

Supported by suggestions from Touring Plans, I made the choice to include the Park Hopper onto my ticket purchase. By adding the Park Hopper option I would have the possibility to visit any or all of the four major Walt Disney World theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) during each day of my trip. Here is more information on the value of the Park Hopper option. The various prices listed on this site may have changed since it was last update; please see Disney’s website on ticket pricing.

My final decision in planning was to determine whether to include a dining plan. I enjoy having an all-inclusive trip so as not to worry about added expenses. Of dining plans offered at Disney World, the Quick Service plan appeared to make the most sense. This would allow me two Quick Service meals and one snack. There are numerous QS restaurants throughout the parks, offering me numerous choices. Breakfast on the QS plan includes 1 entrée or a combo meal and a beverage. A QS lunch includes 1 entrée, 1 desert, and 1 non-alcoholic beverage. This dining plan would allow me to focus on touring the parks, not spending time sitting at a Table Service restaurant. Please do not misunderstand, Walt Disney World offers incredible fine-dining experiences. Please see my various posts about adult dining at WDW.

Chapter 7: Disney Magic and Romance at the California Grill

Top 10 Places to Dine Without Kids at Walt Disney World

My final step in planning was to book my FastPass+ choices 60 days prior to my trip, which was made based on the plans I created through the Touring Plans website. Making these reservations early insured I would have FP+ selections during my vacation, knowing that I would have the flexibility to alter these choices before and during my trip.

There was a period of time when a visit to Walt Disney World could be done on a whim, with little or no planning. However, times have changed. Planning is important and allows for flexibility. The process of planning your trip serves another purpose, educating you about the ins and outs of the resort. Think of it this way: Would you plan to travel to a city you have never been to before? The entire Walt Disney World Resort covers 40 Square miles, which is the equivalent in size of San Francisco. Would you research and plan your first trip to San Francisco?

IMG_1869Please visit The Mature Mouse™ store for merchandise. Many of the items would make outstanding additions to your vacation gear and attire. This baseball hat is just one of the featured items available through the store. If you are a mature fan of Disney, consider getting an item. I am a Mature Mouse™, are you?

A Disney World Vacation is the best

With so much to do and see at Walt Disney World, The Mature Mouse™ cannot understand why people choose to go anywhere else. This sentiment does not only apply to families; a Disney World vacation is a great choice for the more mature empty-nester. One does not need to have children in tow to enjoy all that Disney World has to offer.

Yes, Walt Disney World has attractions, rides, appropriate for all ages. However, as I have pointed out in numerous post, the resort also offers much more. There are fine-dining restaurants, and first-class hotels. There are first-class golf courses, and miniature golf courses. There are educational experiences, and cultural influences. There is a lot for vacationers, guests, to be thankful for at Walt Disney World.

Disney Questions has created a list of the top 10 things to be thankful for at Disney World. This list is not all inclusive, but it offers the non-Disney fan clear reasons why they should consider a vacation at the resort. I especially agree with number 7 on the list: The Cast Members. I make an effort to acknowledge those cast members who go above and beyond their role by handing them a thank you card during my visit.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 3.30.53 PM

A travel agent who specializes in booking Disney Vacations is a valuable free resource when planning your next trip. I started planning my next Disney World Vacation by calling Jennie Nowers. When the Cool Summer Savings were released, Jennie was up early applying these savings to my trip, which saved me 15% on the price of my resort stay. I did not need to do a thing. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

Please visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. Many of the items would make outstanding additions to your vacation gear and attire. Below are just a few of the items featured with my logo. If you are a mature fan of Disney, consider getting an item to let others know. I am a Mature Mouse™, are you?


Is It Time to Retire Free Dining

freedineDo you agree with dadfordisney? Should Disney World discontinue the offer of Free Dining? Have you booked a trip simply because of this offer? The Mature Mouse™ would like to know what you think. I booked my next trip for June, hoping for summer savings, but not budgeting for this offer. Has an offer, like Free Dining, tempted you to book a trip?

I started planning my next Disney World Vacation by calling Jennie Nowers. When the Cool Summer Savings were released, Jennie was up early applying these savings to my trip, which saved me 15% on the price of my resort stay. I did not need to do a thing. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

Please visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. Many of the items would make outstanding additions to your vacation gear and attire.


For the last several years, Disney has offered a free dining promotion during what are “slower traffic months” for Walt Disney World.  Free Dining started in the early 2000’s when people were travelling a lot.  Free Dining was designed as way to get people to the parks.  My family took Disney up on the Free Dining offer in 2009 and we’ve made eight more trips since that first trip.  As years have gone on and more and more people have come to expect free dining in the fall, Disney has made the dates more restrictive, resort availability more restrictive, and increased the number of days or type of ticket that you need to qualify for free dining.

I have spent many years as avid Disney follower, one year as independent Disney blogger, nine months as an independent travel agent specializing in Disney vacations, and will be soon coming out with…

View original post 902 more words

Chapter 9: Being a guest of Disney’s Magic Kingdom

As noted in Chapter 4: Our Disney vacation plan, we recognized that we would need a morning to sleep-in midway through our vacation week, so we should plan for an evening at the Magic Kingdom. Our first visit to the Magic Kingdom is scheduled around a 4:30 Be Our Guest ADR.

The new Festival of Fantasy parade is just beginning as we enter Town Square. We climb the stairs to the train station to get a better view. The parade is just making its turn around the hub. We decide to take the train to FantasylandCastle Door in order to avoid the crowd down Main Street and the hub. This would provide an opportunity to stroll through the New Fantasyland on our way to Be Our Guest.

We arrive at the restaurant shortly before 4 p.m. We give our name to the host, who is in a guardhouse at the entrance to the bridge leading to the castle of the Beast. We are given a typical plastic square alert device you receive at most restaurants, and we are allowed to pass onto the bridge. The gates at the end of the bridge are still closed, and there are a few peoIMG_1698ple already waiting. We take this time to enjoy the incredible view of Maurice’s cottage, and the gargoyles on the bridge. The styling is so well done; you have the sense that you are standing awaiting admittance to the Beast’s castle, not a restaurant.

IMG_1690The gates open and the small crowd moves forward to wait near the door of the castle. Wait staff, in period costume reminiscent of the movie, begin coming out the door to find their guests. We are escorted into the castle and the world of the Beast. There is a beautiful stained glass window by the entrance that depicts the marriage of Belle and the Prince.

Our tableIMG_1695 is against the back wall, which affords us a perfect view of the entire dining room. The familiar sights and sounds of the movie overcome us. Instead of an empty ballroom for dancing, there are tables of various sizes to accommodate the dinner guests. Chandeliers are maIMG_1694ssive and beautiful, and architecture is purely French provincial. At the other end of the room, centered on the wall, are ceiling high windows that, through Disney Imagineering magic, are looking at snow falling on mountain peaks. Amazing.

IMG_1692 There is a red rose, made from a coiled napkin, at each table setting. The food is very good, and the service impeccable. Our waitress notices our anniversary celebration buttons and brings us a serving of The Gray Stuff on a plate that has Happy Anniversary writtIMG_1693en in icing. We hear an exclamation that the master of the house is on his way, and the Beast strolls through the dinning room. As we are leaving our table, our waitress invites us to explore the castle. She also points out that there will be an opportunity to meet the master of the castle, the Beast, on our way out.

We IMG_1691tour the West Wing, where we see the painting of the Prince turn to the Beast each time there is a flash of lightening and a clash of thunder. On a table by thIMG_1689e window, sitting under a glass dome, is the enchanted rose, which is still loosing petals. In the library, we find a giant music box, built by Belle’s father, Maurice.

On our way out of the castle, we do indeed have an opportunity to meet the Beast. He is much friendlier than I had expected.

We head to the Haunted Mansion after dinner. This will be my first time on this ride since I was 14 years old. It is all I remember and more, thanks to various refurbishments over the years. There are a few added scenes, like the stairway to the attic, which was not part of the original ride. And, those ghostly hitchhikers at the end of the ride are capable of more Disney magic than they were 42 years ago.

We end our evening with a viewing of Mickey’s PhilharMagic. This 3D movie is a concert featuring all your favorite Disney characters. Donald Duck is in charge of preparing the orchestra for Mickey, so you know nothing will go as planned and Donald will surely lose his cool.

I started planning my next Disney World Vacation by calling Jennie Nowers. When the Cool Summer Savings were released, Jennie was up early applying these savings to my trip, which saved me 15% on the price of my resort stay. I did not need to do a thing. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

Please visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. Many of the items would make outstanding additions to your vacation gear and attire.

i_am_a_mature_mouse_water_bottle baseball_baseball_cap

Dining Plans at Walt Disney World

Chip and Company have put together an overviewing of the various dining plans offered to Walt Disney guests who are staying at a resort on sight. Participating in a Disney Dining Plan is one of the things that makes a Walt Disney World vacation so relaxing for The Mature Mouse. I appreciate an all inclusive vacation so that I can enjoy the Disney experience without worrying about extra costs. I have purchased the Disney Dining Plan for our last visit, which afforded us 1 table-service meal a day. As I stated in a previous posts, for a few of these meals we chose fine-dining Disney resturants. For my next trip I am looking at the Quick Service Plan.

Do you use a meal plan when staying on sight? If so, which plan have you used? Do you think the dining plans are worth the cost, or do you pay out of pocket for your daily meals?

If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. And, do not forget to consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

Chapter 8: Feel the Force at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Today we head over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After grabbing some breakfast, we walk out on the dock to wait for the ferryboat to the park. The view from the dock of the surroundings of Crescent Lake gives you the sense that you are at a seaside resort community in the Atlantic North East. Disney resorts, like the parks, are known for their quality of the theming. The boat ride to the park reminded me of a few canal rides I have taken, connecting various towns by natural and man-made waterways.

We arrive at the park approximately 30 minutes after opening, and make our way down Hollywood Boulevard. This part of the park, along with Sunset Boulevard, represents the romanticized ideal of Hollywood during the 1940s. We grew up with the movies and old newsreels that depicted this golden age of Hollywood, which the Imagineers have recreated here in the park.

Our plan is to head directly toward Star Tours, use a FastPass+, then possibly ride the attraction a second time. We take the path behind Echo Lake. We pass Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which is not on our to-do list for today’s visit to the park. I had read mixed reviews of this attraction and we were not sure we wanted to experience it this trip.

As we approach Star Tours, my inner geek is overcome with excitement at seeing the Ewok village and an AT-AT looming over us. The FastPass+ line is empty, so we quickly make our way through the Rebel bunker and into the Star Tours Spaceport. 2014-06-23 10.10.30-1C-3PO and R2-D2 are working on a Starspeeder, along with various other droids. I had thought that the FP+ line would take us on a different path through the queue. However, the FP+ line runs parallel to the standby line and directly pass the various vignettes.

The actual ride is amazing! You wear a pair of 3-D glasses, which bring the digital images to life. There is another layer, or dimension, added by the presence of an animatronic C-3PO in the pilot’s chair. I will admit that I did develop a little motion sickness while on this attraction. However, we enjoy the ride so much that we quickly went back to the standby entrance to ride it again. We did not wait long; the standby line moved very quickly. This ride, this Star Tour, is very different from our first experience. According to the Disney World website for this attraction, with “over 50 story combinations, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue invites you to experience a unique adventure almost every time.” I could have spent hours, and a considerable amount of money, wandering through Tatooine Traders.

Instead, we make our way over to The Great Movie Ride for our next FP+. Most Disney World ‘experts’ recommend not using FP+ for this attraction. To some extent I agree, the lines move quickly. However, if you do not want to take the chance, I recommend using your FP+ reservations to create the type of experience that best suits your touring plans. We enjoy the attraction, probably for the same reason we can appreciate the theming of the park. We grew up watching these movies, albeit many of them as television reruns. Whether it is visiting Munchkinland, or watching Rick convince Ilsa to get on that plane with Victor; The Great Movie Ride immerses you in classic movie moments.

We have some spare time before our next FP+ reservation, which is for the performance of BUnknowneauty and the Beast-Live on Stage. We take a stroll down the Streets of America, and make our way over to Muppet Vision 3D. The action and gags are fast paced, with numerous 4D surprises. And, as a Muppet fan, I really enjoy the humor of the animatronic Statler and Waldorf as they comment from their private balcony. The only regret I have is that we did not take time to explore the queue, which is themed as a movie soundstage with many Muppet surprises.

From the Muppet Theater, we make our way over to Sunset Boulevard to2014-06-23 12.09.14 see the performance of Beauty and the Beast. Our FastPass reservation allows us to enter the theater without waiting in line, and gives us seating in a preferred section. Unfortunately, it is an open-air theater, so there is no air conditioning, just shade and fans. This production is well staged, shorter than the full Broadway production, and very enjoyable.

We decide to explore the rest of Hollywood Studios as we meander our back toward the Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater Restaurant for our lunch ADR. Although we find the park to be smaller and easier to maneuver, the sections, or lands, are not as clearly defined as they are in other parks. There are more adult oriented attractions at Hollywood Studios, including a few we knew would be too intense for us. I am a fan of Aerosmith, but the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is not in my wheelhouse. If it were not for those sudden drops, I would really enjoy The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Maybe Disney Imagineers will someday create an alternate version that allows you to experience the haunted hotel without the stomach churning plunges.

Our ADR at the Sci-Fi is at 1:40; we arrive at 1:30. We wait 30 minutes before we were seated, during which time a lot of people are turned away because they did not have a reservation. This is a very popular restaurant in Hollywood Studios, and we can see why. There is a juxtapsci-fi-dine-in-theater-gallery00osition to the theming: the entrance is styled as the back of a Hollywood sound stage, while the dining room is designed as a 1950’s drive-in theater, with tables set into the body of a retro cars. A 45-minute loop continuously plays clips from science fiction B-movies, as well as newsreels and advertisements from the 1950s. The menu offers things like burgers, popcorn chicken, fries, and old-fashion milkshakes, but these are not your basic drive-in staples. The chef has developed delicious variations on these classic American dishes.

As planned, we make our way out of the park after lunch. We take the boat back to the Beach Club for an evening of relaxation by the pool and a light dinner. I have enjoyed our time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and look forward to returning during my next trip. There certainly will be new things to experience in the park in years to come.

Walt Disney knew that change is important and inevitable in the parks. There are certainly many changes in the works for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, not the least of which is an expanded presence of Star Wars and Pixar. At the writing of this post, the Sorcerer’s Hat is down and the Great Movie Ride is undergoing an update due to Disney’s new association with Turner Classic Movies. There are even rumors of a name change for the park. What are your thoughts about Hollywood Studios? What changes would you like to see happen at the park? Which attractions should go, and which need to be updated?

In the next chapter of The Mature Mouse I will review our Be Our Guest Restaurant dining experience, followed be an evening at Magic Kingdom. If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse store for logo merchandise. And, do not forget to consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation. Tell her that The Mature Mouse sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

Top 10 Places to Dine Without Kids at Walt Disney World

As an extension of Chapter 7, which recounted my fine-dining experience at the California Grill, I have been reposting related information from various sources. This post from offers information regarding their top 10 restaurants at Walt Disney World designed more for adult guests. Although I enjoy the various family oriented, Disney themed restaurants, The Mature Mouse appreciates the occasional fine-dining experiences.

Disney Questions: Top 10 Places to Dine Without Kids at Walt Disney World