Blog roll

Some our best travel blogs!  Full of tips and great information to help you plan your next vacation!

Disney Dining Plan snack credits – more than just water and chips! 

How to surprise your kids with their first Disney trip

Reserving the Magic: Tips for scheduling your advanced dining reservations

Where can I find Lightning McQueen at Disney World?

Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa



The Queen of Hearts

Do you like the Queen of Hearts?  Who is your favorite Disney villain?

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Start Your Day with Cape May Cafe!

Cape May Café Character Breakfast is one our favorite ways to start our day at Walt Disney World! Cape May Café is located in the New England style Beach Club Resort.  The meal is in a buffet style, which is tremendous, since it has something for everyone (even the pickiest of eaters) and is a great value as part of the Disney Dining Plan (one sit down credit only)! We like to knock out two things from our long Disney to-do list, eating a great meal and hanging out with Minnie, Donald and Goofy. This New England styled beachfront themed restaurant is unique in atmosphere, but consistent with Disney magic and excitement. Cape May Café Character Breakfast quickly becomes a must do on everyone’s list!


I always feel a little guilty when we eat here, with all the scrumptious options. Adding a bit of exercise goes a long way to justify the additional trips through the line and eating more than we should. We like to add a brisk walk by starting from Disney’s Hollywood Studios and making our way along the Walkway leading to the Boardwalk.


The Walkway is a shady, lazy path along the canal leading to the Boardwalk area and a favorite of walkers and runners. With the distance from Disney Hollywood Studios to the Beach Club Resort being 2.07 miles, we feel like we “deserved” a good breakfast!



We arrived about 15 minutes early and were seated immediately. Plan your walking pace accordingly though, it’s easy to get lost in the brisk morning air and pleasurable surroundings! Goofy, Donald and Minnie were making their rounds at all the tables when we arrived, and you can definitely feel the excitement in the air. The characters stop at each table, so be patient, they will be by yours! This is a great opportunity to have your cameras and autograph books handy.


My family loves coming to Cape May Café because of the buffet. Of course you will find the favorite Mickey Waffles, but our Cast Member made special note that the restaurant had more healthy options on the buffet this year like quinoa, fruit salads, spinach salads, whole wheat breads and low fat yogurt. I do like to indulge, but having healthy options helps us balance our meal.


There is a lot of activity at the restaurant, but you don’t feel rushed at all. Full and happy, we always like to catch the boat back to Disney Hollywood Studios. As you leave the Resort, the boat dock is to the right in the Bay. Just look for the Lighthouse!  The Cape May Café is a win-win for my family. From the comfortable, open feel, to pictures with the Minnie, Donald and Goofy in their nautical outfits, to the crayons and paper tablecloths, you have a very family friendly place to eat!


Even though Donald maybe Number 1, you and your family will come out as the winner by adding this breakfast to your itinerary. Isn’t it time to make your Dining Reservations?

Fall into Fun at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World may be located in an area best known for its sunshine and palm trees, but when the summer season comes to an end, The Magic Kingdom becomes a wonderland filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of fall. Over a three day period, an army of cast members brings the season of fall to life and introduces a cornucopia of decorations, treats, and merchandise that make fall a truly beautiful time to visit The Magic Kingdom


Fall is in the air from the moment visitors arrive at The Magic Kingdom. Candy corn-esque banners, pumpkins, and scarecrows welcome guests as they arrive at the park. Once guests step onto Main Street, they feel transported to a hometown fall that includes wreaths of fall leaves and pumpkins that look like everyone’s favorite mouse. Every lamp post, garden, and building on Main Street is adorned with fabulous fall colors. Even some of the characters are dressed for the season. Duffy Bear, a favorite of many visitors, can often be seen this time of year wearing his adorable pumpkin costume.

Duffy  Whit1

The beautiful decorations are not the only sign that fall has arrived at The Magic Kingdom. Fall and Halloween treats are plentiful this time of year. For many people, the fall holiday season is more about treats than tricks, and The Magic Kingdom provides a spellbinding mix of holiday treats that will satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth. Specialty apples that look like Mickey jack-o-lanterns, Mickey Mouse Rice Krispie treats decorated in candy corn colors, and cookies and cupcakes with Halloween decorations are just a few of the mouth watering snacks guests can find during the fall holiday season. Halloween themed popcorn containers hold one of The Magic Kingdom’s most delicious snacks and can be used later as adorable trick-or-treat buckets. The glory of fall is evident in bounty of fall snacks available at The Magic Kingdom.


Non-edible fall treats are also available throughout the park. Fall themed mugs, glow sticks, and trick-or-treat bags are available, as well as Halloween themed t-shirts and pins. Even the mouse ears get a special fall theme to match the season. Guests can take a little bit of the fall magic home with them when they purchase these holiday themed items.


Fall is a time of beauty and celebration, and there is no better place in the world to enjoy this season than The Magic Kingdom!


Contact me to help you book your next fall trip.

Kids & Characters: 7 Ways to Break the Ice

Disney characters are special to kids. Let’s face it; they’re just as special to us adults. Do you remember the first time you came face to face with your first character, or maybe your favorite character? It made you feel like a kid, didn’t it? Of course it did! So naturally your little princess or pirate will want to get just as up close and personal with their favorite characters, right? Well…maybe. It all depends on them. Chances are if they are a little shy around costumed characters at home or at the local mall then they might be a bit on the weary side at Disney World. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! There are many ways to help avoid shyness.

Here are 7 strategies to help your kids feel more at ease with the characters.


1. Gifts from the Characters – This worked really well for our family. Daddy and I packed some goodies that we bought from the Dollar Store at home. The first night of our resort stay, we assembled the loot on the table along with a note from “Mickey and friends”. The note encouraged the kids to tell them jokes, ask them yes or no questions (they save their voices for their TV shows and movies), give high fives and have fun! The note prompted a new attitude and for the rest of the vacation, my son was thanking the characters for letting us visit their home. Adorable.


2. Autograph Books – These are an essential ice breaker between characters and children. Kids can be afraid all they want of the size of a character but they WANT that autograph and they will stretch their little arms as long as they need to until Mickey Mouse can reach it. No hugging necessary. No touching is even necessary. Parents- talk about the autograph book before you get to Disney World. “Won’t it be so cool to have Minnie’s autograph? You can keep it forever!” Any book will do but have you seen some of these elaborate books? They are amazing, and personalized!


3. Speaking Characters – There are plenty of them. You can find Peter Pan, Wendy, Mary Poppins, Princesses, and others in different locations. Meeting speaking characters first might be more reassuring to kids rather than starting them off with a huge Tigger or Pooh. The first character my son would go near was Princess Jasmine. She was beautiful, sweet, engaging, and she carried on a conversation with him. He also let his guard down a bit when Peter Pan asked him about Kindergarten. With each character encounter he gained confidence and felt more comfortable.


4. Ask Yes or No Questions / Tell Jokes – Kids can still engage with the characters without physically touching them. Some of the best Disney memories are the children’s conversations with the characters. For weeks, my son’s favorite Disney story to tell was that Mickey laughed at his joke. He laughed so hard that he almost fell on the floor, but he grabbed the chair to stop himself. (Mickey was not really hurt during the telling of this joke. Wink…)


5. Parades and Shows – If you’re not sure how your child will react to Donald Duck getting up close and personal, check out a parade or show at any of the parks. Let your kids get a taste of the characters’ looks and size before they come face to face. The more prepared your child is the more comfortable he/she will be. This is a great opportunity for them to get used to the characters from a distance.

6. Character Dining – Certain restaurants offer meals where the characters make an appearance. These are table service meals and are widely popular with the kids and adults alike. You can eat AND meet characters at once… without waiting in line! This is another great opportunity for your child to see the characters without having to go near them. The characters do come to every table. However, they are trained to take cues from the guests. If it is clear that little Johnny doesn’t want them to get too close, then they won’t. They will wave and move on to the next table as they don’t want to cause anyone to get upset. When my youngest son was just shy of 2 years old, we had a breakfast scheduled with Lilo and Stitch. When Lilo approached the table, she made a crying motion with her hands and pointed to him. I didn’t understand at first that she was asking me if he would cry if he saw her. He was less hesitant with the characters than his older brother (no fear!) so he enjoyed his encounter with Lilo and Stitch. We loved that she wanted to be sure he was ok with her being near him.

7. Parents, get in there! – One thing I’ve noticed during visits to my happy place is that parents are just as happy to meet the characters as their kids are. I fall into that category (surprise, surprise!). If you want to help your kids get over their character shyness, keep it up! Get in those pictures! Your kids don’t want to get near them or pose for photos? Have THEM take the photos! This is a great way to have fun with the characters even if a hug is out of the question. If Mom and Dad won’t pose with Buzz Lightyear then why would the kids want to? Show them that there’s no reason to be hesitant and have fun at the same time!

Remember to let your kids lead the way when it comes to characters. If you force them in front of Captain Hook and demand that they smile and say cheese, you will probably get a great photo of them screaming and crying. It’s ok to start with a high five, a hand shake or even just let your child touch Pluto’s paw with one finger. You never know when a high five will turn into a hug they’ll remember forever.

Contact me today for more tips and info regarding Disney Vacations!

Erin Santamaria – 877-377-0505

You can also find me on Facebook or Pinterest.

Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom

Enchanted Tales with Belle

On my most recent trip, we were able to experience Enchanted Tales with Belle for the first time. We were there December 4, 2012.

Let me start by informing you that this is one of the attractions of  New  Fantasyland. With that being said, it is quite popular! As of now, there is not an option for fastpass, so I have a recommendation. I suggest as soon as you enter the park (preferably at park opening) your family head straight to this attraction. On your way there, swing by and get a fastpass to a nearby attraction, possibly Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. You will then be one of the first in line for Enchanted Tales with Belle and will be able to do the new Little Mermaid ride shortly after you get out. You may also take advantage of this attraction during Extra Magic Hours offered to guests of Walt Disney World Resorts.

Throughout most of Disney, many of the upgrades are including enhancements to the waiting queues. As you enter the queue for this attraction, you will spend most of your wait time outside, following along a winding cobblestone pathway lined by small trees and flowers. It sets the perfect atmosphere, as I honestly felt like I was stepping into Belle’s world! Once you enter indoors, you will be in Maurice’s cottage. You will not spend a long time in this area, so be sure to soak in all the neat details. I loved seeing a portrait of young Belle with her mother.

As you move a little further along, you will enter Maurice’s workshop, and come to a magic mirror, which will help “transport” you inside Beast’s castle. This is where the fun really begins! A small group of you will be introduced to Madame Wardrobe along with a cast member. Here, Madame Wardrobe will ask for volunteers to re-enact “Beauty and the Beast”. Volunteers can be adults or children and will be given props to play characters including Maurice, Phillipe, Chip, Mrs. Potts and the Beast. Please note that it is meant for ONLY the people who are playing roles in the re-enactment to be able to take pictures with Belle, but when I was there in December, they allowed all the kids to take picture with her afterwards. If you are unable to get good pictures with your camera, be sure to grab one of the photopass cards the photographer will be handing out at the end!


Once all the volunteers have been chosen, the group will move into the Beast’s Library. Here you will then be greeted by Lumiere, followed by Belle. The re-enactment will take place and will end with music and Belle posing for a few photos. Belle will not sign autographs, but be sure to get a bookmark with her signature on the back on your way out. The cast members should be handing them out as you leave.





For more information, or if you would like to experience Enchanted Tales with Belle for yourself, contact me at, find me on facebook or call me at 1-800-670-4312 ext 138.

Breakfast in Wonderland with a touch of Class


On a recent trip to Walt Disney World we visited 1900 Park Fare for the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast. Our middle child was celebrating his birthday at Disney and wanted to have the Mad Hatter join us. I am a huge proponent of character dining because you can skip the lines at the park and enjoy the attractions because you already have your character pictures taken. Our excitement started as soon as we arrived, we were greeted by cast members that asked questions about why we had chosen this breakfast. We waited in a short line to get our picture taken, and then were brought in front of the French doors to wait for the restaurant to open. We were asked to say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” several times when all of a sudden the doors opened and Mary Poppins greeted us at the door. Excitement rang out through the hall way, it was one of those magical moments.

Breakfast in Wonderland

We were brought to our table where we were instructed to get in line for breakfast. I chose a buffet so that everyone would have lots to choose from.

The menu was actually a little overwhelming. I loved the hot menu, bacon, sausage, omelets made to order, scrambled eggs, pancakes, Mickey waffles, ham and this is just to name a few things. The cold menu was wonderful as well, several flavors of yogurt, fresh strawberry soup (a personal favorite), ice cream with every sort of fresh fruit you could imagine. It really did feel like wonderland with all of the savory choices.

Our character experience was amazing as my little Mad Hatter met the “real” Mad Hatter and had a dance with Alice! Mary Poppins was very warm and right on cue when we asked about Bert who was at the races! Winnie the Pooh and Tigger also stopped by and tried to steal the honey from the table!


This character meal is available on most dining plans or you can pay out of pocket. Prices range from $12.00 to $26.00. Adults and children are priced differently. Gratuity is not included.

If you’re traveling to Walt Disney World and want a fantastic meal as well as character experience, make sure to contact me so I can book you a magical memory that will last a lifetime!

Amy Blades


How to Dine at Disney with a Toddler (who doesn’t sit still)

We’ve all witnessed it. A family is trying to enjoy a meal and their young child is misbehaving; standing in their seat, sitting under the table, running around the table, etc.  I have never understood how a parent could allow their child to behave this way at a restaurant.  I had a son who could eat anywhere, perfectly well behaved…then… I had my daughter.  I quickly learned that sometimes despite everything you do, some children are just not destined to eat out. Our daughter is 2.5 and is usually very well behaved, until we eat out, that is! We have learned to eat at home instead of dining out these days. But what are you to do when you are on vacation at Disney?  Here are some tips I have learned through trial and error that help with my squirmy toddler:

Visit restaurants where there is a lot to look at. Coral Reef, Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex, 50′s Primetime Cafe and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater are great examples. They each provide a unique themed atmosphere where there is a lot to take in visually.  Makes for a great place to play “I spy” game.

henley sitting at rainforest cafe

 Take them to a character meal.  Having trouble sitting still?  “Hey Look!  I think I see Mickey coming!”.

Instead of sitting at the table while waiting to eat, take them to Biergarten at Epcot where they can watch the oompah band and get out on the dance floor and get some energy out. Mickey’s Backyard BBQ  and ‘Ohana are other good options for those that can’t sit still.

henley dancing at biergartenwm

 Take them somewhere where they won’t stick out- clearly a Signature restaurant isn’t the best choice.  Restaurants that are a bit on the “loud” side, (Whispering Canyon Cafe, I’m talking to you) may help drown out a toddler’s eating antics in comparison to others.

Limit your table service reservations.  Want to get a dining plan?  Maybe the quick service dining plan is a better option for your family during this stage.

Make sure children are well rested. Plan your dining times accordingly. If they are falling on their face tired, let’s face it, it’s just not going to be pretty. Perhaps start the day with a breakfast buffet instead of a late dinner or mid day lunch when a nap should be taking place instead.

Make sure they are really hungry.  If they just had a snack, forget it, they are not going to want to sit still and eat a meal if they are the slightest bit full.

Take advantage of the crayons and the two sided place mat coloring sheets  your server will provide upon seating.

Ask for more bread if they are hungry. If getting them to eat bread/butter while waiting on food to arrive will keep them from getting antsy, I say go for it.  Just don’t give them too much or they will be too full for their meal obviously.

henley with bread and crayonswm

 Ask for their meal to be delivered early.

Dining at a table service restaurant at Disney does take time. In the past (before daughter) I have enjoyed this because it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the parks. It’s nice to sit down, take a break and enjoy some yummy food.  I have learned to tell the server ahead of time in a nice way that we have a squirmy toddler and if there’s anything they can do to get food/check out quickly, it would be great for us, them and basically anyone sitting near us.

When all else fails, take them for a walk!  It happens almost every time we eat a meal out. Either myself or my husband will have to take our daughter outside.  I refuse to be one of “those” who lets their kids run around wild at the table (or under the table) and if it means I have to eat in a hurry and take her out, I will.  My husband and I try to take turns so one doesn’t get the wrong end of the stick each time.

Hopefully these tips are helpful.  Remember you’re not the only one who has ever gone through the squirmy toddler stage.  Many a parent has walked in your shoes and has lived to tell about it so hang in there! Keep in mind, this too shall pass!

If you are interested in planning a trip to Disney World, I’d love assist!  Feel free to call me at 1-800-670-4312 x128, email me at or find me on facebook!

An Animation Experience-Art Imitating Life!

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World I did something I have never done before…I took an Art class! And I had the best teacher-a real Disney Animator! Animation Academy is one of the lesser known attractions at Hollywood Studios but it is now one of my favorites in all of the parks.

Welcome to Animation Academy

It is located in The Magic of Disney Animation building where you can watch a video about Disney animation, view animation exhibits, experience interactive animation stations, and visit with some of your favorite Disney Characters.  Classes run about 20 minutes total and begin every half hour. There is a cast member inside the building to point you to the waiting area for the class.

Once the doors open you Walk in and choose a seat. Everyone has their own work station.

Your Disney Animation instructor is a real Disney animator! They will discuss the characters they specialize in and then ask who has been to the class before. They will try to make sure you don’t draw a character you have already drawn in a previous class. They will then bring the options to a vote. Our class voted on Pluto.  The animator walks you through each tiny step of the process. I am NOT an artist and I was skeptical that I could actually draw Pluto. Even halfway through I thought “there is NO way this will look like Pluto”. But the final product speaks for itself!

We drew pluto!

Everyone has their own style but you can always tell who the character is!

If you are lucky, you may even run into the character you drew. Minutes after we walked outside from our drawing class we saw Pluto (and Goofy) right under the Sorcerer’s hat. Pluto was really excited to see our pictures!

Pluto checks it out

(Goofy though was a bit jealous…here my husband assures him that we will draw him next time!)

Goofy is jealous

Pluto approves!

I would HIGHLY recommend taking the time to do the Animators class. I went twice and got to draw Flynn from Tangled the second time .

For more tips of “other” Disney World attractions besides the great rides, or for ANY of your Disney Planning needs contact me at or 1-800-670-4312 ext 139.

See ya Real Soon!
-Aleshia Sokoloski