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



Magical Memories – Visiting Pizza Planet

As you wander the Streets of America in Hollywood Studios, there is a great quick service restaurant called “Pizza Planet”. It is based on the restaurant that Andy frequents in the Toy Story movies. Robert and I had a great time here during our last visit to Walt Disney World.



This 2 story restaurant offered plenty of seating both inside and out. The food was yummy and the arcade was a lot of fun. Our lunch consisted of personal sized pizzas for each of us (1 adult and 1 child), a salad, applesauce, our drinks and a cookie for Robert. You can use your quick service credits from your dining plan to pay for this meal. After we ate, my son had so much fun being a ninja slicing fruit, hip hop dancing, practicing his skee ball skills, and of course, challenging me to air hockey.

fruit ninja

arcade interior

hip hop

I do have to say my favorite details were the little green aliens seen hanging from the ceiling. I loved these guys in the movies.

green alien

And what Pizza Planet restaurant would be complete without “The Claw”!

the claw

If you are looking for a quick and easy place to grab your lunch or dinner, Pizza Planet is a great choice. It will also give you a great chance to sit and cool off while your children burn off some extra energy (and quarters).

If you have any questions and would like to use a planner for free – contact me at or call me directly at 1-800-670-4312 ext 125. I have an unexplained passion for Disney and making sure that everyone is getting the most that they can out of every visit!

Harmony Barber Shop, First Haircut Package

barber shop my 1st haircut ears (2)

If you are planning a trip to Disney World and want a special place to get your child’s first haircut I would strongly suggest making an appointment at the Harmony Barber Shop. Harmony Barber Shop is located at Magic Kingdom, no other place than on Main Street USA. As you you pass under the train station, look to your left and you’ll see City Hall, the Fire Station and Harmony Barber Shop with it’s red and white striped pole out front.

barber shop

They provide the following services:

Adult Hair Cut $19

Child Hair Cut (12 and under) $15

My 1st Haircut Package $18

Gel and pixie dust (colored gel not being offered at this time) $5

barber shop exterior sign

I had been anxiously awaiting for my daughter to get her first haircut (she just turned 3!) and decided Harmony Barber Shop would be the perfect spot. I made my reservation over the phone at (407) WDW-PLAY prior to arrival. They do accept walk-ins but I noticed quite a few guests walking in and being told they were full so I would strongly encourage calling ahead of time to be on the safe side. They are open daily from 9AM-5PM.

barber shop inside

As you enter the Harmony Barber Shop, the first thing you’ll probably notice is it’s very tiny. There’s not a whole lot of room with only 3 chairs with 3 barbers. It has old fashioned charm to it complete with black and white flooring, tile ceiling and ornately carved wooden mirrors.

My daughter was seated in the chair soon after we arrived and she wasn’t too sure about what was about to happen. I could see her lip start to tremble and tears welling up in her eyes. Diane who was cutting her hair had it all under control. She was calm and patient and began putting Mickey stickers on my daughter’s dress and blankie to distract her and then gave her a bottle of bubbles. Bubbles always make my daughter smile so any fear she had was forgotten in no time.

barber shop henley bubbles

While my daughter was getting her first haircut, my son had mentioned he wanted to get his hair styled with gel as he had seen some kids sporting at the parks previously. They were no longer offering colored gel but he did get a pretty funky “do” with regular gel and “pixie dust”.

Barber Shop Banks hair

Once my daughter’s hair had been cut, Diane handed us her freshly cut locks which were placed in a white mesh bag complete with sparkles sealed with a Mickey sticker. She was also given a certificate proclaiming that her first haircut was at the Harmony Barber Shop and an adorable Mickey Ear Hat with “My 1st Haircut” embroidered on the back. Cutest first haircut keepsake ever!

barber shop certificate

I highly recommend a visit to the Harmony Barber Shop, particularly for a child’s first haircut. It will be an experience you won’t forget and you’ll get to take home some cute souvenirs from the occasion.

barber shop first locks

*It is important to note that the Harmony Barber Shop is unable to accept tips using credit cards so please bring cash.

Barber Shop Henley with ears

If you are planning a trip to Disney World, I’d love be of assistance! Please feel free to email me at

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.

Disney’s Star Wars Weekends

If you are a Star Wars fan and are visiting Disney during May or June, be sure to take advantage of Disney’s Star Wars weekends! These are special weekends in which Hollywood Studios is taken over by the Force. The weekends the event is running this year are May 17-19, May 24-26, May 31-June 2, and June 7-9. No special tickets are required – just admission to Hollywood Studios!


Welcome to Star Wars weekend!!

During these special weekends, you’ll find:

· Celebrity autograph sessions (past celebrities have included Ray Park who played Darth Maul in Episode I and Warwick Davis who played Wicket the Ewok in Episode VI)

· Special character greetings (think Chewbacca, Boba Fett, Stormtroopers, Princess Leia, Leia Minnie, Vader Goofy and more!)

· Special Star Wars merchandise only available during Star Wars Weekends,

· Star Wars trivia (for kids AND for adults!)

· Star Wars Parade

· Q&A sessions

· “Behind the Force” presentations


Leia Minnie meets Sarah and Jenise

Be sure to arrive EARLY (90 to 120 minutes before the park opens if you want the Celebrity autographs) and get in line for the Celebrity Autograph FASTPASSES. If you’re going to skip the Celebrity autographs, plan on arriving 60-90 minutes before park opening. But you won’t want to miss the Stormtroopers skit that happens before park opening.

If you see merchandise that you like, buy it. You never know how quickly some items will sell out. There is usually some great limited edition merchandise available. One awesome souvenir last year was the “Freeze Yourself in Carbonite”. Panoramic pictures are taken up close of your face from all angles (so no face paint on children), and about 6 weeks after the event, you receive a block of Carbonite but instead of Hans Solo trapped, it’s YOU. (I’m still awaiting an announcement from Disney about merchandise available to see if this will be offered again this year but I know it was VERY popular and advanced reservations were offered). There are multiple locations set up around the park besides Tatooine Traders to purchase Star Wars merchandise.


Having fun with Star Wars themed merchandise

Don’t think that the Character Greetings are just for kids! Interact with the characters. The “dark-siders” tend to be a bit more fun if you egg them on.

If your children want to participate in the children trivia contest, Jedi Training Academy or any other event, head to the sign up table EARLY in the day as these slots are limited. Study the Star Wars Park Map as soon as it’s available so you know where to go.

Be prepared for long lines. Not just for attractions but for parades and merchandise too. The Star Wars parade is at noon. Avoid Tatooine Traders after the Star Wars parade (it ends right near the shop and the crowds are SUPER CRAZY then).

Remember that you’re in Florida in May and June. It will be HOT. Be prepared for the heat and be sure to stay hydrated. Consider a lunch or dinner at one of the table-service restaurants inside Hollywood Studios to escape from the heat! (Be sure to get your reservations for these ahead of time; ask your travel planner for more information).


Enjoy a R2D2 Icee while you wait to watch Hyperspace Hoopla!

I’d like to thank Sarah and Jenise for letting me use their pictures!! Sarah and Jenise are long time clients of one of our Travel with the Magic planners. Their big tips – “Don’t miss the Hyperspace Hoopla show at the end of the day. And keep a camera ready at all times – you never know who you’re going to see!!”


Is that Vader or Goofy?!

Want to freeze yourself in carbonite!? I cannot wait to help you plan your MAGICAL vacation to Disney World! Contact me via email at, or call me at 1-800-670-4312, x129. You can also find me on Facebook!

Waffle Sandwiches

Have you heard about the new craze? Waffle sandwiches. Yes, it is real and they are available at the Magic Kingdom Park, at Sleepy Hollow a refreshment stand in Liberty Square located to the left of Cinderella’s Castle. Here you can get this magnificent masterpiece every day.

There are different types of waffles.

Nutella Waffle (1)

Nutella and Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich

Sleepy Hollow6

Ham, Prosciutto, and Swiss

Sleepy Hollow (3)

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Waffle with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Waffle with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

The waffles are made fresh while you wait and they are absolutely delicious. The sandwich is large enough for a meal or you can share it as a two person snack. The Nutella waffle is available all day however the ham and chicken waffles are only available between 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Waffles are not the only delicious treat at Sleepy Hollow. Funnel cakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches, huge fresh chocolate chunk cookies, floats, Cappuccino and many other items are also available. Sleepy Hollow accepts the Disney Dining Plan. Snack credits and counter service may be used here. So on your way to Liberty Square stop and pick up a tasty waffle sandwich.

If you are ready to book your magical vacation give me a call and I will be glad to help you. or 1-800-670-4312 ext. 134

Sorcerer of the Magic Kingdom


Does defeating Disney villains sound like fun to you?  Well, Sorcerer of the Magic Kingdom might just be the game for you.  The first thing you need to do is head on over to the Firehouse on Main Street, USA in the Magic Kingdom park and get your very own sorcerer training.  You will receive a master key card, a map, and a pack of five cards.  A cast member will then show you what a portal is and demonstrate what to do.  When your card is scanned, Merlin from The Sword and the Stone will accompany you along your way in this interactive game.  He will ask you to cast spells to defeat villains at various portals throughout Magic Kingdom.  You will hold up one of your spell cards in front of the portal and be on your way to becoming a Master Sorcerer.  When you are finished at a portal, it will show you which portal to go to next.  You will be able to locate the portals on your map.  There are about 10 evildoers to defeat on your journey.  How much does this game cost?  It is FREE!  Each day you return to Magic Kingdom make sure you go by the Firehouse and pick up another pack of cards.  There are about 70 different cards to collect for use in this game.  You might even meet up with some of your fellow Sorcerers and do a little card trading.  I hope you have a blast with this amazing experience!

Michelle Terry


Magical Memories – A ride to remember!

Do you know what draws people to the Animal Kingdom?  It is their majestic safari ride!  If you have not experienced this, you must add it to your “things to do” list on your next trip!

trip to remember

The entrance to the Kilimanjaro Safaris is located in the back left hand corner of the park.  I suggest that you head here first, as soon as you enter the park.  The animals are always out for viewing but I can tell you that they will be more visible before the hot sun gets too high.

 As you get ready to embark on this wonderful journey through the savanna, you will board a large open-aired cargo jeep.  The ride does get bumpy, but that just adds to the excitement for the kids.  Your driver/tour guide does a wonderful job making sure that you can see everything the savanna has to offer.  He/She will take their time meandering their way along the trail, giving you plenty of opportunities to feel like a photographer for National Geographic.  So don’t forget you camera!

 I have experienced this safari ride over 20 times, and I always see something new.  Whether it is 2 baby elephants playing in the water, an ostrich roosting on its nest, or an antelope chasing a giraffe – the safari ride is always an adventure!  The drivers do an incredible job pointing out and describing the wildlife with a wide variety of facts and tidbits that help to make this a learning experience for the kids!

baby elephants

 Disney has done a great job with enticing the animals to stay more visible throughout the day.  If you see a log or a tree stump, the trainers are using that as a feeding bin.  This keeps the giraffes, wildebeests, antelopes, cattle, and zebras closer to the trial for viewing.


 As you leave the safari adventure, don’t forget to take a walk through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.  Here you can see even more wildlife up close.  This is a walking tour that takes you through the shade of the forest with several viewing areas along the way of the okapis, hippos, and gorillas.  This is another chance for you to get some great pictures of the wildlife.


 While walking through the Pangani Forest, your children can have the opportunity to participate in the Kids Discovery Club.  The Kids Discovery Club is a time when one of the animal trainers will take time to teach the children about the variety of wildlife, their behaviors, eating habits, and more. In the picture below, my son and his friend are honing in on some tracking skills – trying to find a rhino.

robert and friend

 So the next time you visit the Animal Kingdom, don’t forget to take some time for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.  You will have a great time roaming through the savanna and watching the animals in their own environment, interacting with each other.

If you have any questions and would like to use a planner for free – contact me at or call me directly at 1-800-670-4312 ext 125.  I have an unexplained passion for Disney and making sure that everyone is getting the most that they can out of every visit!


Disney’s Art of Animation Cars themed family suites

Disney’s new Art of Animation Resort has 4 areas each with their own unique theme – Little Mermaid standard rooms and Cars, Finding Nemo and Lion King themed family suites.  As you enter the grounds of Art of Animation and then enter the lobby, you’ll find plenty of animated references to the 4 films.  There is even a Lightning McQueen sketch signed by John Lasseter (the Disney and Pixar animation legend).


The Cars area features 480 themed family suites.  As you exit Animation Hall, you’ll look directly at the Nemo suites area and pool.  Take a right and you will be instantly transported to Carburetor County where some of your favorite Cars characters welcome you to your new home.

Welcome to Radiator Springs, the cutest little town in Carburetor County!

Welcome to Radiator Springs, the cutest little town in Carburetor County!

 The Cars area also has it’s own pool, inspired by Sally’s Cozy Cone Motel from the Cars movies.  The cones are first-come, first-served cabanas that cannot be reserved.  The pool itself is shaped like a wheel well.  There are restrooms/changing facilities in the pool area as well.

Cars area pool

Cars area pool

 The suites at Art of Animation are slightly different than the suites at All-Star Music.  One noticeable difference is the inside hallways to get to your room.  There are SO many details that you won’t want to miss – make sure to check out the light fixtures in the hallways!

Another difference in the Art of Animation suites and the All-Star suites is the set-up of the room.  While the All-Star suites have a master bedroom, a pull out sofa bed and a pull out chair/ottoman, the Art of Animation suites have a master bedroom, a pull out sofa and a table that converts to a bed.  You’ll be sleeping under the stars with Mater in no time!

New Innovabed in a Cars themed suite

New Innovabed in a Cars themed suite

 I LOVE all the little details in these suites.  The kitchenette, nightstands and tv stand/storage look like something you’d find in a mechanic’s garage.  The sofa bed looks like the back seat of a classic car.  Cones are used everywhere.  Both bathrooms (that’s right, 2 bathrooms!) are themed as if you were in a car wash.  Even the coffee table and art on the wall make you feel as if you are staying in Radiator Springs.

Details, details, details in the Cars suites

Details, details, details in the Cars suites

Want to cruise into your spot in Radiator Springs?  I cannot wait to help you plan your MAGICAL vacation to Disney World!  Contact me via email, or call me at 1-800-670-4312, x129.  You can also find me on Facebook!

Old Key West Resort

On my most recent Disney vacation, we stayed at Old Key West Resort. The whimsical beauty of this large resort was amazing. Full of pastel colors and gingerbread accents, the theme makes you feel as though you are nestled right in the Florida Keys!


This was a special trip for my family, as our best friends were traveling with us for their first Disney visit. There were four of us adults, as well as four children ages 4, 3, 2 and 1. Needless to say we were hoping for a smooth stay with all the kids.

As we arrived for check in, all four kids were greeted and were able to pick out their own balloon swords to keep. We had just finished doing a little grocery shopping down the street at a local grocery store, and they were able to keep all of our groceries in their refrigerator until our room was ready. We headed toward the bus stop and headed straight for Magic Kingdom! We received a text a couple of hours later letting us know our room was ready.

That night when we returned we walked down to the Hospitality House area, where most of the main activity centers are. Here is where Olivia’s Café table service and Goods to Go quick service restaurants are located. They are situated facing the water where the ferry dock is located, which can take you straight to Downtown Disney.


We stayed in a two bedroom villa, which gave us plenty of room for all of our kids. We were able to get up and fix breakfast for everyone in the full kitchen  every morning before heading into the parks.




Old Key West has the following types of rooms available:

Deluxe Studio: will sleep up to 4 guests

  • 2 queen-size beds with 2 pillows each
  • TV and DVD player with remote, AM/FM clock radio
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Wet bar sink, small refrigerator, microwave, toaster and 4 cup coffee maker
  • Private porch or balcony

1 Bedroom Villa: will sleep up to 5 guests

  • 1 king-size bed in the master suite
  • 1 master bathroom with whirlpool tub
  • Queen-size sleeper sofa and 1 twin sleep chair in living room
  • TV and DVD player in living room and 19″ TV with remote and AM/FM clock radio in master bedroom
  • Full kitchen
  • Dining room table with chairs and a bar area
  • Laundry area with stacked washer and dryer, vacuum, broom and dustpan, starter box of detergent
  • Private porch or balcony with parsons table and 2 chairs

2 Bedroom Villa: will sleep up to 9 guests

  • 1 king-size bed the master suite
  • 2 queen-size beds in the 2nd bedroom
  • Queen-size sleeper sofa and 1 twin sleep chair in living room
  • TV plus DVD player in living room and 19″ TV with remote and AM/FM clock radio in each bedroom
  • 2 bathrooms (one is a master bathroom with whirlpool tub)
  • Full kitchen
  • Dining room table with chairs and a bar area
  • Laundry area with stacked washer and dryer, vacuum, broom and dustpan, starter box of detergent
  • Private porch or balcony with parsons table and chairs

3 Bedroom Villa: will sleep up to 12 guests

  • 1 king-size bed in the master suite
  • 2 queen-size beds in the 2nd bedroom
  • 2 full-size beds in the 3rd bedroom
  • 1 queen-size sofa bed in the living room
  • TV plus DVD player in living room and 19″ TV with remote and AM/FM clock radio in each bedroom
  • 3 bathrooms (one is a master bathroom with whirlpool tub)
  • Full kitchen
  • Dining room table with chairs and a bar area
  • Laundry area with stacked washer and dryer, vacuum, broom and dustpan, starter box of detergent
  • Private porch or balcony with parsons table and chairs

There is a wide variety of recreation and activities to choose from. Rent a watercraft or bikes for the family, enjoy a game of volleyball, tennis, basketball or bingo, or take a relaxing swim in one of the four heated pools. You can work out in the state of the art exercise room, or unwind in the sauna. Take the kids to the playground or one of the two game rooms. All of these options you can find right on the resort property.

Your options do not stop with recreational activities, there are also a few places to eat on property as well:

Olivia’s Café – table service (dining plan accepted)

Enjoy your meal inside, or outside on the covered terrace with beautiful views of the water! On the menu you will find comforting foods such as omelets or pancakes for breakfast, to pork chops, prime rib or seafood for lunch and dinner and so much more!

Good’s Food to Go – quick service and snacks (dining plan accepted)

Stop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Menu items include bagels, muffins and danishes for breakfast, and soup cheeseburgers and hot dogs for the rest of the day. Refills for your refillable drink mugs are here!

Gurgling Suitcase – dining plan not accepted

This Key West style bar offers mixed drinks, wine, and both domestic and imported beer.

Turtle Shack Snack Bar – quick service and snack (dining plan accepted) open seasonally

This snack bar is located in the Turtle Pond pool area. Menu items include nachos and cheese, personal size pizza and salads. This is another location to refill your dining plan mugs.

For more info about Old Key West or any other Disney property email