Planning for Disney made simple & free

Parade at Magic Kingdom
Parade at Magic Kingdom MCT

Kari Bonnes, 39 of Lake Norman, opened her Marvelous Mouse Travel agency in the Summer of 2014. Marvelous Mouse Travel is a full service travel agency that specializes in Disney destinations. They are comprised of 40 agents that reside throughout the country but several are located within the Lake Norman area. Keep reading to see how you can help support a local business on your next trip to Disney!

Q. How did you get the idea for Marvelous Mouse Travels?

A. As a family we have always loved to visit Walt Disney World. I traveled there as a young adolescent with my family, went again with friends in college, honeymooned there, and have been there yearly with my own children from birth.

Friends and family always knew me as the Disney guru and would come to me for help in planning their own vacations and refer me to their friends. I was given an opportunity to join another agency back in 2012 and jumped on it. After 2 years with that agency I decided to open my own and the rest is history!

Q. What all do you do?

A. We provide a service for families looking to travel to a Disney destination at no cost to the traveler. We are paid directly from Disney, and our prices are the same as if you were to book through Disney direct. We often hear that we are cheaper than what someone was able to quote through Disney, but this is not the case - we just know how to configure our guests into the least expensive option.

We work with clients to help them find a resort and package that fit their budget and personal wants and needs. Once booked, we continue to look for promotions to apply to packages to keep the costs to a minimum. Best of all, our services do not end there!

We help clients secure highly sought after dining reservations, provide support with booking their fastpasses, help to develop an itinerary that takes into account park hours and crowd predictions, and provide numerous tips and tricks to clients to avoid waiting in lines and ensure our clients have a magical vacation. WE do the work, YOU have the fun!

And although we have coined ourselves as “Marvelous Magic Makers,” but we are also a full service travel agency that can book you anywhere in the world!

Q. What are some of the Disney destinations?

A. Many people don’t realize this, but Disney has destinations all around the world! The theme parks that we work with are Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. Disney Cruise Line is consistently rated as the top cruise line for families and has a fleet of 4 ships that sail to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, and abroad. Aulani, is Disney's spectacular resort located in Hawaii. Adventures by Disney has itineraries throughout the world which are designed to immerse families in the culture of the destinations in a way that only Disney can do.

Q. Why is it important to go through a travel agency for the destinations?

A. Disney is a complex destination to plan. There is so much that goes into planning a Disney trip. The recent implementation of new Disney technology called “My Magic +” has made it more important than ever to use an agent. We are committed to finding clients the best price and we know all the ins-and-outs of the parks and destinations.

When it comes to a Disney vacation, planning in advance is so important. Knowing when to go, where to stay, how to avoid waiting in lines is the type of information that you will receive when working with an agent. When you call Disney directly to book the service stops there, but we are with you from the booking process until you get home, working to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch!

Q. When is the best time to go to Disney?

A. That depends on what you would consider "best". The crowds are at their lowest point of the year in September, which also means the deepest discounts are available. October is my personal favorite time of the year to visit to enjoy “Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party”. Early November until about a week before the Christmas holiday is a great time of year to go and enjoy low crowds and the holiday festivities, which are magical!

As a teacher I typically travel in June. Although it is hot in Florida and crowd levels are a bit higher in the summer, with the right plan in place Disney is magical anytime of year!

Q. How far in advance should one start planning?

A. Restaurants begin accepting dining reservations 180 days in advance, and believe it or not, some restaurants book up at that 180 day mark! The earlier that you plan the better. It is a $200 deposit to secure a Disney package and the balance is not due until 45 days prior to arrival. We are currently booking through 2015 dates. Dates and pricing for 2016 are expected to be released in July.

Q. What is the average cost of the vacations?

A. A Disney vacation can range in price from under $1000 to several thousands of dollars. Disney resorts range from “value” to “deluxe,” and they have the appropriate price tag to go along with them. If you are looking to travel on a budget, a value resort is the way to go! If you are looking to splurge, there are definitely ways to do that throughout the planning of your vacation. I often hear people surprised by the cost being more affordable then they expected.

Q. What are must-see attractions?

A. This is a tough one- I have so many!

At the Magic Kingdom, Philarmagic is a definite favorite, as is Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. While I love the thrill rides, I have so many great memories of times with my kids that I look back on from these attractions. The parades and fireworks are spectacular as well.

At Hollywood Studios, Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania are my absolute favorites. The theming of both of these attractions is amazing! Animation Academy is another great attraction and a great place to escape the heat on a hot summer day.

At Epcot, Soarin is my absolute favorite attraction, however, I can spend my whole day walking around World Showcase enjoying all the countries. Illuminations is the nightly fireworks display and is not to be missed. There are frequently concert series at Epcot in the American Pavillion which are a lot of fun too.

Lastly, in Animal Kingdom the Festival of the Lion King is a Broadway caliber show that in my opinion is worth the price of admission alone. Expedition Everest is my favorite roller coaster and Its Tough To Be A Bug is a great immersive "4D" experience.

Q. How many times have you been to Disney?

A. Too many to count! If I had to guess I would say 30-40 times and we go for 2 weeks at a time.

Q. What has been your favorite part of visiting Disney?

A. For me, my favorite part is the many memories that I have made with my children. Throughout the year we reminisce about our previous vacations and count the days until we go back.

I know, without fail, that the night before we leave to come home my son will sob (literally) at the thought of leaving because it has been "the best week of his life.” That to me makes it all worthwhile. We have made memories that will last a lifetime and that is something that money cannot buy.

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Michelle Lloyd Eastridge is a freelance journalist, PR/social media junkie, and mommy blogger who specializes in eco-friendly living, family life, and local mompreneurs. She loves exploring her hometown of Charlotte with her husband and kids.