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Update on Disney’s Polynesian Resort Pool Refurbishment

by on July 31, 2014

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Disney's Polynesian Resort Pool

©Disney

For those of you who are unaware and will be staying at Disney’s Polynesian Resort over the next few months, the Nanea Volcano Pool and Slide is now closed for an extremely lengthy refurbishment. As I’d previously mentioned, Disney will be offering guests staying the resort access to Blizzard Beach Water Park, while work was being done on the pool area.

When the announcement was first made, guests would only be given a one day pass to Blizzard Beach, however, it now appears that has been amended. Now Polynesian guests can choose to visit the water park on any day and will receive complimentary admission throughout their stay.  In addition, guests will receive a complimentary beach towel and if a Polynesian guest has purchased a resort Rapid Fill refillable mug, they will have access to the beverage stations at the water park. (So make sure you bring your refillable mugs with you!)

Bus transportation will be provided to guests directly between Blizzard Beach and the Polynesian and when guests arrive to the front gates of the water park, Polynesian guests must check-in using their MagicBands or RFID room keys.

When Blizzard Beach closes for its refurbishment in the winter (which right now the water park is slated to be closed from January 4 through March 14, 2015), guests will instead have access to Typhoon Lagoon. Keep in mind that Polynesian guests will not have access to any other resort pool during this refurbishment work.

During the Volcano Pool refurb, work will be done to include a new aquatic playground with slides for children, a new hot tub, and a larger deck with more seating for guests. The pool is expected to reopen sometime in early 2015.

Preparing For the Magic: A Timeline Leading to a Stress-Free Disney World Vacation

by on July 31, 2014 4 Comments

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Hi, I’m Trista. I live far from Disney World, and I’m an Uber Planner when it comes to my Disney vacation. [Hi, Trista.]

Whether you are a planner or not, there are two reasons to use this Disney World vacation planning timeline. The first reason is to make hard-to-get reservations for attractions and dining. While it’s great to be spontaneous, spontaneity is not your friend if you hope to score the Chef’s Table at Victoria & Albert’s, or if you want a short wait time for Toy Story Midway Mania!. These things are difficult to come by at the last minute, even when the parks are at their lowest crowd levels. The second reason to plan ahead is to avoid decision fatigue while you are on vacation. During one day at a theme park, you will be faced with many decisions: which attraction should you head to next? Where should you eat lunch, and when? Is it worth it to stand in line right now for 90 minutes for a meet-n-greet with a favorite character, or is it likely to be better later? For which attractions should you select FastPass+? And many more. I don’t know about you, but I am a person who reaches decision fatigue rather quickly. Once my brain is overloaded, I’ll begin the “blank stare” until I have some down time to recharge (and down time is a commodity that’s difficult to come by on a go-go-go Disney World vacation).

Before you ever step foot on Disney property, you can influence how long you will wait in line for popular attractions and which amazing  dining experiences you can have. Follow this simple timeline to make your magical vacation stress-free.

Step 0 – Pick your dates

Erin Foster has a great article on a step by step method for picking the best dates for your Disney vacation. If you want some help deciding which park to visit on which day, the Crowd Calendar feature of TouringPlans.com is a valuable tool (especially if you are as crowd-averse as I am). I’ve found that even 180 days out, the relative crowd predictions for each park are pretty accurate.

Reserve your Disney resort lodging, reserve your park  tickets (optional)

6 Months+ to 60 days Prior to Your Vacation (DISNEY RESORT GUESTS)

Disney Important Date Magnet

Shortly after I made my Disney resort reservation for my upcoming trip, Disney sent me this handy magnet in the mail.

If you are certain of your vacation dates at least 6 months in advance, I would recommend making your Disney resort reservation this early. The biggest advantage to early booking is the ability to make Advanced Dining Reservations up to 10 days before the general public (especially helpful for those very popular restaurants with hard-to-get reservations). See the Advanced Dining Reservations section below for details.

If you make make a Disney resort reservations six months prior, it is likely that you will be booking without one of Disney’s Special Offers (such as room-rate savings, a free dining plan offer, etc.) because most offers are not announced that far in advance. If your stay becomes eligible for a Special Offer after you have made your initial reservation, it is easy to have your balance adjusted by simply calling the Disney reservation line with your confirmation number and ask for the Special Offer to be applied. Be sure to act quickly – some deals have limited numbers available, such as limited rooms per resort. (I have had to change resorts once because I called just 3 days after the deal became available and all eligible offers at my first choice resort were taken.) Of course, there is no guarantee that a special offer will become available for your stay, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the cancellation/change policy ahead of booking. A historical record of when Special Offers have been released is a good reference for when offers have traditionally become available. Read the rest of this entry »

Hidden Details of Epcot

by on July 31, 2014

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There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, we are focusing on some of the hidden details of Epcot!

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Epcot’s Drawbridge

Did you know that a section of World Showcase is actually a drawbridge? If you have been to Epcot, you have surely walked over it but probably didn’t even know it! The purpose for the drawbridge is so that the barges carrying fireworks and the huge globe for Illuminations can pass from the backstage area onto the lagoon. This usually takes place in the afternoon near the Refreshment Outpost. Warning: If you happen to be in this part of World Showcase when the bridge lifts, you may be stranded for a short time!

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Epcot’s France Pavilion

Epcot’s France Pavilion is absolutely lovely and picturesque, especially at night. However, the hidden detail we uncovered at this pavilion is near the water, next to the silhouette stand just over the bridge. In addition to an old fashioned camera and a case of postcards and photos is a a box of paintings. If you flip through the canvases, you may discover that a few changes have been made to these masterpieces, like this little reference to Mickey!

Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion is one of our favorites in that there are so many corners and streets to explore. Many guests don’t know that a little museum can be found in this pavilion. It’s not clearly marked and the doors are usually closed, but go ahead and pull it open. You’re allowed!

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O’Canada Theater

Inside, you will find exhibits and artifacts native to the Moroccan culture and it’s very interesting! I often use it as a go-to when it rains, as few know about it and it gives me something to do until the weather clears.

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The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Several World Showcase pavilions, such as the Canada Pavilion, show entertaining films to inform guests about their respective country’s landscape and culture. However, few guests know that the O’Canada Theater is tucked at the very back of the pavilion among the rock work and waterfalls. The theater is meant to resemble a mine; and the waiting area inside truly looks like you’re in a shaft. It also offers another view of the waterfalls and streams! This little hideaway is packed full of details and shouldn’t be missed.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends in Epcot’s Future World is one of our favorite pavilions in the whole park and is home to a massive aquarium that can easily entertain young and old alike for hours. When you pass through the queue for the Finding Nemo dark ride at the pavilion entrance, look up to see the boat which Nemo was dared to touch in the film! Also, in the pavilion’s massive aquarium, look for a Disney character shaped out of rocks at the bottom of the tank. I’ve seen a Mickey in the past; but during my last trip, I discovered a Goofy.

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Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion

Epcot’s United Kingdom pavilion is packed full of history and details, but for one you may not have noticed, look up! The chimneys atop the shops in the United Kingdom pavilion are dark with soot.  This is a clever hidden detail used for historical accuracy and to create the illusion that these chimneys are still working.

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Le Cellier Steakhouse

Have you ever been to Epcot in the rain? If you have, think about walking under Spaceship Earth. You didn’t get wet, did you? It would make sense though that rainwater would flow down the grooves and onto the people below, but it doesn’t! This is due to a special system in Spaceship Earth which collects the water so that guests don’t get soaked entering and exiting the park, a truly hidden detail!

One of the most popular restaurants in all of Epcot, and one of my personal favorites, is Canada’s Le Cellier Steakhouse. This delicious restaurant is known for its filet mignon and Cheddar Cheese Soup. What guests probably don’t know is that each section of this restaurant is themed after a Canadian province. Be sure to ask your waiter or waitress about the history of the province in which you are dining, as well as what province they are from. It’s very interesting!

So these are just a few of the many details to be discovered at Epcot. Which of these have you found? Do you have a favorite?

 

Two New Events Added to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on July 31, 2014

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©Disney

©Disney

Today is the day you can begin to book events for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival! With that, Disney has released information on two brand new special events that have been added to the roster– the Epcot Food and Wine Festival – Late Nights LIVE! street party and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Premium Package.

The Epcot Food and Wine Festival Premium Package is available for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort (or at the Swan or Dolphin) from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday from September 22 through November 6. The package will cost $199, plus tax (plus Epcot admission will be required). It will include an in-room gift with wine (for those who are 21 and older); a festival wine glass; truffles; and a special Epcot International Food & Wine Festival MagicBand plus a $50 Disney Gift Card! Read the rest of this entry »

Disney Dining: Disney World’s Best Pricey Meals

by on July 31, 2014 10 Comments

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Copyright - Disney

Copyright – Disney

Sure, Chef Gusteau had it right… anyone can cook. But sometimes, isn’t it nice to let someone else do all the mise en place-ery and take care of the dishes? As much as my husband and I love Disney World for the atmosphere, the attractions, the getting unnecessarily teared up because you met Ariel and she was literally the first movie you remember going to oh noes am I crying DON’T LOOK AT ME, we also love it for the food in a big, big way. Living less than an hour away, we always make a point to plan our trip around where we’re going to eat, and over the years Disney World has provided us with some truly amazing meals. Don’t get me wrong… I love a good burger and fries, and few things are finer than a big plate of buffalo chicken wings. Sometimes, though, you want to try something different. You don’t have to visit during Epcot’s annual Food and Wine festival for some primo nosh, and if you’re willing to spend a little more, Disney dining can be decadent and delicious in ways you might not expect. Read the rest of this entry »

New Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plans

by on July 31, 2014 6 Comments

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Gringotts Wait Time Sign

2½ hours is considered a moderate wait at Gringotts! Be prepared with our new Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

If you are planning to devote a day of your vacation to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll quickly discover that there is more to do at Universal Orlando’s park than can be covered in dozen hours. We’ve had a great response to our recently published Diagon Alley touring plan and one day/two park touring plans, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already. But an even better way to experience everything Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure has to offer is with these new Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans.

The good news for guests just now getting to Gringotts is that the ride is running much more reliably and with greater capacity than only a couple weeks ago; as a result, standby wait times are peaking in the morning at half their former 450-minute high-water, and dropping to 120 or less by late afternoon. There is still a rush to Diagon Alley every morning, resulting in a queue to enter London for early arrivers. But the return time tickets are rarely needed any more, and crowd control barricades around the area have been vanishing by lunchtime.

Note that these new two-day/two-park touring plans have been optimized to account for the recent reduction in operating hours, and should scale well with diminishing crowds as hours are reduced further this fall. As always, we’ll continue refining our plans using the latest data, and subscribers can edit and evaluate them for themselves by personalizing a copy of our premium plans. (Be sure to look for a link to Part 2 at the top of the plan, and make a copy of each part.)
Read the rest of this entry »

Doing Disney World Solo: Having a Me Party

by on July 30, 2014 3 Comments

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Disney Parks are advertised as the quintessential family vacation, but that doesn’t mean that you can only have fun with your family. Whether you’re in Orlando for a business conference, a local looking for a fun afternoon, or just planning a trip all for your “onesy” (as Jack Sparrow would say), the magic of Walt Disney World is easily captured by any intrepid traveler! If Amy Adams and Miss Piggy can have fun with their own “Me Party”, anyone can! Let’s dive in and find some ideas to help you create your own “Me Party” when you are traveling solo at Disney World.

Amy Adams, from The Muppets, shows us that anyone can have fun at a "me party"!

Amy Adams, from The Muppets, shows us that anyone can have fun at a “me party”!

Why Travel Walt Disney World Solo

Believe it or not, there are lots of little perks to being a solo traveler at Walt Disney World. After all, you can create your own agenda. It’s a very liberating feeling walking through the theme parks and only answering to yourself. A quick stop for a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, a last minute dining reservation (ADR) at your favorite restaurant (if you can get it), or maybe you want to re-ride the tea cups at the Mad Tea Party six times in a row. It’s up to you!

Solo Travel Considerations

Safety: Before we jump right into the fun, it’s important to consider the safety of being a solo-traveler. I always stay at a Disney owned resort on property when I travel by myself. That’s not to say that other local hotels aren’t safe, but there is a familiarity with the Disney resorts and the caring nature of the cast members that make it extra comforting. When checking in, I usually tell the cast member that I’m by myself and would prefer a room close to the main building for security reasons. Though there is no guarantee that they can accommodate this request, I’ve never had a problem. I also make sure that I’m aware of my surrounding and stay in well-lit areas. Even though it’s Disney, safety is a top priority. This means, putting away your smart phone, especially when waiting for transportation or in transit between your resort and the park. Not that Disney has many “predators” lurking in the parking lots, when you’re on your own you want to make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings. Read the rest of this entry »

Kids’ International Gateway: Saving Money

by on July 30, 2014 27 Comments

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Hi! My name is Alex, and I am 12 years young.

Me and Mickey

I was less than a year old so I do not remember this at all.

Since the age of zero I have been travelling to Orlando and its surrounding areas like Clermont and Kissimmee from 4,377 miles away in Kent in the United Kingdom, which is about 20 miles south east of London. This summer will be my 38th trip, so obviously I have developed a keen interest in Disney, Universal, and all of Florida. As most 12-year-old girls do, I definitely enjoy shopping, so I’ve conveniently put together a series of tips for young shoppers on how to control how much you are spending and how to avoid being in debt with your parents whilst Disney tries to milk every last penny, cent or Euro you have earned, begged, borrowed or stolen for your trip.

I have personally experienced the hunger resulting from not knowing this first tip.

The price you see is not the price you pay.

 There was a hot dog stand in the petrol station (gas station) outside Publix, an American supermarket like Waitrose in England (and by supermarket I mean grocery store; yes, I’m bilingual!). Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Your Calendar: The List of Unofficial Disney Events

by on July 30, 2014 6 Comments

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Dapper Day

Dapper Day: dress to impress

The Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World celebrate different events throughout the year: Valentines Day, Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s, and much more. These official Disney events only celebrate a particular calendar holiday. What about celebrating something more unique? That is when unofficial Disney events come into play. Throughout the year, there are special unofficial events take place at Disney parks. These events were created by fans, for fans, to show off their Disney side in a different way. Here is a list of the most well known unofficial Disney events and their affect on crowd levels.

Dapper Day

This is a day to go to Disneyland and look your best. Lots of people come to the parks dressed up in stylish fashions from the past to the present. Started in 2011, Dapper Day is quickly becoming one of the most popular unofficial Disneyland days. There are not only events at Disneyland Resort and Disney World but Disneyland Paris as well. I have never been but a lot of my friends have gone and they always tell me that they have a great time.

Dates, Parks, and Crowd Levels: 

Read the rest of this entry »

Planning for Spontaneity: Disney World Counter Service Meals

by on July 30, 2014 12 Comments

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By nature, our family tends to over-plan. On one vacation, we even set aside specific time to ‘be spontaneous – within our own limitations.’ But for some reason, our quick dining – while generally guided – wasn’t set in stone. On our first day in Epcot, we chose Sunshine Seasons, one of the jewels of counter service dining in the parks, according to all the checks we’d made. We began enjoying our Asian-infused lunch until our only adventurous eater started to look a little queasy. The sights and aromas had overcome our (somewhat) melodramatic child. Thankfully, she was only four. And we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey's Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey’s Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

Since then, we have planned all of our meals. For many Walt Disney World vacationers, counter service fills up half – or more- of our theme park dining. Plenty of information exists for table service restaurants: menus, meal reviews, countdown to reservation times, and strategies for landing the elusive meal spot. Comparatively little exists for the compulsive planner when it comes to quick service. While outlining burgers and nachos may seem overly obsessive, building a plan – with a back-up, too – may save time, effort, and enable you to put more enjoyment into your vacation. If nothing else, you might slide a column into your managed spreadsheet for your ‘other’ meal.

Counter service restaurants participate uniquely with the Disney Dining plan. Almost all table service restaurants in Disney World parks are on the meal plan, but only some counter service restaurants are. Some will serve snacks only. The leg conundrum for me seems the strangest. Some places – like the pork shank legs at Min and Bill’s in Hollywood Studios-Covered. Gaston’s Tavern in Magic Kingdom-Not covered. You can use a snack credit there, just not on the shank. Read the rest of this entry »