Archive for May, 2010

WDW Today Touringplans Crowd Calender 2.0

by on May 31, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 727 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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To Plan Or Not To Plan? A U.K. Perspective

by on May 31, 2010

Longer stays allow for more relaxed touring of MK

Travelling to Walt Disney World from the United Kingdom requires a mammoth 8-9 hour flight, which means many, including myself, chose to spend at least 14 nights in Orlando to make the long trip worth it.

The question is should visitors, both international and domestic, follow a touring plan when on such a long trip or is it better to take a more relaxed approach to visiting the many attractions at WDW?

The first thing to consider would be what you want to get out of your vacation. Are you totally focused on Walt Disney World or do you want to visit some of the other attractions in the area such as Universal Orlando, Sea World and Busch Gardens?

Many guests coming from international destinations like to get the most out of their vacation, which means they chose to visit all of the eight major theme parks listed. Eight parks in 14 days is no easy feat, meaning it’s probably best to follow a touring plan, ensuring your time efficient on your trip.

What about if you want to focus on just visiting Walt Disney World in that time? Is it really necessary to follow a strict plan when you have so much time at your disposal?

Following a plan gives you more time to relax around the pool or at the hotel

Even when visitors to WDW give themselves upward of 14 days to make their way around the parks it’s still best to follow a touring plan.

Touring plans aren’t just good for fitting a lot into a small space of time, they also ensure that guests wait in line for as small amount of time as possible. It may seem more relaxing to spend your extra days not following a plan, but it means you may spend a lot of that time in line rather than enjoying yourself.

When I go to Walt Disney World I’m usually with people 18 and over, which means the adult 1-day touring plans for each of the four parks are ideal, or if we don’t want to see everything we’ll use the selective touring plans, which focus on the best attractions in the park and leave out the slightly less popular attractions.

My group may follow these plans for our first visits to each of the four parks then if we want to go back we’ll at least stick loosely to the plan in order to ensure that we avoid the long lines and big crowds.

The two-day touring plans for small children and the ‘happy family’ two-day touring plan for the Magic Kingdom are ideal for those on extended trips where you don’t want to be running from one attraction to another but still want to avoid long lines. The same can be said for the ‘not a touring plan touring plans’ at the other three parks.

Following a plan on a trip also offers other advantages. If you’ve covered all four parks with a plan then want to go back again you know what attractions are quiet at what times and when to go in order to avoid big lines.

Following a plan on my long vacations has allowed me to see so many other attractions in the Central Florida area I never would have done if I hadn’t had covered the parks so efficiently. It also allowed me to use my extra time relaxing by the pool or back at the hotel rather than stuck in lines.

Regardless of how long your vacation is it’s still beneficial to follow a touring plan for your visits to the parks and I know it’s something I’ll be doing on all of my upcoming trips.

Michael Owen is a blogger and UK resident who blogs regularly over at Theme Park Daily!

(photo #1 by Chris Harrison, photo #2 by Brissea)

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Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel Name Change: “Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel”

by on May 29, 2010

Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel will change its name to Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel on June 1.  We’ve updated the Carrousel’s review, touring plans and cheat sheets to reflect this name change.  No word from Disney on whether the theme or structure of the carousel will be affected.  We think the name change is in response to all of the new princess- and fairy-themed attractions going in to Fantasyland; there’s not a whole lot in that land specifically targeted to boys.

Today’s changes to the website also include minor updates to all park cheat sheets to reflect our new crowd calendar scale.  The new calendar is a hit with our readers – give it a look if you’ve not yet done so.

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Cancelled – TouringPlans Memorial Day Weekend Meet!

by on May 28, 2010

Update – Len’s weekend meets have been canceled.  Thunderstorms in Greensboro and Atlanta caused his flights to be delayed and ultimately canceled (at 11 pm!).  Atlanta was out of rental cars, which made driving to Orlando – the other option – impossible.  The earliest Len could have got there was 5 pm Saturday.  We’ll reschedule this for sometime later this summer…promise!

This week the TouringPlans team had a series of meets to launch a fun new social media project. The turnout was a complete success! I’d personally like to thank every one of you that came by to say “Hi”! Stay tuned next week for the launch of a new TouringPlans project and prizes drawn from the meets! But most importantly, our team wants to keep meeting you Disney fans! And we are going to do that this weekend!

Mr. Len Testa will be in the parks this Memorial Day weekend and is going to be hosting a meet of his own. Hear stories and enjoy some World Showcase snacks at 3:00pm in the Japan Pavilion at Epcot on Sunday May 30th!

Len will also be in the Magic Kingdom giving away some special prizes if you can find him all day on Saturday May 29th. Follow the TouringPlans Twitter and keep your eye out for Len in the park! Any prizes not given away he will hand out at Sunday’s meet!

The TouringPlans Team is very excited to be hosting meets and meeting more of you! Please join and subscribe to our Plancast for details regarding this weekend and details about all of our upcoming meets! See you in the parks!

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WDW Today Episode 726 – Traveling Solo To A Online-Group Event

by on May 27, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 726 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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BETAMOUSE #17 – Living Character Initiative

by on May 27, 2010

betamouse logoA new episode of Betamouse is out, co-hosted by TouringPlans.com developer Henry Work.

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

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WDW Today Episode 725 – Listener Questions

by on May 25, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 725 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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A Local Perspective

by on May 25, 2010

Since TouringPlans.com is a site with a basis in numbers, I thought I’d throw some basic ones at you to get the ball rolling:

  • There are more than 6.5 billion people living in the world today.
  • Approximately 50 million of those people visit Walt Disney World each year (0.77%).
  • There are 18.5 million people living in the state of Florida.
  • Using 0.77% as a basis, at least 143 thousand of those visit WDW each year (likely more due to proximity).
  • Approximately 900 thousand of those live in the Central Florida area.
  • Again, using 0.77% as a basis, at least 7 thousand of those visit WDW each year (likely much more).

And I am one of those few.  Those of you that follow me online (tperlmutter on both Twitter and Facebook) know that I head to WDW at about once a week, sometimes more though I occasionally miss a week.  This is not as frequently as some locals, but it’s what fits with my schedule.  Believe me, if I could go more, I would.

There are locals that go maybe a half dozen days all year long.  For them going to the park, works the same as anyone else who’s coming down for a family vacation from out of state.  And they fall into the same three groups: the planners (yay!), the ones that don’t know what they missed, and the ones who know exactly what they missed (aka “the miserable”).  The planners use the same resources as a non-Local: tour books such as The Unofficial Guide or websites like TouringPlans.com. I actually have one co-worker who will sit me down and plan her park days for her.

When I lived up North and was coming down three to five times a year, I was a complete commando.  Rope drop to lights out every day with the sore feet, aching back, and sleep deprivation to prove it.  Park map and pen in one hand, tour guides in the other.  I wouldn’t be satisfied on any trip until most, if not all, of the rides in a park were checked off on that map before I left. Every minute not spent in a park was, to me, a wasted minute. (does this all sound familiar?)  Today, I’m fairly certain that if I tried to do that on a weekly basis that I’d slowly go insane.

But when I first moved down, and my schedule was more flexible because I was working from home, I tried to do this three or four times a week.  I literally wanted to be in each park once a week.  Within a few short months I did get burnt out a bit. Going this often, trying to do all the rides each week, it was crazy.  Inside of 3 months I’d been to WDW many more times than I’d been in my entire life prior.  Looking back I realize now that this was the wrong approach.  It was overload.

My wife (cherylp3) and I decided to take a break and rethink our approach.  And the new approach came down to one simple thing: moderation.

That’s really what works for us.  We pick a park, maybe two if we’re going to get an early enough start.  We may book a dinner, or we’ll just go with a counter service.  We’ll pick just a few rides here and there, sometimes based on weather or crowds (Crowd Calendar).  We might “call an audible” depending on how things look when we get there and change our plans on the fly.  There are some days when we’ll got to a park like Epcot and just walk around, never even riding a ride.  Just enjoying the scenery, the people, and the atmosphere.

Planning? Generally the most important things for our weekly visit come down to two things: crowds, and parking.  Crowd levels found on the Crowd Calendar are often the best way to go, and these days I do this using Lines (my addiction!).  Whereas crowds dictate where you’re going, parking can very often be about where you’re going to end up.  For example, if you know you’re going to start your day in Epcot, but finish up in Magic Kingdom (yes, we do hop) then parking at the TTC rather than Epcot is, to me, the better choice.

You’re also probably wondering if we ever stay overnight at WDW?  You bet. For starters, we’re still Disney Vacation Club members, and just two weeks ago we stayed in Bay Lake Towers for our Anniversary Weekend.  And had a fabulous time, despite the quirkiness of the BLT Studio rooms.  This past weekend with it being the first Star Wars Weekend, and the StudiosCentral events as well as Lou Mongello’s 24-hour livecasting event, we decided to stay over, spending one night at the nearby Sheraton Safari (worlds largest pyton waterslide!!!) and one night at the Boardwalk Villas.

These “staycations” are a lot of fun for us.  All of our vacations prior to moving to Central Florida were to Florida to see family and WDW anyway.  So just taking short trips down the road serve the same purpose well for us.  Disney is a very self contained place, once you get in there, it really doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, or how you got there.  All guests are treated the same by castmembers.  That specialness is applied equally to all.  It’s easy when you’re there to forget that you live just down the road.

But you’re probably wondering what keeps drawing me back?  For starters, I just simply love being there.  The sights, the sounds, that unmistakable feeling that I get every time I arrive in the parks, that music that makes me bounce and dance during IllumiNations or SpectroMagic.  There’s the fact that once you have an Annual Pass being able to go to the parks becomes just a matter of getting there.  And very often it’s you.  My wife and I are constantly making plans to meet up with others in the parks.  Talking to you online is a lot of fun, but taking those online friendships and translating them into real world ties, seeing you at a meetup, talking with you in person.  It strengthens the bond of our Disney addiction, there’s a tremendous about of value in that for me.

Enough about me though, what about you?  What keeps bringing you back?  How do you Plan your trips? I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say, and to maybe meet you in person one day if I haven’t already.

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Atlantic Dance Hall

by on May 25, 2010

On my last trip a group of friends decided to head over to the Boardwalk after Epcot closed for the evening since it is just a leisurely stroll away from the International Gateway.  But where to go?  We thought of going to Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar which I’ve heard is a ton of fun, but rethought the idea when we realized there is a cover charge.    Just next door is Atlantic Dance Hall which does not charge a fee just to walk in the door.  We figured we’d try that out first and if it wasn’t any fun we’d pay the cover and go to Jellyrolls.  Well, we wound up staying for a while

Guests can’t miss this night time spot with the huge lit letters displaying “Dance Hall” which can

be seen anywhere in the Epcot resort area.  Inside, there is an art deco design featuring a large dance floor and a ceiling lit with twinkling stars.  Another feature is the large projection screen which plays the music videos along with whatever song the DJ spins.   The club is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 p.m to 2 a.m. o with a DJ who takes requests from the crowd, so don’t be shy and ask for your favorite song.  If you need a breather from the fun on the dance floor, wander outside to one of the balconies over looking the water.

It was a bit quiet when we first arrived since it was around 9:30 by the time we wandered over after the finale to Illuminations.  We found a few tables together without a problem since there weren’t a lot of people around.  The crowd also varied from people in the 20s and 30s looking for a place to grab a drink to older folks cutting a rug on the dance floor.  In addition to the random patrons they seemed to play an odd array of music, but that must have been because of the requests made by the other guests.  Drinks are typical Disney World prices and are served from a few bars around the perimeter of the dance floor.

I had a good time at Atlantic Dance Hall, but I give more credit to my friends than the actual venue.  Like I said, there was a strange mix of music and people which didn’t leave me dying to return.  Some of us were more open to the idea of dancing the night away than others, but I think the high light of the evening was getting most of the boys out on the floor for the YMCA.  As I have very little shame, I was right out there with them and had a blast dancing and laughing.  I’m sure I will head back to the Atlantic Dance Hall at some point with my friends, but I think we’ll try some of the other venues first.

Do you frequent the Atlantic Dance Hall?  Let me know what you think about it!

Next week I’ll talk about an issue I’m facing planning my next trip to WDW…

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Convenience + Quality: Food for “Ultimate Touring” Days

by on May 24, 2010

Anadapur Local Cafe Menu

I’ve been there. You have two days to hit all four parks, and you want to ride everything. You know it’s possible, but you also know you’ll have to resign yourself to popcorn and Mickey bars for 48 hours.

Not true, my friends! It is possible to snag some good, healthy(ish) theme park food on-the-go!

Here are some of my favorite spots to grab some delicious, FAST food that will keep you going strong throughout your park touring. And the best news is — most of this stuff is easy to eat while you’re walking, so you don’t even have to jockey for a table! Just order, pay, and head to the next ride — eat on the way!

Pork Egg Rolls in Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
Yum! One of my favorite suggestions! Over in Anadapur Village in the park’s Asia section, you’ll find a great little counter-service restaurant right between Yak and Yeti Restaurant and Kali River Rapids.

Anadapur Local Cafe serves a rockin’ pork egg roll that’s out of this world. Best part? It’s finger food, so you can grab and go!

Starring Rolls Turkey Sandwich

Gourmet Sandwiches, Muffins, Fruit, and Trail Mix in Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
There’s a plethora of grab-and-go deliciousness in the studios, and you won’t have to sit down once!

Head over to Starring Rolls Cafe for a sandwich (including a great veggie option!) or a pastry, and if you get hungry again, hit Anaheim Produce on Sunset Boulevard for trail mix or apple slices with caramel dipping sauce. I promise you won’t hit a mid-day slump with these choices!

Bratwurst and Dessert in Epcot:
There’s really no excuse whatsoever for eating poorly in Epcot; it’s bursting with delicious and easy options for substantial grab-and-go food! I like to swing by Sommerfest in Epcot’s Germany pavilion for a Brat, then stop by Tangierine Cafe in Morocco for some delectable baklava.

Bratwurst from Sommerfest in Epcot

Now, if baklava isn’t your thing, keep walking a few paces and grab a crepe in France! All are easy-to-eat options that won’t weigh you down on your touring adventure.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup or Hot Dogs at the Magic Kingdom:
Shocked that you could find such a wholesome option in a theme park? Don’t be!

Disney’s been working hard to make delicious, healthy options easier for you, so take advantage! At the Magic Kingdom’s Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square, you can get a nice-sized portion of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup — and the soup container is pretty portable, so it will be easy to eat while you’re waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion!

Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom

Of course, if soup isn’t enough to quell your hunger, head over to Casey’s Corner before the parade and get yourself a hot dog (hey, you’ve been healthy all day!).

One of my favorite traditions (with touring plan synergy!) is to get a hot dog and dine while saving my parade viewing spot on the curb. It’s a great opportunity to do a little people-watching and rest my feet while I’m still (technically) being productive!

What are your suggestions?
I’m looking forward to your favorite tips and tricks for eating on-the-go while you’re touring the parks in Disney World! Do us all a favor and share your ideas in the comments below — you never know when you can help a fellow Disney fan by giving a quick tip!

AJ Wolfe writes about Disney food, restaurants, news, info, and planning over at The Disney Food Blog!

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