Archive for May, 2010

WDW Today Episode 724 – Rating the Magic Kingdom Resorts

by on May 24, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 724 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

So you want to take a newbie to Walt Disney World

by on May 21, 2010

Recently I got up one morning and, as I usually do first thing, grabbed a cup of coffee and fired up Facebook. And it dawned on me – at any given time I most likely know at least one person who is currently visiting Walt Disney World. And that is awesome; it makes you feel like you’re there yourself between visits. And then I thought some more and realized most people don’t have this kind of relationship with a resort. Believe it or not, there are people who have never been to Walt Disney World, or will go once and that’s it. You may even know one or two of them. And the question is: what do you do with these people? You could shun them. But maybe they have other redeeming qualities, or they are family and you’re forced to keep them around. You could encourage them to vacation at Walt Disney World and offer to help with the trip planning (maybe even buy them a copy of the Unofficial Guide and send them to Or you could bring them along on one of your many trips a year. This is what I did in March when the stars aligned to allow a good friend of mine to join a couple of princesses for Half Marathon Weekend. He hadn’t been in 30 years. 30 years, people. EPCOT Center (much less Epcot) wasn’t even done then. For all intents and purposes, I had found a Disney virgin and it was time to do something about it.
So maybe you also have a person like this in your life and are thinking of asking them along. First ask yourself, why do I want to invite this person? Good reasons include honestly wanting your friend to have a good time and share in your love of Walt Disney World. Bad reasons include wanting to prove a point to naysayers who mock your many trips and threatening to leave them on it’s a small world until they pay up that $20 they’ve owed you since college. But let’s say you’re in the first camp. How is planning this trip different from a trip with Disney vets? For one thing, a lot of things you take for granted may be a big surprise to your traveling companion.
Sticker shock
WDW is expensive. Sure we all know this, but after a few trips your ideas of what is “reasonable” may have started to change. The idea of paying $12+ for a counter service lunch starts to sound normal. And $30 for a dinner entree? That’s just what stuff costs, right? But before you even get to eat, you need park tickets and a hotel room. Many of us have annual passes, so we don’t even think anymore about that portion of the budget. Here is a reminder – an adult week-long park hopper is going to set you back over $300 right out of the gate. And that doesn’t even include any side trips to the water parks or extras like golf (mini or maxi). As far as hotel rooms go, even I recognize the ridiculousness of paying the same amount or more for a room in the Hawaii longhouse at the Poly as I have for an ocean front room that’s *actually in Hawaii.* Be mindful of everyone’s budget and priorities.
OMG look at all those people
WDW is crowded even when it’s not “crowded.” My trip was during a 4-6 crowd estimate on the ever-helpful crowd calendar. Several of us WDW vets (people who have seen things no one should ever have to see) were talking about how light the crowds were during our trip. My friend was like “are you kidding? this is ‘light crowds?'” People who haven’t developed coping techniques yet may find the throngs of people somewhat unnerving. Go early in the day or late in the afternoon – and use those touring plans and fastpasses to catch the attractions you really want to see. Even the closest of friends are going to run out of things to talk about in the 120 minute queue for Soarin’. If your traveling companion says something about crowds on a fairly light day, do like I did and take him on a stroll through Fantasyland at 1PM. Just for kicks of course. I have a feeling that vision will haunt his dreams for awhile. Yes, dear, that is what we mean by “crowded.”
We’re going to do it all!
No, you’re not. You may be tempted to try to fit every “must do” attraction into your trip for your friend’s sake. Think back. Remember all those families you have seen disintegrating right before your eyes around 6PM in the Magic Kingdom. They thought they could do it all too. Just because you’re a pro doesn’t mean you’re invincible. Allow for down time and don’t be afraid to leave stuff on the table. If you have a good time, there’s always the next trip.Here are some of the things we DIDN’T do in a 6 night trip to the world:

  • Ride Space Mountain, Expedition Everest or Toy Story Mania
  • Eat more than one table service meal
  • See Fantasmic!

Try something new
Say you go to WDW multiple times a year. I bet there’s something you have either never tried or haven’t done in awhile. On this trip, we went to a Braves’ spring training game at ESPN Wide World of Sports and played mini-golf at Winter-Summerland. And it was great. Other things you could try are tea at the Grand Floridian or resort recreation like watercraft or bicycles.
Splurge on something just to show how cool a trip WDW can be
Accommodations were my big splurge this trip (thanks, DVC!). We had a Treehouse Villa at Saratoga Springs and a savanna view villa at Kidani Village. I really wanted to pick resorts with a big WOW factor and the treehouses and Animal Kingdom Villas fit the bill. You could also splurge on a round or two of golf, spa treatments, the Richard Petty Driving Experience, or a meal at Victoria and Albert’s depending on everyone’e interests.
Don’t set expectations too high
Sure, you love the place, but it’s just not everyone’s bag. My friend was an absolute trooper. He let me drag him from him from park to park and sat through very serious discussions between the princesses about Vinylmations and pins we were looking for without rolling his eyes once (that I saw). He heard several conflicting theories on the best place for last minute Illuminations viewing. He learned about the TTC and the TTA, why you need ADRs even if you’re just using the DDE and not the DDP, and the best way to get from SSR to DTD to WWoS, and took it all in stride. In short, he was a dream to travel with. You may not be so lucky. Have back up plans in place if it looks like your traveling companion isn’t having a good time, and (take a breath here) be prepared to leave to Disney bubble if need be. Some people can’t take the Magic 24/7. Just be ready.
Have you taken a newbie lately or do you plan to in the future? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The First Ultimate Animal Kingdom Touring Plan Experience

by on May 21, 2010

I’m not quite sure what I thought I was getting into as we agreed to do the Ultimate Animal Kingdom Touring Plan for the first time. I was pretty positive it wasn’t going to be that bad, whether you love or hate Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park you can agree that it doesn’t have as many attractions as say, Magic Kingdom.  But what I wasn’t prepared for is just how an Ultimate Touring Plan can change your view of the park.

Who’s we? Simply a group of fabulous people who, after a late night out at Disney, agreed to get up at the crack of dawn and run through Disney’s largest theme park. I think we were all there for different reasons. Henry was our ultimate touring enthusiast. Fred wanted to confirm that one could see everything in Animal Kingdom before the parade. Ed just wanted to do an ultimate touring plan with Henry so bad he couldn’t see straight. I wanted to prove I could do it in flip-flops. And our beloved Kim wanted to spend the morning with us with the thought she would be leaving around 11am. For the record, she stayed.

As a “newbie” to this whole experience, I went in thinking I knew how to tour the park. I was wrong about knowing what to do and thankfully we had Henry as our guide. In fact, I dare say the ultimate touring plans differ a bit from what you may find in your regular “Dumbo or Die” experience.

I also will quickly state to those thinking of trying out an ultimate touring plan, this is serious business. At one point I heard Henry state we had five minutes to eat lunch. I smiled at his “joke”. But five minutes and ten seconds later I was running to Kali River Rapids throwing grapes in my mouth faster than you can say “You’re gonna get wet!”

As we entered the park, our first task was to catch the opening show. I’ll let you in on a secret; we missed a little bit of it. If you are attempting an ultimate touring plan you should be there a good bit before park opening to not only catch the opening show but also be towards the front of the mass of people getting ready to go on the safari. This holds true even more so, I would imagine, for the ultimate Magic Kingdom plan.

As soon as they allowed, we were racing towards the Safari. And the racing didn’t really stop for almost 7 hours. Except, of course, for the ten minutes when Dinosaur ate Ed’s sunglasses and we had to wait for a cast member to find them.

What have I learned from an ultimate touring plan? That I really have not seen all there was to Animal Kingdom until that day. It sounds crazy, but there have been many times that Ed and I have left the park stating that we had done all there was to do. I was wrong. Very wrong. Okay, so the touring plan required grown adults to go down the slide in the Boneyard and would I do that on my average trip? Probably not. But did you know how many performances go on during the day at Animal Kingdom? I didn’t. And with the touring plan we saw them all. As much as you are racing and running and eating french fries on the go during the ultimate touring plan, as funny as it sounds, it also helps you stop and smell the roses. It helps to appreciate (albeit for only five minutes) the little things you may miss on your “average” day touring.  I can’t even begin to imagine all that I have not seen at Magic Kingdom and we are DVC Members who come five times a year!

So the advice from a newbie to a newbie? Try one of these plans. But you are going to have to take it seriously. Have an idea of what route you are going to take through the park and some variances in case something you didn’t expect happens. Wear comfortable shoes and pack a bag with water and snacks. Yes, I survived in my flip-flops, despite Henry’s dismay, but I’ll state here I would never wear them for the Ultimate Magic Kingdom Plan. Use your time during shows or standing in line to refresh, drink and have a snack. It helps, believe me. I snuck some major goldfish during Finding Nemo: The Musical despite the no food warning! And finally, take it seriously but also have fun! During the day we played games in Dinoland and dug through the gravel in the Boneyard.

I saw performances, took a picture with Goofy and danced to the Village Beatniks during the Animal Kingdom Touring Plan. And these were some of my favorite parts of the day! I also wanted to mention that I am really glad I had a chance to do the Animal Kingdom Ultimate Touring Plan before the Magic Kingdom. It has gotten me into the mindset of just how exhausting the Magic Kingdom one would be and has left me more prepared for when Ed and I take it on. Because we will take it on!

So here are the official stats, and to confirm Fred’s thoughts, everything in Disney’s Animal Kingdom can be done before the parade! Listed by Attraction, In, On, and Out.

Opening Show 8:45
Oasis 8:55
Kilimanjaro Safari 8:57, 9:01, 9:20
Triceratops Spin 9:30, 9:31, 9:33
Primeval Whirl 9:33, 9:47, 9:51
Dinosaur 9:55, 10:03, 10:08
Dinoland Game, 10:20, 10:24
Nemo Musical 10:30, 11:09
Tropicals 11:09, 11:14
Boneyard 11:16, 11:18
Dig Site 11:18, 11:20
It’s Tough to be a Bug 11:22, 11:33, 11:42
Camp Minnie-Mickey Character Trail 11:49, 11:56
Festival of the Lion King 11:58, 12:00, 12:32
Expedition Everest (FP) 12:41, 12:48, 12:52
Flights of Wonder 12:53, 1:27
Village Beatnicks 1:48, 1:53
Kali River Rapids 1:55,2:01, 2:04
Maharaja Jungle Trek 2:13, 2:16
DiVine 2:19, 2:24
Cam Cam Congo 2:26,2:28, 2:40
Wildlife Express Train 2:42, 2:45, 2:47
Audio Show 2:52,2:55
Affection Section 2:55, 2:57
Habitat Habit 2:57, 3:01
Wildlife Express Train 3:02, 3:03, 3:07
Pangani Exploration Trail 3:11, 3:18
Tree of Life 3:25
Oasis 3:28

So are you a newbie anxious to try an ultimate touring plan? Would you try Animal Kingdom before Magic Kingdom? Leave some comments here and let us know!

WDW Today Episode 723 – Ways to beat the summer dining surcharge

by on May 21, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 720 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

Three Meetups In WDW This Week!

by on May 20, 2010

First and foremost I’d like to thank all of you for the warm welcome to the wonderful team! The Disney online community is growing in leaps and bounds and TouringPlans wants to be right there with it! We are looking to interact more with all of you on a daily basis in fun new ways and launch some exciting new social media projects that all of you can be a part of!

With that being said, I will be traveling down to Disney World next week and will be hosting a few fantastic TouringPlans meets that will be extra special!  Those that come to them will personally be involved in launching our new social media idea–but you will have to be there to find out what it is! Here is the schedule:

Monday May 24th, 2010

Our kick off meet of the week! Have you ever tried a Sleepy Hollow ice cream cookie sandwich in the Magic Kingdom? Well, you will now! Meet at 8:30pm in front of the shop (in Liberty Square) for a treat! It is also a fantastic secret viewing spot for Spectromagic! The ice cream cookie goodness will be our treat! So please stop by, say “Hi!” and enjoy!

Tuesday May 25th, 2010

A meet to watch Block Party Bash in Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Meet at 3:00pm in front of Keystone Clothiers for the fun.

Wednesday May 26th, 2010

For the final meet I couldn’t think of anything better than a trip to Club Cool to try the Beverly! Meet at 2:00pm in front of Club Cool in Epcot if you dare!

Keep up to date with our meets by joining and subscribing to our Plancast!

So why come to the meets? Well, simple! Because they are fun! We know many of you chat with each other often via avenues such as Twitter and Lines chat and now we are hosting the opportunity to stop by and say “Hello” in person! We all share the common love (obsession) of Disney and meets like this are a great way to meet and talk to friends that you will continue to talk to for some time! Drop in for five minutes or stay for as long as you like, it doesn’t matter!

But here is the best part: by just showing up, two people from each meet will win (at random) a premium subscription to Touring Plans! (If you currently have one, your subscription will be extended one year on us.)

A premium subscription gets you access to the mobile wait times application Lines! And we know you Lines users are fanatics about your badges and have been demanding more, so listen up! Coming to each meet will unlock a secret badge that you can only get by being there!

We are really excited about our new social media ventures so please stop by! I would love to meet each and every one of you!

See you next week!

Photo by Express Monorail

BETAMOUSE #16 – Starting Your Disney Blog

by on May 20, 2010

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

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

Crowd Calendar 2.0 Has Arrived

by on May 19, 2010

The wait is over! We previewed the new Crowd Calendar and now it is here!

Remember, Crowd Calendar 2.0…

  • incorporates wait times at all Walt Disney World Attractions
  • presents the crowd level in a different way
  • is a guide to help you pick the best time to go and the best parks to visit on each day

Use it to plan the best trip for your family.

Comments, questions? Read the Crowd Calendar FAQ or contact us.

Happy planning!

WDW Today Episode 722 – Listener Questions

by on May 19, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 722 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

Memorial Day 2010 Sunday vs Monday

by on May 18, 2010

The Crowd Calendar has been predicting that the crowds around Memorial Day Weekend will be at a level ‘8’ with the exception of the holiday Monday itself listed as a level ‘5’. We have been responding to several questions and comments about those predictions, so we figured, why not answer it on the blog?

We recieved a comment from a reader who was in Walt Disney World last year during Memorial Day Weekend. Perhaps this may shed some light on why the Sunday is likely to have higher crowds than the Monday.

I was in WDW last year Friday-Monday over Memorial Day weekend and it was great – crowds didn’t seem bad at all. Out of the entire weekend, we found Sunday to be the MOST crowded, and Monday (morning) at the MK to be nearly empty. This could have been due to the fact that MK had EM nighttime hours on Sunday night though. Have fun!

Mondays are typically a good day for crowds at the Magic Kingdom. Sunday’s Extra Magic Hour can give resort guests their fill.

Let us know your experience with touring during Memorial Day Weekend past and present.

The Belle Vue Lounge

by on May 18, 2010

One my favorite resort bars to hit after a day in the parks is the Belle Vue Lounge at the BoardWalk Inn.  Maybe I love it because my friends and I can stroll over to this watering hole after IllumiNations or because the BoardWalk is my favorite resort at the moment, but I find myself here on a regular basis ever since our stay at the BoardWalk.  If you are staying at this resort, be sure to keep the Belle Vue on your radar for a post park place to relax.  The bar is tucked away just off the main lobby on the main level of the resort.  Guests who are not staying at the BoardWalk may have a little issue finding it, but a cast member would be happy to point you in the right direction.

The decor here reminds me of the porch at a big, old beach house so it feels like home to me.  It’s cozy, inviting, and even has board games to play while you sip your cocktails (Candyland is not as cool when you are 27 as it was when it was when you’re 5).  There are also tons of Atlantic City and beach themed photos and nick nacks displayed to check out which are a ton of fun for those of us who frequent the Jersey Shore.  The sofas and chairs are wicker, fitting right into the atmosphere.  There is both indoor and outdoor seating with both sofas, game tables, and larger tables for groups.  The outdoor seating is located on a porch over looking the resort’s center courtyard and from the right angle guests can look out over the lake.  This is the sort of establishment where guests can settle in for a while in the comfy furniture, so make yourself at home.

As an added bonus, this location was offering a light breakfast menu in the morning during my stay in December.  Can anyone confirm if they are still doing this?  Additionally, guests can also refill their famous resort mugs at the bar throughout the day without having to go all the way down to the bakery.

I really like the Belle Vue Lounge for a place to linger and enjoy good company over a few drinks as I would at my shore house.   Every time I have gone to the Belle Vue I have chatted with other guests from all over the country.  It’s always fun to meet other Disney lovers and share a drink with them.  It must be something about the cozy setting that makes people open up.  I also like this spot after a night partying at the Atlantic Dance Hall or Jellyrolls as a way to unwind after more rowdy fun at one of the neighboring venues.  Maybe I just love everything about the BoardWalk Inn, but this is one of my favorite resort lounges on WDW property, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Next week I’m going to stick with the Boardwalk and boogie on over to the Atlantic Dance Hall…