Archive for July, 2010

Individual Park Crowd Levels — Now Available!

by on July 23, 2010

“Should I go to Magic Kingdom when it’s a Best Park and the Crowd Level is a ’7′? Or should I go when it’s a Park to Avoid and the Crowd Level is a ’2′?”

We’ve received this question many times, and we’ve always wanted to answer it better.  So we’re happy to debut a new feature: Per-Park Crowd Levels are now a part of the Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar!

These individual park crowd levels are based on wait times and are measured on a relative scale from 1 to 10. If the Magic Kingdom Crowd Level is a ’1′ — it’s one of the lightest days of the year for the Magic Kingdom (and when it’s a 10, it’s one of busiest for the Magic Kingdom).

A given park level is only directly related to other park levels for the same park. If Magic Kingdom is a ’4′ and Epcot is a ’6′, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Magic Kingdom is less crowded than Epcot (a ’4′ day at the Magic Kingdom may have longer waits than a ’6′ day at Epcot). However, if Epcot is a ’4′ one day and a ’6′ the next day, we’re predicting that Epcot will be less crowded on the first day, and more crowded on the second.

How does it affect my trip planning?

Say you’re on a 5-day trip, and want to schedule your touring around the single best day to hit the Fantasyland dark rides. Or the most relaxing day to enjoy Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris. Or you want to hit Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the day you can most likely get a FASTPASS for Toy Story Mania after 10am! These Park Crowd Levels should help you do just that.

How do these numbers relate to the Best Park Recommendations?

As the calendar shows, we don’t simply choose the day with the lowest park crowd level to be the Best Park for a given day. Further, we don’t choose the absolute least crowded park for each day (if we did, the Animal Kingdom would be the Best Park every day of the year). Our Park Recommendations are based on a formula that includes Extra Magic Hours, special events & holidays, as well as guaranteeing that each park is a “Best Park” at least one day out of every seven days. To read more about how we calculate the Best Parks and Parks To Avoid, read the Park Recommendations breakdown.

Go check them out!

The Park Crowd Levels can be found here and are available exclusively for premium subscribers. Any questions, comments? Leave us a comment or email us!

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Foto Face-off Friday – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad v. Expedition Everest

by on July 23, 2010

As you count down the hours until your weekend begins, here is a visual treat! In this week’s edition of Foto Face-off Friday, the weekly blog that features photographs from our TouringPlans Flickr Group that are an extension of the Disney Debates we’ve been holding on our Twitter Account, @TouringPlans, we will attempt to resolve one of Walt Disney World’s “biggest controversies,” Big Thunder Mountain Railroad v. Expedition Everest. Since pictures speak louder than words we’ve decided to seek definitive resolution photographically for this especially hotly contested Disney Debate!

I think this week was a tough one for a lot of people, although the Tweets didn’t really bear that out. Here are some select responses we received to the Disney Debate on Twitter:

@jbmaschke Big Thunder – best at night after a storm with lightning in distance

@DontBLUFFmeBRO big thunder mountain for me. Its a classic with a great soundtrack! I enjoy Everest a lot But think its not “Disney” IMO.

@LBWicket BTMR, only b/c I’m too scared to go on Everest. (but my 7-yr old wasn’t – how lame am I?)

@WedwayRadio Big Thunder > Everest : Baxter > Rodhe #disneydebate #justmyopinionnohatemailplease

@FluffedMojo DBTMR. It’s classic. Everest is cool, but it’s not the wildest ride in the wilderness. And the yeti’s broke.

@mommakacie Big Thunder – not a big fan of going backwards on roller coasters.

@FotoDave BTMRR. Why? Because I’ve had so many blows to the head, EE makes me very sick.

@deefordisney Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, because my stomach says no to Everest. EE for theming though.

Going just by the pointed Twitter responses, you might think the Flickr results would be pretty similar. However, the Flickrites seemed much more torn over the issue. Below are the top results from the Flickr entries; each Flickr poster’s personal thoughts on the Face-off are provided below their photo-entry. To view more of their photography click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream.

Expedition Everest

Ralph.Anseus:
Forbidden Mountain
Big Thunder vs. Forbidden Mountain… photographically they’re both compelling, but I choose Forbidden Mountain. The area, and the queue in particular, have theme elements that are far more immersive than the Big Thunder area.

j_bischoff:
Have a wonderful trip
Although Big Thunder Mountain is a great ride, I am going with Everest. Not only does Everest have more details to photograph around the base camps surrounding it, It combines the outside portions of BTM with the indoor darkness of space mountain – only quicker and backwards!

wonderful_world_of_hilary:
The Forbidden Mountain
I had to think long and hard about this one from a thrill ride stand point it is definitely Everest but when trying to choose between which mountain is more photogenic (so to speak) that becomes much more complicated. In the end I just can’t get over the amount of detail that Expedition Everest provides. From the queue line to the actually ride there’s always something new or some different perspective to shoot Everest from.

ddindy:
Everest after dusk (by ddindy)
BTM or EE? It’s almost a draw. They’re both fun and they’re both better at night. BTM was the first coaster that I really liked, mainly because it doesn’t have the long, slow, “So this is it, we’re going to die” climb up the first big hill like traditional coasters. (EE has one, but it’s broken up nicely with the trip through the temple; plus (SPOILER!) the following drop isn’t that big.) BTM has excellent theming throughout the ride that makes you want to return over and over, while half of EE is in the dark. The EE queue has excellent theming throughout – you want the line to move slowly – while BTM has a boring maze through a hot building. I’ll give the narrow win to EE, but with marks off for the B-mode Yeti.

Kristopher_Michael:
Expedition Everest 2009 - HDR Style
In all honesty, I believe Disney got the entire area/landscape right with Expedition Everest. Don’t get me wrong, Big Thunder Mountain is a great ride and has been for many years, but the Imagineers really did their homework with Expedition Everest. From across the lake, the view is just spectacular and I’m often finding myself standing on the bridge, just staring and marveling at everything this attraction has to offer!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

Sarita_Linda
Big Thunder Mountain
I am going to vote for BTM for the simple fact that I can keep my eyes open and my mouth shut!

scottwdw:
Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
As much as I enjoy EE, I took my all time favorite Disney photo on BTM so it will always win out for me against anything.

Cory_Disbrow:
Magic Kingdom - And the winner is...
This was the hardest one yet, like I said, like choosing a favorite child. I really couldn’t make up my mind. So, I had a better shot of BTMRR, and it has seniority, so it wins for this week.

CenterLine_717:
Thunder Mountain - Magic Kingdom
This was a hard one to decide for me. EE is themed great and provides ample opportunity for great shots. However if feel that BTMRR is equally well themed and I’ve always been able to get good shots both around and while riding BTMRR. One day hopefully I’ll be able to get a good EE riding shot but for now I have to go with BTMRR.

Finally, my entry and commentary:
Calling an Audible
This was the most difficult challenge for me to date.  I actually posted a shot of Everest last night on Flickr fully intending to use it for this challenge, but at the last minute, I changed my mind.  Don’t get me wrong, Everest is a great attraction.  I mean, the queue is probably the best at Walt Disney World, the ride itself is thrilling, offers a unique surprise for first-time riders, and is one of the few real offerings in a park that is, in my opinion, more style than substance. (I know I’ll probably catch some flak for this, but I think the park is heavily skewed towards the details, which while important, are not ample substitutes for unique attractions.) For all that’s great about Everest, ultimately its imperfections were its downfall for me: its big showstopper is broken, its backside is poorly themed, and other effects often don’t work.

These things may seem nitpicky, but when you’re going up against one of Tony Baxter and WED’s greatest accomplishments, any gaffe is fatal.  Big Thunder Mountain is a perfect example of how simple effects can trump engineering marvels, especially when that “better” technology is only displayed for 3 seconds, has a ridiculously high price tag (money that, perhaps, would have been better allocated elsewhere), and never works.

Big Thunder Mountain has charming area music outside the attraction and throughout the queue, a beautifully unique mountain design, and wonderful details throughout the attraction that give it excellent re-rideability.  The attraction is best experienced at night, when the lighting throughout the ride creates the perfect ambiance and Tumbleweed’s saloon comes alive, with dancers in the windows.  Its details like those dancers in the windows, the clever names of each train, the dwindling population of Tumbleweed, and the other numerous details scattered throughout pertaining to the attraction’s abandoned mining town backstory, which often go overlooked, that make Big Thunder Mountain Railroad a true gem. The one area in which Everest absolutely trounces Big Thunder Mountain is in the queue, but despite this, for all of the reasons stated above, I think Big Thunder Mountain reigns supreme.

Next week’s Disney Debate subject of the Foto Face-off Friday should prove difficult; its a challenge between two of Walt Disney World’s most ornately themed attractions, both of which share a delightful other-worldly aura. Yet, for all they have in common, they have just as many stark differences: one is a thrill ride, one is a classic dark ride; one is from WED’s golden era, the other from Eisner’s Disney Decade. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out alive in next week’s challenge between The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Haunted Mansion. Head over to Flickr and apply for vacancies in what should be one ‘lively’ challenge! As always please, help us settle the debate on Twitter by voicing your thoughts to @TouringPlans and entering your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Twilight Zone Tower of Terror v. Haunted Mansion.” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in next week’s blog, so look alive!

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Gay Days 2011 Added To The Crowd Calendar

by on July 23, 2010

We have added an estimate for the Gay Days schedule in 2011. These are only estimates while we wait for the actual schedule to be announced. We are assuming that they will keep the same schedule as in years past.

June 2 – Animal Kingdom
June 3 – Hollywood Studios
June 4 – Magic Kingdom
June 5 – Epcot

In 2010, our wait time data showed that the affect of Gay Days on crowd levels is minimal. Crowds during Gay Days are in line with typical crowds for early June.

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WDW Today Episode 750 – Gavin’s Trip Report

by on July 23, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 750 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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Mecca Lecca Hi, Mecca Aulani Ho

by on July 22, 2010

It might shock you to find out that this Orlando, Florida local is also a Disney Vacation Club Member.  Many of you probably figure that a local doesn’t really have much need for DVC, after all, at night we can just drive home.  Remember though, as discussed in my earlier blog post about Moving To The Mouse, I did not always live here.  In the late 90s Cheryl and I had already entered the two trips per year phase, and even then coming down was not cheap.

So one fine day in 1999, after taking the DVC tour for our second time, we signed up.  By that point I really didn’t have any real choice – I’m still talking with the guide, and Cheryl is busy writing a check for our down payment.  There is no doubt in my mind that this was one of the best decisions we ever made.  Since then, we’ve had a number of really great trips that we owe completely to the ease of use and flexibility of the DVC system including: a 2 week family vacation for our very first DVC trip, a trip to the Whitehall Hotel in Chicago, and several Disney Cruise Line cruises with trips (yes plural) planned on the Dream for next year.

A lot of people say that trading out of the core DVC system isn’t worth it, but to me that’s a bean counter’s perspective.  Value isn’t all about dollars and cents. Instead, especially when talking about a vacation, it’s all about what you get out of that trip.  So yes, I may loose money when I use my points to go out of town, or trade them into cruise, but I never feel that at any time I’ve lost any value in doing this.

Now, after 10+ years, our original Boardwalk Villas points are paid off, our add-on at Saratoga Springs is not far behind, we’re actually considering adding on more points.  We are literally at a shortfall of points year after year.  We do spend a lot of time also staying on property and we often do that out of pocket.  More points would help offset that over time.  So, of course, every time DVC announces a new resort we try to learn as much as possible about the resort to determine if it’s for us or not.  So when DVC announced the Hawaiian Homecoming for the new Aulani resort event we signed up to go.  After all I’ve never been to Hawaii.

To be honest, I hadn’t been keeping up to date on the resort itself.  Oh sure, I’ve watched shorts and read some articles on it as they’ve passed through Google Reader, but I really had not done any research on the resort.  I knew it was on Oahu, and I had seen a few early concept sketches when it was announced on a DVC Member Cruise.  That’s it.  So I went in with a fairly open mind.  And despite being a bit freaked out by Joe Rohde’s earring, I learned quite a bit.

For starters the resort consists of 21 acres on the western side of Oahu, known for being the dryer side of the island – meaning less rain.  It is now part of a pre-existing resort area known as Ko Olina – an area of the islands that is known for being a former “playground” for Hawaiian royalty.  Which is really not surprising in the world of DVC, it just seems a true fit.  And like many of the resorts in that area they are trying to capture the beauty, tranquility, and majesty of the islands.

We learned a little bit about the Hawaiian language, and the fact that from a literal standpoint it’s Hawai’i and O’ahu not Hawaii and Oahu as we were taught in grade school on the mainland.  And they taught us that names are exceedingly important in Hawai’ian language, and are therefore chosen with great care.  And the name Aulani really isn’t any different.  The literal translation is “messenger of a chief”, but like several languages usage is important as well when translating.  So what we end up with is “place that speaks on behalf of something greater than itself”.

That’s a lot for such a small word and I don’t just mean in word count.  Disney chose this name because they wanted to enforce that their theming of the resort was rich in Hawai’ian culture and tradition.  Much of the art at the resort has been created by ethnic Hawai’ians, and they have been given a wide berth in terms of freedom of expression in the art.  Some have been very traditional, while others are more modern, and in some cases abstract.

There are also going to be two really cool pieces of artwork that will be presented to you in the lobby of the resort.  For starters when you walk in there will be a 200 foot mural created by Martin Charlot a native of Hawaii and son of the renowned artist Jean Charlot who had authored a book that had once upon a time caught the eye of Walt himself, “Art from the Mayans to Disney”.  And then, behind the front desk there will be a giant photo collage called the “Colors of Hawai’i” that will be created by children from around the state of Hawai’i.

DVC founders, those that buy first, will also get to help create a traditional Hawai’ian carving/mural known as a Pohakus.  They will be able to choose from one of several carving designs and these will be pieced together to form a design that will become a permanent part of the resort.  It was not clear how many of these there would be, but from their size I’d say there are likely to be a few.

Like many Disney resorts, Aulani will have both a convention center and an 18,000 square foot spa, but not a lot of information was provided on either of these, though you can see their locations in relation to the rest of the resort in the scale model of the resort.  As well as two large parking garages. One section of the buildings, just to the right of the grand hall, will be hotel rooms and the rest of the rooms in the buildings will be DVC villas.

At the center of the resort nestled between the main buildings of the resort and the Kolola lagoon – one of the 4 lagoons at Ko Olina, the other 3 being Hanu, Nai’a, and Ulua – is a jungle area that was referred to as the Wai Key Lo Kai Valley (sp?).  It will contain a lazy river attraction as well as several pools.  But the centerpiece of the area will be a large volcanic rock structure that will contain caves, water slides, and water falls.  Its size will be about the same as the water slide found at the Boardwalk Villas.

During the presentation they really stressed two key design factors of the resort: family and adventure.  They want you to explore this resort, learn, and discover.  The whole resort is designed around this concept of “look once, think twice.”  This adventure is actually rooted in the resort rooms as there are things in your room that you may not know what they are until you venture out to learn about them.

There will be a Menehune Adventure Trail.  Menehune (Meh-nay-who-nay) are mischievous helpers that live in the forest and come out only at night to build things.  During the day they remain hidden.  And they really will be all over the resort, many in places that only children can squeeze themselves into.  Designed to be a fun adventure for the kids to find them.  Everyone attending got a Menehune statue.

Many amenities of the resort have been designed with family in mind.  From the pools and waterways to the dining which will have quick service, table service, and character dining options.   And lets not forget “Auntie’s Beach House” which is a day care program for your kids to keep them occupied.  Auntie will also provide supervised activities for older kids (e.g., snorkeling) and organized family activities.

To me, the two most interesting things were mention of a high tech adventure garden where kids can interact with the environment and make special things happen.  It was unclear to me if this was part of the adventure trail or not.  And a movie theater that will only show movies when it rains, and it seems like it’ll be capable of raining every night as Disney apparently has a way to make it rain on demand.  I seriously want to see how both of these work some day.

Then after some hula demonstrations we got down to brass tacks.  The most interesting thing I learned was that DVC lumps members into two categories “network” and “destination”.  If I understand correctly, I’m a “network” user meaning that I move around from resort to resort trying them all out.  A “destination” user is someone who keeps returning to the same place or resort.  They were very honest in that Aulani points were best when sold to a “destination” user, someone who just wants to keep returning to Hawai’i year after year.

The Aulani event only deals were pretty straightforward:

  • $114 per point with dues of $4.31 per point for 2011
  • 100 points gets an $8 per point credit ($106 per point) for $800 total
  • 125 points gets a $10 per point credit ($104 per point) for $1250 total
  • 250+ points gets a $12 per point credit ($102 per point) for $3000+ total
  • Additionally for all of 2012, DVC will pay your Annual Dues for you – approximately $450 per 100 points

For “network” users they’re pushing Bay Lake Towers and Kidani Village.  BLT is actually slightly more expensive then Aulani, but it does have the cheapest dues of any DVC resort right now at $3.78 per point.

Overall, I’m sold on the Aulani resort – it’s very attractive both in terms of looks and amenities. Some day I’d definitely like to go there, though I’d like to get to Disneyland again first.  And whereas before I’d have had no idea where to go when I went to Hawai’i, now I have a place to head to with my family and discover.  However, with the whole “network” vs “destination” thing both Cheryl and I are convinced not to buy into it.

So, since Cheryl and I are still considering another point add-on, where would that be?  While I really liked our stay at BLT during our Anniversary, to me it screams “hotel” not “resort” and I’ve got no real interest in ownership there as a result.  Kidani is both gorgeous and tempting, and I’ve got nothing against it.  But, right now our “true love” resort is still Wilderness Lodge Villas – we just find ourselves returning there again and again.  And that means resale, which I don’t mind because I’ve heard of some recent contracts going for as low as $75 per point (holy cow!).

What about you?  Are you interesting in buying into Aulani?  What about going there?  Have you been to Hawai’i before?  If you’re not interested in either what is your dream destination?  What are your home DVC resorts?  What DVC resorts do you love? Mahalo nui loa.

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BETAMOUSE #24 – Disney Apps, Apps, and Apps

by on July 21, 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 749 – Listener Questions

by on July 21, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 749 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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I’m Going to Disney World… Again

by on July 21, 2010

It’s that time again!  I’m taking another trip to the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World.  My posts for the next few works will center on

Photo by Don Sullivan

my upcoming trip to WDW from August 12th to 16th.  I don’t usually go to WDW in the heat of the hot summer months, but I wanted to see the end of Summer Nightastic, and my friend who will be joining me this time around is a teacher and had to go when school wasn’t in session.  We will be going for the weekend when resort rates switch from summer season to value season.  We’ll save a little money, but still get to see the Summer Nightastic festivities which end on August 15th.  I’m especially excited to see the Main Street Electrical Parade.  My mom says I saw it when I was little, but I have no recollection.

While every Disney vacation is wonderful, I’m particularly excited about this one.  As a testament to the greatness of the Disney community about 27 (I’ve been keeping the official headcount) of us are heading down to WDW this time around from August 12-16 for a ton of fun. Among this massive crew is one of my friends from home, Erin, who is not a Disney geek, but we’ll do our best to convert her.  I will write more on preparing her for the trip next week.  As you can imagine, planning a trip with this many people can be a challenge.  Plancast has been a great tool along with a shared google calendar to keep us all up to date on park hours, events, and night time entertainment.

And let me tell you, we need organization for this vacation because my schedule for this trip is jam packed! First, there are the official Touring Plans meets.  Katie, our social media guru, and I have been hard at working planning some great events for our readers to enjoy.  Our other fantastic bloggers, Caroline and Todd, will also be on hand for some of these meets.  Some if you will be in the area during these dates please come say hello and meet some great Disney folks who will be attending!  In addition to our TouringPlans events, our group will be hitting up Typhoon Lagoon, extra magic hours, and several of our favorite resort bars.

Photo from disneyworld.com

Including our advanced dining reservations (ADRs) for our group in our plancast and shared calender has also been helpful.  Let me tell you, it’s not easy to make reservations for a group over twenty people!  At several locations we actually have two separate ADRs to accomedate our huge group.  So what is in our dining line up?  We’ll be having dinner at Whispering Canyon which should be a blast with so many people.  Lunch will be served at Le Cellier.  Most of us will be heading to Chef Mickey’s for breakfast one morning and it will be my first time there.  We’ve also made an ADR at the 50s Prime Time Cafe where I hope at least one of us will have to stand in the corner.  And finally we’re going to say farewell to what is sure to be a wonderful trip with a character breakfast at O’Hana.

If you have been following along on my Disney adventures through these posts you may remember that I was having a lot of trouble finding a reasonably priced rental car.  Well persistence has paid off and I finally made a reservation with Avis.  I have never used this company before so I’ll be sure to report my experience with them.  Our original thought was to rent an SUV or minivan for the trip since we have several folks traveling together.  However, after scouring the internet for the best deal, I discovered that renting two standard cars was actually cheaper than renting one of those other vehicles.  So if you are willing to split your party into two cars you might save a little money, gain a little flexibility, and save a ton of time over using Disney transportation.  As an added bonus, after we land in Orlando my friends and I can stop at a grocery store to stock up on bottled water for the parks, snacks, and whatever adult beverages me might fancy.

Where will I be resting  my head on this summertime stay?  I’ll be returning to a tried and true favorite, Pop Century.  This value resort offers the Disney magic at a small price tag.  I often stay here when I’m trying to stick to a budget.  Rooms are not huge, but they are comfortable for two adults and they are always clean.  With spending so many hours in the parks I like to keep costs down by staying here.  A bunch of us will be staying at Pop for this trip, so it’s sure to be a blast.  If you have your eye out for us just look for the a big group laughing even early in the morning for breakfast at Everything Pop or having a night cap at Petals Pool Bar.

So those are the basics of my upcoming trip to WDW.  As always you can follow along at home on Twitter at @khelmstetter.  As I said, I’m really excited for this trip.  It is going to be a ton of fun and really, really exhausting.  I hope to meet some of you readers at our meets!  Don’t be shy and come out and say hi and meet a group of great people.  And if you are taking a trip to WDW this summer I hope you have as much fun as I’m going to!   Let me know what your summer plans are and if you’ll be on Disney property at the same time as our crew.

Next week I’ll take a look at planning a trip with a Disney rookie…

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February Hours Posted – Crowd Calendar Updated

by on July 20, 2010

Disney has posted the park hours and schedules for February 2011 (subject to change, of course), and has made changes to park hours for July, August, and January. When Disney changes its park hours, it’s a good indicator that their forecast for the crowds has changed — so we change ours as well.

Further, we’ve updated an additional 18 days in the next six months based on data we’re receiving from Lines users (big thanks!). We want you to have the best trip possible, and these changes will give you a more accurate picture of what the crowds will look like. And as usual, please let us know if you have any questions related to your trip.

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College Students at Disney

by on July 19, 2010

Amanda is a college student, currently pursuing a degree in applied mathematics and statistics.  She runs the Disney College Blog, a website that had been originally intended for just college students, where she now writes for all ages and walks of life.  Her first trip to Walt Disney World was at age four, and she has been in love with it ever since.  You can find her on Twitter (@discollegeblog) or on her blog.

When most people think of the ideal college vacation, they think of something from MTV’s Spring Break.  While I suppose there’s nothing wrong with spending a week in Cancun if you’re into that kind of thing, my version of the ideal college vacation is going to Walt Disney World.  My first trip to Walt Disney World was when I was four, and I infamously asked my mom, in the middle of the Magic Kingdom no less, if we could go back to our room and color.  Since then, I’ve gained a much stronger love of Disney, and now that I’m in college, I can actually go on Disney trips without my parents.  Sound impossible?  It’s not.  It is very feasible to go to Walt Disney World as a college student, get lots done, and not spend a ton if you make sure you do a few things.

First off, know when to go.  Avoid Walt Disney World during June, July, and early August if you can.  If you can handle the heat, you can visit during your summer vacation much less expensively if you go in May or late August (after the 15th).  Also consider going in January, since many schools have winter breaks, and Walt Disney World is in value season.  Plus crowds are low!  Just keep in mind that the weather in January can be unpredictable.

To save even more money, stay at a value resort.  There are some less expensive off-property hotels, but keep in mind that if you’re not traveling with a parent, you likely won’t be old enough to rent a car.  If you’re driving to Walt Disney World, then by all means find a great deal offsite, but if not, at a value resort you’ll save money on the room and get to use complimentary Disney transportation.  Also, using Disney’s Magical Express, the free bus service from Orlando International Airport to your Disney resort, will save you some money.

Since time is almost as important as money to college students, maximize it by being at the theme parks when they open.  Yes, that means waking up at an hour that you probably haven’t seen since high school, but I promise it’s worth it.  Coming from the girl who never schedules classes before 11 am, you will be glad that you did it.  Especially if you use a touring plan, you will probably ride more things in three hours than the uninformed college students strolling in at noon will ride all day.

In fact, I recommend leaving at noon, especially if you visit during the summer.  It will be beyond hot, but you can avoid the hottest part of the day if you take a break after lunchtime.  Go back to your room and take a swim, sit out by the pool, or catch up on your much-needed sleep.  Then, once you’ve recharged, hit the parks again.  You may feel like you can go all day without a break, but trust me and take one.  It’s a vacation; you want to have fun and relax, not burn out.

Finally, be a kid.  Do things you haven’t done since your age was in the single digits.  Run up and hug Mickey Mouse.  Ride the rides in Fantasyland.  Don’t worry about what the people around you think.  They’re all acting like kids too.  In this case, you want to act your shoe size.  Otherwise you might as well have gone to Cancun! Are you a college student who loves to travel to the World? Let us know in your comments!

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