Archive for December, 2010

WDW Today Episode 819 – I Get Around

by on December 31, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 819 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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Mr. Todd’s Wild Ride

by on December 30, 2010

Dear Disney Online Community,

This being my last TouringPlans.com blog post for 2010, I wanted to take the time to write something a bit more personal and from the heart.  I’ve never before taken the time to write a year in review holiday letter, but I’ve sort of felt that after the mad crazy year that I’ve had it’s a perfect time to try.  Before I do, I wanted to thank a really good friend for giving me the title for this post back when I first started blogging publicly.  He basically told me not to worry too much, to be me, and made me swear to some day use this title because it rocks.  So thanks Jeff, I hope this one lives up to your expectations.

To no great surprise, my year started off with an adventure. Somehow I got it in my head to wake up at some crazy hour of the morning of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and cheer on some friends.  Braving snow, sleet, and really chapped lips I stood there in the Epcot Parking lot with Katie, Ed, and Mike of the Be Our Guest Podcast.  As we talked and got know each other for about 2 hours before they headed into the corrals, I knew I’d found a new family in the BOGP community.  I’m fairly well convinced that Mike thought I was some crazy loon at that point, because as I hugged Katie and Ed and wished them luck, I also hugged him too.  Mike is something like twice my height – I’m sure it made for a odd scene.

Looking back I realize now this was one of the most pivotal weekends of my life.  I’d have never thought that standing there and cheering for these friends and others from Epcot Center Drive, Main Street, and the Epcot Parking lot would change me somewhat.  But it did.  Something in my head clicked that day – I was inspired, exhilarated, and hooked.  More on this later.  Thanks to folks like Bonnie, Matt, Kelly, and my wife, Cheryl, for making this day complete (only one of two times I rode Astro Orbiter all year).

Later that month, I wrote my first blog post about TouringPlans.com, but it wasn’t done as part of my writing for the this blog.  As one of the original testers for Lines, by the time it was released to the public I’d already been using it for a few months.  Including one day where I did more than 80 entries (there’s a good reason why my name is on a lot of the attractions now).  Taking that experience, I worked it into a blog post as my first attempt to really start to give back to the community.  Something I’d not really done before outside of charitable donations.  I sort of feel that it was this post that led Henry to ask me to come write here.

In March came TentFest for the WDW Today Podcast.  And many of the people I’d met at Reunion 2009 and that I’d also seen in January were there.  It was a cold and bitter night to be sleeping in a tent, and thankfully I didn’t.  I did spend the weekend getting to know a number of people better, and we started to bond as a group that we now call “Crew”.  I think that my fellow blogger Kristen (a.k.a. Crew Mom) covers the group’s adventures best if you want to read up on them.

At TentFest I got to talking with Katie, specifically about running.  She asked me what was holding me back, and the truth was that I really didn’t know.  After working me a bit, she convinced me to download the C25K app for my iPhone and start using it.  After watching her, Henry, and Kim run the princess 5K, and some later discussion with Megan and Mike Scopa – the deal was sealed.  I would start learning how to run.

Running for me has been transformative.  Literally.  Back at TentFest my weight had to be 270-280 lbs.  Just look at the picture of me from the January Marathon.  Right now I’m proud to say that I’m down to under 210 lbs and working on breaking that 200 lbs mark.  I currently weigh less then I did in High School.  Not many people my age can say that.  I really want to thank my big inspirations and helpers through this: Katie, Ed, Mike R., Mike S., Kim, Megan, Gordon, Thom, Lindsay, Jackie, and everyone who’s tweeted me about it along the way.

The other thing I want to thank the community for is inspiring my wife, Cheryl, as well.  While she’s not running she is doing two things that I consider to be a bit more brave and more intense than just running: dieting, and an exercise boot camp.  She’s looking fantastic.  My brother who hadn’t seen us since October 2009 spent our October 2010 vacation referring to us as the “incredible shrinking couple” – so I know it’s paying off for both of us.  Thanks to all of you for being there for her.

In April I answered a tweet from Mr. Len Testa himself.  He was looking for a C++ programmer.  I responded that I was, and I remember his answer cracked me up because he said back, “Really? Like as in every single day?”.  We talked a bit, I read some of his research papers, and next thing I knew I was working on the code for the TouringPlans Engine.  To get real geeky for a moment (as if I’m ever not), it’s a coder’s dream to be working on something this cool.  It stems from the basis of one of the more interesting artificial intelligence problems in Computer Science, and one that I’d had experience with before from my MMO days.  You can learn more about TPE in episodes 42 & 43 of the betamouse podcast.

Then in May, after a phone call with Henry, I started blogging here at TouringPlans.com.  I’ve always been a bit of a writer as my college minor was in Cinema Studies where I spent time studying screenwriting.  So getting to exercise that part of me has been a fantastic opportunity, and I look forward to continuing it into the new year.  It’s really become a part of my life that I look forward to each week.  I think I’ve had some really successful posts including a wide range of topics from movie and dining reviews, to posts about how to organize your travels.

Wow… the greatest part of this experience has been getting to meet so many great people along the way.  I’d been to so many meets put on by folks like the WDW Today Podcast team and Lou Mongello, I never would have thought that I’d ever host one myself.  But this year it happened.  As part of the Touring Plans 2010 Summer Meetastic (June through August we had more than one dozen meets!!!) I hosted a few of these all by myself, the most memorable of which was to kick off the Summer Nightastic event at the Magic Kingdom.  Watch our plancast for more events in 2011.

I’ve tried to meet and get to know so many of you, spend time in the parks with you when possible.  Ride rides together, or even just sit down, relax and have a good meal together.  I feel that I’ve grown closer to so many of you in the past year that I’ve literally lost count of all the members of my Disney mishpacha.  I’ve seen some of you get married.  Some of you get engaged.  Some of you had babies like Scarlett, Lines Chat moderator, and Matt & Marissa Hochberg.  I even got to know and eventually meet Cheryl’s vacation buddy Dana from her comments here on the TouringPlans.com blog.

One night on Twitter I made two really good friends in Brianna and my now fellow TouringPlans.com blogger Ryan.  We were talking about movies, specifically Errol Flynn movies, and it was then I learned about Ryan’s quest to watch all the of the Disney films and shorts that have ever been made.  I told him that he shouldn’t go it alone, and that he should come up with a way to do it as a community event.  And thus the Tweetwatch was born.  I foresee great things coming out of this friendship (ooo! foreshadowing).

And somewhere along the way Cheryl and I got adopted.  Not legally mind you, but as close as you can get without that step.  I first made contact via email with fellow TouringPlans.com blogger, owner of The Disney Driven Life, and NDM#1, JL Knopp earlier in the year.  I wanted to be counted, and to help out at the site somehow.  Her response caught me off guard, it was a simple, “Okay, what’s your niche?”  It occurred to me that I had no idea.  Instead, I talked about it with with Jeff who told me that I was my own niche and to find a way to leverage that.  I never responded to that email other than to say that I’d get back to her on that.

JL and I met again in May, the weekend before my first blog post here went live.  It was at Lou’s 24 hour live podcast event, after a 90 minute stint of Q&A with myself, JL, and the “box people”, we both realized there was a friendship to be had.  We agreed that after she moved to FL we would get our families together to spend some time at WDW.  I’m pretty sure our adoption into the Knopp family was sealed with a hug from JL’s younger daughter on that first visit together at Animal Kingdom.  Our families spent Thanksgiving together – a Knoppsgiving if you will.  Cheryl and I love being “Aunt” & “Uncle” to her and Joel’s children.  Yes, we do spoil them just a bit.

Somewhere in all of this Cheryl and JL were talking about the DDL website needing some TLC, and before I knew it I was hard at work fixing up the site – putting my WordPress, PHP, and CSS skills to the test (don’t worry if you didn’t follow all that).  This effort has been a lot of fun for me – I have a lot of leeway in working to make the site the best it can possibly be.  My goal being to give the Disney Driven Life community the best possible experience they can have.  And there’s more to come in the coming year, I promise.

Our friendship has also brought Cheryl and I still more close friends in JL’s inner mouse podcast co-hosts John, Nicole, and Scott as well as her DDL right hand lady Jackie.  They have all become very close friends and I’m thankful for knowing them, getting to spend time with them, and for them letting Cheryl and I into their lives.  I realized how important what the DDL and inner mouse have brought to the Disney community is the night we met to hang out with Nolan.  That what we do can mean so much makes it all worthwhile.

There were many other really great and memorable moments for me this past year.  Like when Cheryl and I were in Philadelphia for July 4th to see Kelly and Megan, we had all just walked outside and Megan and I put on the same exact sunglasses from Walt Disney World and we both looked at each other and said, “nice sunglasses”.  Also the BOGP Treehouse live show at Saratoga Springs, Reunion 2010 (a.k.a. “Best Chanukah Ever”), Disney Food Blog Foodie Fest, the first DDL / inner mouse meet, etc.

There are so many people I’d love to thank including: Lori A., Lori W., Betsy, Shelley C., Shelley J., Amy, Chris, everyone from #Crew (you know who you are), Team Studios Central (*boom* *POW*!), Beci, Shane, Bill & Steph, and many others.

Thank you all for this year.

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BETAMOUSE #46 – Map Apps

by on December 30, 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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Death, Taxes and Disney Crowds At Christmas

by on December 29, 2010

You don’t need to be a master statistician to predict that Disney theme parks will be crowded during the Christmas holidays. Every year, the period between December 24th and January 1st is the most crowded time of the year. It can be a great time of year to be at the theme parks though. The decorations. The extended hours. The holiday spirit of the cast members. Some of the theatre attractions actually seem more enjoyable when they perform to a full house.

But unfortunately, wait times are at super-high levels like no other time of year. Many readers ask us if Christmas should really be en eleven on the Crowd Calendar. In fact, it should be a fifteen!

But just how crowded is it, really?

Here it is by the numbers.

  • On the slowest day of the year the Average Peak Wait time is 23 minutes.
  • On most days of the year the Average  Peak Wait time ranges from 26 to 32 minutes.
  • On the busiest day of the year (other than during Christmas break) the Average Peak Wait time is 43 minutes.
  • During Christmas break the Average Peak Wait time is 45 minutes!

That means the average peak wait time during Christmas break is 2 minutes higher than the most crowded day during the rest of the year. So there’s crowded and then there’s Christmas-crowded.

This year’s crowds leading up to Christmas day were a little heavier than expected. Then, we were shocked to see that crowds at the Animal Kingdom on December 26 were high but not super-high. We recommended the Animal Kingdom as a “Best Park” but the wait times were even lower than expected. In fact, they were low enough to make the overall resort crowd level a 9.

Christmas Crowds 2010 – Predicted vs. Observed
Date Predicted Crowd Level What Really Happened
December 19 6 7
December 20 9 10
December 21 9 10
December 22 10 10
December 23 10 10
December 24 10 10
December 25 10 10
December 26 10 9 (Animal Kingdom wait times were even lower than expected)
December 27 10 10
December 28 10 10

We will be watching the Christmas crowds daily as we do every other day. Check us out on Twitter and Facebook to see our daily reports on the crowds at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort.

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2010: A Year in Review

by on December 29, 2010

As we wrap up 2010 at the end of this week (Happy New Year everyone!) I thought I’d take this week’s post to review what this year brought us at Walt Disney World as well as a chance to reflect this year’s events within the Disney area of my life.  There is so much to discuss from new restaurants to fantastic trips with great friends; its hard to decided where to begin!  I thought the best way to get things started was to take a look at some of the happenings around WDW since this is what drives us all to keep taking those great trips.

As with most years at Disney, the new year brought a new ad campaign.  The “Give a Day Get a Day” promotion encouraged folks to get out there and do some good and in return receive a free day’s admission to a Disney park.  Disney partnered with several organizations with which people could volunteer their time.  The idea was such a success that one million people quickly signed up to volunteer in exchange for their park pass that the campaign was over in what seemed like the blink of an eye.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to participate before the promotion was over!  It was one of those things where I meant to do it, but just didn’t get the chance.  I hope all of you readers who seizing this opportunity had a great experience during your day of volunteering and you’ve been encouraged to keep giving back to your communities!

This year also saw a fair number of changes at Walt Disney World.  While most of them seem pretty minor (like the renaming of the carousel at the Magic Kingdom), some were major events like breaking ground for the Fantasyland expansion.  Walls went up and attractions closed this year to make way for construction for the largest addition the park has ever made.  If you ride Dumbo you can get a glimpse at the working being done behind the walls.  Buildings are starting to be framed out with steel beams and Disney geeks’ imaginations run wild with the possibilities coming in phases in 2012 and 2013.

Two fan favorites made a return to the parks this summer.  Captain EO returned to its home in the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot to once again make guests feel like dancing out of the theater.  While the effects are cheesy and the plot is fairly ridiculous, but I love this film.  I think the whole thing is riot and a I giggle and dance every time I watch it.  If you really want to have a laugh come watch the show with some of my friends and I.  We’re getting the choreography down pretty well, right girls?   The Main Street Electrical Parade also made a return to the Magic Kingdom for nightly performances.  I got to see it for the first time in August and had a blast at the Touringplans we held to take in the parade on what was supposed to be one of its last nights.  However, Disney decided to extend the parade’s run indefinitely so if you haven’t caught it yet you should have plenty of time to get down to see it.

Epcot’s World Showcase got two additions to its already awesome line up of table service eateries.  Via Napoli opened this summer to rave reviews in the Disney community.  This restaurant serves up pizza and other specialties in the Italy Pavilion. I had the chance to dine here in August and I just loved it.  As I explained in my original review, I was a skeptic going in but came out a fan.  Be sure to hit up this fantastic pizza joint on one of your upcoming trips.  La Hacienda de San Angel and La Catina de San Angel were also added to World Showcase in the Mexico Pavilion.  A counter service restaurant called La Catina de San Angel previously sat on the shores of World Showcase Lagoon, but was torn down to be rebuilt along with a table service facility.  Both opened this fall to hungry crowds wanting to experience Mexican cuisine.  The counter service option is very similar to its previous incarnation, offering tacos, nachos, and other quick meals.  Inside at La Hacienda guests are welcomed into a beautiful homey atmosphere to enjoy more sophisticated Mexican fare.  This new restaurant has gotten so-so feedback from many of the people I know who have dined there.  I stopped in for a quick appetizer and a cocktail before rushing to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in October.  I loved my coffee margarita but my taco trio appetizer was good, but not anything to write home about.  I’ll be sure to give this one another try in the coming months.

The additions to the Epcot line up continue with the reintroduction of Duffy the Bear.  Duffy roamed around Epcot several years ago, but never really caught on so they are bringing him back for another try.  This cuddly guy is a huge success in the Disney parks in Japan, so let’s see if he can win the hearts of American guests.  His story is Minnie packed him in Mickey’s duffle bag (Duffy, get it?) to keep him company on a trip around the world.  Sliding him into World Showcase seemed to make sense to take advantage of its many locales.  Guests can meet Duffy and/or purchase their very own stuffed friend to pack in their very own suitcase.  Outfits themed to the various World Showcase countries are also available for purchase.  I don’t really get the whole thing, but I’m also not that into meeting characters.  I’d rather have a pineapple margarita in La Cava del Tequila than stand in line to meet some bear.  But that’s just me.  If you are into Duffy I hope you are enjoying him and his many outfits!

This year also saw an addition outside of the parks for guests four legged friends.  The Best Friends Pet Care Center offers one central location for pet lovers to board their critters.  Previously, there were kennels at each park, but they have closed to make way for this brand new facility.  Not only can folks check their furry friends into this pet hotel, but grooming services are available as well.  Our blogger Todd Perlmutter took advantage of Best Friend’s hospitality recently and wrote all about it.  His dog, Jasper, seemed to enjoy his stay there very much!

Now, that we’ve discussed some of the changes at WDW (I’m sure I missed some) let me take a moment to discuss my Disney year.  Overall, 2010 has been a pretty great year for me especially in the Disney area of my life.  First of all, I’d like to thank off the readers of the touringplans blog!  Without you all this wouldn’t be possible!  Your support means the world to us and we can’t thank you enough.  It’s been really great to get to meet so many of you at our various meets this year, and I’m looking forward to more of these opportunities next year.  The disney community has become a huge part of my life.  I’ve been lucky to find some wonderful friends through community events and online outlets like Twitter.  I made four great trips to Walt Disney World in 2010 to spend time in my favorite place with some of my favorite people.

My trip in March centered around WDW Today and Mousefan Travel’s TentFest.  Yes, I camped in 38 degree weather.  I went into this trip knowing I’d be hanging out with a few old friends, but I didn’t know how many new friends I’d make during my time at the chilly events!  Hanging out with people who understood my love of Disney is always a treat.  My love of the Disney community was really solidified on this trip.  I also got to take in a few new experiences on this journey such as my first dinner at Jiko, my first camping overnight, and getting down at Atlantic Dance Hall.

The trip I took in August was supposed to be a nice, quiet trip with a few friends from home which turned into a huge trip averaging 20-25 people at all times.  Several of the folks I met in March came along in August as well as some other folks I only new via twitter or through mutual friends.  The touringplans team hosted four fantastic meets during my stay and we loved meeting everyone who came out!  I had an amazing (but hot) time with these friends.  We hit up Typhoon Lagoon, a couple character meals, and all of the parks.  Most of us stayed at Pop Century so it was blast to have everyone together.  This trip was particularly special for me because I brought one of my closest friends from back home in New Jersey who we managed to convert to a full on Disney geek.  She even bought an annual pass!  It was awesome to bring together these to parts of my life.

While my core group of friends was smaller on my October trip, it certainly wasn’t a relaxed, quite weekend get away.  So many fun people were in town that weekend for the Wine and Dine running events it was hard to keep up with all of the meets.  Touringplans hosted a great meet in Mexico where about 90 people came out to support us!  We couldn’t have been happier to meet all of you and treat you to a margarita.  This time around I tried Disney’s club level for the first time at the Yacht Club.  I also got the chance to tour the Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party.  One of the things I’ll always remember about this trip was going back to WDW from Orlando International Airport when my flight home was significantly delayed.  I literally ran through the Beach Club to Epcot’s International Gateway to meet my friends just in time for the start of Illuminations.  It was a truly magical moment!

My December trip was another crazy one!  With Reunion events, planned get togethers with friends, and trying to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere I never returned to my room before about 1 a.m. on an early night.  It was really tough to fit it all in, but I think we managed as best we could and had a great time doing it.  The touringplans team participated in the Reunion Team Challenge as well as hosting a meet in the UK were we doled out fish and chips.  Did you spot us in our spiffy new T-shirts?  Some of the highlights of this trip for me on this trip included a special event called DE-sserts and DE-lights featuring a private viewing of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, watching the Candlelight Processional with two different wonderful groups, an emotional cast member interaction, and drinks and laughs at the Tambu Lounge at the Polynesian.

My Disney filled year was capped off in a most special way.  The Inner Mouse vidcast co-hosted by our very own JL Knopp made their nominations for their first DDL Academy Awards a few weeks ago.  I was thrilled to be nominated in two categories: Neurotic Disney Person of the Year and Most Active Disney Auntie.  I lost out on the Auntie title to my friend, Kim who clearly deserved it!  However, I scrambled together the votes to be named the Neurotic Disney Person of the Year!  It was such an honor to know the wonderful people in the Disney community thought I deserved this award.  Thank you so much to all of the people who voted!  Touringplans also won several of the DDL Academy awards!  Its always exciting to be a part of a winning team.

How about you? Did you have an amazing Disney year too?  What were you most excited to see added to the line up of WDW fun?  Tell me all about your 2010!

Next week I’ll write about all the things I’m looking forward to in 2011!

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WDW Today Episode 818 – Listener Questions

by on December 29, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 818 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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It All Started With A Book… TouringPlans.com Reflections

by on December 28, 2010

I have always loved Walt Disney World as long as I can remember.  In my wildest dreams I never imagined that my love of Disney World would become my passion and take me down this road.  As I reflect back on 2010 I am ever so thankful for the blessings in my life, the people I have been privileged to meet and the new Disney friends that I have made. 

It all started some years ago with a book — The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.  I studied it like I had a final exam, highlighter in hand and Post – It tabs at the ready. It kept Disney alive for me.  The pages became tattered and torn.  In The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World I found a section about podcasts.  I had never listened to a podcast, but thought I’d give them a try.  I found one called WDW Today.  I was hooked.  There was something about those guys and one gal.  They knew what they were talking about, they were professional and they seemed liked old friends.  From here the journey goes that this Disney Geek discovered what she really loves.

    

I am immensely thankful to be part of the TouringPlans.com team.  If you love our website, it goes beyond the awesome CROWD Calendar, Touring Plans, and detailed information; the people that contribute to this site are delightful.  It’s like a bowl of soup – each ingredient adds a flavor that alone might seem a little weird, but when combined – not  so weird.   They love what they do!  I am grateful for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World & WDW Today because unknowingly they propelled me on this journey.

I can’t wait to see where 2011 takes this Disney Geek.  Let the journey begin…

On a different note, I am headed to Disney World next week to run in the ½ Marathon.  (This is something I NEVER would have done if I hadn’t listened to WDW Today and been inspired by Len Testa and Mike Scopa).  If you’re going down I’d love to hear from you.  After the snow at last year’s marathon, I’m a tad nervous. 

You can follow me on Twitter @Caroline251.

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Driving to Walt Disney World

by on December 27, 2010

We spend a lot of time on this site talking about what we do when we get to Walt Disney World.  That makes sense, considering the elaborate algorithm and space age technology that Len developed to perfect Touring Plans.  If you’re like me, though, you’re usually just as concerned with how you’ll get there.

The decision usually comes down to two choices – do I fly or do I drive?  This is a particularly thorny question when you’re like me, and you live close enough to do either.  I’m just north of Atlanta, so a drive to Disney can be done in one good afternoon, anywhere from 7 to 9 hours, depending on traffic and the willingness of my travel companions.

Driving usually wins out for me, because by the time I get to the airport early, take the hour long flight, Disney’s Magical Express and Online Check-In, I only save about 2 or 3 hours by flying.  If you are going to drive to Disney, though, there’s some things I recommend you keep in mind. 

  1.  Know your exits – I have trod the path between Atlanta and Lake Buena Vista on I-75 and the Florida Turnpike so much that I know every exit between here and there and what it contains.  For example, I know that Ed and Barb’s Cream Donuts is at the end of the road on exit 427 in Florida, and it closes by 1 p.m.  So if you want a key lime or strawberry cheesecake donut, you better leave Disney early when headed back this way.    Knowing what exits have what is key to driving survival.
  2. Know traffic patterns – This is especially true if you are leaving or driving through a major metropolitan area like Atlanta.  Sometimes there’s no choice, but leaving after work on a holiday weekend or on a Friday night is never a good idea.  Traffic backs up in several locations between my house or office and Macon, GA, about 75 miles away.  Knowing what time of day to go can save lots of time.
  3. Know your travelers – Are you driving solo?  With a spouse or significant other?  You can make really good time.  Driving with kids?  Maybe not so much.  If you have kept the first two tips in mind, you’ll understand how to manage the drive to stop and let the kids entertain themselves, or conversely, where to stop for coffee to fuel the rest of your drive.  You’ll also know how far you can make it without stopping for the night.

Those are my three rules for any car trip to Disney.  But there is all sorts of fun you can have on one of these trips.  I used to be a huge fan of the Ocala Welcome Center that Disney hosted at exit 350 off I-75 in Florida.  There was a giant Mickey outside the building that we would always take our picture by, and we would go inside and watch a preview video of what we would see when we arrived at Walt Disney World.

I also love playing car games, like the Alphabet Game, with my wife or kids.  That’s when you try to spot the letters of the alphabet in order on billboards along the side of the road.  The I-75 route has plenty of them, so it’s not too challenging, but still fun.  It gets cutthroat when trying to find a “Q,” let me tell you. 

I’m also a connoisseur of fine dive restaurants and off the beaten path places to eat.  Through the years, I’ve traveled all over finding these sorts of places, with the help of books and websites like Roadfood.  There’s some pretty good ones along the way.  I mentioned Ed and Barb’s Cream Donuts in Lake City (exit 427), but there’s also the New Perry Hotel in Perry, GA and NuWay Wieners in Macon, GA. 

No matter which drive you take to Walt Disney World, it’s always good to make the journey as much fun as the destination.  I know that isn’t easy, considering where you’re headed, but it’s fun to try, isn’t it? 

What about you?  Do you drive to Disney?  What kind of tips or tricks do you use to pass the time?

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WDW Today Episode 817 – New Year’s Resolutions

by on December 26, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 817 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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Foto Face-off – Happy Holidays!

by on December 24, 2010

Welcome to Foto Face-off, a visual treat of images from members of the TouringPlans Flickr Group. The theme for this Face-off is “Happy Holidays.” To view more of each entrant’s photography, click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream.

DisneyGirlinNJ:
Wishes
Can anything else put you in the holiday mood better than Holiday Wishes with the castle decked out in icicles? I love how the smoke ‘haze’ frames the castle in this shot.

Gregg L Cooper:
Blue Christmas

Crystal Young Photography:
Osborne Lights @ DHS
We just came back from our first Christmas at Disney World. It’s normally jam packed with photo opportunities, and those opportunities are magnified during the holidays! I caught this shot at the Osborne Lights by pure luck, as a stroller with an attached balloon wandered into my shot.

Kelly Ozmer:

Just wanted to throw a little Hanukkah love in here… Disney holidays are the best!

ddindy:
Merry Christmas
The giant Christmas trees at the parks get a lot of attention, but there are a multitude of normal-sized trees all around the parks and resorts, each themed to its environment. Look for them as you wander the World and appreciate the year-round efforts of the cast members in Holiday Services. These ornaments are on a tree next to the bandstand on the second floor of the Grand Floridian lobby.

Isabelle Boivin:
Mickey
Seriously, this trip was one of my favorite so far. Didn’t get to chance to see everyone and participate to the photo meets… but hey, next time !
This picture was taken on my first night, with my 50mm lens, no tripod. Didn’t even expect to be a clear shot.
Happy holidays everyone ! Joyeuses Fêtes :)

Finally, my entry and commentary:
!SAMTSIRHC YRREM
Christmas at Walt Disney World is easily my favorite time of the year there. Despite the cold weather, Reunion 2010 was a blast! Of all of the events, my easy favorite was the DE-serts and DE-lights, where this photo was taken. I thought it would be an appropriate photo not only because this event was my favorite, and it featured the Osborne Lights, but also, because the Osborne Lights are, generally, one of my favorite holiday offerings at WDW (picking a single favorite would be like picking a favorite child). Thanks to the hard work of Mouse Fan Travel for putting on such a great event!

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The next challenge features THINK SPRING! Post a shot of your favorite aspect of Spring, Disney-style. It can be from the Parks or anything else that makes you think Spring and is Disney related! Enter your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Think Spring!” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in the next Face-off blog, so get to Postin’!

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