Archive for February, 2012

France Pavilion to Expand Bakery in Epcot

by on February 24, 2012

Disney has filed paperwork today that confirms a complete overhaul, relocation, and expansion of the bakery in the France Pavilion at Epcot. The Boulangerie Patisserie, as it is formally named, will close sometime in the near future to begin the complete reworking. This expansion was first reported as a rumor on the Epcyclopedia blog a few days ago after Cast Members had been internally briefed on the project, but this paperwork makes the project formal/confirmed and thus TouringPlans.com Blog-worthy news.

The expansion will have two floors (whether they will both be guest spaces remains to be seen) and will include a 3,000 square foot kitchen. It will also accommodate Cast Member restrooms and break rooms in its backstage areas. An actual location is yet to be announced, but it’s possible this will be a new building as the permit mentions “relocating the QSR” (QSR = Quick Service Restaurant), and the contractor is Whiting Turner – a major builder involved typically only in larger projects at Disney.

We’ll post more details as they become available.

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February 29 Magic Kingdom Meet and Event!

by on February 24, 2012

TouringPlans.com is excited to announce our events at the Magic Kingdom for the upcoming One More Disney Day on February 29!

Midnight Snack Meet

As advertised, this is a meet that will be held at midnight…and include snacks. We will supply the sugary sweets (from the delicious Babycakes NYC in Downtown Disney), you show up and say, “Hi.” Location is Tomorrowland Terrace. To help us figure out the number of goodies we need, please RSVP on Plancast.

The Great All-Nighter

We at TouringPlans.com have been putting together an exciting game for anyone who is interested. The event will begin at 1am and involve attractions, Magic Kingdom tidbits, and fun. I can’t go into too many details just yet, but be ready because the prize is a good one!

Our friends at the WDW Today podcast are graciously allowing us to award a three-night stay in a Value Resort to one lucky participant in our overnight event. Let us know here if you will be joining us! Good luck to all, and we’ll see you there!

 

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When The Worst Happens: Getting Bad News In Walt Disney World

by on February 23, 2012

On January 23 of this year, I was enjoying the last day of my trip in the Magic Kingdom. I had just walked into the Harmony Barber Shop when I got the phone call that would change my life – my dad was in the hospital, and things were bad. The nurse was blunt – she told me that if I wanted to be there for his last few days, I had to come home now.

It’s very surreal to get that kind of news in such a happy place. I was in shock, and what’s more I had no idea what to do next. My flight wasn’t until that evening – should I try to get it moved? How did I even do that? Who did I need to notify? What was I going to do for the next few hours?

It turns out that Disney, as per usual, has a plan even for this kind of situation. I hope that you never have to deal with this, but in case you ever need to know, here are the steps I went through:

Talk to the closest Cast Member. I was in Harmony Barber Shop, and the parade was starting. My first thought was that I needed to call my sister, and I needed a quiet place to do so. The barber shop CMs were great (I’m sorry I don’t know anyone’s names – I was pretty out of it). First they offered tissues (greatly needed) and sympathy, and second their phone for any calls I needed to make. There was far too much happy noise around for talking to my sister, however, so they pointed me to my next step.

Head to Guest Services. A quick walk across the street and I was in the hands of the professionals. As soon as I explained the situation to Guest Services they ushered me behind the counter and into a private room. I had access to a phone, a computer with internet access, several boxes of tissues, comfortable chairs and couches, and — most importantly to me — privacy and quiet.

Spend time talking to family. If you’re ever alone during a family emergency, finding a quiet spot with a phone is the best thing you can do for yourself, even before you start handling details. No one knows what you’re going through like your own family. Disney was great about giving me the time I needed. They locked the door so no Cast Members would walk in accidentally and just let me have the room to myself. I was able to let my sister know what was going on and talk about arrangements with her – she reminded me of several things I would need to take care of, and we both just took some time to cry a little together. I was in there a good forty minutes to an hour, and was never disturbed.

My dad, my sister and I on Splash Mountain

My dad loved Splash Mountain. I'm on the left, my sister on the right.

Handle travel arrangements. When I came out of the room, there had actually been a shift change at Guest Services. I was ready to explain everything again, but I think looking at my face was really all it took to get the gist – the woman I talked to was quick to be as helpful as she could. First, the ever-present tissues. Then we talked about how I was getting home. I did have a flight later that day, but she told me airlines have emergency policies that could get me on an earlier flight – possibly even with another airline if needed. We could look up the number and handle arrangements right there. It turned out that because of the lateness of the day and the fact that I needed to pick up my sister who was also flying home, my current flight was still the best for me.

Close out your current vacation. As I was already on my last day at Disney, there wasn’t much I had to do here. The CM (whose name I really wish I could remember) asked if I had already checked out (I had) and if there was anything remaining on my tickets (I had an Annual Pass). Be sure to ask what happens here if you believe you’ll be entitled to a hotel or ticket refund.

Figure out what happens now. When we’d finished with the details, the CM asked me an important question. “What else can I help you with?” There’s always odds and ends that need to be taken care of in situations like this. In my case, I hadn’t eaten all day, and I still had an hour before I needed to leave for the airport. I decided that if I had to be alone, worried about my dad, and waiting for an hour I’d rather be in the Magic Kingdom than the Orlando Airport. So I told her thank you and that I was going to go eat something.

Here’s what she did: first she wrote up a pass for me to get $25 worth of food at any counter service. Then she put my name and address down and told me to check with Guest Services next time I was in the parks – “We’ll set something up for you – tickets, fastpasses, ice cream…hugs…” (I may have suggested the hugs.)

Of course, I would never say that this is standard policy and everyone should expect free stuff when they’re having a bad day in the parks. But I for one was very grateful for the thought, and it makes sense that Disney doesn’t want a bad day to keep you away for good. It was kind of nice, in a blurry, tear-stained kind of way, to think about coming back when things got better.

I spent an hour more in the park. I ate the same food I remember eating when my dad used to take me to Disney World as a child. I rode one of our shared favorite rides, the PeopleMover, over and over. Then I got in my car and drove to the airport to face the real world. You never want to be on the receiving end of a call like that. And I used to think it would ruin the good memories I had if I was in a place that I loved. But if I had to be by myself, out of town, and getting that news, I’m so glad it was while I was in Disney.

 

Sarah’s dad, Gary Blagaich, passed away on January 27, 2012 at 60 years old. He was so proud that his daughter worked for TouringPlans.com. When Sarah got to the hospital, she found that every doctor and nurse there knew exactly what she did for a living. He is greatly missed.

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Leap Day Schedule at the Magic Kingdom

by on February 23, 2012

Here’s our little attempt to breakdown and explain the One More Disney Day – Leap Day schedule for the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World. Remember, all of this is subject to change but should help you plan out a rough guideline for the day if you’re attending. (Updated Feb 26th, 10 p.m.)

Park Hours for February 29: 6 a.m. to 6 a.m.

While it’s technically 24 hours of operations, there will be several planned closures through the night and some attractions will simply close well before the 24-hour mark.

Getting There and Getting Around:

Express Monorail  – 5 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Resort Monorail  – 5 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Resort Buses – Should operate from 5 a.m. until the park is cleared of guests
Epcot Monorail – 8 a.m to 10 p.m. (Don’t expect to park at Epcot and commute late night!)

Attractions with Special Hours:

Walt Disney World Railroad – 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Space Mountain – 6 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Splash Mountain – 6 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Haunted Mansion – 6 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Pirates of the Caribbean – 6 a.m. to 5 a.m.
It’s a Small World – 6 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Tom Sawyer Island – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Country Bear Jamboree – 10 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Liberty Square Riverboat – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Attractions with Scheduled Overnight Closures:

Mad Tea Party – CLOSED 12 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Snow White’s Scary Adventures – CLOSED 1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin – CLOSED 1:30 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Peter Pan’s Flight – CLOSED 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Dining

Cosmic Ray’s – 10 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Pinocchio Village Haus – 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Pecos Bill – 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Tortuga Tavern – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Columbia Harbour House – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m
Casey’s Corner – 11 a.m. to 6 a.m.
The Plaza Restaurant – 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

March 1st Breakfast Locations (3 a.m to 6 a.m.):

The Lunching Pad
Main Street Bakery
Sleep Hollow
Westward Ho
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe

Entertainment

Welcome Show – 5:50 a.m.
Main Street Trolley Show – 6:15 a.m , 7:15 a.m , 8:15 a.m., 9:15 a.m., 10:10 a.m , 12 p.m.
The Magic, Memories and You! – 7:45 p.m., 9 p.m., 11 p.m., 5:30 a.m.
Wishes – 8 p.m.
Main Street Electrical parade – 10 p.m., 12 a.m.
Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade – 3 p.m.
Movie It, Shake It, Celebrate It! Street Party – 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 5:40 p.m.
Dream Along with Mickey – 1:15 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 5:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:20 p.m.

Meet and Greets:

Adventureland Fairies Meet and Greet – 6:15 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.
Aladdin Meet and Greet – 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Evil Stepsisters and Lady Tremaine – 9:15 a.m. to 11:55 a.m.
Fairy Godmother behind Castle – 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Tangled Play and Greet – 9:15 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.
Alice in Wonderland Characters – 6:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Ariel and Eric at Adv Verandah – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Pooh meet and Greet – 10:15 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.
Goofy at Pirates of Caribbean – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Peter Pan in Adventureland – 10 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
Woody and Jessie Meet and Greet – 9:30 a.m.  to 4:30 a.m.
Donald Duck Meet and Greet – 6 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.
Pinocchio, Daisy, Pluto at Flag Pole – 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Princess and the Frog Meet and Greet – 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Naveen – 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.)
Snow White in Town Square – 9:20 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.
Town Square Theater Princesses – 6 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Town Square Theater Mickey Mouse – 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Pajama Mickey and Minnie – 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
White Rabbit at Mad Tea Party – 6:15 a.m to 12:15 a.m.

Other Entertainment:

Frontierland Hoedown – 9:45 a.m., 10:40 a.m., 11:40 a.m., 2:45 a.m., 3:30 a.m., 4:30 a.m.
Castle Hub Dance Party “Dance the Night Away” - 1 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.

Event Merchandise:

Special event ear hats at The Chapeau, Curtain Call Collectibles, and Sir Mickey’s.
One More Disney Day apparel at The Emporum and online at disneystore.com/onemoredisneyday through March 1.
Limited Edition Watch at Main Street Cinema.

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WDW Snow White’s Scary Adventures to Close June 1, 2012

by on February 23, 2012

Disney has confirmed that Snow White’s Scary Adventures at the Magic Kingdom park in the Walt Disney World Resort will be closed permanently on June 1, 2012.  It will be replaced with a new princess meet/greet area as part of the ongoing New Fantasyland expansion. A new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster is being built as part of the new expansion, as well, so Snow White will be represented in the park–it just won’t be with the old classic dark ride anymore. There is no word of any special events for the ride’s last operational day, May 31, 2012.

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Park Plugged in Magic Kingdom – Part 2

by on February 23, 2012

It’s hard to believe but by this time next week “One More Disney Day” will have come and gone. All the speculation as to the wait time for Jungle Cruise at 4:27am will be over. I’ll be recovering in my room at Bay Lake Tower, and the one nightmare that I don’t want to be having cold sweats about is having been alone in the Magic Kingdom without power to my cell phone. This fear is almost as bad as that of losing my High School locker combination (12-14-0, by the way) – it’s so intense that I almost fear the fear itself.

Last week I promised I’d list out places in Magic Kingdom where you can charge your cell phones or other devices. However, I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I wanted to spend some time covering some ground rules. The reason is this: there are a lot of plugs around the Magic Kingdom that you probably shouldn’t be plugging in to. Before making suggestions for areas that I feel work the best, I want to go over some things you should avoid doing and my thoughts as to why you shouldn’t do them.

Also a quick disclaimer, we at TouringPlans.com are not responsible for your cell phone or other device. For that matter, with one exception that I’ll mention below, neither is Disney. What is presented below is a list of suggestions, but in the end any place you choose to charge your phone is done at your own risk.

And with that, here are some basic ground rules:

  • Do not charge in any queue or attraction. It’s just not a good idea, you’ll be in the way, and you’ll delay the line. Find somewhere else.
  • Do not remove a plastic case that is over a socket. No matter how desperate you are, this is a bad idea. That cover, sometimes locked on, is there for a reason. This is not the same as the door plates that outdoor covers seem to have. This is usually a box that sits over a socket.
  • Do not unplug something that is already plugged in. Seriously, this would be a bad choice. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that no one is using. That item was plugged in by Disney for a reason.
  • Do not move something other than a table or chair, for example: a display case, a video game machine, or an Imagineering decoration.
  • Do not reach behind anything in order to plug in. Just because you can get your arm back there doesn’t mean your arm belongs back there
  • Do not plug in anywhere you see another item already plugged in, even if there is a socket available.
  • Do not plug in to sockets that are inside bushes or behind fences. There is one notable exception to this (see below).
  • If a cast member asks you to unplug your device, please do as you are asked. There are enough places to plug in that it’s not worth an argument or risking being escorted from the park.
  • There are a lot of sockets in walkways, and you should avoid using these. It’s better to stand out of the way than in it. For example, all through the tunnel in Cinderella Castle there are plugs available. These really aren’t good choices since you’ll be in the way.
  • Do not open floor plates. These are closed for a reason, and you shouldn’t try to use these.

Some things you should be aware of:

  • Most devices made for sockets in the United States are rated at 120v. Not all of the plugs you see around the Magic Kingdom are 120v sockets. Some are 240v, especially ones you see tied into lamp posts or on the exterior corners of buildings. Plug into one of these by mistake, and your device will be destroyed.
  • Not all sockets are active. For example, the socket in the rear of the Disney Vacation Club booth next to the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade is not active.

And now the list of locations:

City Hall
This is actually the recommended charging location by Disney. There are no plugs inside for you to use, but there is a device check-in service. What you do is get a Article Storage ticket that will be tied or taped to your device. Similar to a coat check service at a fancy restaurant, you will be given a portion of the ticket that you must use to reclaim your device. Then with a cord you provide Disney will store and charge your device for you. You are allowed to leave your device as long as you deem necessary.

Just outside the bathrooms to the right of City Hall, when facing the front, you can also find 4 outlets paired on either side of the building.

Restrooms
Rather than list out every restroom on its own, I just thought I’d lump them together. In a men’s restroom there is typically anywhere from 1 to 3 outlets, one of which can often be found underneath a baby changing table. The only problem might be the awkwardness of having to say, “Hey,” to everyone who enters or exits.

Locker Rental at the Park Entrance

There are a half dozen outlets inside to plug in to. While it can be a little crowded in the morning, later on in the day almost no one is in here until people start returning at the end of the day to reclaim their stored property. That means not only can you recharge your device, but you can come hang out and recharge yourself.

Walt Disney World Railroad Main Street U.S.A. Station

Here you can find plugs all over waiting to be used. There are several plugs on the outdoor patio up the station stairs. This is already a favorite spot to stop and relax, so now you can use it to recharge too. While there are plugs inside and along the walkways, those would violate the rules I listed above, so avoid them. In the Station’s lower level there are some plugs along various walls and corridors. Some of these are clearly in the way, and others are not – use your judgment.

Car Barn
As long as it’s not parade time, there are 2 outlets on the front of this building to the left of the entrance that I’ve seen people using from time to time.

Harmony Barber Shop
There are two outlets inside that you can use to charge, however they’re in the corner and you will need to keep an eye on your own phone while inside. As this area tends to be tight and crowded much of the time, I’d avoid this.

Curtain Call Collectibles
This is the new shop immediately on the right as you enter Magic Kingdom. There are sockets inside. This location would not be my first choice for charging.

Tony’s Town Square Restaurant
There are 2 outlets just under the picture of Lady and the Tramp in the waiting area. Otherwise there are 6 outlets in the actual restaurant. None of them are in the outside seat area. The wait staff knows where they are, and you can request to wait for one of the five tables capable of using the plugs.

Main Street U.S.A. Shops
Strangely the Emporium itself is has no plugs that are in plain sight that a guest could use. However, every other shop on Main Street has plugs that are visible and easily reachable. The only other location that does not have good options for charging is the Main Street Cinema. I’m not a fan of hanging out near breakable things for too long, so I’d personally also avoid shops like Crystal Arts.

First Aid & Baby Care Center
Both of these have plugs available for use, however for both locations you need to have a valid reason for being inside. In First Aid if you’re in the waiting area there are a few plugs along both walls. There are also plugs available in the back rooms if you go into a checkup room. Baby care is well equipped in order to support certain nursing devices and other baby care items.

The Plaza Restaurant
Not a great choice. There are only two tables in the restaurant with plugs, and those tables are on either side of the door as you enter. You need to be careful as one socket is right at the base of the door.

The Crystal Palace
While there are a few plugs scattered around this restaurant, it’s not one where you’ll be able to request a table with a plug – so don’t rely on it for that.  However, there is one spot in the restaurant you can reliably charge at, but there’s a good chance it will be in use.  In the alcove where the bathroom entrances are you’ll find a little waiting area with a nice looking comfy chair.  Next to this chair is a socket pair that you can use for charging.

Magic Kingdom Rose Garden
This popular and out of the way location has some nice benches down by the water to rest and relax. It’s also one place that I feel is an exception to the rules above. There is a very convenient and well placed socket here that while inside a fenced area is also easily reachable and very convenient for charging.

Benches Near La Fontaine de Cendrillon
This location is found to the left of the fountain when facing it, and now is the home of the Shield location for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom attraction. The benches on both sides have plugs conveniently placed. Due to its serene yet in the heart of it location, this is my personal favorite recharging location.

Tomorrowland Terrace
All the plugs for charging are located on the lower eating level closest to the water. They can be found along the walls, near the rails, and on most of the support columns. Due to the dessert party you won’t be able to use this location at night, but during the day it’s a great choice.

Tomorrowland Restrooms
There’s only one outlet pair here, located on the rightmost side of the building near the planter. I’m mentioning it because I almost always see someone using it to charge. It’s certainly not a prime spot.

Space Mountain
Just to the right of the FASTPASS entry, along the blue wall there is an outlet pair that I’ve seen people using to charge in the past. Not a first choice, but it is there.

Tomorrowland Arcade
Without a doubt, this is the holy mecca of charging inside of the Magic Kingdom. Imagine you’re on the moving sidewalk taking you out of Space Mountain when you realize it’s time to charge your phone. As soon as you step into the store, look down and to your left, by the front doors, there’s 4 outlets right there that people use to charge. Be careful not to violate the rules in here no matter how tempting it is – there are plenty of outlets in here that do not violate them.

Several of the columns in the arcade area itself have plugs that are free and clear. A personal favorite spot is over by the Harley-Davidson ride: there are 4 sockets, plus you can it on a comfortable faux motorcycle while charging. You can find 4 more outlets off to the right of the basketball toss, on the wall near a window. It’s sort of out of the way, and has a little ledge that you could place your device on instead of the floor. Very often, half of the arcade store is devoid of displays – usually the very back of the store and the back left corner are completely empty. There are several 4 outlet groupings along the walls that can be used and are out of the way.

Tomorrowland DVC Booth
There’s an outlet pair right underneath one of the displays, I’ve seen this used when cast members are not working in the booth.

Tomorrowland Shops
There are a few plugs to be found in these shops, however they are mostly found near checkout counters and are not the best choices because of possible congestion. I have seen people using the socket located in Auntie Gravity’s and the ones just inside the doors at Merchant of Venus.

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
Despite its size, there are only a few plugs to be found in here. Two pairs of them are located inside the restroom hallway. You’d generally be out of the way, but the location isn’t favorable. There are a few more to be found in the rightmost indoor eating area. Finally there are two more that are located on either side of the main dining room with Sonny Eclipse. Several of us used the one on the left side on New Year’s Eve.

Cheshire Cafe
The plug here is actually on the left hand side of the building near the phones and restrooms. It can be a little high traffic here, but I see people charging here often.

Fantasy Faire
Also know as “that shop at the end of PhilharMagic”. There is an outlet pair tucked inside of here. It’s out of the way, and this shop is seldom crowded as you don’t have to go through it to exit the attraction.

Pinocchio Village Haus
There are a few outlets strewn about here, all of which are convenient to at least one table. These sockets are some of the most used by guests in Magic Kingdom. My favorite spot inside has to be the upper balcony. There are only a few tables up there, and one pair of outlets. However, almost no one goes up there, because they don’t realize there’s an up there to go to. It’s nice and secluded.

Columbia Harbour House
In here you will find almost as many outlets as at the Tomorrowland Arcade. They are all over the restaurant – at least one in almost every grouping of tables. Most people who are looking for a secluded spot will head upstairs to the room that sits over the walkway between Fantasyland and Liberty Square. Any place with this much food and this many sockets is sure to attract anyone in need of a charge.

The Yankee Trader
On a wall in the corner near a small window you’ll find a lone pair of sockets. This place can be very high traffic at times, but I’ve still seem folks wedged into that corner charging their phone.

Liberty Tree Tavern
There are 6 outlet pairs that I was able to find in here, roughly one per table grouping. They’re only convenient to about 8 tables. Considering this is a sit down restaurant, you can’t pick your table here, being able to charge here isn’t a sure thing.

Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade
In the actual arcade, there’s one socket pair next to the leftmost rifle. There are also a few more sets where the Fox location for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is located (to the left of the arcade).

Frontierland Shops
There are some sockets to be found in these stores, and I have seen people using them in the past. However, I don’t consider any of them to be truly convenient.

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
Though nowhere near as many as Columbia Harbour House, there are plenty of plugs in here. Their placement is sometimes not convenient, or in a highly trafficked area that isn’t near a table. The absolute best location is the room at the furthest corner of the restaurant just near the side entrance. This room is very easy to spot as it’s dedicated to Pecos Bill’s horse Widow-Maker, it has the highest concentration of sockets in the restaurant, and it’s often overlooked so it’s often empty.

Splash Mountain
Not the ride itself, but there’s one socket pair in this area I see getting a lot of use. Near the bathrooms, and right next to one of the newer character meet and greet locations there are some telephones. If you look down you’ll see the sockets. There’s no seating here, but the people charging here are often seen sitting on the floorboards.

Walt Disney World Railroad Frontierland Station
There are two pairs of outlets to be found here, one inside and one outside. Neither is terribly convenient for use, but I’ve still seen people using them.

Tortuga Tavern
There are some bar stools found at the furthest point from the order counter in this restaurant. Here this is a socket pair that I’ve used a few times myself in the past. The area is secluded, has chairs, and a counter. The other spot in here where plugs can be found is the room where the toppings bar is located when the restaurant is opened. This room is also the Shuriken location for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

Pirates of the Caribbean
The shop at the end of this attraction has a few plugs that aren’t in the most convenient spot. However, if you head from the shop, through the hallway where the restrooms are located and outside, on the side of the building you will find a socket pair. I’ve seen people charging here often.

Adventureland
There are plugs to be found in a few locations around Adventureland. Some of them are interesting to look at, because while not convenient, they are painted to look like brick walls on which they can be found, grout and all. Once again Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom comes through at the Fire location – there is a very convenient plug just to the right of the location. There are also a few plugs to be found by the restrooms, one of which is often used because it’s tucked in the corner yet still inside the bathroom hallway.

Aloha Isle
After you’ve grabbed your Dole Whip you can head to the left of the counter to find a gazebo-like seating area. Inside there are a two pairs of plugs that you can use.

And that’s it. Like I said there are plenty of sockets that I didn’t mention, especially those found in bushes. My feeling was that if it’s a socket I wouldn’t consider using, then there’s no need to mention it. When asked about charging, most cast members will direct you to City Hall. However, many cast members will be willing to help direct you to sockets in their immediate area as well. If you’re concerned about the quality of the power, I can only recommend bringing some sort of surge protection with you. And if you’re traveling in a group consider bringing along a power strip.

What about you? Which are your favorite locations? What about one that I missed? One elsewhere in Walt Disney World? When in a park, how often do you find you need to plug in? Are you looking forward to “One More Disney Day”? May a charge be with your phone…always.

 

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Disney World Travel With Baby: Hacks and Gadgets to Make the World a Better Place

by on February 22, 2012

Life with a baby can stressful enough. Put that baby, and her parents, in a new and possibly overwhelming situation such as Disney vacation, and frustrations are bound to occur. Things that seem easy, or at least routine, may prove challenging on the road. How do feed my child in a hotel room? How do I potty train in a theme park? How do I hold a squirmy baby in a haunted mansion?

Never fear, there are number of hacks and gadgets that can make Disney travel (or any travel) easier on all involved.

One quick caveat: As I mentioned in a previous article on packing, I am not a fan of bringing unnecessary gear on a trip. No one should be toting all of the mentioned items to the World. Just choose the few that help to keep your personal demons at bay.

How do I bathe my baby in a hotel room?

  • Hack: Get in the shower/tub with her; everyone gets clean. Easiest when there are two adults on hand, one to do the washing and one to take the wet baby while the other adult dries off.
  • Gadget: Inflatable baby tub. Inexpensive and takes up almost no room when deflated, but difficult to fully dry.
  • Gadget: Handheld shower converter. Sit an older baby in the tub and use a gentle spray for shampoo removal.

Inflatable baby tub.

How do I potty train in a theme park?

  • Hack: Um, don’t. Bad mommy confession time – We had a WDW trip planned when one of my daughters was right around training age. We decided to keep her in diapers and not attempt potty use until after our trip.
  • Hack: Make frequent visits to the baby care centers. The park baby care centers are equipped with super small, child-sized toilets. So fascinating, you child my never want to leave.
  • Gadget: Bring a portable folding potty seat. Just toss one of these (about the size of a hardcover book)in your backpack and you can convert any standard toilet into a child-size toilet. Just remember that the Disney/airport auto-flush toilets scare the heck out of some toddlers. Bring a pack of dark-colored post-its to cover the sensor.

How do I warm my baby’s bottle?

  • Hack: Don’t do it. Maybe I’m lazy, but I never quite understood the “warm the bottle” thing. Once my kids were about a month old, we did progressively less warming of bottles. You drink room-temperature or cold beverages, baby can too.
  • Hack: Use the microwave oven in your resort food court. Not particularly practical for middle-of-the-night feedings, but it works. If you want to do this often, request a room close to the food court. Also, the baby care centers in the parks have microwaves for guest use.
  • Hack: Use your coffee maker (at the moderate or deluxe resorts). Run water through your coffee maker, without the coffee. Place bottle in pot of heated water to warm.
  • Gadget: Electric bottle warmer. Kinda heavy to pack, but more official than the hack method.

Electric bottle warmer.

How do I keep my baby cool in a theme park?

  • Hack: Don’t go out mid-day. It’s been said before, but it works.
  • Gadget: Fill a hot water bottle with cold water or ice. Place this in the stroller with baby to keep his immediate environment nice and cool.
  • Gadget: Keep the air moving with a stroller fan. Make sure you position it away from tiny fingers.

How do I handle my baby on a ride?

  • Hack: Don’t worry about it. Just carry your child and hold her on your lap during the attraction. If the posted height requirement allows you to bring your baby on an attraction, then Disney thinks it’s safe to do so.
  • Gadget: Wear your baby in a front carrier. When my twins were babies we wore them on front carriers on rides such as Small World, Buzz Lightyear, Haunted Manison, and the Kilimanjaro Safari. This allowed them a good view of the attraction and allowed me to keep my hands free to hold on to a hand rail or to my older daughter’s hand.

How do I carry all my baby gear?

  • Hack: Tote less gear. Keep your big diaper bag in a locker and stop by repeatedly to replenish your “on hand” supplies. Make use of resort package delivery or package pickup if you make purchases.
  • Gadget: Bring a few extra stroller bag accessories. Works with your stroller or Disney’s.
  • Gadget: Disney strollers have no cup holders. Bring your own.

I have a baby and a preschooler, do I have to bring a big doubler stroller?

  • Hack: Rent a Disney stroller only as needed. Your older child may not need a stroller all the time. Use a rental for only part of your trip.
  • Gadget:Get a buggy board attachment for your stroller. Fits in your suitcase and turns your single stroller into a sit-n-stand with a quick clip. Saved my family from having to bring three strollers on several WDW trips.
  • Gadget: Bring two lightweight umbrella strollers and turn them into a double stroller as needed with stroller connector clips. This gives you twice the flexibility.
  • Bring several cup holders to make the Disney strollers more useful.

I’m going to rent a Disney stroller. How do I make it more comfortable for my child?

  • Hack: Grab some towels from your room (they’ll bring you more). Use two as cushions to make the seat softer. Use one draped over the canopy as a sun shield, privacy screen, or light rain protection.
  • Gadget: Use a blow-up seat cushion for a softer ride.
  • Gadget: Bring a sun shade and/or plastic rain cover to keep the elements at bay.

How do I keep my toddler/preschooler from falling out of a big hotel bed?

  • Hack: Make a nest of pillows/blankets on the floor and have him sleep there. Housekeeping will bring you whatever you need.
  • Hack: Push your desk/table chair against the side of the bed to form a barrier.
  • Hack: Borrow a bed rail from housekeeping.
  • Gadget: Bring your own bedrail.

How do I get my anxious child to sleep in a hotel room?

  • Hack: Leave the bathroom light on and keep the door ajar. Might be enough to keep the monsters away.
  • Hack: Get a flashlight and/or white noise app for your phone. As long as it’s plugged in, you can let these go all night.
  • Gadget: Bring a night light with you.

My child wants a thousand bedtime stories. How do avoid bringing the library with me on vacation?

  • Hack: You know all those weird closed-circuit TV channels that run on the Disney hotel sets? Often one of them runs a loop of low-key children’s stories in the evening. Story time with Duffy! And yes, I do realize that this is not the same as interacting with a book (I’m a former librarian), but everyone’s on vacation here. A few nights of slacking will do no permanent harm.
  • Hack/Gadget: Load up your electronic device with kiddie lit. No extra weight.
  • Hack: Bring an anthology which includes many favorite stories. Good choices are The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury and Harper Collins Treasury of Children’s Book Classics.

These were some of the travel issues I faced when my daughters were younger. What are your personal baby travel bugaboos? What are you favorite baby travel hacks and gadgets? Let us know in the comments below.

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A Day at the Spa at Saratoga Springs

by on February 22, 2012

Today’s article comes to us courtesy of TouringPlans reader “Bookish Belle.” BB graciously offered to document her trip to the Spa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs. When she’s not leaning out of her ivory tower and dreaming of all things Walt Disney World, Bookish Belle is an editor and professor. She caught the Disney obsession when she took her first trip to Disney World at five years old and counts convincing her husband to love the Mouse (and join DVC!) among her proudest achievements.

For the TouringPlans lowdown on resort spas, please check out this article on our site.

As an avid consumer of all things Walt Disney World, I was extremely surprised by the lack of online information about the Spa at Saratoga Springs. You can find descriptions of everything from trash cans to street lights, but when comes to spa services the Disney interwebs are strangely silent. Or so I discovered when having received a gift certificate for a day at the spa as a Christmas Gift (thanks, Dad!), I starting Googling my heart out, hoping to find stories of spa days and tips about the best treatments to experience at the Disney spas. To my disappointment, I found very little. So little, in fact, that, as both a Spa and Disney enthusiast, I contacted the Touring Plans folks to see if they’d be interested in my experience so that you, dear reader, would have the resources that I lacked!

My “spadventure” started with a review of the spa section in the Unofficial Guide, then I selected a location and a package to try. According to the Guide, the Spa at Saratoga Springs is the nicest on property. This information made an easy decision ever easier: since the Grand Floridian Spa was closed, and I was staying at the Treehouse Villas, trying out the Spa at Disney’s Saratoga would be a no brainer!

After perusing the choices on the Niki Bryan website, I settled on the DVC Package. It included a 30-minute Swedish massage, a facial and a mani/pedi combo. There are DVC discounts available on other packages to, so if you’re a member, make sure to bring your membership card!

In addition to these services, all spa treatments come with use of the spa facilities. So in addition to the 3 ½ hours of pampering, I could use the sauna, steam room, and hot tub to my heart’s content. These facilities, I was told, are not for the use of Saratoga Spring guests – only clients of the spa.

My first appointment was at 9:30, but I went over early to get some shots of the facilities. Since I was an early bird, I got a look at the spa when it was fresh for the day’s guests. As one would expect from a salon of this caliber, everything was done in soothing shades to encourage a blissful experience.

There was a lobby area where you waited to check in. And it had of course, the expected skin care and t-shirts for sale. Here’s where, alas, as a publishing author and a conscientious writing teacher, I have to offer my first word of criticism. The spa’s motto is “Relaxed, yet?” It’s all over the place – on the t-shirts, on the walls, on the stationary, on the price list. Now, I’m not a stickler for grammar – I make plenty of my own errors, and I know that language is a constantly-evolving set of communication practices, but WHAT THE HECK IS THAT COMMA DOING IN THERE? Why would they put a comma there? Why? And how do they expect teachers to relax with that misplaced comma all over the place. Please, Niki Bryan, give back your misplaced comma!

Whew – sorry about that – with a pseudonym like Bookish Belle, I just had to get that off my chest!

The dressing room – whose attendant was particularly helpful during my visit – had comfy robes and slippers, private changing rooms. The dressing room even had one of the few Disney touches I noted in the spa.

I hope you notice that Mickey has excellent writing skills.

The salon was one of the few areas where I was bit disappointed in the Spa. It while it was clean, it lacked that tranquil and luxurious feeling I would expect from a day spa. Partially this had to do with noise level – it seemed like the room next door was an employee area, but there was no sufficient noise proofing between the two spaces. Partially, too, the amenities did not match my experiences off-property – there were no snacks, no water bottles and the tea was on offer was to be drunk from styrofoam park cups. More important to me than these offerings however, was the overall ambiance of the room – it is ripe for a freshening, for it felt less luxurious spa and more institutional waiting room.

Although my expectations thus sank a bit while I was waiting for my first appointment, I am pleased to say these lowered expectation could not have been more wrong! My treatments began with my massage and both the room and the massage therapist blew away expectations! The room wasn’t overly small – which can sometimes be a problem if you strongly dislike closed in spaces – and it was extremely comfortable.

More important to the experience than the room, though, was the sunny disposition and magic fingers of Nichole, my massage therapist. (By the way, I told each of the women who worked with me that I was blogging this experience, and I let them decide if I would photograph and /or name them in this description.) Now I’ve gotten a lot of massages in my time, and this one ranked among the best. Equally as important, Nichole new how to establish a relaxing rapport and had a great tableside manner. Thanks, Nichole!

My other services met or exceeded expectation as well. The aesthetician gave me a relaxing facial with little sales pitch involved. Such low-key affect is much appreciated when your face is covered in warm cloths and goo. And Carla, the women who did my mani/pedi was FANTASTIC as were all the women working in the nail room. They were personable, cheerful and very very good their jobs. The nail room itself, though, like the salon, seemed a bit cramped and stark for a high-end spa. Even a few plants and a paint job would glam things up – and match this environment to expertise of these awesome women! I’m not sure I’d get another manicure here – but that’s because the chlorine in pool water dried out my nails so much that they all broke off over the next week. They were adorable, however, when I left that salon.


Will I go back? I will certainly return for a massage (HEAVENLY after a few days in the park) and for a pedicure (love those nail technicians!). I am less likely to return for a facial, for I think I’ve gotten more thorough work done by aestheticians with whom I have an ongoing-client relationship. Which makes sense – they’ve gotten to know both you and your skin. But for a rejuvenating half day away from the park, I heartily recommend the Spa at Saratoga Springs!

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Disneyland Monorail Delayed Opening Feb 21 – March 24

by on February 21, 2012

The Disneyland Monorail will be operating with reduced hours and delayed openings from February 21 to March 24, 2012. This is in addition to the previously announced closure to allow for Buena Vista Street construction that will occur from February 27 to March 9, 2012.

During the delayed opening period the monorail system will not begin service until 10 a.m. Closing times are not expected to change.

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Animal Kingdom Appreciation

by on February 21, 2012

One of the most commonly discussed topics in the Disney community is Disney’s Animal Kingdom and if it holds a candle to the other Disney theme parks. It seems that people tend to have a love/hate relationship with Animal Kingdom and to be honest, I can see why. After all, there are only seven actual rides in the park if you’re not including shows and walk-through exhibits. To some guests, it might be a let down after experiencing an attraction packed park like Magic Kingdom. Other reasons that Animal Kingdom’s quality is often questioned are the size of the park which leads to extensive walking at times, Expedition Everest‘s semi-defunct Yeti, and the eyesore that is DinoLand U.S.A. All of that being said, I think that there are many overlooked reasons to value Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom opened in April of 1998 with the concept of a theme park that focuses on animal and nature conservation but doesn’t emulate the typical zoo. At 500 acres, Animal Kingdom is easily Disney World’s largest park on property. Within that space there are over 1000 animals to discover and learn about.

A month ago, I was on a totally rad solo trip (the first of many to come) and on my first full day at Disney World, I headed to Animal Kingdom to see if I could approach this beautiful theme park in a new way. I was one of those “Animal Kingdom is a half day park” kind of people. On previous trips, I would ride a couple of attractions, see Finding Nemo: The Musical, and leave the park. After talking to a few of my Disney fanatic friends, I discovered that not everyone does it that way. In fact, there are many people who spend more time at Animal Kingdom than any other park. Surprisingly, with just one attempt at a new approach to the park, I found myself appreciating it in a whole new way.

If you want to take my advice and challenge yourself to see Animal Kingdom from a different perspective, start by forgetting that there are attractions in the park at all for the first hour after park opening. I know you diligent Touring Plans users are gasping right now, but you have to trust me. Take your time to observe the animals living in The Oasis right away and let other guests run right by you.

Stroll over to Royal Anandapur Tea Company and grab yourself a coffee, tea, or if you’re feeling particularly naughty…a pastry. Begin investigating the exquisite details that go into each of the themed lands. I’m a pretty artsy fartsy person so I really found myself appreciating everything. Try to get camera happy at Animal Kingdom. You don’t have to have a big fancy camera do to this either. I took a lot of time to photograph buildings, doors, windows, pavement, and even little “props” that are placed strategically to enhance theming. Think about it: during the development of Animal Kingdom, creative minds went so far to pick out artistic elements that enhances your touring experience and truly makes you feel submersed in your environment. If you’re just blowing past it all, you’re missing out on so much hard work that deserves to be valued.

I truly believe that Animal Kingdom has some of the most awesome and unique shopping in all of Walt Disney World. While many stores in the other theme parks sell many of the same things, shops in Animal Kingdom tend to sell more “non-Disney” logo merchandise. Ladies, you can find some really stylish accessories at a fair price.

In my opinion, Animal Kingdom has some of the best shows on Disney property. I think they all far surpass the Broadway-centric Hollywood Studios. On my solo trip, I finally saw the bird show, Flights of Wonder. I was amazed! The whole show was so well put together and turned out to be educational and comedic all at the same time. At the end, I sat in the front row holding back tears. Clearly I’m too sentimental at times. Try and take the time out of your day and catch at least a couple of the fantastic shows available to you.

On top of the spotlighted shows, Animal Kingdom has without a doubt the most unique street performances in any Disney park. Divine, a stunningly beautiful camouflaged stilt walker, is something like you’ve never seen before. You can find her on the pathway between Africa and Asia. See the Tip Board in Discovery Island for her schedule to make sure you don’t miss her. I’m also a huge fan of Tam Tam of Congo, a group of dancers who perform authentic African dances set to music. They even pull in guests to join in on the fun! It’s a riot to watch or participate in. Speaking of street performances, every afternoon Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade goes through the streets of Animal Kingdom. The whimsical parade doesn’t use typical floats. You’ll see cast members control a unique contraption by peddling on a bike and moving a handle which makes an attached bird open and close its wings. Beloved Disney characters go by waving on safari vehicles, enticing you to jam along with them. Without question, it’s my favorite parade currently in any Disney theme park.

If you find that your kids haven’t really “gotten” Animal Kingdom in the past, give this suggestion a try: before you leave home, go to the library and pick out some books on animals. Ask your children to flip through the pages and point out animals that they’d like to see in real life. Make a note of them and then do some research online to find where in Animal Kingdom you might be able to see some of creatures that your kids are interested in. Your kids will look forward to Animal Kingdom and feel as though they have a purpose to be there.

Overall, my biggest tip to enjoy Animal Kingdom more is to just keep your pace slow. Really take everything in and don’t rush from attraction to attraction. Give yourself a full day or more to tour the park and don’t allow yourself to cut that short. Enjoy your newfound appreciation for this truly magnificent park.

What are your opinions on Animal Kingdom? Think you’ll tour a little differently next time? Let me know in the comments!

 

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