Archive for August, 2012

Value, Moderate, Deluxe, Villa: What’s the Difference Between Disney World Resort Categories?

by on August 22, 2012

Walt Disney World Veterans instinctively understand the differences between Disney’s resort classification system: value, moderate, deluxe, and villa. But new Disney travelers, or folks who’ve previously only stayed off site, are often confused by the terminology. Sure deluxe sounds, well, deluxe, but what exactly makes it that way. What makes it more deluxe than a moderate resort? What does moderate mean, anyway? And why is moderate more deluxe than value when there are some value rooms that cost more than moderate rooms? To help you sort it all out, here’s a handy-dandy cheat sheet detailing the differences in the Disney resort categories.

But before we get going, it may be helpful to list the hotels that fall into each of the classification categories.

The deluxe resorts are: Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, and Wilderness Lodge. The moderate resorts are: Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Fort Wilderness Cabins. The value resorts are: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Pop Century, and Art of Animation. The dedicated villa resorts are Old Key West and Saratoga Springs. Additionally, there are villa rooms at the Beach Club, Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, and Contemporary (Bay Lake Tower) resorts. The amenities of those villas are shared with the deluxe resorts that host them. The Fort Wilderness campground remains unclassified. Campground guests have all the privileges of Fort Wilderness cabin guests except, of course, having a Disney roof over their head.

Room Size

Value resort accomodations are fairly basic.

  • Value resorts: The typical standard room, sleeping up to four guests plus a baby in a crib, is approximately 260 square feet. The typical family suite, sleeping up to six guests plus a baby in a crib is approximately 520 square feet.
  • Moderate resorts: Typical standard rooms at Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, and Port Orleans are approximately 314 square feet. These rooms sleep up to four guests, plus a baby in a crib. There are some rooms at Port Orleans Riverside equipped to sleep up to five guests plus a baby. There are some suites at Coronado Springs. The Fort Wilderness cabins, which sleep up to six guests plus a baby, are approximately 504 square feet.
  • Deluxe resorts: There are a variety of room types and sizes at the deluxe hotels. These range from standad rooms of about 344 square feet at the Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge (rooms sleeping four plus a baby) on up suites of more than a thousand square feet. Typical rooms at the Grand Floridian sleep up to five guests plus a baby in 440 square feet.
  • Villa resorts: There are studio, one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom villas. These range in size from a 316 square foot studio at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, to a nearly 2,500 square foot three bedroom grand villa at the Boardwalk. Most studio rooms sleep up to four guests plus a baby. The grand villas sleep up to 12 guests plus a baby.
  • Things to think about: Not surprisingly, the rooms get larger as you move up in the resort classification level. However, the square footage of your room may not matter to you if you’ll only be spending time in your room to sleep.

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New Epcot Segway Tour To Debut

by on August 22, 2012

Segway Tours, to me, are one of the coolest tours you can take at Walt Disney World. There is just something so incredible and almost futuristic about rolling around on one of these devices! Today, to tie into the futuristic feel of the Segway, Disney announced that if will offer a new tour at Epcot called the Keep Moving Forward: See the World, Share the Dream Segway Tour.

The new tour will last three hours and will include training on the Segways, breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, and a detailed tour around the 1.3 miles that is World Showcase.

The new tour will cost $99 plus tax for guests ages 16 and up. Guests who are 16 and 17 must have a parent or guardian sign a waiver. Discounts will be available for both Annual Passholders and DVC Members. To book the tour, call (407) WDW-TOUR.

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The Lovable Livestock of Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch

by on August 22, 2012

It's been a little over a month since my last visit to Disneyland, and I'm currently suffering serious withdrawal from my fuzzy friends. No, I'm not talking about the man-sized mice mascots, as much as I love Mickey and his menagerie. It is the actual animal inhabitants of Disneyland that I miss the most.

Many repeat resort visitors have an attraction that they insist on experiencing on every single visit to Disneyland. Some guests don't consider a Disney day done until they've taken a trip on Space Mountain or Peter Pan's Flight. My wife won't leave the park without at least one visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room, and I'm personally partial to a day-ending adventure with Indiana Jones. But if there is one place that I find myself more often than any other, it has to be the Big Thunder Ranch.

This hidden treasure of Frontierland, tucked along the path to Disneyland, doesn't receive the foot traffic or popular acclaim of its similarly named neighbor, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Most people who stumble into it are probably hungry for barbecue at the adjoining open-air eatery, or hunting for Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at their summer home on the Festival Arena stage.

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It’s the Little Things That Count

by on August 21, 2012

In November of 1997, I took my first trip to Walt Disney World. I was nine years old. At that age, my memory wasn’t the well oiled machined that it is now (ha!), so, of course I don’t remember too much from my first Disney vacation. I remember being obsessed with Horizons and I remember playing in the sand box at MGM-Studios (I love that I just got to use that name and it be correct). What’s funny is that I don’t actually remember my first ride on Splash Mountain or the first time I had a Mickey Premium Bar. I tend to remember the little things.

What I think Disney does better than anyone else might not be the obvious things that flash in a person’s mind when they hear the name, “Disney.” Sure, fast roller coasters and giant yeti’s are pretty cool but they aren’t what make’s Disney so magical, in my opinion. When you’re in the parks you can actually pick up on details that Imagineers worked diligently for you to notice. I think it’s the small, sometimes virtually unnoticeable things that tell me the Imagineers care about their job and about Disney park guests.

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Epcot’s Morocco and Me: A Love Story

by on August 21, 2012

I did not go to Walt Disney World looking for love, yet I found it. I was walking the promenade of Epcot’s World Showcase when my eye was pulled towards such beauty that my heart stopped. Okay, I will stop with the strange romantic novel opening before this starts getting really weird. As you have probably gathered from the title of this post, I am not talking about a person but the Morocco pavilion.

The reason this reminds me of a love story is because of the organic way that my affection for Morocco began (please note that when I say ‘Morocco,’ I mean the pavilion. I have never even been on the African continent, let alone in the actual country of Morocco). As a child I was underwhelmed with World Showcase in general as most kids tend to be. As I have gotten older however, I have developed an affinity for other cultures and travel. Well, you can probably guess that makes World Showcase one of my favorite places to be in Disney World.

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Meeting Characters at Walt Disney World With Kids

by on August 20, 2012

Zoe meeting Pinocchio for the first time.

When we were getting ready to bring our daughter, Zoe, for her first visit to Walt Disney World, when she was going to be 19 months old, one of my main concerns was how was she going to react to meeting the characters. Meeting Characters can be a huge memory for kids and adults alike, but if they aren’t ready it can also be a huge setback when it comes to visiting the parks. While I will be the first to admit that we went totally overboard with our preparation, it did totally pay off!

One of the first things we took into consideration was if we thought she was ready to meet the characters in a one-on-one situation. Our first step was to introduce her to the characters that she would be meeting by watching movies and seeing how she reacted to them. For example she LOVED Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, but she had zero interest in Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (which broke my heart a little). Another thing we did was we tried to get her around characters whenever we could. The Red Robin near our house in Virginia had Kid’s Nite on Wednesdays, so we would go in and Zoe could get used to being around their large mascot. It was scary for her at first to be near him, but she was comfortable seeing him, and as time went on (and we ate many a hamburger) eventually she was okay with having her picture taken with him.

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Some Disneyland Observations from a Disney World Veteran

by on August 20, 2012

As you may know, several of the TouringPlans.com staff have taken off to Disneyland for the events of Destination D. You’ll be seeing reports and updates in this space over the next few weeks I’m sure. But as I was the first one to return (ok, I went before they did) here’s some quick hit observations from our trip that will hopefully save you some time or money.

1. Being an Annual Passholder is a big deal – Having an Annual Pass at Walt Disney World is primarily convenient because you don’t have to factor ticket costs into every trip. In Disneyland, however, it’s a HUGE money saving tool. Since the price to upgrade from a Walt Disney World Annual Pass to a Premier Passport (includes all California and Florida parks) was less than a 6 day ticket, my wife and I did so. Just because of that, we saved 10% on our rental car, 20% on our off property hotel, 15% on all meals (both table service and counter service) and 20% on all souvenirs.

By our best estimate, we saved nearly $800 over the course of 6 days in Anaheim just by being Annual Passholders. If you are a Disney World passholder, I definitely advise you to check out the costs and have at least one person in your party hold an Annual Pass for Disneyland as well. If you do the math, it’s well worth it.

As an Annual Passholder, I saved 15% on this delicious pasta with lamb from Carthay Circle.

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Last Week at Disneyland Resort (8/12/2012 – 8/18/2012)

by on August 20, 2012

All photos copyright Disney

The tourist hordes are having their last gasp at Disneyland, as the summer season rapidly draws to a close. But wait, there’s more! Like a horror movie villain, huge crowds are expected to crop up again as Disneyland’s low-end annual passes lift their black-out dates, allowing thousands of locals to experience Cars Land for their first time.

Crowd Calendar

Quietest Day: Friday 8/17 was slower than anticipated at a 7 out of 10 at the resort, with DCA crowds at 8.3 and Disneyland Park at only 4.1.

Busiest Day: Sunday 8/12 was a 9 out of 10 at the resort, with DCA crowds at 9.5 and Disneyland Park at 7.6.

Subscribe to the TouringPlans.com Disneyland Crowd Calendar for details on predicted crowds for the next 30 days.

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10 Best Transportation Rides at Disneyland

by on August 17, 2012

What are the ten best transportation rides at Disneyland? What on earth is a transportation ride at Disneyland and are there even 10 of them? In last week’s blog post comparing dark rides at Disneyland, someone asked if the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover would qualify as a dark ride under my definition. Robert came on and made the good point that the PeopleMover is what he would call “a transportation ride.” He defined a transportation ride as a ride in which “the mode of transportation was the main point of the attraction.” A ride where the “vehicle is as important or more so than the scenery.” Vehicles that “travel the same path but they are different experiences.” He suggested a blog comparing transportation rides! I was intrigued by the idea of even defining 10 rides as such! So let’s see what we can come up with. Robert, this one’s for you!

1. Disneyland Monorail – The Disneyland Monorail is the most obvious, and I would argue the most enjoyable, transportation ride. The monorail at Disneyland is actually very different than the monorail at Walt Disney World. First of all, Disneyland’s monorails were updated in 2008 to the very beautiful Mark VII versions. It’s been a long time since Disney World’s monorails got an update. At Disney World, the rail system itself is much more extensive. At Disney World you can ride from Epcot to the Ticket and Transportation Center; you can ride from there to three beautiful resorts; and of course to the gates of the Magic Kingdom. All without even purchasing a park ticket! But, while the Disneyland monorail ride is much shorter than the Florida version, it packs a lot into it. For example, the monorail actually stops inside Disneyland (that means if you don’t have a valid park ticket for Disneyland, you’re not getting on!), and it goes through both Disney California Adventure and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. What a great transportation ride it is! Disneyland’s monorails are a sight to behold. They’re sleek, smooth and look like they really could be the transportation ride of the future.

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Weekly Disneyland Photo Update for August 17, 2012

by on August 17, 2012

This week we take a look at the some modifications being made to Luigi’s Flying Tires in Cars Land, the new location of the Princess Royal Walk, construction on Princess Fantasy Faire, and the progress of Earl of Sandwich construction in Downtown Disney.

Luigi’s Flying Tires has received its first modification since opening on June 15 of this year. The beach balls have been removed from the attraction. Disney confirmed that the beach balls will not be returning, blaming the balls for the attraction’s notoriously slow loading times. Disney also said that there were some “minor incidents” involving guests being hit by beach balls during the ride (isn’t that the point?).

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