Archive for July, 2014

New Universal Orlando Wizarding World Two-Park Touring Plans

by on July 23, 2014

Wizarding World two park touring plan

Learn everything you’ve always wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) about visiting both Gringotts and Hogwarts with our new Wizarding World two-park touring plans! (photos by Seth Kubersky)

A few days ago, we published our newly updated Universal Studios Florida touring plans, which provide step-by-step instructions for tackling Diagon Alley and the crowds at the Gringotts bank ride with maximum efficiency. Those guides are now available as premium touring plans that can be copied and edited in Lines, with versions for Early Entry guests and for those staying off-site.

Today, we’re following up with the first installment of our most frequently requested touring plan: one-day/two-park plans covering both sides of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These new plans cover both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. They feature all Harry Potter attractions (including rides on the Hogwarts Express in both directions) in a single day, and assume you have a Park-To-Park (Universal lingo for “parkhopper”) ticket.

[Note: If you caught the early edition of this post, you may notice that the touring plans have changed slightly. Using the latest data crunched overnight, we've tweaked the morning attraction order to squeeze in one extra attraction! Similar upgrades have already been made to the premium one day USF/Diagon Alley plans we've previously published. You're welcome!]

A few words of warning before you grab your robes and rush out the door. While operational capacity at Gringotts continues to improve a a daily basis, we expect the ride’s reliability to continue to consistently inconsistent for at least several more weeks. Especially during Early Entry, a lengthy breakdown while in line at the bank can derail the most carefully laid touring plan.

Even if everything runs smoothly, this plan packs an exhausting amount of entertainment into a single operating day. It is NOT the ideal relaxing vacation experience. If you can afford it, we strongly suggest spending at least 2 or 3 days enjoying Universal’s offerings, rather than sprinting through them.

While these plans are marked as for “adults” they are applicable for anyone who meets the minimum height requirements and is willing to experience thrill rides, which should include most older children and teens. If you are traveling with younger children, use the “child swap” rooms provided at all major rides, or eliminate and substitue for other nearby attractions.

These plans are based on wait time data collected during the first couple weeks of Diagon Alley’s operations. We plan on continuing to test and adjust these plans through the summer, and will likely revise them at the end of the season once we can fully analyze the crowd patterns.

Finally, these plans are designed to let you experience all of the Wizarding World, along with as many of the parks’ other top attractions. If your only concern is Gringotts and Diagon Alley, feel free to join the herd head there first thing and stay as long as you like; just understand it will come at the expense of experiencing other E-Tickets around the resort.

Subscribers who wish do personalize these plans online should be aware that our software only permits one plan per park. Therefore, these plans are spilt into “Part 1″ and “Part 2.” Begin by following Part 1 until you are instructed to travel to the other park, then switch to Part 2. When you reach the end of Part 2, return to the first park and pick up Part 1 where you left off.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Disney Cruise Line Alaska Quick Tips

by on July 23, 2014

Ahoy mateys! I’m back from my first trip to Alaska via Disney Cruise Line. In upcoming posts, new Touring Plans blogger Kristi Fredericks and I will be back with tips on activities, excursions, and pre/post cruise hotel options. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few quick tips to whet your whistle, pique your interest, and otherwise get you ready for the frozen fun ahead.

IMG_1580

Vancouver

  • The Disney Wonder port terminal is directly adjacent to Canada Place, a large convention center. Several of the Canada Place coffee shops and snack bars offer free WiFi to their customers. If you’re in need of a last minute Internet fix, grab a cup of coffee with a view of the ship before heading into the terminal where online access can be spotty.
  • A primary attraction at Canada Place is “FlyOver Canada.” This is Soarin’, but with footage of Canadian points of interest rather than shots of California. It ain’t cheap (adults are $19.95, students over age 18 are $17.95, and kids are $14.95, plus tax) for a 10-ish minute ride, but the Disney geek in me felt compelled to compare/contrast the experience to that at Epcot and Disney’s California Adventure. The similarity to Soarin’ was almost shocking; the seating is the same, the lift is the same, even the pre-show safety video is similar. My husband and daughter ended up preferring Soarin’ because the music is better and they like the Smell-O-Vision orange groves in the California version, but I (please don’t take away my WDW annual pass when I say this) think I prefer the Canadian experience. The wind simulation is used to better effect in Canada, the screen is wider/taller in Canada, and most importantly, the film print is totally clean in Canada, so your immersion in the experience is not diluted by specks of dust flying over the countryside.
  • The Granville Island market is a must-do for any Vancouver visitor, but Disney geeks will find special pleasure in knowing that among the displays of fresh salmon, spiced nuts, and exotic fruits, you can find a vendor selling actual real live Dole Whip. Look for a vendor called The Milkman. Enjoy!
Dole Whip in Vancouver

Dole Whip in Vancouver

  • Unlike the somewhat confusing and inefficient town to airport public transportation options in my home town of New York, the Vancouver public subway/rail system is easy to understand, clean, and efficient. If you’re not burdened by copious amounts of luggage, the easiest/fastest/cheapest way to get from the airport to the port is likely public transit. Direct point to point takes about 25 minutes and costs about $7.00, depending on the day of the week.
  • At the Vancouver airport, the international departures area near gates numbered in the 70s and 80s currently features several large display cases with vintage Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto toys dating from the 1930s to present day – think variations on Pez and Happy Meal offerings, but hundreds of them.
  • The Starbucks in the Vancouver airport (and presumably elsewhere in the region) serves an uber-Canadian treat, the Maple Macchiato. It’s like a vanilla macchiato, but with an ample drizzle of maple topping made with “real Canadian Maple Syrup found from the Beauce-Appalanche region of Quebec.” Presumably this is no great shakes for you native Canadians out there, but honestly, this small detail was the thing that made this American most feel like Canada was actually another country.
  • The Vancouver airport will not allow you to check in on site prior to three hours before your trip. Nor, for international flights, will they allow you check in when there are fewer than 60 minutes before your flight. Timing is critical here.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Enhancing Fireworks Displays at Disney Parks

by on July 23, 2014

FireworksSummer is here, and by now hopefully everyone has had a chance to enjoy a fireworks display. I got a chance to enjoy the fireworks in a small Colorado town on the 4th of July. My friends’ house had a great view of the town’s fireworks display from their back deck, so all we had to do was sit down and enjoy!

I did notice that something was missing. While the display was an impressive sight and had a variety of fireworks, there wasn’t really any plan to the show. One shot went up. BOOM! Another shot went up. BOOM! Oh – here’s a change of pace - two going off at the same time! BOOM BOOM! The only time the show really ratcheted it up was at the end, when the sky was smothered with all of the fireworks they had left.

Was your viewing of fireworks the same as mine? Did you feel like it was missing…well…a little Disney magic?

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Disney World Summer Tips: Keeping Cool in the Kingdom

by on July 23, 2014

BoardWalk sunrise Disney World

As the sun rises over Walt Disney World, prepare yourself to beat the heat

Though it’s no secret that Florida summers can be hotter than the surface of the sun, it’s also one of Walt Disney World’s busiest seasons. There’s no way to avoid the high temperatures, but there are some things you can do to plan for hot fun in the summertime. As a follow up to TouringPlan’s previous Disney World summer tips, here are some additional ideas to keep you cool in the kingdom!

 

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Shocking Savings of a Universal Orlando Annual Pass

by on July 23, 2014

Universal AP

Universal Annual Passes are a great way for even infrequent guests to save money.

We have been vacationing to Florida for the past seventeen years; visiting Universal Orlando Resort on each trip. During this time, it had never occurred to me to purchase an annual pass. After all, annual passes are more for those people who live close and can visit many times in the same year, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the potential savings of purchasing an annual pass for Universal. The annual passes can be a money saving option for people visiting as few as two days. Not only do you get unlimited day passes to the parks, but you also get free parking, discounts on food, merchandise, admission and special event tickets, and onsite hotel discounts.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Disney World Crowd Report – July 13 to 19, 2014

by on July 22, 2014

Summer-like crowds have arrived. We saw above average crowds most of last week including some higher wait times at The Studios than we have seen at that park in a while. Elsewhere, our predictions did very well, missing only once or twice.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the Disney World Crowd Report:

Walt Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, July 13, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
5
5

Sunday’s crowds were surprisingly low at The Studios but as expected at the other three parks. Toy Story Mania’s averaged stayed below 70 minutes while Tower of Terror was only a 34 minute average posted wait. Guests at Star Tours experienced even lower waits, an average of 14 minutes.

Epcot
4
3
Hollywood Studios
6
3
Animal Kingdom
5
5

Monday, July 14, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
7

Conversely, Monday’s crowd at the Studios was higher than expected, the first time we have observed that since the spring. Toy Story Mania average posted time reached 83 minutes and Tower of Terror reached 59 minutes. Elsewhere, our predictions all did well with perhaps the exception of Space Mountain where the average posted time was 67 minutes (predicted 58).

Epcot
6
6
Hollywood Studios
5
8
Animal Kingdom
7
7

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
8

No problems with any predictions on Tuesday, we swept the board with only a slight miss at Animal Kingdom. Crowds grew significantly between Sunday and Tuesday.

Epcot
8
8
Hollywood Studios
7
7
Animal Kingdom
8
9

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
6

Predictions did well again on Wednesday although Magic Kingdom wasn’t quite as crowded as expected thanks to lower than expected averages at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (39 minutes, predicted 67), Jungle Cruise (25 minutes, predicted 40) and Splash Mountain (48 minutes, predicted 62).

Epcot
7
7
Hollywood Studios
8
7
Animal Kingdom
8
8

Thursday, July 17, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
9
8

The Studios stood out again on Thursday with that park’s highest wait times since Easter. Toy Story Mania hit 82 minutes (predicted 62) and Great Movie Ride reached 24 minutes (predicted 19).

Epcot
6
6
Hollywood Studios
6
9
Animal Kingdom
8
7

Friday, July 18, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
6

Crowds settled on Friday with no park hitting a level higher than ‘6’ on our scale. Predictions did well across all four parks.

Epcot
6
6
Hollywood Studios
6
6
Animal Kingdom
5
5

Saturday, July 19, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
5

Only Animal Kingdom missed by more than one index level on Saturday. There we saw average posted times of 27 minutes for Expedition Everest (predicted 37) and 38 minutes for Kali River rapids (predicted 63).

Epcot
4
4
Hollywood Studios
6
6
Animal Kingdom
6
3
What to Expect This Week
July 20 to 26, 2014
How Crowded is Disney World

How Crowded is Disney World?

Now that crowds have reached typical summer levels we expect to see crowds above average until mid-August.

To see Walt Disney World Crowd predictions for the days of your vacation, check the Crowd Calendar.

To get details about our predictions of future crowds or details about crowds in the past check out the Crowd Calendar and select “Jump to Date” on the left margin.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Disney Discounts with Bounce Back Offers

by on July 22, 2014

t_logo_fbWhat is a Bounce Back Offer?

Are you looking to save money on your trip to Walt Disney World? Of course you are. You already know about the time and money you can save by using this very site, but with the rising cost of a Disney vacation, finding discounts wherever you can is more important than ever.

To keep guests returning for more and more visits, Disney frequently offers incentives that are referred to as Bounce Back specials. These are discounts offered to people while they are still on, and hopefully enjoying, their vacation. The intent of the discount is to entice guests to come back between specific dates and stay on property, not to mention locking people into another Disney vacation.

For quite a while Bounce Back Offers have been a good deal for anyone looking to come back within a year for another Walt Disney World resort stay. The offer flyer (and it’s only found on flyers, not as emails, ads, or smoke signals) can be found in your hotel room, usually placed on the table with other bits of resort-related ephemera.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

When the Magic is Too Much – Preparing Kids for Disney

by on July 22, 2014

Planning a family Disney vacation is full of anticipation and excitement. You save money and plan meticulously for months to have that perfect, magical experience. However, it’s often underestimated how quickly things can go from exciting to scary for the youngest Disney guests. Navigating four theme parks with a little one can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t anticipate what may trigger a reaction. Here we look at ways of preparing kids for Disney vacations.

I’ve seen kiddos get freaked out by 3 main things:

  1. Mickey and characters (they’re bigger than you think!),
  2. Fireworks (sure they’re pretty, but man are they loud!), and
  3. Attractions

There are a few things that you can do in advance to prepare your youngster for the magical world of excitement that awaits!

Buzz and Woody are big, even for adults!

Buzz and Woody are big, even for adults!

Meeting Disney Friends:

Kids see Mickey, Minnie, and all of their favorite characters in movies and on TV, but it really doesn’t prepare them for how large they are in real life. One way to help prepare young kids to these large friends is to expose them to some local “life size” characters like at Chuck E. Cheese or mascots at any local sporting event. This is a great test run to see how a youngster can handle these larger than life characters. It’s also a way to help them sort through any anxiety they might have, so when they meet Mickey it won’t be so overwhelming. If they already love Chuck E. Cheese, then you can cross this concern off your list!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Disney Offers U.S. Military Special Tickets and Resort Rates

by on July 22, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

In honor of our troops, both the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort will not only be offering U.S. Military special discounted room reservation rates, but they are also offering them promotional military ticket options.

The brave men and women who serve our country can purchase specially priced tickets from August 25, 2014, through September 30, 2015 for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. (Disneyland tickets can actually be purchased through October 1, 2015.) These special tickets may be purchased by active and retired U.S. military personnel (which includes active and retired members of the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists). Active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase the Disney Military Promotional Tickets for not only themselves, but also up to five additional family members or friends. Keep in mind that there is an expiration date for these tickets; they must be used by October 3, 2015, and they are non-transferable. Valid military identification will be required for purchase and use.

At Walt Disney World, there are three different Military Promotional Ticket options, which include:

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Pros and Cons of Disney World Without Kids

by on July 22, 2014

Disney vacations are marketed as the quintessential family trip. The commercials, the planning DVDs, the website, the mailings, and oodles of other Disney vacation propaganda all showcase the glowing, smiling faces of cherub-cheeked tots in addition to the satisfied radiance of their perfectly coifed parents. No doubt about it – if you have a family, Disney is on your radar.

This sight is exciting for adults and kids alike!

This sight is exciting for adults and kids alike!

But what about a Disney World trip, without the kids? Disney World is a popular destination for honeymooners, to get engaged, and even for a couple to get married, right in the parks. Millions of couples choose to vacation in the House of Mouse without their progeny for many, many reasons. It could be celebrating a special anniversary, only in town briefly for a conference or work trip, or perhaps, they just it’s time to rekindle that romantic spark sans diaper bags and sippy cups. Whatever the reason for your adult-inspired journey into America’s Neverland, let’s explore the pros and cons of traveling to Walt Disney World without kids.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest