Beyond the Parks

Renting a Sea Raycer: Is It Worth It?

by on July 22, 2014

Renting a Sea Raycer at one of the Disney World Resorts has been on my to-do list for years, but the hardest thing about having so many things to do at the Disney World Resort is that there are just so many things to do! But a few weeks ago, I finally carved out some time courtesy of a Personalized Touring Plan to do a little cruising to see if it’s worth it. Here’s what I found out.

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The Fort Wilderness Marina

First of all, a Sea Raycer is a small, two person watercraft guests can rent at the Disney World Resort marinas. I personally chose the marina at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground because I wanted to cruise around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake to get a view of the Deluxe Resorts and the Magic Kingdom from the water. You can rent a Sea Raycer from the marina at the Yacht and Beach Club, but there isn’t as much to see, in my opinion.

The rental rates for a Sea Raycer are pretty reasonable at $32 per 30 minutes, $40 per 45 minutes, and $45 for 60 minutes. There’s also a 30% discount for passholders, which I gladly took advantage of! I also had to sign a waiver, show my driver’s license, and was warned that Sea Raycers are not known for speed. In fact, you’re looking at top speeds of around 20 mph. I was also informed that have two adults riding in a Sea Raycer, as opposed to driving solo or with a small child, will slow you down even more.

After getting my free life jacket, as it is a requirement for all drivers and passengers to wear a life jacket at all times, I was given a brief tutorial on how to operate a Sea Raycer by a friendly Cast Member, shown a map of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon, was informed a few basic rules, and then was free to head out into open waters!

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Taking Disney World by Storm

by on July 20, 2014

First of all, I am not a meteorologist. I don’t even play one on TV.

That being said, I have thirty years of experience in Orlando weather, including doing extensive research on hurricanes.

The 2014 hurricane season has begun, and the year marks the tenth anniversary of Orlando’s “Year of Three Hurricanes”. In this article, I’ll cover the issue of hurricanes and Orlando’s famous thunderstorms as well as how to avoid them and vacation around them.

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo by Thomas Cook

Officially known as “tropical cyclones” but colloquially as hurricanes, the massive summer storms are one of the most powerful and dangerous natural events on earth. The amount of energy released in one day by an average cyclone in producing rain (which is 400 times greater than the wind energy) is equal to the yearly energy production of the U.S.

So you’re thinking hurricanes and Florida go hand-in-hand like Vermont and snow, right? Well, sort of. Florida is a big state. Not only in terms of square miles, but it’s long. For instance, it takes 12 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola.

Of course, every mile is a potential hurricane target, but Walt Disney World is only some 40 miles square. Additionally it’s in the center of the state, relatively far from the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. This means every time your local news tells about a hurricane in Florida, it’s unlikely to be passing close to Disney world.

The U.S. government started regular tracking of tropical cyclones in 1851. Looking at those statistics gives excellent news: The frequency of a hurricane passing through the Walt Disney World area in any year is 1 in 10. A 10% chance each year is all local have to worry about. Want even better news? If you’re visiting for a week or two, you have an even smaller chance of having to deal with one of nature’s super storms.

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Incorporating Disney into Everyday Life

by on July 19, 2014

t_logo_fbRecently, fellow blogger, Daisy Lauren, posted tips to beating your post-Disney blues. Inspired by her article, I have compiled a list of ways to keep the Disney magic flowing once you return home. Keep track of how many you’ve done and put your total in the comments!

Here we gooooooo….. (Peter Pan reference anyone? Yes? No? Okay, let’s move on.)

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Unexpected Extras at Disney World Value Resorts

by on July 7, 2014

Fantasia Splash Pad

Nothing says cool like an interactive fountain surrounded by icebergs.

Part of the joy of staying on property at Walt Disney World resort hotels is the immersive theme of each resort hotel. And while you won’t find some of the amenities offered at Deluxe or some Moderate resorts at Value resorts, Value resorts do have some unique hidden gems just waiting to be found.

Here are some of my favorites extras you can find at Walt Disney World value resorts.

All-Star Movies At All-Star Movies, look for the vintage movie posters lining the front wall in World Premiere Food Court. All-Star Movies is also home to an “interactive fountain” water feature for kids near the Fantasia Pool (just look for the giant icebergs). Also in that area is a shallow wading pool area for the non-swimmer (and swim diaper) set.

And for fans of Disney Cruise Line, you can spot a Golden Mickey prop in the Cinema Hall building.

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Things to Do Near Port Canaveral before Your Disney Cruise

by on July 7, 2014

Cruising, especially Disney cruising, can be a vacation in itself, but what if you find yourself in the area a day or two before your cruise? Port Canaveral, the home for Disney’s remarkable ships: Dream, Fantasy and Magic is nearly an hour drive from Orlando International Airport so unless you live nearby, it’s a good idea to stay the night before your cruise somewhere between Orlando and Canaveral. Obviously, spending the extra day at Walt Disney World is a great option, but there are interesting diversions much closer to the port that can be relaxing or exciting as well as educational and surprising.

Disney's Cruise Ship Fantasy passes by the fishing pier at Jetty Park.

Disney’s Cruise Ship Fantasy passes by the fishing pier at Jetty Park.

In particular, there are 4 sites that are wonderful to visit, whether you have the whole family with you or if you’re kid-free. All have been popular attractions for many years and all will give you experiences that are quite different from the cruise you’ll be taking.

Considering that the four provide significantly different experiences, I have decided to list them based on distance from the Disney Cruise Line Terminal, rather than ranking them. The furthest is only a 30 minute drive, while the closest is literally right around the corner from the terminal.

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Nature’s Wonderland: The Disney Wilderness Preserve

by on July 6, 2014

Cypress trees along Lake Russell, Disney Wilderness Preserve

Cypress trees along Lake Russell at the Disney Wilderness Preserve

The land Walt Disney World is built upon is often described simply as swamp. But like any simple explanation, the word “swamp” doesn’t come close to describing the complex truth. Walt Disney World Resort’s hotels and theme parks are carved out a unique blend of cypress swamp, longleaf pine savannas, and sandy palmetto scrublands–diverse ecosystems that probably deserve their own dioramas in Epcot’s “Living With the Land.” It’s a complex ecology of water and land that begins right on Disney property, and is intertwined with life on the Florida peninsula all the way south to the Florida Keys. Visiting Walt Disney World can give you a taste of Florida’s natural wonders, but for a really good look, visit The Disney Wilderness Preserve.

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Pro Tips: Low and No Cost Ways to Improve Your Disney Vacation

by on June 30, 2014

t_logoLast time, I brought you quick tips. This time, we’re talking pro tips. Maybe you’ve been to Walt Disney World a few times now and are ready to plus your experience. Presumably, you’re already subscribed to TouringPlans.com and are saving time and money by using tools like our mobile app, Crowd Calendar, and customizable touring plans. If not, why not? Anyway, read on for some ideas to start with for enhance other areas of your vacation. Here are some of our Walt Disney World tips:

Note: Any product we recommend is one we have used and purchased with our own money. We haven’t received compensation of any kind (no money, no freebies) for mentions in this article. 

Pro Tip 1 – Enhance Your Accommodations

This doesn’t mean bring your scented candle and special blanky with you. One, candles in a hotel room are a fire hazard. And two, bag fees are high enough without bringing extra stuff with you. No, what I mean is get the same or better accommodations for less. You could sleep four to a room at Pop Century. Or you could get more space by either renting a house off site from a company like All Star Vacation Homes or renting onsite from a Disney Vacation Club broker such as David’s Vacation Club rentals. If you really want to go pro, consider an Owner’s Locker (though you probably won’t keep a laser printer in yours like we do for our TouringPlans mobile office).

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Theme Park Ticketless Options: The Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah

by on June 22, 2014

One of my favorite parts of any Walt Disney World trip is riding Simba-1 to view the animals on the savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. Unfortunately, with the combination of its reputation as a “half-day park,” and the limited park-hopping abilities of FastPass+, some travellers may avoid it. Thankfully, Disney has provided an alternative location to get a good look at some of the animals: the savannah at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Giraffe strolling at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah

Giraffe strolling at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah – © John Kivus

Animal Kingdom Lodge is composed of two separate buildings: Jambo House and Kidani Village. In the space between these buildings, there is a substantial savannah (which is technically broken up into three distinct areas—the Arusha, Uzima, and Sunset Savannahs) that is home to a variety of animals, including giraffes, zebras, and Thomson’s gazelles. Though this savannah is not connected to the one at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, it has more than enough residents to make a visit worthwhile.

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Heading to Orlando? Pop on over to the Kissimmee Popcorn Company

by on May 26, 2014

Kissimmee Popcorn Company SignFair warning: if you don’t have a trip to Orlando planned soon you might want to postpone reading this one. If you continue on I can’t be held responsible for any airfare booked as a result! You’ve been warned. ;)

Many of you have probably seen me dropping into articles here and there that I’m maniacally planning a trip to Tokyo Disneyland Resort later this year. Apparently, I’ve been talking about it a little too much at home, too. Earlier this week my hubby came home and announced he had a surprise for me. We piled into the car and just a short while later arrived at the Kissimmee Popcorn Company. For anyone who is confused, Tokyo Disney is known for exotic popcorn flavors sold around the parks. Some of the oddest include: curry, strawberry, soy sauce, and milk tea! I didn’t find any milk tea popcorn, but I did find something really special. And just like all good things – I couldn’t wait to share it with you guys!

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Yacht and Beach Club’s Ship Shape Salon – A Pedicure Review

by on May 6, 2014

Ship Shape

Just about right there under the blue pointer.

A couple of weeks ago during a stay at Yacht and Beach Club, I looked down and was slightly aghast at the state of my toenail polish. A few days in a sand-bottomed pool can do some damage. I have been to the Senses Spa at Saratoga Springs, and, while the treatment I got there was amazing, upwards of $80 for a pedicure is a little much. I considered Mandara Spa at the Swan & Dolphin, but, again, at prices starting at $65, it was more than I wanted to commit to just being presentable. Just after a great burger at Beaches & Cream, I walked past the Ship Shape Fitness Center and realized there was an extra door there.

As it turns out, Yacht and Beach Club has a lovely little spa and salon right next to the fitness center that offers a wide range of services at much more reasonable prices. My pedicure was listed at $55, which was inclusive of gratuity, but after my Annual Passholder discount, it was just under $50. While that’s more than I normally pay for a pedicure, I was able to get a same-day appointment for less than any other location on property.

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