Resorts

Disney’s Polynesian Resort Scheduled Refurbishments

by on February 11, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

It was announced last September that Disney Vacation Club would be heading to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Because of this addition, the hotel is refurbishing some areas for future enjoyment. There are a couple of new items that have been added to the list, in addition to a few that are currently ongoing. So you can be prepared if you are planning on staying at the Polynesian during your vacation this year, here are the rehabs are taking place .

  • The eastern portion of the Polynesian Beach and Sunset Point have been closed since September 9, 2013, and will be unavailable for the foreseeable future.
  • The Never Land Club (Children’s Activity Center) has been closed since January 28 and will remain closed until April 27.
  • The lobby of the Great Ceremonial House will see refurbishment work from March 1 until sometime in December 2014.
  • Captain Cook’s (Quick Service dining location) will close sometime in March and will reopen sometime in June. A replacement dining option will be available.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on additional refurbishment details!

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Should You Stay Off Property At Disney World?

by on February 2, 2014

Where to stay during your Disney World vacation is a long debated topic with no right or wrong answer. Before moving here I was a 100% Disney purist, horrified at even the thought of stepping foot off Disney property. But after moving to Orlando and working in the travel industry I realized there are some excellent options if you are brave enough to venture off property. Today I’m outlining some things to think about before choosing to stay off property on your next trip.

Beware “scheduled” transportation: Many properties in Kissimmee and throughout Lake Buena Vista offer what they call scheduled shuttles to the parks. What they don’t tell you is that this is often a single shuttle in the morning and evening to each park, meaning that you likely will have to arrive late or leave early to make this one shuttle. The shuttle is also commonly shared with other hotels and crammed, packed full. Be sure that you understand the shuttle service offered prior to booking if you’ll need transportation to the parks.

IMG_9391

Believe me – you don’t want to walk from here!

You cannot walk: I know this seems pretty obvious but I can tell you from working in hotels that it’s common for guests to think they can just walk to Disney from offsite hotels. This is because hotels advertise their distance to “Disney’s Maingate”. By definition a maingate is the arch that you drive under to enter Disney property… which can be miles from an actual Disney park! There is not a single non-Disney hotel where you can walk to a park.

Renting a car: Personally, I can’t imagine staying off property without renting a car (or using your personal car if you’re driving to get here). The shuttles offered by offsite hotels have never worked for me and I need the freedom to come and go as I please. The cost of renting this car should be weighed with the cost of an onsite room at Disney. Also, remember that if you don’t have an annual pass you will have to pay for parking when staying off Disney property. That really adds up at a minimum of $15 a day!

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Ranking the Disney World Hotels

by on January 15, 2014

Art of Animation Resort.

Art of Animation Resort

As a former Cast Member, current Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club Member, and frequent visitor to the Walt Disney World Resort, there are questions that I am routinely asked:

You see, among the almost-30 on-site resort choices, to countless off-property hotels, vacation villas, and other accommodation opportunities, guests have a plethora of considerations when it comes to choosing the right Disney World hotel. In an effort to simplify it all, however, I’ve corralled the on-property choices and pitted them against each other, in a play-off style, using content provided by the Touring Plans site and personal experience. Although I personally believe it all boils down to a matter of preference, this ranking should provide a basic foundation in comparison building.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 12.02.21 PM

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Top 10 Splurge Items at Disney World

by on December 9, 2013

Here at Touring Plans, we’re all about finding ways to save money during Disney vacations. But we also know that once in a while it’s time to throw caution to the wind and splurge on something spectacular enough to turn the vacation into a celebration. Here are ten of our favorite ways to indulge at Walt Disney World. Bucket list anyone?

While you're indulging at V&A's, why not splurge a little more with the caviar add-on?

While you’re indulging at V&A’s, why not splurge a little more with the caviar add-on?

1. Victoria & Albert’s. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, a meal at V&A’s is simply one of the best dining experiences you’ll have any time, any where. And if the best meal in town isn’t enough for you, then you can bump it up a notch by trying the even more indulgent Chef’s Table or Queen Victoria room. Price: At least $150 per person, more if you’re including cocktails or wine, and more if you’re in one of the specialty rooms.

2. Backstage Magic Tour. This 7-hour tour takes you to backstage areas at all four WDW theme parks plus some centralized behind-the-scenes areas, and you’ll get a stick-to-your-ribs lunch at the Whispering Canyon Cafe to keep you fuelled up during your big adventure. For the Disney geek, this is the ultimate in education. Price: About $250 per person. Discounts may be available for DVC owners, annual pass holders or other special categories of guests. Be sure to ask.

3. VIP Tour Guide. Guests who want their hand held during every step of their Disney experience can hire a VIP tour guide to escort them through the parks. They’ll pick you up at your resort and take you exactly where you want to go at Walt Disney World. They’ll get you special viewing areas at parades and some shows, and they’ll use their detailed park knowledge to speed you through touring. Price: Prices vary, starting at $315 per hour for a group of up to 10 people. Six hour minimum.

All the Disney Dooney's are luxury items, but the large weekender is the top of the line.

All the Disney Dooney’s are luxury items, but the large weekender is the top of the line.

4. Grand Suite at the Grand Floridian. Concierge service in the poshest room at the poshest resort. Need I say more? Price: Prices start at about $2,400 per night in the off season, up to about $3,300 per night during the Christmas holiday season. You could pretend to rationalize this by thinking about this on a cost-per-person basis, but in my fantasy world, I’m staying there all by myself.

5. Disney themed Dooney & Bourke Weekender bag. Disney print Dooney & Bourke bags have been all the rage for several years now. I’ve outed several closet Disney geeks in my hometown when I spied them carrying the common Disney Dooney wristlet or crossbody bags. But the holy grail of this genre is the giant weekender tote, which is big enough to double as luggage. Price: $360.

6. Fireworks cruise on the Grand I. The Grand I is a 52-foot yacht which sails the waters of Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. The epitome of style is to book the Grand to view the Wishes fireworks presentation at the Magic Kingdom. The show’s audio is piped to speakers on the boat. Price: $450 per hour, plus more for food and beverage.

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Disney’s All-Star Resorts To Test Only Providing MagicBands to Guests

by on December 3, 2013

©Disney

©Disney

The first test recently rolled out at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, but now Disney is ready to start a new version of this testing at all three of Disney’s All-Star Resorts. As part of the MyMagic+ assessment, upon check in at one of these three resorts, guests will be issued only a MagicBand for use throughout their stay at the Walt Disney World Resort.

The schedule for roll out is as follows:

Any guest checking in on or after these dates will be issued only a MagicBand and not a separate Key To The World card/room key.

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Comparing and Contrasting WDW Moderate Resorts

by on November 29, 2013

CSR2

Coronado Springs

In many ways I consider myself a lucky man. One of those ways, albeit a minor one, is that I have had the opportunity to stay in all four of Walt Disney World’s Moderate level resorts within the past 18 months or so. The first thing you may notice is that I said four, even though Disney technically lists five: Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans – French Quarter, Port Orleans – Riverside, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. I am omitting the Cabins from this comparison for a few reasons: Firstly, the Cabins are quite a bit different than the other moderates as they are larger, capable of housing more people, and more expensive. Secondly, and more importantly, I have never stayed in one, so a writing of my personal experiences would be very, very short.

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Run the World: Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter

by on November 25, 2013

I had the recent pleasure of enjoying a short ‘racecation’ during the 2013 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Port Orleans French Quarter, one of Walt Disney World’s moderate resorts. It was a fantastic stay – I enjoyed everything, from the beignets at the bakery to the easy bus transportation, but what stood out to me as a definite winner were the running paths!

PortOrleansJog

I had only stayed at Port Orleans once before – and this was long before my running days, so although I had my handy map (and was given a physical copy at check-in). I was just a little hesitant, as I have a tendency to get lost. My fears were cast aside rather quickly, however, as I set out on a pre-run walk around property to capture images of landmarks and waypoints to guide my run the following morning.

Let’s get running!

The best part about this run is that you don’t need to find an exact location to begin your run or jog – you can set off from wherever you are. In my case, I was staying in Building 3 of the French Quarter, and so meandered east to the river-side “Carriage Path” to begin.

POR-Run1

“Streets” are marked.

On the French Quarter side of the resort, the walkways between buildings and attractions (such as the pool and laundry facilities) are clearly marked in gridded corridors, as if you are actually in a small city, making it very easy to navigate. This set-up allows for easy “add-ons” to your mileage in even, small lines and boxes…and another bonus? The area is almost completely shaded by lovely trees and complemented by quiet fountains and sitting areas. I found it to be very peaceful – both in my afternoon walk and my late morning run.

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The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Officially Open

by on October 23, 2013

©Disney

©Disney

Today at Walt Disney World a brand new Disney Vacation Club property opened at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. These villas are reminiscent of the Victorian era, with beautifully appointed touches; however, they also incorporate a modern twist, as well as delightful Disney touches.

Most rooms at the Villas can sleep anywhere from 5 – 9 guests, starting with the brand new Deluxe Studios, but the Grand Villas can sleep up to 12.

Guests whose stay includes a one bedroom or larger villas will have a lap-of-luxury experience that includes ornate bathrooms featuring mosaic marble tile, along with a mirror that includes a built-in television. Bathrooms also include a walk-in master bath/shower and a Victorian-style tub with air-bubble jets. The bedrooms have wonderful Disney artwork that adorns the walls. In the living area guests will find a pull-down bed featuring artwork inspired by Walt Disney’s Dumbo and Mary Poppins. The Grand Villas include a media room that has a home theater system.

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Update: The View From Every Disney World Resort Room – Riverside, French Quarter, and Pop Century

by on October 22, 2013

At the beginning of October we launched Hotel Room Views, showing the view you’ll get at every Disney World hotel room. (Read the original blog post here.)

Over the past 24 hours we’ve added photos from every room at Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Pop Century Resort. These join the All-Star Sports, Saratoga Springs, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, and All-Star Movies resorts already done. We should have Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs and Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House done this week too.

This is a huge project. Besides taking more than 30,000 photos, you can search for rooms by the room’s cost on any date through 2014, the type of beds in the room, handicap accessibility information, how noisy it is, walking distance to the lobby, food and bus, and more. There are probably some typos in the data – I know of some Alligator Bayou rooms in Riverside that need adjusting, for example. Drop us a line if you see anything odd.

Here’s the roll-out schedule for the remaining resorts:

Week Ending Resort
October 4 All-Star Sports Done!
October 11 Polynesian Done!
Saratoga Springs Done!
Wilderness Lodge Done!
October 18 Port Orleans French Quarter Done!
Port Orleans Riverside Done!
Caribbean Beach
All-Star Movies Done!
Pop Century Done!
October 25 Coronado Springs
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House
November 1 All-Star Music
Art of Animation
November 8 Fort Wilderness (campsites and cabins)
Beach Club
Yacht Club
November 15 Contemporary Resort
BoardWalk Inn
Grand Floridian
November 22 Bay Lake Tower
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village
December 6 Wilderness Lodge Villas
Old Key West
Saratoga Springs Treehouses
December 13 Grand Floridian Villas
Beach Club Villas

 

 

 

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Run The World: Wilderness Trails

by on October 21, 2013

In a previous post, I shared some of the maps and routes around the various resort and theme park areas where you can safely get in your morning jog (or evening run, or really any variation in between).

Follow the footsteps!

Follow the footsteps!

Based on comments and interactions, I’m back with some new posts that not only feature tips about running these routes, but some visual aids to help convey just what a run at Walt Disney World really looks like, starting with one of my absolute favorite places to run: the Wilderness Trails.

Tucked along the waterfront area of Bay Lake, the Wilderness Trails are mixed terrain paths that connect Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Designated for both pedestrians (walking, jogging, running) and cyclists, they provide a welcome diversion to the hustle and bustle of a Walt Disney World vacation, and truly transport guests to – you guessed it – a feeling of being surrounded by the beauty of the wilderness.

There are several “start points” from which you may begin your trail adventure, and are are follows:

  • Wilderness Lodge: Take the walkway to the left as you exit the main lobby / valet area. A winding sidewalk will take you toward a sign that proclaims “WHOA” – that’s how you’ll know you went the right way!
  • Villas at Wilderness Lodge: Take the sidewalk that winds down past the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge toward the bike rental building – the path is packed gravel/sand and connects directly to the nature trail.
  • Fort Wilderness: Cross the street adjacent to the Tri Circle D Farm, it is marked as the beginning of the trail.

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