Trip Planning

Disney World Itinerary : Making Epcot a 2-day park

by on October 29, 2014

Epcot.

Epcot.

I recently posted a guide for planning which parks to visit on your 4-1/2 day Disney World vacation, providing a “one-size-fits-most” itinerary for each age group. Epcot doesn’t make it in the preschool itinerary and is only a half day on the school age children itinerary, but it finally gets a full day on both the tween and teen itineraries (two days of Epcot are included on the adult itinerary). My family (with tweens) would tweek the tween itinerary a bit and plan two days at Epcot, because we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface in a one day visit.

With the two distinct areas of Future World and World Showcase, Epcot is certainly large enough to warrant a two day visit. If you are a family who enjoys a more education focused theme park, two days at Epcot may be a winner. Here are ten benefits to spending two days at Epcot instead of one.

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How Much Do Toiletries and Sundries Cost at Disney?

by on October 24, 2014

Despite copious planning with packing lists, it’s all but inevitable that mishaps will occur when traveling. Little Billy gets a fever during your trip and you neglected to bring the Children’s Tylenol. You thought you husband was packing toothpaste and he thought you were, so now you have none. You accidentally left your sunscreen at the pool yesterday and are now about to be burned to a crisp by the thousand degree sun.

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All of these problems are easy to solve at Walt Disney World and on Disney Cruise Line. (Disneyland’s close proximity to the external world makes access to replacement items less of an issue there.) The ship and hotel gift shops are well stocked, with most categories of personal care items represented. So while you won’t be totally left in the lurch in any of the above situations, you will likely pay a premium purchasing these personal care basics at a Disney location rather than at home. But how much of a premium will you be pay? Let’s investigate…

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New! FastPass+ Availability, Dashboard, Attraction Updates

by on October 24, 2014

A few new updates for the site today should make it easier to plan your next Disney World trip:

  • You can see all of the FastPass+ times available for every attraction in every park, up to 30 days in advance
  • Your Trip Dashboard now includes links to the attractions available in the parks you’re visiting, and an easier-to-understand crowd rating
  • Each park’s Attractions page gets a cleaner, simpler layout, and only shows ratings for the age groups in your family

Details are below.

FastPass+ Availability

You’re now able to see all of the FastPass+ reservation times available for every attraction, every day, on a single page:

Dashboard4

 

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A Guide to Walt Disney World Attraction Vehicles and Seating: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on October 21, 2014

t_logo_fbWe recently brought you photo guides to the ride and attraction seating situation at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Completing the series is our guide to the attraction seating at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

And away we go …

The Boneyard

  • Seating capacity per row: NA
  • Seating capacity per vehicle: NA. Playground experience. More than 100 guests permitted entrance simultaneously.
  • Seating surface: There is very little seating here. There are few picnic tables where adults may sit, but these do not have sightlines on the entire play area.
  • Safety restraints: None
  • Boarding procedure: Walk into playground
  • Height requirement: None
  • Note: 1: Wheelchair and ECV users may ride into the attraction. Much of the attraction is inaccessible to guests with mobility issues. The attraction includes stairs, slides, and rope climbing activities.
  • Note 2: It is extremely easy to temporarily lose sight of your child here. There are cavelike areas and child-size tunnels. However, there is only one exit to the attraction. If you have an elementary age child, you may feel comfortable “guarding” the exit and letting him roam. Parents of preschoolers will likely want to closely supervise their kids to avoid minor injury or separation anxiety.
  • Note 3: The dig area is separate from, and typically calmer than, the slide area. If you need some unstructured chill time, head to the dig site.
  • Note 4: During warm weather, a water feature will be activated. Children may get wet.

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Disney World Itinerary: Which Parks to Visit

by on October 21, 2014

“Which are the best parks to visit?” is the most common question I am asked by Disney World newbies. The short answer is, “it depends!” The appeal of the parks varies quite a bit by age and subject matter interest. But have no fear, newbies, help is here! I have compiled a “one-size-fits-most” 4-1/2 day Disney World itinerary for a variety of demographics. These plans assume there will be four full days and the remainder of one travel day for the Disney World vacation, and only one theme park will be visited in a day (no Park Hopper passes).

 

Magic Kingdom is full of wonder, it's no mystery why preschoolers love it so much.

Magic Kingdom is full of wonder, it’s no mystery why preschoolers love it so much.

Families with Preschool Children (up to age 4) – 4 Day Park Ticket

Rationale:

  • Magic Kingdom is a big hit among the preschool set, and offers the most attractions of any of the parks. Magic Kingdom also few height restrictions, so only four attractions require riders to be 40″ or taller (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain and Stitch’s Great Escape!). Since this demographic enjoys characters, Magic Kingdom gives a lot of bang for your buck where that is concerned.
  • Animal Kingdom is well-liked by preschoolers for its theme.
  • Hollywood Studios has several attractions specifically geared to preschool children (including a character meal featuring Disney Junior characters at Hollywood & Vine).
  • The extra half day is unnecessary for most preschoolers, so save the money and just buy a 4-day ticket. Downtown Disney is a great place to visit on that half day, to shop and eat.

Strategies: Preschoolers are generally early risers, so take advantage of rope drop at each park to experience some attractions before the crowds arrive. Take a 3 to 4 hour mid-day break to re-energize with a nap or a swim (except for the day you tour Animal Kingdom, which closes earlier than the other parks). Four park days in a row will be a lot for many preschoolers, so plan the less intensely-scheduled days for the end of the trip. Plan to be flexible with preschool children and take breaks as necessary, Disney World can be a very stimulating place.

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Traveling with Seniors: Before You Go

by on October 17, 2014

Disney Parks (c) Disney

Disney Parks (c) Disney

Disney Parks are for the young and the young at heart. Any vacation planning can feel harrowing, whether you’re traveling with a young family of infants or toddlers, to traveling with the grandparents. There are tons of things to consider ensuring that everyone is safe and having fun, some travel tips are universal, but let’s explore some of the challenges and considerations when traveling with seniors.

This is Part One of a two-part series, focusing on planning and preparation before your trip. Part Two will go into detail on how to navigate the parks with your favorite Baby Boomers.

It’s important to have an open conversation with your older traveling party. Not every senior has the same energy level, dietary needs, or healthy concerns, so it’s important to assess the individual needs for your loved one. And depending on the age and mobility of Grandma or Grandpa, not all of these topics may concern you, but at least it’s a good place to start.

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Street Performers at Disney Hollywood Studios

by on October 16, 2014

Visiting Hollywood Studios but not a fan of the amusement rides? I’ve got a solution for you: Live actors mingling with guests throughout the park. Yes, walking (and even driving) about; interacting with you. We make it a point every visit to seek them out and enjoy their shenanigans, um I mean, their shows.

Just your average Citizen. - Courtesy of Disney

Just your average Citizen. – Courtesy of Disney

The Citizens of Hollywood

The Citizens of Hollywood, or Streetmosphere characters as they are otherwise known, are characters that perform every day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can usually find them on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. The characters range from aspiring actors to directors and even to police officers. They perform a variety of skits that generally have us rolling with laughter and are a great source of family-friendly entertainment. The skits are always different because the crowd they are interacting with constantly changes.

A Brief History:     Streetmosphere has been a part of Hollywood Studios since its opening day in May 1989. The entire idea of Streetmosphere was created by C. McNair Wilson, who would later become an Imagineer at Disney. Wilson was one of the directors of a street theater company, SAK Theatre, which performed at renaissance festivals throughout the country. In 1982 Disney Imagineers asked the group to perform in the Italy pavilion in Epcot. They were quickly extended to performing in the United Kingdom pavilion and then Future World. By 1985, they were performing 45 shows-a-day in Epcot in four different locations. That year they were brought into the plans for the upcoming Hollywood Studios Park as part of the planned 2-hour Backstage Tour show. Once Disney decided to go in another direction, Wilson still was inspired to make SAK part of this expansion. Wilson presented a collection of 40 characters that would make the guests feel like they were actually in Hollywood. The Disney executives were won over and presented Wilson with a budget for 23 characters.

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This Ain’t Disney World! – Planning a First Visit to Universal Orlando

by on October 15, 2014

The scenery may be beautiful, but the line is VERY long.

The scenery may be beautiful, but the line is VERY long.

On our first visit to ‘the other Orlando park,’ my oldest daughter and I attended a viewing of Universal’s Horror Make-up Show. During the show, the volunteer, a nice woman ended up covered in red-dyed corn syrup. The hosts threw a towel out to the woman and called after, “That’ll be $14.50!” We all laughed, but knew it wasn’t exactly distant from the truth. Certainly, we knew most of the major differences between Disney World and Universal Studios. We weren’t, however, expecting to encounter such a myriad of differences between the two parks. Hopefully, some quick research, a planned touring plans itinerary, and this article can help you get a quick overview of what to expect at your first visit to Universal Orlando Resort.

The parks are over a small area. Really small. If you could walk through a few buildings, you could easily get back and forth between the parks. We could see Dr. Doom from our window at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. You can also take Hogwart’s Express between the two parks at any time, too. I’d avoid going during the surge of the middle of the day, but make certain to go both directions, so board at Hogsmeade Station, as well. Each ride is a bit different. The walk wasn’t quick, but it was awfully close.

Don’t, however, mistake close for convenient. I could see the park, but our walk to the entrance was about fifteen minutes each day along a winding path that seemed to close back over itself. We ended up walking to and from the parks every day, but getting through Universal can’t always be done quickly.

The queue and exit line for every ride can be pretty long, if they are needed or not. The line to get onto Dragon Challenge at Islands of Adventure is filled with beautiful pieces, the Triwizard Cup, banners for each champion, and VERY few people. Most of the occasions we were on the ride, it was essentially a walk-on. The theming was much better than I had expected, but the walk was LONG. The wait may have been longer for Flight of the Hippogriff than it was for Dragon Challenge. The queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was long, as well. It was filled with stations throughout Hogwarts, talking paintings, and myriads of setup. Perhaps the rides were purposefully trying to delay our boarding, but on multiple occasions, I wondered why I STILL had to walk through tons of labyrinthian mazes to get on the Seuss High in the Sky Trolley ride. The exit for Ripsaw Falls, I felt like I had mistakenly gotten back in line for another ride. Even the pathway between our hotel and Islands of Adventure I felt like it had carved out a purposefully winding path to throw off our pace. Each day, my pedometer on my iphone killed its battery. I never had an accurate step count, but I was well above 15,000 steps.

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A Guide to Walt Disney World Attraction Vehicles and Seating: Epcot

by on October 14, 2014

t_logo_fbWe recently brought you guides to the ride and attraction seating situation at the Magic Kingdom and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Next up is our guide to the attraction seating at Epcot.

Keep those hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times …

FUTURE WORLD

Captain EO, Imagination Pavilion

  • Seating capacity per row: Several dozen.
  • Seating capacity per vehicle: NA. Show-style attraction. More than 100 guests per show.
  • Seating surface: Lightly padded chair with armrest.
  • Safety restraints: None
  • Boarding procedure: Walk into theater
  • Height requirement: None
  • Notes: Wheelchair and ECV users may ride directly into the theater. Some of the special effects can only be experienced when seated in the attraction chairs. Guests wanting the full attraction experience may want to transfer to the standard seating if possible.

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Managing Your Disney Morning

by on October 14, 2014

t_logo_fbTime is precious on any vacation, and a Disney World vacation in particular can create the feeling that time is passing at a far quicker pace than in everyday life. With so much Disney fun waiting each day (and the feeling that time flies at the World unlikely to abate), who wants to spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning. Whether your goal is to be at the parks at opening or to eke out a bit more sleep before you start your day, getting up and out of your room efficiently will help maximize your vacation time. And the rewards for your efforts can be significant.

Whether you need to get your entire family up and out the door or just yourself, there are several steps you can take to smooth the morning routine. These steps will not only save time but make the morning (and the people getting ready) more relaxed so that you can leave the room happy, stress-free, and ready for fun. This article highlights specific tips for your morning as well as TouringPlans tools and information that can extend the benefits of a calm morning to the rest of your day.

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