Trip Planning

One-Day/Two-Parks; A Universal Orlando Trip Report

by on December 17, 2014

The gate to the Studios.

The gate to the Studios.

…in which our intrepid couple travels outside the Disney bubble and lives to tell about it.

Step 1 – Transportation from Walt Disney World to Universal and Park Tickets

While planning for a particularly long vacation to Walt Disney World, my husband and I decided to squeeze in a day over at Universal Orlando Resort to try out a one-day / two-park touring plan of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Instantly we were faced with the question, “How do we get there?” We were planning on taking Disney’s Magical Express from the airport and would not have a car while on vacation. Would we dare to use the public transportation and hop a bus? We had seen a harrowing,(although hilarious) YouTube video of a British couple who took this route. It didn’t work out so well for them, and they splurged for a cab ride on the way back. Yes, busing was out of the question. We were on a time limit and didn’t have the three hours it took these poor folks just to get to the park. Well, with rental car and busing out of the question, that left us with a taxi.

We did our homework and priced up the fares using the Mears Transportation website. It didn’t seem too terrible, and this is really what we were leaning towards, until I read in the fine print that even if stuck in traffic, the meter is running. We wanted to be on the roadways during rush hour traffic. This probably was not a good plan either. Well, what to do? Do we just forget about Universal? No! Where there is a will, there is a way. And after more research we discovered that some of the travel agencies that sell tickets also sell transportation packages. Now we’re talking!

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Business Conferences—Tips for Squeezing in Some Magic

by on December 10, 2014

Although attending a business conference at or near Walt Disney World isn’t quite the same as taking a vacation trip, it’s still a wish come true for a Disney enthusiast. Several strategies can help you get your Disney fix around a conference schedule. In fact, a business trip to the World can be an excellent opportunity to experience the park in some new and exciting ways.

Balancing Your Time

The first priority in planning time for fun while at a conference at Disney World is figuring out how to balance work and leisure time. Consider arriving in Orlando a day before the conference or giving yourself an extra day after the conference ends. Being creative with the overall time frame of your trip can give you a free half-day or more to enjoy Disney. Once the conference starts, plan to make a quick exit at the end of the day and spend the afternoon or evening at leisure.

Mix It Up—Spending Time In and Out of the Parks

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Downtown Disney’s West Side, including the AMC Dine-In Theatres (photo by Brandon Glover)

With the limited number of hours you’ll be able to spend in the parks (unless you’re lucky enough to have an Annual Pass), it doesn’t make sense to purchase park tickets for every day of your trip. Instead, a business trip can be a chance to experience some of Disney’s offerings outside of the parks such as at Downtown Disney and Disney’s BoardWalk.

If your hotel is located near Downtown Disney or you have access to Disney transportation (current construction at Downtown Disney makes traffic and parking a challenge), Downtown Disney can be a great non-park destination. It has lots of dining options and an even wider variety of merchandise than can be found at the parks, and don’t forget about its AMC Dine-In Theatres where you can enjoy both dinner and a movie.

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Disney Planning Beyond Meals and FastPass+

by on December 2, 2014

Seasoned Walt Disney World travelers will try to impress upon friends and family who are planning first time and first-in-a-long-time trips to the Most Structured Vacation Destination on Earth the need to be on top of dining and FastPass+ reservations. It’s sound advice and will go a long way toward a pleasant trip. But have you thought about the other things you should do before you board your plane, train, or automobile to Florida? Luckily, there is a gap between the 180 day dining window opening and the 30 (day guest) or 60 (onsite guest) FastPass+ window that you can fill to your Type-A heart’s desire….

Check DIsney Store to get some seasonal apparel

Check Disney Store to get some seasonal apparel

Buy seasonal apparel. As teachers, we usually travel to Disney World during the summer months, and most of our packing includes shopping for summer travel. But outside that time of year, finding little items like sunscreen, bathing suits, or even shorts and t-shirts might be a little more difficult. Locating other items at a reasonable price like cooling items may be only available online. Instead, as soon as you make your meal reservations, start locating toiletries, swimming attire, sunscreen, and other necessaries.

Book and check transportation rates. In the months leading up to your trip, check and re-check rates. Airlines have wonderful habits of modifying rates. We always book Southwest, and if the rates drop, we re-book our trip – and gain a few extra dollars back. Over the last year, we even put enough credit back into our account to nearly pay for another round trip to Florida. Keep examining and checking out – you never can tell.

Check for seasonal events and situational opportunities. After you’ve been to Disney World a few times, it’s easy to get into a rut. Don’t! Almost through the entire year, Disney offers some limited engagement of events, opportunities, shows, characters, rides, and the like. Make sure to check for any upcoming events. We approach all of our trips with “What can we ONLY do here? Or now?” If you’re choosing between two items, try to find the one that may be ending soon.

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Enjoying Disney World While Pregnant

by on November 30, 2014

Photo - Angela DahlgrenWhile five months pregnant with our baby girl, my husband and I decided to celebrate with a “baby moon” at Walt Disney World in July 2013. I was nervous at first, but quickly realized there are so many ways to enjoy Disney with a baby bump!

Note: Make sure you check with your doctor before embarking on your Disney vacation. Ask about any restrictions and advice they may have. Your health and safety comes first!

Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

I can’t stress this one enough. Florida, especially in the Summer, is HOT (well, hot for this Minnesota native), so it is imperative to make sure you’re drinking enough water. Whenever you see a water fountain, take a drink! Carry a water bottle with you at all times. Ask your wonderful husband or partner to “spring” (pun intended) for a cold bottle of water available all around the parks. Getting enough H2O is crucial for you and your little one.

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New Lines App Feature Adds Attractions to Park Touring Plans

by on November 29, 2014

Now you can add an attraction to your Disney and Universal touring plans while reading the ride’s description in our Lines mobile app.

We’ve updated the attraction pages to show whether the attraction is already included in a touring plan. A new button on the page allows you to add the attraction to a touring plan:
Add Disney or Universal attractions to your touring plan

 

On the next screen, you’ll choose whether to add the attraction to an existing touring plan or new plan. If the attraction is already a part of a plan, you’ll have the option to add or subtract multiple rides:

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Choosing the Right WDW Discount

by on November 26, 2014

As a frequent Walt Disney World traveler, and also not a Florida resident, I’m sufficiently addicted to Disney vacation planning books, podcasts, blogs, discussion groups, and other research areas that can help me sustain my pixie dust addiction without breaking the bank or going in debt. During my years of research, I’ve heard lots of claims of which Disney discount is “best”, and while I trust many of the sources I frequently research, I’ve learned that not all discounts pack the same punch. Depending on your party size, your frequency of visiting the parks, and your touring style, some discounts are better than others. In this article, I’ll review the most common (and often reoccurring) discounts available and analyze how those discounts can apply differently to different Disney vacationers.goofy discount

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Sensible Budgeting for Souvenirs

by on November 23, 2014

My wife walked into our study – so-called the Yankees room – adorned with retired jerseys, souvenirs from baseball games, and posed figures clutching bats and blocking home plate. As she does before mentioning something that she likes, she led with a phrase meant as more than subtext, “I know I shouldn’t be mentioning this…,” and she referred me to the Disney online store where new souvenirs from the Haunted Mansion collection had just been launched. I have a terrible habit of keeping a record of everything my wife mentions that she even has a slight interest in, and putting it in the cart. By ‘putting it in the cart,’ I mean ordering it as soon as she leaves the room – to be delivered for our next Disney trip. In contrast, this time she was adamant that I absolutely not order the really great new shirts emulating the cast members. One was a maid, and the other was the ghost host. So this time, I needed to wait until the next morning to look it up. By then, the shirt had sold out, and my continued checking found it unavailable. Frankly, this was an item that even I really wanted, and although the ghost host shirt remained, it was available only in a men’s small that certainly wouldn’t fit my frame.

Immediately, I was dismayed. Not at the loss of the item – but knowing that if I really wanted to find it, I would probably have to wait months to find it in the new Memento Mori shop. As a reforming hoarder (code: still really terrible hoarder), I constantly need to remind myself to slow down and relax. Even if I couldn’t immediately find an item, more than likely something pretty great would come down the line.

Comic Collector's hoard

Comic Collector’s hoard

I come from a nasty collector’s history. I started collecting comic books in middle school, and really read like crazy during the era when comic book values had been skyrocketing over demand. Nearly any book with a hot character could be relatively assured to increase in price if just held for a few years. My spare nickels all went into a fund for comics, and my collection took over my spare space. I later categorized them by value. Like nearly everyone else, I went to college, causing my spare nickels to disappear. My comic habit eventually stopped. The collecting industry as a whole dried up, and values plummeted. Nearly every hoarder dumped entire collections onto the public, and outside of a few key issues, values dropped. When I returned to check years later, it turned out that only a few books retained any value, and the industry had changed drastically. Comics, like many other industries, were now producing books for the collectors: limited editions, variants, hidden gems. The old practice of holding onto a book for a few years had nearly disappeared – outside of a few key elements. I started collecting again, and my mentality of ‘owning it all’ came back again.

When I first travelled to Disney World, my searching-for-the-souvenirs mentality came back. I decided to focus on only a few items – like the Star Wars themed Mr. Potato Head toys. Seeing it as limited set of five toys, I thought I could buy them and then ‘be done.’ Of course, the line returned to an old collector/hoarder’s worst enemy: retirement.

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Things to Do at Disney World outside the Parks

by on November 21, 2014

It can be easy sometimes to forget just how much there is to do outside of Disney World’s four theme parks and two water parks. With so much contained within the parks, it might not even cross some guests’ minds that you could actually spend a whole Disney World vacation without ever going to the parks. Although I personally wouldn’t suggest skipping the parks entirely, you could do it and still have a great vacation. Maybe it’s the last day of your vacation or maybe you just want to explore the property a little to see what else Disney has to offer. With that in mind, here are just a few of the many things to see and do without ever having to pay for a park admission ticket.

Disney World Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf

Golf

Disney World wouldn’t be much of a resort destination without golf. With three courses (four if you include the onsite Four Seasons course) and one nine-hole walking course, there’s a wide variety of play options for fans of the sport. Even if you think you’re terrible at golf or you’ve never tried before, this is a good place to start. Resort courses are notoriously less punishing than most courses (people don’t need a stroke on vacation) and even if you do play horribly, at least you’re still in Disney so you can’t be that upset. If the full-fledged sport still seems like too much of an undertaking, Disney also offers two thematically different mini golf courses. Fantasia Gardens (located near the Boardwalk) is themed after its namesake film and even features a more traditional putting green course for those who want to just work on their short game. Winter Summerland Miniature Golf is located at Blizzard Beach and has two courses themed after winter and summer. For those concerned about having to purchase a water park ticket to play here, no need to worry. The mini golf course may be located at Blizzard Beach but it’s actually outside of the Blizzard Beach entrance.

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5 Essential Tips for Dealing with the Rain at Disneyland

by on November 19, 2014

Rainy  Disneyland 1

Rainfall at Disneyland. Copyright- Disney

 

Southern California is a vacation paradise. Your average temperature–year round– is mid to high 70s and clear skies. It is the perfect location for a Disneyland Resort vacation. Unfortunately the only real obstacle you cannot prepare for–when you go on vacation–is the weather. You can gauge what the weather will be like in any particular month but you will not truly know until the week before we leave for your vacation.

Even though it hardly rains in Southern California there are still rainy seasons. The rainy season starts in October and ends in April. But I know most of you are not going to completely avoid those rainy season months just because of some rain. So, what is your plan of attack when you are on your vacation and it is raining at the Disneyland Resort? Below I have put together 5 essential tips for dealing with the rain when you are at the Disneyland Resort.If you are interested in tips on how to deal with the rain at Disney World, our other writer Daisy has an excellent article on that particular topic.

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Traveling with a Disney Curmudgeon

by on November 16, 2014

Photo - Pixar.wikia.comThey live among us. They look just like you and me. They are….the Disney Curmudgeon.

Disney Curmudgeon (Dis·ney cur·mudg·eon): noun. 1. A person who possesses a strong dislike or disinterest of all things Disney.

I know my fair share of Disney Curmudgeons. In fact, I live with one. My husband, Michael, doesn’t share my obsession and love of everything Disney. He is a great sport (He dressed up as Smee and Mickey Mouse for me, so he must be!) and there are some aspects of Walt Disney World he really does enjoy. However, whenever I bring up a future Disney trip, his eyes say, “Really? again!?,” but his mouth smiles and says, “We can see about that honey.”

Although it may be in my nature to throw the book (and by book, I mean the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) at him and spend hours explaining why Disney World is the best place ever, it would result in a negative outcome on both sides. Instead, working with him and catering a little more to his needs can reduce the stress and make our vacation much more enjoyable.

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