Trip Planning

What to Expect from 2015 Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland

by on August 31, 2015

DSC00864Mickey’s Halloween Party is a special extra-ticket event held select nights at at Disneyland during the Halloween season. The party includes a special fireworks show featuring a fly-by of Zero (instead of Tinker Bell), an exclusive performance of Paint the Night parade,  trick-or-treating, dance parties, and more.

Mickey’s Halloween Party takes place in Disneyland on select nights in the fall, typically running from late-September until Halloween. In 2015, the party dates are September 25, 28, 30, October 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31.

Tickets for Mickey’s Halloween Party are now on sale.

What time is the Party?

Officially the Party runs from 6 pm on some nights and 7 pm on others. The party runs until 11 pm or 12 am, depending on the night. Guests with valid Halloween party tickets may enter the park up to three hours prior to the event’s start time.

Will I need a special ticket to get into the Party?

Yes. Admission requires buying a separate ticket just for this event. It’s not included in any regular theme park tickets or annual passports.

How much do the Party tickets cost?

There’s a range of pricing, including discounts for buying in advance. The official Disney website lists the following prices:

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Head to head: Night of Joy vs. Rock the Universe

by on August 26, 2015

The weekend of September 11 and 12 is one of the holiest in Orlando, and it has nothing to do with a religious holiday. That’s when, for the past 17 years, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts conduct their dueling Christian music festivals, gathering some of the biggest names in the genre and having all sorts of youths flocking to their parks after hours in even bigger numbers than normal.

Night of Joy 2015

Image © Disney

Disney started its Night of Joy event in 1983, while Universal jumped on the bandwagon with its Rock the Universe much later, in 1998. Despite that discrepancy in age, the two actually share a lot in common, and more than the identical dates: both festivals are hard-ticketed events (meaning you’ll need to purchase separate admission in order to get in) and typically feature musical acts that hop back and forth between the two.

That can make choosing one over the other something of a headscratcher, but don’t fret – that’s why we’re here to help. Below, find a complete comparison between the two on every important indicator, helping you to decide which will be more amenable to your family and your tastes (and, of course, your wallet).

Then, once you’ve made up your mind, be sure to let us know which way you’re going in the comments below.

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Disney With Small Children: Lessons Learned

by on August 21, 2015

Mickey BarAs a parent, taking your kids to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is a rite of passage of sorts. Whether you are a Disney parks veteran looking forward to taking your first family trip or a first timer deciding it’s time to visit Disney, there is no joy like getting the opportunity to experience “Disney magic” through the eyes of a small child. Even if you feel like you’ve got this whole parenting thing wired, though, a trip to Walt Disney World presents a unique set of challenges that are often overlooked by parents engrossed in their halcyon childhood memories and idyllic expectations of these trips. Being aware of these potential pitfalls will help you get ahead of them and prevent them from disrupting your vacation!

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Easy DisneyBounding for Families

by on August 20, 2015

If you’ve ever visited a Disney park, it is likely that you have seen people dressed in clothing (not costumes) that is evocative of a specific Disney character. This is called DisneyBounding. DisneyBounding can be extremely fun, whether you take pleasure in planning intricate outfits or whether you like to do something on the more conservative side, like wearing a character t-shirt. I always enjoy seeing DisneyBounding, particularly when it is done by a group or a family. When everyone gets into the spirit, it just takes it to the next level!

Easy DisneyBounding for Families

While I applaud the families that can go all-out and DisneyBound with every single detail represented perfectly, the reality is that different levels of interest and ease will impact a group’s DisneyBounding efforts. For example, while your daughter might be thrilled to walk around in a dress that screams Ariel, and you are happy to join in the fun in an Ursula-themed outfit, and your husband gets in on the fun with some King Triton-esque apparel, maybe your son isn’t so keen on representing Prince Eric. By the time all is said and done, all you can get him to do is carry around a toy sword (because seriously, who wouldn’t want to carry around a toy sword?!). While there is nothing wrong with a partially DisneyBounding family, you were hoping for something a little more engaging for everyone. My solution for this – keep it simple.

I’m going to share some easy DisneyBounding ideas that can be accomplished with t-shirts or tops that focus in particular on groups and pairs. I’ve participated in a lot of this type of DisneyBounding, and the reactions from guests and cast members are always fantastic! The upside to this approach is that even the most conservative in your group can usually be persuaded to wear a t-shirt (bribing the over-21’s in the crowd with adult beverages is also quite effective).

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Disney Hotel Amenities: The Good, The Bad, and The Unnecessary

by on August 18, 2015

I think everyone can agree that when they stay in a hotel they’re expecting to find, at a minimum, a clean, safe, place to sleep. After that, almost everything else is an amenity: something to induce comfort or convenience rather than an absolute necessity.

Coffee maker at Port Orleans Riverside

Coffee maker at Port Orleans Riverside

Of course most hotels do provide at least a little something beyond fresh sheets and a lock on the door. With extras, they distinguish themselves from competitors, define their brand, and build loyalty. However, the perceived utility and value of specific amenities varies widely. For example, about a year ago a friend of mine stayed at the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World. She posted a Facebook rant about her anger and disappointment when she didn’t receive turndown service at the hotel. She had paid a premium to stay at the most luxe accommodations on property. She had been looking forward to turndown and was upset when this amenity did not materialize.

My first reaction to her post was that if I didn’t receive turndown, I would be slightly relieved.

I happen to think turndown is silly. I’m perfectly capable of fluffing my own pillows. And when they leave me that little chocolate, I inevitably eat it, which is something I’ve been trying to avoid lately. My friend’s amenity is my annoyance, so much so that I was intrigued when I read about a German hotel with a “reverse housekeeping policy” where they’ll only make up your room if you specifically ask them to. If I’m traveling with my kids, I’m all for full housekeeping service, but when I’m on my own at a hotel, I’d usually prefer to be left alone.

Bath supplies at the Beach Club villas

Bath supplies at the Beach Club villas

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When “book early” saves money on a Disney cruise – and when it doesn’t

by on August 18, 2015

The conventional wisdom for getting the lowest price on a cruise is to book as early as possible.  But is that advice really true for all destinations? After all, there’s enough competition in the cruise industry to make a 4-night Bahamas cruise almost a commodity, but less competition for extended Alaska and Mediterranean cruises.

To answer this question for the Disney Cruise Line, we gathered more than 5 million prices from DCL’s website over the past two years, for every combination of family size, stateroom category, ship, and cruise. (Yes, that’s a lot of data. Try it out yourself on our DCL Fare Tracker page.)

To simplify this discussion, we’ll looked at the prices for 2 adult/2 child families in Disney’s Deluxe Family Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah staterooms, for sailings in July and August 2015 as follows:

  • 4-Night Bahamas cruises on the Dream
  • 7-Night Alaska cruises on the Wonder
  • 7-Night Western Caribbean cruises on the Fantasy
  • 7-Night Mediterranean cruises on the Magic

Disney charges different prices for its Deluxe Family Ocean View Staterooms with Verandah (DFOVSV); staterooms on higher decks usually cost more than the same room on a lower deck. In the charts below, we show the price trends for the highest- and lowest-priced staterooms in that category, along with the average price of all DFOVSVs on all decks. We’re using a 20-day rolling average for the prices, to smooth out tiny variations in price over time.

For Bahamas cruises, “book early” is a great strategy, as shown in the chart below. Our typical family would save about 13% – over $600 – by booking 8 months in advance or more, versus booking 90 days out. And because the price goes  up consistently the closer you get to the cruise date, it’s always cheaper to book this kind of cruise as soon as you can. And that’s true regardless of whether you’re booking a stateroom on a high deck or a lower one.

4N-Dream-Bahamas-Jul2015

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Get “hooked” on Columbia Harbour House

by on August 17, 2015

MK Columbian Harbour House - AmyFarkasNestled on the edge of Liberty Square, across from Haunted Mansion and Memento Mori, you will find Columbia Harbour House — one of the original restaurants of the Magic Kingdom. This Quick Service restaurant opened in 1971 and is themed like a Revolutionary Era tavern or inn. When viewed from outside in Liberty Square, Columbia Harbour House looks as if it came straight out of a New England town. When viewed from Fantasyland the restaurant has a vintage German village feel to it. The inside however, definitely fits in with the Colonial American feel of Liberty Square. It reminds me of an old coastal town in Connecticut that my family visited one year on vacation: full of ship wheels, boat models, pewter-ware, and wood paneling.

For years our trips to the Magic Kingdom included a mere walk by of the bell ringing cast member in front of Columbia Harbour House. The thought of eating greasy battered fish like found at fast food restaurants in our home town just didn’t appeal to us and we wondered why people always seemed to be going in. Boy were we ever disillusioned. One try of the Columbia Harbour House and we were “hooked”. Now it is a must do for every trip.

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Your FastPass+ Priorities for the Magic Kingdom

by on August 13, 2015

I recently updated the FastPass+ recommendations for each of our 50 Magic Kingdom Touring Plans, using our latest computer models to save you the most time in line. The biggest change is that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is recommended more frequently, because FastPass+ reservations are more readily available now than when the ride first opened.

As before, each of the touring plans suggests the FastPass+ recommendations you should make in advance of your visit, like this:

Suggested start times for FastPass+ reservations:
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train = 9 AM
Peter Pan’s Flight = 10 AM
Enchanted Tales with Belle = 11 AM

I also added new recommendations for day-of FastPass+ reservations you can get at the Magic Kingdom’s in-park kiosks, after you’ve used your original set. These are based on our statistician Steve Bloom’s excellent analysis of when day-of FastPasses run out for each attraction. Here’s what the new recommendations look like:

You should be able to get day-of FastPass+ reservations starting around lunchtime. Here’s what we suggest:

Buzz Lightyear = 3:30 PM
Pirates of the Caribbean = 7 PM

When I updated the plans, I kept count of many times each attraction was identified as needing FastPass+. If you’re building your own touring plan, or you prefer an unstructured tour, this list shows the hot spots in the Magic Kingdom:

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Tips for Conference Goers at Disney World Who Are Too Cool for Characters

by on August 12, 2015

Q: Why do lots of people without kids visit Walt Disney World if they think it’s for the preschool set?

A: They’re getting paid to be there.

My first visit to Walt Disney World as an adult was for a convention. According to Disney Meetings, Walt Disney World is home to over over 700,000 square feet of meeting space. Six of Disney’s own hotels include convention space, and that doesn’t include the on-property Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts, which add 329,000 square feet to that total. Hundreds of thousands of additional conventioneers visit Orlando each year to attend events at the Orange County Convention Center and many other hotels in the area. In other words, if you are a professional who hasn’t attended a conference in Orlando yet, you probably will soon.

However, not everyone visiting central Florida wants to be immersed in Mickey and pals. If you are visiting Walt Disney World as part of a business trip, you may be worried that your visit will be a nightmarish cacophony of cartoony characters.

Chef Mickey

I promise, you can avoid this guy entirely.

You can certainly get your fill of characters in Walt Disney World if that’s your thing, but you can also avoid them entirely. This post will explain where to stay during your trip to maintain an oasis of calm in Mickey Central as well as how to fill your leisure time in Walt Disney World without getting too much pixie dust on your clothes, and where you can have a dignified, character-free meal.

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The Best Disney World Attractions for Naps

by on August 11, 2015

Carousel of Progress is a famous nap location, but is it the top choice?

Carousel of Progress is a popular nap location, but is it the top choice? Photo by Maddi Higgins

Naps are absolutely essential to a successful day at Walt Disney World. Human bodies are not designed to survive the high temperatures and treacherous treks through a Disney park. Unfortunately, whether it’s the timing of a reservation or the location of your hotel, it may not be possible to leave the park for your break. Lucky for you, I’ve done the strenuous research to discover the single best attraction in each park for a nap. My recommendations are based on the following criteria:

  • Comfort of Seating: It’s impossible to fall asleep if you can’t get in a comfortable position.
  • Length of Show: A 2-minute nap will not cut it when you need rest.
  • Temperature of Location: The point is to get out of the Florida sun. Naps are time to cool off.
  • Level of Noise and Light: If you fall asleep, you don’t want to be jerked awake by noise and bright lights.

Magic Kingdom Winner: Hall of Presidents

Hall of Presidents is famous for its napping accommodations. Unofficial Guide readers report it as their go-to spot for cranky kids—and adults—to relax. The location scores high in all napping qualifications.

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