Trip Planning

What’s In My Diaper Bag: Disney Parks Edition + Video

by on April 24, 2015

Photo - Angela DahlgrenAs you saw in my Packing Tips for a Day at Walt Disney World article, I am a pack rat. In fact, a few readers wondered if I actually bring all this stuff with me to the parks. The answer…is yes.

Yes, I have a big back pack.

Yes, it is very heavy.

So with that, it only seemed natural to share what I bring in my diaper bag for a day at the parks!

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Camping 101: Getting around Fort Wilderness

by on April 12, 2015

The third installment in an ongoing series about the ins and outs of camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness, this entry will focus on the different methods of getting around the campground which can be overwhelming due to its size. Please be sure to catch up with Part 1 about RV rentals and Part 2 which was about getting groceries to your campsite.

Now that you have the basics of food and shelter planned out, how about a convenience factor such as how you will get around the campgrounds. Of course you can always opt to just schlep it on foot, but this may be an unwise move. The trading posts, restaurants, and recreational activities are spread throughout the complex. And, although it is camping, hiking everywhere you need to go may just not be feasible.

The most important thing you must know about transportation at Fort Wilderness is that the is no car parking except at your own campsite or cabin, at the front of the resort (the Outpost) for check-in and day guests, and 15 minute parking at the Meadows Trading Post for picking up supplies from the retail outlet there. There is no parking at the Settlement (where you find Hoop Dee Doo and Trail’s End) except for bikes and golf carts.

Options

1) Disney Transportation

Disney's map of Fort Wilderness including bus routes.

Disney’s map of Fort Wilderness including bus routes.

Disney busing is a wonderful amenity to all of the Disney resorts, and the Fort Wilderness campgrounds is no exception. Not only do they have busing that takes you to the parks and Downtown Disney, but they also have internal loops that will take you to the different areas of the campground. Lines are labeled as Orange, Yellow, or Purple. All three begin and end at the Settlement Depot and the Outpost Depot, but take different paths through the campground. It is always best to check the color coded map in the bus depot to see which bus line you need, as things do change, but I will give you a brief primer. Click the map to the right to view full size.

The purple line runs through the 2000-2800 campsite areas and passes a those sites’ sports areas with volleyball, basketball, and quiet pools. The orange line runs through the 600-700 and the 1000-1300 campsite areas. The yellow line runs through the 100-500 and 1400-1900 campsite areas. Both the orange and yellow lines will take you to the Meadows which includes: Chip and Dale’s Campfire Sing A Long, the Bike Barn where you can rent golf carts, bikes, canoes and kayaks, the Meadow recreation area which contains the Meadow swimming pool, snack bar, Daniel Boone’s Wilderness arcade, shuffleboards, and horseshoes,  and the Meadow Trading Post.

There is also bus transportation to the Wilderness Lodge at the Settlement, and boat transportation to Wilderness Lodge, the Contemporary, and Magic Kingdom from the Settlement dock.

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Least Crowded Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 Dates

by on April 10, 2015

Last year I wrote about what we expected to be the least crowded Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. It proved to be a very popular topic, so here I am once again to review the information from last year and give you an even better projection for 2015. Make sure you check out our dedicated page for a complete list of dates as well as a thorough description of what the Christmas party is.

christmas mk lightsIn short, if you’re looking for the best Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2015, we recommend Tuesday, November 10, 2015. Last year we recommended the exact same date; Monday, November 10, 2014, and it honestly didn’t turn out great, being only the 11th least busy party by our calculation. However, we think that was an aberration, since over the past 3 years combined, that date still ranks number 2 overall. Being that the November 10th party this year is on a Tuesday, the least busy day historically, we are comfortable recommending it.

Since I’m sure you’re wondering how we did with our recommendations last year, the answer is…not too bad. There were several predictions that we nailed, but we had a few that were a little off that we have fixed for this year’s recommendations. Here are the top 5 from last year’s recommendations:

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Off-site Options – Things to Maximize Your Disney World Vacation when Staying Offiste

by on April 7, 2015

Staying off-site when visiting Walt Disney World definitely has advantages (e.g., lower cost, larger rooms, enhanced luxury, etc…), but it also leaves you at the mercy of external forces that can be difficult to control. In my time staying off-site I’ve started to identify the things that help me wrangle those external forces (the most nefarious of which is, of course, traffic).

Ram Mount

Ram X-Mount – © John Kivus, 2014

In this article, I’ll provide you with four Must Have items when staying off-site, as well as some additional Nice to Have things, that will help you make the most of your Walt Disney World vacation.

 

MUST HAVES

If you are staying off-site during your Walt Disney World visit, you definitely want the following:

MUST HAVE #1 – Car

The thought of not having to worry about providing your own transportation while on vacation is probably appealing to some. After all, why worry about the hassle of navigating Orlando, parking, finding gas stations, etc… when you can simply take advantage of the complimentary shuttle service offered by local hotels?

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Go West, Magic Kingdom FastPass+ User

by on April 7, 2015

I’m working on an update to the Magic Kingdom chapter of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. A lot of it is fact-checking, which, in a book like the Guide, is a pretty big task. But it’s also a chance to find new ways to explain how the park is changing.

We do a section in the chapter that describes how FastPass+ affects traffic in the park. I adapted the latest standby wait data from our statisticians, to a map of the park. Here’s the result:

MK FastpassTraffic

Green attractions are those where standby waits are lower with FastPass+; orange attractions are those with higher average standby waits. So what FastPass+ is doing is moving people from Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, to Adventureland and Liberty Square, maybe with a quick stop along the way.

If this was a map of migration patterns in the United States, we’d say people were leaving Newark and Philadelphia for Phoenix, Palm Springs, and Denver, by way of Louisville.

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The Least Crowded Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party of 2015

by on April 6, 2015

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween PartyWelcome back to what has become a yearly tradition: predicting the least crowded Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party. We have done the same for each of the past two years, and we’ve been pretty successful if we do say so ourselves. We’ll look back at last year’s recommendations in a bit and give you the full 2015 list, but first make sure you check out our dedicated page for a complete list of dates as well as a thorough description of what the Halloween party is.

In short, if you’re looking for the best 2015 Halloween Party to attend, we recommend Tuesday, September 15, 2015. Each of the past two years we recommended the equivalent party, Tuesday, September 17, 2013 and Tuesday, September 16, 2014. In 2013 it turned out to be the party with the lowest wait times by our calculation, while last year’s came in fourth. The reason we still recommend that date despite it’s lack of a top finish last year is simple: 4 of the top 5 from 2014 were all parties earlier in September…parties which are not offered this year.

In 2014, the first Halloween party was on Labor Day, which was September 1. Previously, Disney had scheduled the first party for the Tuesday following Labor Day, and they’ve reverted to that schedule for this year. The reason the first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is not until September 15 is because Labor Day is not until September 7th. To make up for only two weeks of September parties, Disney has decided to load October up, with 18 parties in 31 days.

If you’re not going to be around for the first party of the year, Tuesday, September 15, go as early as you can. Over the past few years we’ve noticed an increasing trend where the parties get busier the closer the calender ticks towards Halloween. That sounds logical, but it hasn’t always been the case. A trend that has remained in tact is the difference in day of the week, with Tuesday evening parties being the least busy. So go early in September and/or go on a Tuesday.

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Camping 101: A Fort Wilderness camper’s gotta eat!

by on April 5, 2015

Part Two of a series. Be sure to catch Part One, RV rentals, in order to get the skinny on renting an RV for your stay at Fort Wilderness, and the soon to post Part Three which focuses on transportation methods within the campgrounds.

So, you’ve chosen an RV rental company, made all your arrangements and are just counting down the days. Anything else you need to keep in mind? Food of course. If you plan on utilizing the full potential of the RV and cooking meals or just having beverages in the fridge, you will need groceries.

©istockphoto.com

©istockphoto.com

While Moore’s will stock the camper with groceries based on your grocery list for a small fee, you will need to find some way of getting your supplies to your camper if not booking through them.

  1. Carry on / checked luggage

If you like to be in control and possession of your groceries at all times, this may be an option for you. Depending on the length of your stay and the amount of cooking you intend on doing at the RV, you may be able to pack a few essentials in a carry on and call it a day. However, if you are thinking of a more authentic camping experience, you may consider an extra checked suitcase. Of course, this will only work for non-perishables such as boxed and canned goods, such as a bag of marshmallows, boxes of cereal, or small cans of coffee. Gallons of milk, packages of hot dogs, and other items that need to be kept cold will be better purchased once in Orlando. And, airline luggage fees would need to be considered. As an example, if you fly Southwest you are charged nothing for up to two carry ons and two checked bags. The third checked bag, however, will cost $75. The benefit, however, is there is a pretty good chance your groceries will arrive with the rest of your luggage.

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Star Wars Weekends 2015 Touring Plan Updates

by on April 2, 2015

Star Wars Weekends 2015 Touring PlansThere have been quite a few changes over the past few years to Star Wars Weekends, and we’ve gone through both of our related Touring Plans to make sure they work best for you. Both of our specialized Star Wars Weekend Touring Plans now end with the Symphony in the Stars fireworks spectacular, which is the best way to end your day in a galaxy far, far away.

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Camping 101: Fort Wilderness RV rentals

by on March 29, 2015

Author’s note:  This is Part One of a Series on the ins and outs Disney’s Fort Wilderness.  Part One focuses on Fort Wilderness RV rentals.  Part Two will focus on how to get groceries and supplies to the RV when you will be flying into Orlando, and Part Three will explain transportation within the vast campgrounds.

Some of the best vacation memories I have from my childhood involve some element of nature and camping. Whether it was a weekend at a family member’s cabin in the woods or staying with my grandparents in an RV at the lake, I cherish each memory. Into adulthood I have wanted to experience the closeness of nature again. I’ve fantasized about cashing it all in, buying an RV, and traveling the country, working odd jobs (or blogging more steadily) as I go. Nothing but me, my husband, the fur kids, and nature in my day. Sounds peaceful, but delusional, I know.

Instead of camping, most of my adult vacations have been spent in Disney World. These vacation memories are just as cherished as those nature themed ones of my youth. I have often thought that combining the two would make for one amazing trip, but quickly dismissed the thought because we do live out of state and don’t own that coveted RV yet.

Courtesy John Scanlan

Courtesy John Scanlan

Yes, we could stay at one of the Cabins at Fort Wilderness, but the thought of shlepping all the camping essentials in my luggage, just doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather just show up, clothes and toiletries in tow, and plop myself into the experience.

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Packing Tips for a Day at Walt Disney World + Video

by on March 26, 2015

Photo - Angela DahlgrenAfter a long day of travel to Walt Disney World, you check into your hotel completely exhausted. All you want to do is plop down on the bed and catch some zzzz’s.

Just as you’re about to close your eyes, you remember – You haven’t packed your backpack for the parks tomorrow!

Not to worry! I’ve provided a list of park essentials to make packing efficient and easy.

Not in a reading mood? Check out my video at the bottom of this post!

The Bare Necessities

Photo - Angela Dahlgren

Top 3: Wallet, Ticket, Phone

  • Park Ticket: Don’t forget that golden ticket at the hotel! Yes, you can use your MagicBand to get into the parks, but it’s nice to have a hard copy if you run into issues at the turnstile.
  • Wallet: License, cash, cards, insurance info, etc.
  • MagicBand: Linking your My Disney Experience account to your MagicBand will give you quick access to your park ticket, room key, FastPass+ and dining reservations as its conveniently located around your wrist. You can even pay with your MagicBand! Since your MB is your room key, there is no back-up key (unless you ask for one at check-in), so make sure it’s with you before you leave!
  • Phone: If you have a smart phone, there are two apps I recommend checking out. The TouringPlans Disney World Lines App helps you plan out your day at the parks with crowd calendars, wait times and customized Touring Plans. The second app is My Disney Experience which, if you have an account, holds all of your reservations, tickets and itineraries.
  • Camera: Disney World is full of endless photo opportunities. Don’t be without a camera!

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