Trip Planning

Trivia Tuesday: Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel + Video

by on May 10, 2016

DSC02921Welcome back to Trivia Tuesday!

Here’s a short and sweet video about Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel found on Disneyland Resort property in Anaheim, California.

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How to Sleep In and Still See Everything at Walt Disney World

by on May 9, 2016

Castle (12)With miles of walking, heat, and humidity, Walt Disney World is the kind of vacation that you need to get some rest to enjoy. The paradox has always been that to get the most for your money, you’ve got to arrive early and stay late.

Now, with the Animal Kingdom’s longer evening hours and Hollywood Studios’ construction closures, it’s possible to sleep in and still see everything in those parks in one day. That means you can alternate full days in Epcot and the Magic Kingdom with relaxed, late starts at the others – even on short trips. A sample 4-day, long weekend might look like this:

  • Full day at Magic Kingdom
  • Sleep late and visit the Studios or Animal Kingdom
  • Full day at Epcot
  • Sleep late and visit the park you’ve not yet seen

The key to those sleep-in days is setting up a touring plan with the right FastPass+ choices and times. To get you started, we’ve created new late-start touring plans for the Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios below.

Seth Kubersky and I have tested versions of these plans in the parks already, with different combinations of FastPass reservations. Let us know how they work for you.

Late Arrival Animal Kingdom Touring Plan (link)

Get FastPass+ reservations for these attractions and general times:

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Walt Disney World FastPass+ Strategy Update

by on May 4, 2016

Kiosks? We don't need no stinkin' kiosks!

Kiosks? We don’t need no stinkin’ kiosks!

Remember a couple of months ago when we released a three part series on Disney’s FastPass+ service at Walt Disney Worldhow to use it, the best strategy for getting the most out of it, and then hacks and tips to make it even better? Well, Disney had to go and enhance the service, rendering some of our advice outdated. Well, consider it outdated no more. Read on to find out how these changes impact the process of making your picks, and the strategy to using the FastPass+ system!

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Tuesday Video: Deluxe Resort Hotels

by on May 3, 2016

yacht clubWelcome back to Trivia Tuesday!

Today, I’m bringing you on a tour of the Walt Disney World Deluxe Resort Hotels.

Put on your walking shoes and let’s go!

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A Wilderness Lodge Villas Vacation: Construction Update

by on May 3, 2016

 

© Sarah Graffam

Construction behind Wilderness Lodge Villas

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Villas and parts of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge have been under construction since the fall of 2015. The project was covered in a TouringPlans.com article by Erin Foster in January, and this article provides an update on the construction.

Eleven months ago (according to schedule), I was up bright and early and on the Disney Vacation Club website to secure a reservation for our family’s April vacation at our home resort, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. We love the serenity and atmosphere there as it gives us a beautiful setting to wind down before, between, or after touring the parks. And then it happened—DVC expansion!  Like many other guests, a flood of questions entered my mind. Will this affect my stay, how noisy will it be, how close will it be, will I still enjoy one of my favorite resorts?

© Sarah Graffam

Scrims behind the main pool at Wilderness Lodge

Fast forward to our stay. The Wilderness Lodge lobby remains as beautiful as ever, and instantly I was “home.” No signs of construction there.

© Sarah Graffam

Wilderness Lodge lobby

As we made the walk from the lobby to the villas building, we were feeling very apprehensive. In fact, based on multiple reports that the construction had turned the entire back side of the villas facing the lake into a construction zone, we had put in a request for a villa on the front side of the building. But when we got Disney’s text with our room number, it was for a room directly facing the construction. Turns out, though, Disney had our backs. As we approached the villas, there it was—scaffolding covering the entrance and extending to the front side of the building!

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Park Touring Plans Now Handle Ride Closures

by on May 2, 2016

Lines Showing Offline EventWe’ve updated our Lines mobile app to route you around unexpected ride breakdowns while you’re in the parks. If your Magic Kingdom touring plan calls for you to ride Space Mountain soon and Lines learns that Space Mountain is temporarily closed, upon optimization Lines will adjust your touring plan by moving Space Mountain to later in the day, after the time when Lines expects it to reopen.

This new feature keeps you one step ahead of the crowds by finding the best attractions to see now, and by knowing the best time to schedule a closed ride later in the day. It might also save you from walking across the park to find a closed ride.

The idea for this feature came from us testing our touring plan software. Three major ride breakdowns happened in the first few hours I was in the park. My work-around was to just skip those steps in the plan, but it would have been great if Lines detected the ride closures and re-did the plan for me automatically. Now Lines does that whenever I optimize my plan.

We’ve also added a new text field to Lines showing our estimate of when the ride might re-open.

Behind the Scenes

Once Lines learns that an attraction has gone offline, it has to estimate how long it’ll be until that ride re-opens. To help with this, we’ve been collecting data on temporary ride closures for the past few years.

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Let’s Do it Again!!! – Dapper Day at Magic Kingdom

by on May 2, 2016

This piece is a follow up to an introductory article about Spring Dapper Day at the Magic Kingdom.  To read it first please visit the following link:  Spring Dapper Day at Walt Disney World.

 

I am happy to report that we have returned from our short trip “home”, are now well rested, and I am ready to tell you all about the dashing good time we had at Dapper Day.  It was so fun to see everyone else in their dapper attire.  Men, women, children:  people of all ages partook in the fun.  I was very surprised at how many people were dressed up.  It seemed like almost everyone!  I felt sorry for those poor souls who were merely wearing their normal vacation clothes.  We did have a few stop us and ask why everyone was so well dressed;  and some of them said they wished they had know so they could have done it as well.

In my last article I had left you all hanging as to what we were going to wear.  It really was a hard decision.  We debated styles from the 1920’s, the 1950’s, and even theming our outfits based on Disney characters.  My husband’s attire was easier to plan and it sort of just fell into place.  For our anniversary earlier last year I had bought him a Mickey Mouse bowtie (with no clue as to when he would ever wear it), and around Christmas time he began growing out his normally very short cut facial hair.  I had fallen in love with the handlebar moustache look and had convinced him that he needed to have one for Dapper Day.  He lovingly obliged.   Also around Christmas last year, while shopping in Target, I had made him try on a hat which I was convinced he would be super cute in.  He was.  I bought it.

He had first thought he wanted to look like a dapper Walt Disney with knickers and a dress shirt that we had scene in a photograph.  That changed when we had a very hard time locating a vintage styled pair of knickers that were in our “wear it once” budget.   Instead he found a very nice pair of dress pants at a local thrift store that went with the shirt he wanted to wear.  The last part of the outfit was leather suspenders.  That was the third piece to his outfit that I insisted on.  I am really lucky that his taste in clothing is pretty much in sync with mine.

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New Disney’s Hollywood Studios Late Arrivals Touring Plan: A Field Test

by on April 28, 2016

Sunset Blvd (1)For decades, a truism of Walt Disney World touring was that you had to arrive before rope drop to efficiently experience everything in the park in one day. But what if a combination of attraction closures and FastPass+ reservations made it possible to sleep in and still experience everything of note at Disney’s Hollywood Studios — including most of the new Star Wars entertainment — before closing time? That was the theory behind Len’s new Disney’s Hollywood Studios One Day Touring Plan for Late Arrivals, and I put it to the test last Friday, April 22, a day that was predicted to be a 7 out of 10 on our Crowd Calendar.

For the TL;DR crowd, I’ll cut to the chase: with our new Late Arrival touring plan, and the proper FastPass+ reservations, it is now possible (even on a busy day) to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at noon and see every worthwhile attraction before the evening ends. This is great news for families who want to hit the snooze button after a late night in the Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom, once nighttime hours there begin.

 

Preparing to use the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Late Arrivals Touring Plan

There is a catch: you’ll need to do some preparation in My Disney Experience ahead of time. The key to this plan is to secure consecutive FastPasses for Toy Story Midway Mania, Star Tours, and Tower of Terror beginning as soon as possible after your noon arrival time. In my case, I booked Toy Story for 12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m.; Star Tours for 1:15 p.m.-2:15pm; and Tower of Terror for 2:15 p.m.-3:15 p.m.

Late arrivals

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2016 Tokyo Disneyland Trip Planning Guide

by on April 26, 2016

18741086704_6694d4a43f_zYou want to go on another Disney vacation, but where do you go? You’ve been to Walt Disney World more times than you can count and you can recall every small detail of Disneyland because you’ve covered every square inch so many times that it makes your head spin. Next you think “Maybe a Disney Cruise?” Not happening, your brother-in-law wants you to wait until little Sally (your niece’s second cousin, twice removed) graduates from sixth grade so you can all go as a family. Disneyland Paris? No way, they’re in the middle of more refurbishments than there are blades of grass on Earth. Then it comes to you, Tokyo Disneyland. You remember your curiosity being piqued from seeing pictures of DisneySea online. “Doesn’t that place have a volcano?” Hell yes it has a volcano, and I’m here to tell you that it’s awesome. You’ve found your next Disney destination, and hopefully with this Tokyo Disneyland trip planning guide I will help you plan it.

Note: This is an updated version of the TDR trip planning guide I posted last year.

Step 1: When to visit Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort, or TDR, is always going to have huge crowds and high wait times, especially on the weekends. I’ve spent thousands of hours in the American Disney parks but have never seen anything like the crowds during a weekend in Tokyo Disneyland. With that being said there are a few times out of the year where crowds are smaller than they usually are, but this luxury may come at the cost of poor weather or multiple attraction closures due to refurbishments.

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Disney’s Magical Express FAQ

by on April 26, 2016

Disney’s Magical Express is a service that provides free bus transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and Disney’s resort hotels, for guests staying at those hotels. While the word “FREE” always sounds good, there may be some situations where using Magical Express does not make sense. There are also some tips and tricks that can make your Magical Express experience better if you do choose to use it. Here’s what you need to know.

Sign up for Magical Express when you make your room reservation.

Sign up for Magical Express when you make your room reservation.

Who can use Disney’s Magical Express?

Registered guests of Disney-owned hotels are eligible for Magical Express Service. These hotels are:

  • Art of Animation
  • All-Star Movies, Music, & Sports
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas, Jambo & Kidani
  • Beach Club & Villas
  • BoardWalk & Villas
  • Fort Wilderness Cabins & Campgrounds
  • Caribbean Beach
  • Contemporary & Bay Lake Tower Villas
  • Coronado Springs
  • Grand Floridian
  • Old Key West
  • Polynesian Village
  • Pop Century
  • Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside
  • Saratoga Springs
  • Wilderness Lodge & Villas
  • Yacht Club

But I’m staying at the Swan! Isn’t that on Disney property? Don’t I qualify for Magical Express?

Sorry, no. While the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, and a few Disney Springs area hotels are quite close to the action, only guests staying at the hotels actually owned by Disney qualify for free Magical Express transportation.

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