Trip Planning

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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Disney World Planning Challenges: Managing Your Disney Evening

by on March 24, 2015

So you’ve had a great day at Disney World! What should you do next? Follow up that great day with a fantastic evening, of course.TouringPlans logo

Whether you have a full-fledged touring plan in mind or decide to focus on more subdued activities during your evening, Disney World offers plenty of choices. This article highlights specific tips and looks at TouringPlans.com tools and information that can help make your evening a success.

An Evening in the Parks

Making a smooth transition from a day to an evening in Disney World will keep your vacation fun on track. Maybe you are just starting your vacation and planning some park time on the night of your arrival day. Or you have taken a resort break and plan to return to the parks later. Maybe you have taken the day off from the theme parks with plans to go into a park at night. Or you are extending a day already in the parks into the evening.

Great Movie Ride night by Sarah Graffam

The Great Movie Ride glows at night

In all of these cases, when planning for some park time at night, it’s important to consider factors such as what time to depart for the parks, how to get to there, whether to plan activities in advance, and—finally—when you may want to plan on heading back to your hotel. A bit of strategic planning can help you get to the fun as soon as possible.

Getting Off to a Good Start. One of the best ways to avoid feeling rushed when starting off your evening is to avoid the temptation to plan for only the most optimistic conditions in terms of timing. Instead, if it’s your arrival day, be sure to build in some extra time for getting to the World from the airport and checking into your hotel. My family generally expects to get from the airport to a park in 2.5 to 3 hours when stopping at our resort first.

If you have already started your vacation, be sure to leave time for the kids to have a last minute snack or take a final dip in the pool during an afternoon break.

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How Many Times Do You Have to Visit Disney?

by on March 22, 2015

A Disney fan may ask, “How many times do I get to go to Walt Disney World?” For a Disney aficionado, the theme parks are a treat to be indulged in as often as possible. But for Disney-neutral or, gasp, Disney-averse folks, the question they might more reasonably pose is, “How many times do I have to go to Walt Disney World?”

I’ll get the ball rolling by saying, yes, barring major financial constraint, you do have to visit Disney World or Disneyland at least once. Why? Because experiencing a Disney theme park is the American cultural imperative akin to no other.

The Disney Parks are a must-do. But how many times must you do them?

The Disney Parks are a must-do. But how many times must you do them?

In a time when common cultural experience has eroded to the point of oblivion, a Disney parks visit is of the few remaining touchstone experiences; it’s a true American rite of passage (possibly also for other nationalities, but I’m speaking to the US for this one). A trip to a Disney theme park will put you on the fast track to pop cultural literacy, elucidating references in sources ranging from Mad Men to Modern Family.

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The 10 Best Disney Cruise Line Tips

by on March 18, 2015

I am often asked for tips or helpful hints for an upcoming cruise on Disney Cruise Line, and there’s no short answer to that! I’ve learned a lot of helpful things over the years both from obsessive reading about Disney cruises and experiencing Disney cruises (the latter being the most fun of course). I thought I’d share my 10 favorite tips. Share yours in the comments!

1. Rebook Onboard It may sound a little funny spending time on your current vacation planning the next one, but do it. If you think you will ever cruise again on Disney, stop by the booking desk and book another one. Even if you have no idea when or where you want to cruise again, book something. Currently you will save 10% on the published fare (a few blacked out dates notwithstanding), you will get 50% off your deposit on cruises of 7-nights or longer, and you will get a nice onboard credit for your new booking. If you book something and change the dates, those benefits will move to the next date as long as that date is within 24 months of booking. You can move the dates as many times as you need to in those 24 months! So rebook onboard! It’s worth a few minutes of your time. (But, don’t wait until the last night of the cruise to rebook. The desk will be VERY busy at that time!)

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Photos from Inside a Polynesian Bungalow

by on March 17, 2015

These images happened to fall off a truck while I was walking around Disney World last week. They definitely are not the result of renting a pontoon boat, docking next to a bungalow, and hopping over a fence. Because that would be wrong.

Here’s the living room. I like the furniture choices – lots of natural woods and textured surfaces. Also notice how the couch faces the lagoon view, not the television.

PolyBungalow-LivingRoom1

 

Here’s the kitchen. Small, but functional enough to cook a light dinner if you wanted. I would have opted for a larger window over the sink instead of that decorative cupboard.

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Disney Savvy Tips for Typhoon Lagoon

by on March 17, 2015

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Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon

 

In addition to four theme parks, the Walt Disney World Resort also offers two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both of these water parks boast unique themes and, in true Disney fashion, a great story! Typhoon Lagoon, the older of the two parks, is meant to be a little tropical resort that was drenched and tossed by a typhoon which created pools, tossed items onto rooftops and into trees, and left the Miss Tilly boat perched atop Mount Mayday! This park is a windblown paradise with little gags wherever you turn; and it’s also home to some popular ways to get wet, such as the thrilling Humunga Kowabunga slides, the relaxing Castaway Creek, the iconic Surf Pool, and the Crush n’ Gusher water coaster. If you’re considering a visit to this popular water park, check out these Disney Savvy Tips for Typhoon Lagoon to make your day as magical as possible.

But wait! There are a few things you should know first before planning a trip to Typhoon Lagoon. First of all, Disney is now offering a 1-Day Water Park Pass which provides one-day admission to either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach for $61.77 with tax for ages 10 and up or $53.25 for ages 3-9 with tax. This now means you can water park hop for a day! You can also purchase a Water Parks Annual Pass with unlimited admission to both water parks for $117.15 with tax for adults, or $105.44 with tax for kids ages 3-9. But if you have a Premium Annual Passport, you already have the privilege of unlimited admission to both parks.

So are you ready for some Disney Savvy tips?

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An Introvert’s Guide to Disney World

by on March 15, 2015

I’m a Disney theme park devotee; I love the parks’ art and architecture, the attention to detail, the zippy rides, and the gently popcorn-scented air. I’m also a hard core introvert. I enjoy time with my family and close friends, but speaking with strangers or spending extended periods in large groups leaves me emotionally drained. To recover, I require personal space and quiet time, and lots of it.

Disney Parks fan and introvert can be challenging traits to reconcile. And honestly, I sometimes get the feeling that Walt Disney World is the epicenter of everything I am not. Disney is loud and relentless. With its confluence of uber-friendly cast members, crowds, boisterous dance parties, and world-as-a-show ethos, the entire place practically screams EXTROVERTS ONLY.

Even Christmas can be manageable for an introvert, IF you arrive at the parks early.

Even Christmas can be manageable for an introvert, IF you arrive at the parks early.

But as a veteran of many dozens of trips to the Disney Parks, I’m here to promise you that an introvert can survive, and even thrive, in the midst of the madness. Here are some steps you can take to help make Walt Disney World a manageable experience for an introvert.

Choose a low crowd time of the year to visit.

I have extrovert friends who love WDW on New Year’s Eve. They get excited seeing tens of thousands of people all in one place. You never know who you’ll meet! But for me, one of the quickest paths to system overload is crushing crowds. Being in the Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve might possibly make my head explode.

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Mama Della’s: The Best Full-Service Restaurant at Universal Orlando

by on March 9, 2015

There are so many different classifications one can sort a theme park restaurant into – best themed, best ambiance, best location, best food, best price. But what of the best overall venue, the one that most successfully manages to not only balance all of these different considerations, but to also be more than just the sum of its parts? That would surely be a difficult feat to pull off, and the eatery would probably be jam-packed full of people day in and day out.

Mama Della's Ristorante

Image © Universal

With Universal Orlando Resort’s best all-around full-service restaurant, Mama Della’s Ristorante, this is most certainly not the case. Maybe it’s because it’s located at Portofino Bay Hotel, which is tucked away in the corner of the resort. Maybe it’s because it’s overshadowed by a (growing) number of other eateries at the theme parks, from Harry Potter’s wondrous digs to the tasty fast food offerings of Springfield, USA. Maybe it’s just because it’s not Mythos, which has long been considered the best theme park restaurant in the world.

Whatever the reason, Mama Della’s is typically devoid of the long lines and online buzz that is associated with much of the rest of Universal’s lineup, making it a superlative dining experience in nearly every sense – terrific food, atmospherics, and wait times.

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Is Packing Carry-On Only Right for You?

by on March 4, 2015

downtowndisney_luggage

Don’t let packing get you down: a good plan to pack carry-on only can lessen the stress

Establishing a countdown, deciding which parks to visit on which days, planning advanced dining and FastPass+ reservations—for me, all of these are part of the joy of anticipating a Walt Disney World vacation. Even so, there is one aspect of planning that can feel like a major obstacle between me and vacation, one thing that is no fun whatsoever when I’m preparing for a Disney World vacation, and that thing is packing for our flight to the World.

Although I know that packing will probably always be my least favorite part of getting ready for vacation, over multiple trips to Disney World, I have found some ways to make it a little less painful. One of these strategies is to pack carry-on only whenever possible. Packing carry-on only not only cuts down on the amount of “brain drain” I seem to experience while packing but also on the amount of time I spend doing it.

Some Factors to Consider

Your Traveling Party. A major factor to consider affecting your ability to pack carry-on is your traveling party. Packing carry-on only became much more possible when my kids were past the baby and toddler stage. Let’s face it, just getting to Disney World with the paraphernalia needed for young kids is a major accomplishment. But now that our traveling party consists of either adults and older children or adults only, we put everyone to work while traveling carry-on, with each person responsible for a roll aboard bag and a personal item (generally a backpack).

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A Tale of Two Runners and runDisney

by on February 15, 2015

To the shock and utter amazement of those that know me well (and even myself), I am contemplating signing up for a runDisney event in 2016. I have scoured every inch of the runDisney website and read many other people’s blogs about their experiences. However, I had concerns about what hotel was the right one to stay at for these events, so I asked two previous runDisney racers: Dave Russ, a casual runner who mainly does 5ks to support local causes, and Jordan Viebranz, a more seasoned runner who loves sharing his experiences and motivating others to participate.

rundisney_logo

What runDisney event(s) have you participated in?

Dave: I did the Tower of Terror 10 miler in 2014.

Jordan: I participated in the Goofy Challenge this year. Last year (2014) I participated in the 10k and the full marathon.

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