Trip Planning

Walt Disney World September 2016 Preview

by on August 30, 2016

Welcome to TouringPlans’ Walt Disney World September 2016 preview – we’ve sent our kids back to school, the weather is slightly less oppressive, and we’re ready to get our Food & Wine on. Who’s with us and ready for September?

Average Weather for Walt Disney World in September

 

September weather for Orlando - High 89, Low 74, 78% Humidity, 14 days with rain

September Weather for Orlando

 

 

 

 

 

High temperatures in Orlando finally drop back into the high 80s for September, but there’s still rain and the potential for hurricanes. In fact, Hurricane Gaston (he’s especially good at precipitating) is in the Caribbean right now getting ready to send rains to the Florida coast, and Tropical Depression 9 is in the Gulf. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center is an excellent resource for forecasts that may affect your September trip.

Pack extra shoes and an umbrella in case you get caught in the rain. And if you’re flying, don’t forget weather can impact your connections. Be prepared.

 

Upcoming Live Chats for September

School is starting again and so are Brian’s weekly Facebook Live shows. Beginning September 1 and continuing every Thursday after, Brian will go through that week’s news and take your questions. What time are the chats, you ask? We are leaving that up to you, so go vote right now over on Facebook. Check our Facebook and Twitter feeds on Wednesday for the winning time.

In addition to Brian’s weekly show, Guy will also be broadcasting on Facebook Live discussing Disneyland. Dates and times to be announced soon.

Times for all live chats are posted in advance on our Facebook page and on Twitter.

 

Walt Disney World September 2016 Park Crowds

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10 Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Insurance for Your Disney Cruise

by on August 26, 2016

If only I had a dollar for every question I get about travel insurance!  Well I might just be able to pay for another cruise.  A short 3-night cruise in the off season in an inside cabin, but still.  Insurance is a mysterious creature.  Coverage is hardly ever cut and dry, and there are reasons for that.  And it’s not cheap!  Trust me, I understand it’s painful to pay for something you may or may not ever use.  In fact, you are paying for something we hope you never have to use!  I can’t tell you what to do, but maybe I can help you approach the insurance choice for your Disney cruise from a more informed place.  Here are 10 frequently asked questions!

1C4A28351. Should I Get It? – My answer here is an unequivocal yes. Yes yes yes. I’ll be honest, the odds are overwhelming that you aren’t going to need it. But, oh if you do. I’ll spare you the full retelling of the story of my healthy mother coming down with pneumonia on a Greek Isles cruise a few years ago. But, needless to say, her insurance bills were over $5,000, and they almost made her stay in a hospital in Athens which could have multiplied that bill by 10. If not more. here are so many other stories of a child’s appendix unexpectedly rupturing in Mexico (and really does it ever expectedly rupture?), a teenager breaking an arm in port, stories of people missing the ship because their flight was delayed, etc. etc. etc..

I even used my trip insurance one time to get reimbursed for having to spend the night in Seattle when weather prevented us from getting to Vancouver from Colorado for an Alaskan cruise. That was in May. No snow, no storms, just a windy day! Just remember, a cruise isn’t like a normal vacation where you can just go a day late should travel delays or weather occur. If you miss the ship, you miss your vacation! Insurance is important for so many reasons on a cruise.

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Adding Extra Disney Magic: Tinker Bell Gifts

by on August 24, 2016

Tinker Bell Gifts

Tinker Bell Gifts

Imagine with me, if you will, a parent’s paradise in Walt Disney World. No, not that one where you ditch the kids and head over to the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island (RIP). The other one. The one where the kids wake up bright and early, brimming with excitement to start their day. No whining about getting up early for rope drop, no nagging for that $16 autograph pen from the gift shop, and absolutely no fighting between siblings. Sound too good to be true? Maybe. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to aim high! So let’s talk about how Tinker Bell gifts can not only encourage good behavior but also add an extra touch of Disney magic while simultaneously helping you save money on souvenirs.

Note from Tinker Bell

Note from Tinker Bell

What are they?

For those who haven’t heard of them, Tinker Bell gifts are small presents you leave in the room for the kids in your group. They can be left overnight for discovery in the morning (like a Disney version of Santa), or if you can find a way to sneak back into the room without the kids noticing, you can leave them as a surprise for when they return from the parks. Typically, the gifts are accompanied by a note explaining the gift and who gave it.

Though they are called Tinker Bell gifts by most people, if you think the child(ren) in your party would be more excited about a letter from Rey (Star Wars) thanking them for their help with the Resistance than a note from Tinker Bell, then this is the time to get creative. Personally, I like to leave a note that includes four things: a quick mention of the fun from the prior day, an itinerary for the current day, an explanation of the gift, and a reminder to be well behaved. On a recent trip with younger relatives of mine, each note was written by a different character and tied into whatever the kids would be doing at the parks that day.

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

by on August 23, 2016

photo - Touringplans.comWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

If you’re a fan of both Disney and the outdoors, I have just the place for you…

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort!

Located at Walt Disney World, you’ll find both cabins and campsites to best fit your needs.

Enjoy!

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Disney Hacks #5: In-Park Personal Tech

by on August 23, 2016

disney-hacksConfession: I am a bit of a gear head. I love gadgetry and I’m always eager to try out the next tech marvel at the earliest possible opportunity. Indeed, Arthur C. Clarke once said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and one of the reasons I enjoy Disney and Universal theme parks so much is the open display of bleeding edge technology to create things that seem legitimately magical.  

At Disney parks, however, technology is leaping from the attractions into the palm of your hand. Read on to find out more about how to best use your personal tech to make the most out of your Disney trip with the latest installment of Disney Hacks!

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What to Expect from 2016 Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland

by on August 22, 2016

DSC07067Mickey’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 Halloween parade with an appearance by a horseback riding headless horseman,  trick-or-treating, dance parties, and more. In this post we’ll talk about what to expect from 2016 Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland.

Mickey’s Halloween Party takes place in Disneyland on select nights in the fall, typically running from late-September until Halloween. In 2016, the party dates are September 23, 26, 28, 30, October 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, 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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The 5 W’s of Pre-Park-Open Dining at Disney World

by on August 19, 2016

Did you know that it’s possible to enter the parks at Walt Disney World before they officially open for the day? A valid park ticket and dining reservation for one of seven restaurants is all you need to get into the park before regular guests. Read on to learn about the who, what, where, when, and why of these reservations.

Who?

Regardless of whether you’re staying on or off site, guests with valid theme park admission are eligible to enter the park early if they have an Advanced Dining Reservation scheduled for before the park’s official opening time. Since these are some of the hardest reservations to score, guests staying at a Disney resort have an advantage due to the extended 180 day + length of stay window for dining reservations for on-site guests. Our dining Reservation Finder can also help you snag those hard to get reservations.

Walking through World Showcase before Epcot's official open

A perk of early reservations – walking through a nearly empty Epcot

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What you need to know about security procedures at Orlando’s theme parks

by on August 17, 2016

Orlando’s theme parks have enjoyed a decades long reputation for providing a clean and safe environment for all guests. Over the years the theme parks’ security procedures have evolved, adding layers and new processes. In the past few months we’ve seen a significant change to all the major theme parks’ procedures. In hopes of helping you prepare for your visit, I’ve laid out some of the security measures you can expect to encounter.

Keep in mind, there are multiple layers of security at all the parks. There are efforts that go unseen and procedures we don’t know about. Additionally, out of respect for the theme parks, their staff members, and their security, I won’t go beyond what is already shared with the public and easily seen when visiting the parks.

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Walt Disney World – Four Main Theme Parks

The Most Magical Place on Earth can’t hold such a title without having some solid security procedures in place. At the beginning of the year it was standard that all of Orlando’s theme parks conduct a bag check on any guest who had any bag of any kind, including strollers. Then a few months ago all three of Orlando’s major theme park destinations installed metal detectors at the security checkpoint. The rollout process and ramp up period varied for each destination.

Walt Disney World has proceeded with using their metal detectors for random checks. Although every single guest will go through a more-thorough-than-ever bag screening process, not every guest is asked to go through a metal detector. After the bag screening guests are selected at random to go through the detectors.

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The metal detectors are off to the side and are manned by a group of Security Cast Members. I have been selected multiple times. Each time the Cast Members have been very courteous and it has only added a minute or two to my ability to get to the park entrance. You may also notice law enforcement personnel at a few posts throughout the front entrance area, as well.

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Disney’s official park rules can be found here. Some of the highlights include statements that all persons, bags, parcels, and clothing are subject to screening, as well as stating that they reserve the right to not allow any item they deem inappropriate into the premises.

Guest that do not have bags have a separate area they can go through to bypass the bag screening area, but they are still subject to random metal detector screenings.

Of all the theme parks, you will most likely find that Walt Disney World’s screen process takes the least amount of time. Still if you arrive to the parks right around their opening time, be prepared for an extensive line at the checkpoints. It’s one of the reasons that we recommend arriving 30-60 minutes before any park’s opening time.

Disney Water Parks and Disney Springs

Currently, there are no metal detectors at Disney’s two water parks nor Disney Springs. At the water parks there is a bag screening, though not very extensive. There is no screening at Disney Springs, though there is a strong security and law enforcement presence.

Universal Orlando

Here you will find the most extensive screening process–and perhaps the most talked about process. Every guest will go through metal detector and all bags go through an x-ray machine. When you first approach the security checkpoint it really does resemble being at the airport. This security checkpoint is for all guests regardless of if you are visiting the theme parks or just CityWalk.

I have a slight concern with the location of this checkpoint, though it is difficult to think of an alternative location. During peak time, especially first thing in the morning, this domed area is extremely crowded. It can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience and when that feels like a bad bottle neck situation.

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Universal Team Members who park in the main parking structure must also go through the same screening area, though they have a dedicated separate lane. A few friends of mine that go through this process on a daily basis have expressed concerns with some of the interactions they’ve encountered with Security personnel, as well as encounters they’ve observed with guests.  I have had mostly good experiences, though there have been some rare occasion to the contrary.

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Better DHS FastPass+ Choice: Toy Story Mania or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster?

by on August 8, 2016

Toy Story Mania wait times have dropped around 40% since its third ride track opened in late May – from around 83 minutes to around 51 minutes so far this summer. That drop means that Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster has the longest average wait of any ride in the park, at around 68 minutes.

That leads to an interesting question: Is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster a better Tier 1 FastPass+ choice than Toy Story Mania?

The answer is “probably not.” But the difference  is so small that you’re unlikely to notice the difference. So assuming your family can ride them, either Toy Story or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is a good choice for your Tier 1 FastPass+ at Hollywood Studios.

Read on for the details of how we got to this result.

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Selecting an Epcot Resort

by on August 8, 2016

View of the Epcot Resort Area

View of the Epcot Resort Area

With the recent release of the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival menus, I can’t help but think about my upcoming trip. The 60 day FastPass+ window is approaching quickly, and as an avid proponent of planning ahead, I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t fully decided on a hotel!

It’s one of the biggest dilemmas I face when planning any trip to Walt Disney World. It’s especially hard for me during the fall when visiting Epcot’s World Showcase is top priority thanks to the mouthwatering samplings at Food and Wine Festival. I’ve narrowed it down to the Epcot resort area to make walking to Epcot a breeze, but that still leaves me with five wonderful choices – Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Dolphin, Swan, and Yacht Club.

Not one to take the resort decision lightly, I’ve carefully mapped out a comparison to help me (and hopefully some of you) pick the right Epcot resort for any Walt Disney World vacation.

Theming

All five resorts fall into the deluxe category at Disney, and with that designation comes elaborate theming. However, because Swan and Dolphin are the only two that are not owned by Disney, some may find them to be lacking that special Disney touch.

  • Beach Club – It’s a New England-style resort hotel that is painted blue with white trim and adorned with typical beach décor. Think seashells and sand dollars.
  • Boardwalk Inn – Modeled after a turn-of-the-century Atlantic coast boardwalk, the rooms actually sit behind a façade of neon lighted shops and restaurants along a wooden boardwalk.
  • Dolphin – Words escape me when it comes to the theming of both the Swan and Dolphin, and if you’ve ever seen it for yourself, you can probably understand. Disney describes it as “deluxe accommodations inspired by Florida itself, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel juxtaposes modern architectural silhouettes alongside Renaissance flourishes—most notably, the twin stylized dolphin statues gracing its rooftop.” Now, I’m not sure what they think a dolphin is, but based on their designs, I would say that a dolphin is some combination between a goldfish and carp.
  • Swan – Though very similar the Dolphin in theme and design, the Swan is outfitted with two Swans atop the building instead. At least these two actually resemble swans.

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