Trip Planning

Walt Disney World Planning: Order of Operations

by on January 11, 2017

Walt Disney World Trip Planning

I’ve been helping my middle school-age son with his math homework lately. And one of the things that has been a bit of a challenge is something called “order of operations.” Basically, when you have a complex, multi-step problem, you have to do your calculations in order. Take care of what’s inside of any parentheses first, then calculate any exponents. Next, do your multiplication and division calculations. Finish with any remaining addition and subtraction.

Well, the same principle applies to planning a Walt Disney World vacation, which is its own complex, multi-step problem. So consider this a step-by-step road map that will keep you on course and allow you to reach the correct solution: a successful Disney vacation. If you’re new to planning, I highly recommend using the services of a travel agent that specializes in Disney destinations. They can help guide you and answer any questions you might have along the way.

Parentheses (first things first)

Let’s assume you’ve already decided on a Walt Disney World vacation. Consider this step the parentheses of our equation: the one part you simplify and solve before anything else. The first crucial decisions in your planning are when and where you’re going to stay.

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Walt Disney World Healthy Eating: Sticking to Your Resolutions

by on January 2, 2017

Soooo, the new year is upon us, with the new year comes New Year’s resolutions, and one of the most common resolutions is to lose weight or eat healthier. The problem, however, is that you have a trip planned to food-and-beverage-Mecca Walt Disney World, where around every corner you’ll be tempted with decadent treats.  

How do you enjoy your trip without completely derailing your weight loss efforts?  I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to drop a significant amount of weight over the last several months, and I’ve done it while continuing to visit both Walt Disney World and Disneyland on the regular. Read on to find out how you can have a great time, eat well, and still lose weight (or at least minimize the damage) on your trip!

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How To Survive New Year’s Eve at Epcot (and Magic Kingdom)

by on December 27, 2016

Epcot’s New Year’s Eve fireworks are unlike any other show at Walt Disney World.

So you’re thinking about doing New Year’s Eve at Disney? Most people would think that’s ridiculous given the massive crowds, but after a few years of experience under my belt doing this very thing, I’m here to tell you, it can be a really fun day in Walt Disney World. Below, I’ll outline a few of my hard-learned secrets to a successful Epcot New Year’s Eve along with a few crowd-sourced tips from my colleagues here at TouringPlans for handling Magic Kingdom, as well.

Julia and Dani have already given some great tips on staying sane during phase closures and planning for crowds at Universal, and many of these rules also apply here, too. Though Epcot does not normally phase-close on New Year’s Eve, the same tips work for surviving the busiest days in any theme park. Dani’s tips about setting up Touring Plans ahead of time are also super helpful for making the most of your theme park visits during the last few weeks of the year.

Why Not Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve?

Despite the crowds, New Year’s Eve is a fun day, unlike any other you’ve spent in a park. One of the toughest parts of the day, though, can be actually getting in to a park. As Julia explained, phased closures are very common for this time of year, particularly at Magic Kingdom. This means that, depending on your ticket type and whether you have an existing dining reservation, you may not be able to enter or even hop on transportation to your chosen park.

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TouringPlansTV – Part 2 Review: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels + Video

by on December 20, 2016

Time for my Part 2 Review!

To check out the dining options, recreation and amenities at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, click below.

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Visiting Universal Orlando during the busiest weeks of the year

by on December 20, 2016

There’s no place like home for the holidays, but it’s difficult to beat Orlando during this festive time of the year. Perhaps you’ve decided to visit Orlando during the final two weeks of the year. Being in the theme parks at Christmas time is magical, but takes some planning.  You’ll need to be prepared. In this post I’ll share some planning tips for visiting Universal Orlando during these last two weeks of the year, which are some of the busiest days in Orlando’s theme parks.

The Basics

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays it is easy to forget the basics of theme park survival. So here’s a little refresher.

  • Dress comfortably, especially with regard to your footwear
  • Plan for changes in the weather, this means pack a mix of both warm and cold weather clothing, because here in Florida we experience both warm and cold weather in Winter, often from one day to the next
  • Stay hydrated with water (as opposed to soda, adult beverages, etc)
  • Use sunscreen, after all we are actually closer to the sun during Winter
  • Take breaks and rest throughout the day

The great news is Universal Orlando’s longest operating hours of the year are taking place right now through New Year’s Eve.

Coming up with a plan

Plans are what we’re all about here at Touring Plans, and this time of the year is one of the most important to have a good solid plan. The most effective way to do so is creating a custom touring plan through our site. All you have to do when creating your customized Touring Plan is to select which parks you’re visiting, your arrival time to the park, and plug in the rides and shows you want to make sure you experience. Then the service will calculate the best touring plan including exactly which order to visit the attractions and when in order to maximize your time (and sanity). This plan is based on a huge collection of data that will ensure you spend the least amount of time as possible in the standby wait lines.

Creating a custom Touring Plan on TouringPlans.com

If you’d prefer to create a plan yourself, make sure you’ve really determined what rides and shows you absolutely must do. Without the advantage of the Touring Plans data you’ll need to review the park maps and strategize your plan based on the location of the attractions you want to experience. You may want to also consider visiting some of the lesser known attractions at Universal, which typically will have somewhat reasonable wait times on busy days.

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January in Walt Disney World: A Primer

by on December 20, 2016

TouringPlans logoAre you planning or considering a trip to Walt Disney World in January?  It’s not on a lot of traveler’s radar because people are often wrapping up other holiday vacations and kids are just getting back to school.  If you can swing it, however, the reality is that January can be one of the best times to visit Walt Disney World! Gone is the oppressive heat of the summer, depending upon when you go, you can encounter some of the lightest crowds of the year, and the experience delivers the magic you can expect any other time of the year.  So, should you go?  Read on to find out about the pros and cons of a January trip! 

Mild (if unpredictable) Weather

 

One of the most frequent questions I get about January travel to Walt Disney World is about the weather — what to expect, what to pack, etc. The good news is that the weather tends to be pretty mild this time of year, and it’s honestly one of the best reasons to plan a trip in January. Historically, the average highs during this time of year are around 70° F, with lows around 50° F. Also of note: the 3 o’clock rain showers that are common during the summer months are not really part of the January experience — it can rain, but January is one of the drier months, and it’s not like you expect it to rain, like you do during other times of the year. 

 

Accuweather's January Forecast 2017

Accuweather’s current guesses for part of January 2017 in Orlando

 

The bad news, however, is that there can be wild variation in the weather during the month of January.  You might experience weather that is uncomfortably hot, or uncomfortably cold, and you might even experience both on back to back days.  I can remember on one of my first January trips heading to what was then Downtown Disney wearing shorts, but by midday, it was cold enough that people were running around in hats and gloves.  Part of that, of course, is the comically panicked reaction that Floridians have to temperatures that start with a “5,” but it was still a significant temperature swing in just a couple of hours, and it left me pretty uncomfortable. Lesson learned.   

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TouringPlansTV: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels + Video

by on December 13, 2016

The Dolphin at Walt Disney World

Welcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Ever heard of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels? Well, you’re about to!

To find out more about the theme, rooms, transportation and pools, click below.

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Saving Time vs. Saving Money at Walt Disney World

by on December 12, 2016

When I started blogging for TouringPlans, oh those many years ago, I asked our fearless leader Len Testa what kinds of things I should write about. His response was, “Stick with our goal – help people save time and money on their vacations.” While that mission is fantastic, I sometimes struggle with the interplay between the two halves of the statement. Sometimes the things you might do to save time are diametrically opposed to the things you would do to save money, and vice versa. Let’s look at some of the tradeoffs. screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-48-09-am

PRIORITIZING SAVING TIME, EXTREME VERSION

If you have unlimited funds, there are plenty of things you can do to save time. First among them is hiring a VIP guide. For $400-$600, (price varies seasonally) per hour (with a six hour minimum), plus park tickets, for a group of up to ten people, you can have your very own cast member guide escort you around the parks in whatever manner you wish. They’ll pick you up at your hotel and bring you into the parks via a back door entrance (no pesky waiting for the bus or walking from the parking lot to the entrance gate). They’ll scoot you through the FastPass line for attractions, even if you don’t have a FastPass reservation. They’ll take you to a reserved area for parades and shows, so you don’t have to waste time staking out your spot in advance. In short, if you want to throw four or five thousand bucks extra bucks at the “saving time” problem, Disney has you covered.

A similar argument could be made that the new Magic Kingdom shanties cabanas at $650 per day are a way to obviate the need to go back to your resort for a nap. Why waste time shlepping back and forth to the hotel when you can sleep in privacy right in the middle of Tomorrowland.

Magical Express saves money, but might cost you time.

Magical Express saves money, but might cost you time.

PRIORITIZING SAVING MONEY, EXTREME VERSION

On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to save money, you can stay at a bargain-basement off-site hotel. A quick peek on Expedia will show several Orlando area options in the $50 range per night, or about half the price of the Disney World value level resorts. I was even able to find a deal for a $29 per night — at the M Hotel near Universal. (Let’s ignore the fact that the hotel’s reviews are, um, less than stellar. A fairly typical Expedia review said, “The only nice thing I can say about this hotel is that I’m still alive.”) You’ll certainly save money staying there, but you’ll have to factor in at least 30 minutes a day of extra travel time to and from the parks, and significantly more if you want to take a mid-day nap break. There are definitely more palatable bargain hotels that are closer to Walt Disney World, but they all involve time trade-offs. For example, if you’re using an off-site hotel’s shuttle service to the parks, you’ll be dropped off at the farthest bus zone, adding walk time. More obliquely, you may end up spending more time waiting for a meal or a ride because you did not have access to Disney resort guest early access to Dining or FastPass+ reservations.

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Free 2017 Disney Planning DVDs Now Available

by on December 6, 2016

Free Disney 2017 planning DVDs are available now.

Free Disney 2017 planning DVDs are available now.

This is a sponsored post. TouringPlans receives a commission on each free DVD requested through the ad in this article. The revenue goes to travel and research for our blog and site.

The Walt Disney Travel Company has released its 2017 planning DVD. The DVD is free to anyone who requests it. And even if you don’t have a DVD player (because it’s 2016, and who does?), signing up will get you a link to stream the content online.

The free DVD is a fun way to get excited for your upcoming vacation or even help you get your Disney fix if you don’t have a trip planned.

Check out this page for more information. And, hey, thanks for supporting the blog.

TouringPlansTV: BoardWalk Inn – Dining and Amenities + Video

by on December 6, 2016

I’m finally here with part 2 of my BoardWalk Inn review!

Here, I delve into the dining options, pools, recreation and amenities.

You’ve all been so patient, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

Check it out below!

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