Trip Planning

Should I Take My Young Child on a Disney Cruise?

by on May 1, 2015

Cruises, and Disney cruises in particular, offer many wonderful activities for children and families. Parents of elementary-age children, tweens, and teens typically leave the ship raving about their children’s engagement in the onboard kids’ clubs, their independence on the ship, and their enjoyment of various port excursions. They had a fabulous time! Many families with smaller children, preschool age and younger, also have a grand time on board; however, a significant subset have a more neutral, or even negative experience while cruising. Typically, the negative reaction comes when there is a disconnect between expectations and reality.

Some families with younger children find the ship pool areas overwhelming.

Some families with younger children find the ship pool areas overwhelming.

When considering what to expect from a Disney Cruise, first remember that travel with small children is almost always more challenging than travel with older kids or grown-ups. Adults who are used to traveling as, well, adults may be surprised at the difficulties posed when traveling with young children. If the Disney Cruise is one of your first travel experiences as a young family, remember that many of the issues you will encounter are not specific to Disney or to cruising, it’s just par for the course with travel at that stage.

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Trip Report: Coronado Springs Resort

by on May 1, 2015

Freshly back from my favorite place to vacation, I can’t stop thinking about the clean white sand, the lazy hammocks, the gorgeous Spanish architecture, and the relaxing atmosphere I experienced. This is one of our favorite resorts to visit; and no, it isn’t next to the ocean. It is a Disney resort: Coronado Springs to be exact.

Coronado Springs hidden mickey lobby - Amy FarkasI have several friends that vacation at the beach. When I ask them why, they describe the sand, the waves, and the relaxation. And to them I say: Coronado. Coronado Springs has all of these things plus a gorgeous pool, a 24 hour fitness center, a spa, some wonderful dining venues, and (a plus for me) is on Disney property. After the hustle and crowds of visiting Magic Kingdom, just hop the bus and head back to your serenity zone at the resort.

Our recent stay here was over the Easter holiday. We flew in late Saturday night, arriving at the resort about 10pm, and even at that hour we found the staff to be warm and friendly. One gentleman even pointed out the “hidden Mickey” in the lobby lighting, as he passed by my photographer husband. Check in itself was a breeze and we were soon on our way to our room.

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Get to Know the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App

by on April 28, 2015

Guests traveling on the Disney Cruise Line ships have long relied on the Personal Navigator, a daily printed guide to information about the timing of onboard activities such as movies, shows, character greetings, and youth activities. In late 2013, DCL introduced the Personal Navigator in app form. It took a while for the app to be fully functional on all four of Disney’s ships, and there’s some information that still works better in a print format, which is still available, but the app now has enough functionality and unique features that you can almost get away with using it exclusively. Here’s what you need to know …

How can I get the Disney Navigator App?

It’s available via free download from the iTunes App Store or from Google Play for Android.

OK, I got the download, but it doesn’t look like there’s much to it.

You’re right. With one exception, there’s not much that happens with the Navigator App while you’re on dry land. The real functionality of the app only happens while you’re on board a Disney ship. The one cool thing the app can do on land is work as a countdown clock for your sail date. You can use the countdown clock to amp up the excitement as your trip gets closer, or to remind you that you really do have to start packing.

IMG_0349

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Send Your Hotel Room Request to Disney – Automatically!

by on April 27, 2015

Today we’re announcing the launch of our Automatic Room Request feature for Walt Disney World. Starting now, your specific room request can be automatically sent to your Disney resort, a few days before you arrive. This increases your chances of getting exactly the room you want.

Our Automatic Room Request feature works with our Hotel Room Views – our collection of more than 30,000 photos showing the view from every Disney hotel room. (Here’s an example from room 4063 at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.) Once you find the room you want, click the link in the upper right corner to choose it for your trip:

HotelFax-SelectRoom

Finally, add in any special celebrations, such as birthdays or anniversaries, along with your name and reservation number for the fax:

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Fun Facts for Your Next Disney World Vacation

by on April 26, 2015

Castle Concept Art

Castle Concept Art

Do you crave Disney knowledge? Do you spend way too much time online scanning sites for Disney facts and secrets? Is your bookshelf crammed with Disney Imagineering books and guidebooks? If so, then we’re probably kindred spirits because I’m guilty of all the above! I absolutely love discovering new facts about my favorite place on earth that I can use or see for myself when planning my next Disney World trip. So indulge me, if you will, as I share with you some of my favorite fun facts for your next Disney World Vacation.

Did you know that…

12. Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean are Neighbors? Even though the Magic Kingdom’s Pirates of the Caribbean is in Adventureland and Splash Mountain is in Frontierland, things looks a little different backstage than they do when you’re in the park. When backstage, which means behind the scenes, these two water attractions are located next to each other! The layout of the park from inside is a little deceptive; but since both attractions require high volumes of water, it only makes sense to have them located next door. Pretty cool, right?

Look at the Golions!

Look at the Golions!

11. There’s More Than One Beast at the Beast’s Castle? The Disney Animators used different animals to create the Beast we know from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast film. In fact, the Beast is a mixture of buffalo, lion, wolf, bear, and more! But outside of the Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland, there is another beast that’s also a combo of different animals. It’s a Golion! Guarding either side of the castle doors are two stone beasts that Disney invented just for this area; and as they are a combination of both goats and lions, Imagineers decided to name them Golions! Source: Fun Facts: New Fantasyland

10. The Eiffel Tower at Epcot’s France Pavilion is Historically Accurate? Have you ever paid much attention to the Eiffel Tower at Epcot’s France Pavilion? If so, you may have noticed that the tower looks a little different than those photos you see of the one in France and for a really cool reason. You see, the real Eiffel Tower has changed color since it was first constructed in 1887 due to aging and weathering; but since Epcot’s France Pavilion is meant to represent France as it was in the past, the Eiffel Tower we see is beige, just like how it would’ve been in its early years. Talk about attention to detail! Still not impressed? To be even more historically accurate, Imagineers used the blueprints of the original Eiffel Tower when constructing their own.  Source: AllEars.net

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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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