Trip Planning

One Night at Hard Rock Hotel for Two Days at Universal Orlando

by on September 5, 2017

I recently traveled with relatives who wanted to visit Universal Orlando for two days. To maximize that time, I decided to book a room for one night at one of Universal’s deluxe hotels in order to enjoy two days of Early Park Admission and Unlimited Universal Express.

The plan was basically this:

  1. Book the cheapest hotel room that will hold 4 adults and 1 kid (those who would use Universal Express).
  2. Arrive before park opening on check-in day to get Universal Express and enjoy Early Park Admission at one park.
  3. Check out early the next day in time to enjoy Early Park Admission at the other park.
  4. Use Universal Express wherever possible in order to breeze through attraction lines.

The plan mostly worked well, but weather and my group’s stamina prevented us from doing everything in the Universal Orlando parks during those two days. This article focuses on Hard Rock Hotel and the stay’s impact on touring the Universal Orlando theme parks.

Deluxe Queen Room

Hard Rock Hotel

There are several Hard Rock Hotel locations in the world. Like the other on-site Universal Orlando hotels, this location is run by Loews. (Hard Rock has its own Rock Royalty loyalty programs, so you cannot utilize the Loews YouFirst program here.) This is a resort-style hotel, with a snazzy pool, organized activities, several restaurants, a fitness center, and more.

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Disneyland Preview — Week of September 2

by on September 1, 2017

Sooooo, you’re heading to Disneyland Resort for Labor Day and beyond — or you’re considering it — and you’re wondering what you’re in for. Well, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s get to this week’s Disneyland preview!

Special Events and Notes

© Disney

This week kicks off with a holiday weekend — Labor Day — and things start with a bang (or starting pistol, if you prefer), as the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend is already in full swing! There are races both Saturday and Sunday morning, and the runner’s expo continues throughout the weekend at the Disneyland Hotel.

With the holiday and the races, you can expect larger crowds than typical for this time of year. They aren’t oppressive, but it will be significantly different on the weekend than the rest of the week from a crowd standpoint. You can get more detail on the crowds below.

Also, we’ve been telling you about the Summer of Heroes at Disney’s California Adventure for quite some time now and it’s still going on, but it is nearing the end of its run, with just a couple of weeks remaining. If you want to experience it, start making plans now. Check out Derek Burgan’s write-up on the event if you’ve not been before to get the most out of it.

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Walt Disney World Preview — Week of September 2

by on August 31, 2017

If you’ve never visited Walt Disney World when the crowds are at a 1 (yes, I said a one), now’s the time to do it. Read on for news, park hours, and more!

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The Best of Walt Disney World for Grade School Kids

by on August 29, 2017

Welcome back to Part 3 of my blog series – The Best of Walt Disney World! In case you missed it, over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the top picks in attractions for various groups of travelers visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks. So far we’ve discussed favorites for babies and preschoolers. Next up are those fun-loving pirates and princesses, grade school kids (ages 6-12). When checking out the list, keep in mind each attraction that made the cut scored at least four stars by the grade school kids surveyed. Come on, everybody, here we go!

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2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival + Video

by on August 29, 2017

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival begins this week!

My mouth is watering just thinking about all of those delicious dishes…

Okay, back to work. For today’s video, I’ll be showing some highlights this festival has to offer.

Bon appétit!

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Touring Plan Review

by on August 28, 2017

August 25th was the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party for 2017. I volunteered my wife and myself to test out the premium touring plan, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for Parents with Small Children (Focus on Treats). It’s a great touring plan if you’ve already covered most of the Magic Kingdom. The primary focus of the touring plan is on meeting characters, trick-or-treating, and the activities that can only be found during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It also includes tips for finding great viewing spots for the 9:15 pm Mickey’s Boo-To-You Parade and 10:15 pm HalloWishes fireworks show.

The touring plan has been updated after our experience. We found the plan was very ambitious. Most of our touring plans are designed using our software and historical data, however with unique character meet and greets in this event, the wait times can vary dramatically. This plan is more of a strategy to navigate the Halloween party, rather than a precise itinerary.

The plan starts in Adventureland for character meet and greets and trick-or-treating before the 9:15 pm parade. After the parade, we squeezed in a ride on the Haunted Mansion before heading to Main Street to see HalloWishes. Then it is off to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland for more characters and candy.

It has been a few years since I did the Halloween party but very little has changed.  The markers for the trick-or-treat locations have been changed from a Mickey Ghost to a colorful Mars|Wrigley branded marker. Disney has added multiple party-exclusive Magic Shots, Animated Magic Shots, and photo opportunities from the Disney PhotoPass service. The candy path that went from New Fantasyland to Space Mountain is no more. The top-off candy at the exit at the end of the party has also departed. (But have no fear–with trick or treating, you can still get a full bag of candy by the end of the night.)

Copyright Disney

What We Learned

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The Best of Walt Disney World for Preschoolers

by on August 22, 2017

Welcome back to Part 2 of my blog series – The Best of Walt Disney World! In case you missed it, over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the top picks in attractions for various groups of travelers visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks. Last time we discussed favorites for babies, and next up are the adorable preschoolers. When checking out the list, keep in mind each attraction that made the cut scored at least four stars by the preschoolers surveyed. Come on, everybody, here we go!

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Disneyland Preview — Week of August 19

by on August 18, 2017

Time for another Disneyland preview! I know I discussed this at length last week, but we are now at your very last, no take-backs, opportunity to see the Main Street Electrical Parade.  If you want to see it before it goes dark forever, the time to do so is NOW.  Like, literally, right now. Stop reading, and get yourself to Disneyland Park to stake out a spot, and then open the article again to read the rest of it while you wait. Time’s a-wastin’!

OK, you back?  Read on for more about what to expect at Disneyland this week!

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Walt Disney World Preview – Week of August 19

by on August 17, 2017

With summer coming to an end, we’re seeing some changes in park hours beginning August 20th. Read on to see what else is new!

Special Events

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Universal Orlando Resort Preview – Week of August 19

by on August 17, 2017

The Universal Orlando Preview is brought to you by Storybook DestinationsStorybook Destinations specializes in Disney and Universal travel, is consistently highly rated by our readers, and is owned by our own blogger extraordinaire, Tammy Whiting. Storybook also offers free subscriptions to TouringPlans to clients with qualified bookings.

Hello again! It looks like a great week to hit the parks, so let’s see what is in store!

Weekly Crowd Level

Oh so slowly, the kids are going back to school and summer is fading, as will the crowds by the end of the week.

Weekly Weather Report

What won’t be fading this week are the temperatures. Like a good scout, always be prepared and check out the most up-to-date forecast here.

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