Trip Planning

Planning Tips for Your Disney Cruise

by on January 9, 2015

Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay

Dreaming of a Disney Cruise?
Photo – Laurel Stewart

Greetings from chilly North Carolina! The cold was so bad yesterday that it killed my car battery. My reaction (other than to buy a new battery) was to think of all the places I’d rather be than here. Naturally, one of the first ones that came to me was on a Disney Cruise.

I’m lucky enough that at this point, after 13 cruises, I can pack and prepare for a trip in my sleep. And I’ve learned a few things along the way. Everyone knows about preparing your travel documents, like passports and birth certificates, doing your online check-in, and booking your Port Adventures before cruising. But what about all the little things that come with preparing to be on a ship, somewhat isolated from things like unlimited free Internet and Target? This is my list of things I do before cruising to reduce surprises the day before I pack for a Disney Cruise:

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Here are the Polynesian DVC room layouts

by on January 8, 2015

The images below fell off the back of a truck. Here’s a set of studio rooms showing their layouts; the extended room shows an ADA-accessible balcony:

Disney Polynesian Resort DVC Studio layout

Here’s the 2-bedroom bungalow layout. Estimates are that these will rent for a bit less than the King Kamehameha Suite – maybe around $2,500 – $3,000 per night – when they’re available.

Disney Polynesian Bungalow Layout

Three grand is a lot of money for one night in a hotel room. I’m not sure I’d sell my first-born for that. I probably wouldn’t even consider a long-term lease.

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How Next Week’s Disney World Marathon Will Affect the Parks

by on January 5, 2015

I’ve got a couple of emails from folks asking about how next Sunday’s Walt Disney World Marathon will affect crowds and touring the parks, so I thought it’d be a good subject for a quick blog post.

Here are a couple of facts and assumptions I’m making, based on last year’s event and my experience running the race:

  1. The race starts at 5:30 AM outside Epcot
  2. Because of the size of the field, the last group of runners will get started by 6:15 AM
  3. The slowest runners need to average around 3.75 MPH not to be disqualified and removed from the course

With that, it’s straightforward to map out where the runners should be at various points of the day. Here’s the course map showing when the last group of runners should be past the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

2015WDWMarathonMap

The Magic Kingdom is the first park visited on the WDW Marathon route. If the race pace goes according to plan, the last group of runners will be around mile 7, past the Magic Kingdom, by 8 AM. Crowd diversions should begin to be cleared around 8 AM, although traffic diversions will remain on World Drive until late afternoon.

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Run-down of runDisney Events at Walt Disney World in 2015

by on January 4, 2015

January 7-11 runners from all over will gather for the largest and longest of the runDisney events at Walt Disney World for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. 2015 marks the 21st anniversary of the first running of the race, which was held on January 16, 1994. Marathon Weekend is a jam packed five days of running, eating, shopping, and celebrating fitness and Disney. Runners walk (or run) away with some serious bragging rights and some awesome medals to go along with it – not to mention, some really cool swag from the Health and Fitness Expo.

2015 Marathon Swag ©Disney

2015 Marathon Swag ©Disney

In 2015 there are three more runDisney events at Walt Disney World to look forward to. Below is a briefing of all 2015 events and their costs, along with whether or not registration is still open (as of the time this article was written. It is best to check the event’s webpage and with runDisney directly for up to date availability).

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

January 7-11, 2015 (see race results here after the races)

All races sold out.

  • Marathon – 26.2 miles through all four parks and the Wide World of Sports complex; $170-200
  • Half Marathon – 13.1 miles through Magic Kingdom and Epcot; $170-200
  • Goofy Challenge – 39.3 miles by completing both the Marathon and Half Marathon; $360-400
  • 10k – 6.2 miles around Epcot and the Epcot Resort area; $105-135
  • Family Fun Run 5k – 3.1 miles through Epcot; $60-70
  • Dopey Challenge – 48.6 miles by completing ALL four events above (5k, 10k, ½ marathon, marathon); $530-590
  • Castaway Cay Challenge – 3.1 miles around Castaway Cay plus completion of one of the above races; $65 (plus a booking on the Disney Cruise 4-night Bahamian cruise)
  • Runner’s World Challenge – completion of the Dopey Challenge; $999 (along with the normal runDisney bling you received quite a few bonuses that included preferred coral placement, help with training, access to a private website, entry into the Pasta in the Park and Race Retreat events)
  • Kids Races – 1 mile Mickey run, 400m dash, 200m dash, 100m dash, Diaper Dash (all dependent upon age); $15-30
  • Non-racing events – Health and Fitness Expo, Pasta in the Park Party, Breakfast, Race Retreat, Cool Down Party, and the ChEAR Squad; prices vary per event

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An Evening out with Yehaa Bob at Disney World’s Riverside Resort

by on January 4, 2015

Copyright - Bob Jackson

Copyright –  Yehaa Bob Jackson

Have you ever had interaction with one of the blue nametag elite at one of the Disney parks? Do you know that the blue nametag has special meaning? Those who wear it have received the highest honor of being bestowed with the Legacy Award, which is the highest honor cast members, crew members, and Imagineers can achieve at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Recipients are nominated and selected by their leaders and peers for consistently inspiring others, going out of their way to create happiness for guests and other team members, and finding new ways to deliver Disney magic.

One of the recipients of the Legacy Award in 2013 was the lively entertainer Yehaa Bob Jackson, who has been with the company for more than 17 years. To be honest, Bob was not even on my Disney radar until rather recently, but has quickly risen to one of my favorite reasons to love Disney. His shows are family friendly, loud, and just a righteous good time.

Flashback: Three years ago during our first stay at Walt Disney World’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort. One evening, on our way back to our room we walked by the bar area and witnessed a raucous crowd who we assumed were just loud inebriated guests.

Fast Forward: One year later a fellow Disney friend was excitedly telling me about an upcoming show he was going to Ohio featuring Yehaa Bob. I concealed my ignorance and rejoiced for him. But immediately took to the internet to see who this Disney personality was. What I found were scenes of our “inebriated guests” from the year before. Only, they weren’t inebriated. And some of them were kids! I knew I had to see him in person.

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Review: Animal Kingdom Lodge DVC Deluxe Studio Villa at Kidani Village

by on December 31, 2014

While Disney World offers a vast variety of different resorts to choose from for guests staying on property, the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas offer even more options and experiences, particularly when it comes to room sizes! During my last few trips to Disney World, I had the opportunity to enjoy stays at several different DVC Villas; but today, I’m zeroing in on Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in this review of an Animal Kingdom Lodge DVC Deluxe Studio Villa at Kidani Village.

Kidani Village Lobby

Kidani Village Lobby

First of all, the Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s own timeshare program where members purchase and use points for their vacation experiences. It can be difficult to understand, but Disney Vacation Club (DVC) 101: What is DVC? can help fill in the gaps. If you are not a Disney Vacation Club Member, the good news is that you can still stay at a DVC Resort! You can do so by booking through Disney, just as you would any other resort; however, other guests like to rent points from a 3rd party or directly from other members. If you chose the latter, we recommend that you go through a reputable third party or from a member you know personally (as opposed to a random person on the internet).

My family and I had never stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge before. We had dropped by the resort in years past for a dinner at Boma and to do some exploring, but that was the extent of our experience. However, for many years, we had been hearing from others that Animal Kingdom Lodge was one of the best resorts at Disney World and a big favorite; and so when we got the opportunity to stay a week in a DVC Deluxe Studio Villa at the resort’s Kidani Village, we couldn’t turn down the chance to check it out for ourselves.

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Disney World Reading List: Books for Before, During, and After Your Vacation

by on December 30, 2014

Great Disney World vacations have three stages: anticipation, enjoyment, and fond (or wistful!) memories. Books are the perfect way to attune yourself with all three stages. Whether you’re getting excited for a trip, looking for deeper understanding of the parks’ themes and design, or ready to spend some time reading about Disney history, there are books to widen your world.

Here are some books to get you excited, keep you entertained, and tell you more — before, during, and after your Walt Disney World vacation.

Since the World Began

Since the World Began is a wonderful “get ready to go” book for your Disney vacation.

Anticipation: Planning and Building Excitement.

On the way to Disney World, you’re getting revved up. You’re making plans. You want to know what to see and where to go; you want to be reminded of favorite spots you’ve loved in the past.

First, get the current details on the parks well before even arrive. Grab a guidebook for the nitty-gritty planning work. Even seasoned travelers can use a reference guide for trip planning — I always have The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World on hand. I use it for quick reference on recommended touring plans, height requirements, dining options, and resort maps. Even though I visit Disney World multiple times a year, I still need to get specifics down pat.

But for something bright, colorful, and pleasing for all ages, try Since the World Began: Walt Disney World – The First 25 Years, by Jeff Kurtti. Yes, Cinderella Castle is in her forties now, making this book just a tad dated. But you can often find it used, or even at your local library, and it’s a nice introduction to Disney World that the whole family can have fun flipping through. Coffee table-sized and lavishly illustrated, it’s a perfect let’s-get-ready, excitement building type of read. (Amazon, BN.com)

In a similar vein, there are a number of Walt Disney World photo retrospectives that Disney has released over the years, many of them from the 70s and 80s. Keep your eyes open at your local thrift stores — these beauties, often hardcovers, can often be picked up cheaply and are a fun way to relive old memories and learn more about some of Disney World’s long-lost spots.

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Menu Monday: Lunch at Coral Reef Restaurant

by on December 29, 2014

Photo - Disney

Reception area

While planning my visit for this past September, I was browsing through different dining options and saw Coral Reef Restaurant. After reading a few reviews and chatting with people who had dined there, I was on the hunt for an Advance Dining Reservation (ADR). Because of my husbands work schedule at the time, I had to mentally plan our trip long before I could make reservations. Once work approved his vacation time, I set to work on the details….did I mention this was a month before the trip? (Let me know if you’d like an article on how to plan a WDW trip last minute. I’m an expert!) The stars must have been aligned that day because I not only got an ADR on the day I wanted, but I made a reservation for TEN guests!

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One-Day/Two-Parks; A Universal Orlando Trip Report

by on December 17, 2014

The gate to the Studios.

The gate to the Studios.

…in which our intrepid couple travels outside the Disney bubble and lives to tell about it.

Step 1 – Transportation from Walt Disney World to Universal and Park Tickets

While planning for a particularly long vacation to Walt Disney World, my husband and I decided to squeeze in a day over at Universal Orlando Resort to try out a one-day / two-park touring plan of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Instantly we were faced with the question, “How do we get there?” We were planning on taking Disney’s Magical Express from the airport and would not have a car while on vacation. Would we dare to use the public transportation and hop a bus? We had seen a harrowing,(although hilarious) YouTube video of a British couple who took this route. It didn’t work out so well for them, and they splurged for a cab ride on the way back. Yes, busing was out of the question. We were on a time limit and didn’t have the three hours it took these poor folks just to get to the park. Well, with rental car and busing out of the question, that left us with a taxi.

We did our homework and priced up the fares using the Mears Transportation website. It didn’t seem too terrible, and this is really what we were leaning towards, until I read in the fine print that even if stuck in traffic, the meter is running. We wanted to be on the roadways during rush hour traffic. This probably was not a good plan either. Well, what to do? Do we just forget about Universal? No! Where there is a will, there is a way. And after more research we discovered that some of the travel agencies that sell tickets also sell transportation packages. Now we’re talking!

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Business Conferences—Tips for Squeezing in Some Magic

by on December 10, 2014

Although attending a business conference at or near Walt Disney World isn’t quite the same as taking a vacation trip, it’s still a wish come true for a Disney enthusiast. Several strategies can help you get your Disney fix around a conference schedule. In fact, a business trip to the World can be an excellent opportunity to experience the park in some new and exciting ways.

Balancing Your Time

The first priority in planning time for fun while at a conference at Disney World is figuring out how to balance work and leisure time. Consider arriving in Orlando a day before the conference or giving yourself an extra day after the conference ends. Being creative with the overall time frame of your trip can give you a free half-day or more to enjoy Disney. Once the conference starts, plan to make a quick exit at the end of the day and spend the afternoon or evening at leisure.

Mix It Up—Spending Time In and Out of the Parks

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Downtown Disney’s West Side, including the AMC Dine-In Theatres (photo by Brandon Glover)

With the limited number of hours you’ll be able to spend in the parks (unless you’re lucky enough to have an Annual Pass), it doesn’t make sense to purchase park tickets for every day of your trip. Instead, a business trip can be a chance to experience some of Disney’s offerings outside of the parks such as at Downtown Disney and Disney’s BoardWalk.

If your hotel is located near Downtown Disney or you have access to Disney transportation (current construction at Downtown Disney makes traffic and parking a challenge), Downtown Disney can be a great non-park destination. It has lots of dining options and an even wider variety of merchandise than can be found at the parks, and don’t forget about its AMC Dine-In Theatres where you can enjoy both dinner and a movie.

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