Trip Planning

Outdoor Movies at Disney World FAQ

by on November 13, 2014

At the end of a long day of park touring, sometimes the only thing you have the energy for is kicking back and watching a movie. Sure you can do that in your hotel room on the TV or your trusty iPad, but it can feel a bit more vacationy to watch a movie under the stars. And wouldn’t you know, Disney has you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about outdoor movie viewing at Walt Disney World.

Toy Story 3 poolside at All Star Music. (Not shown: me crying hysterically in the back row.)

Toy Story 3 poolside at All Star Music. (Not shown: me crying hysterically in the back row.)

Does every Disney hotel show outdoor movies?

In general, yes. There may be situations where construction or refurbishment temporarily halts the movies at that particular hotel.

There is one case where sister resorts, the Yacht & Beach Clubs, share a movie location. One resort, the Animal Kingdom Lodge, has two movie locations.

Is there a charge for the outdoor movies?

Nope, the cost is included with your resort stay.

Do I have to stay for the whole movie? Is it weird to leave in the middle?

Not at all. Since most of the movies are near the pools, guest will often pop in and out of viewing, alternating a few minutes of screen time with a few minutes of swim time.

I will often stop and watch just a few minutes of a film if I pass one while walking back to my hotel room in the evening.

Are movies shown every night?

Usually yes. Some resorts have experimented with twice-a-week movies in the off season, but for the most part you can expect that your hotel will show an outdoor movie every night, weather permitting.

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Planning a High School Field Trip to Walt Disney World

by on November 7, 2014

Photo Credit - Disney

Mickey’s excited to meet his new high school friends!

In high school, I went on two school trips to Walt Disney World. I had an amazing time with my friends, and the memories have stayed with me to this day. Looking back on the entire experience as an adult, I have endless praise for my teachers, who planned the entire trip from start to finish. They chose to spend their entire Spring Break with 60 high school students. They deserve a medal.

I have spent this past week researching and speaking with different educators on how to organize a school trip to Walt Disney World. Although it’s impossible to fit in every detail, here are some highlights to consider when planning your own Walt Disney World field trip.

First Steps

Planning a school trip to Walt Disney World should begin at least a year in advance. While it would be much easier to hire a touring company to plan and execute the vacation, it might be very expensive. Planning your own trip is not only more cost effective, but gives you complete control over the vacation as a whole. Look into the events you want to attend and the places you want to go. Estimate expenses to determine the total cost for each student. From there, secure a total group number by requesting a small deposit from each student. In addition, have each student fill out field trip and medical request forms. Dot those i’s and cross those t’s!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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Travel Warnings Issued for Nassau

by on November 7, 2014

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas has issued a Security Awareness memo for the holiday season 2014, advising U.S. citizens traveling to the Bahamas to “be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being the victims of crime.” This is the fourth memo on this topic issued during calendar 2014. The Canadian government posted similar warnings earlier this fall.

Nassau Harbor

Nassau Harbor

Other than Castaway Cay, Nassau is the most visited port for Disney Cruise Line.

The Embassy memo goes on to state, “Three armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas.” Other reports include notes about sexual assaults perpetrated by unregulated jet ski operators on Paradise Island. The advisory mentions monitoring local news stations for updates and maintaining a high level of vigilance when out and about.

The Nassau Guardian newspaper denies the credibility of the Embassy reports, claiming that the local police were unaware of some of the alleged crimes.

The Atlantis resort, site of many of the DCL Nassau port adventures, has increased their security in recent weeks.

We’ve never had any problems in Nassau, but as with any travel, caution is recommended. If you’re on a three or four night cruise and relaxation is a key vacation component for you, you may want to consider remaining on board your ship during the Nassau port stop. (We’ve recommended this prior to any warnings.) The ship’s amenities cannot all be experienced during a brief sailing. Staying on the ship may allow you to more time to visit the spa, participate in the children’s programming, or stuff yourself at the buffet. Remember that many activities on board are included in the cost of your sailing, so staying on board can be an easy way to economize.

If you plan to explore Nassau, be cognizant of your surroundings and interact with only reputable excursion operators. You may also want to consider letting family remaining on board or guest relations cast members know of your on shore plans.

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Jedi Training Academy—A Guide to Being Part of the Show

by on November 4, 2014

Jedi Training Academy (photos by Sarah Graffam)

Jedi Training Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Photos by Sarah Graffam)

Jedi Training Academy is one of the most interactive and exciting experiences for kids ages 4-12 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. However, despite the show’s many years of popularity, Disney doesn’t offer FastPass+ to become a Jedi Training Academy participant or any other way to sign up in advance. The result is that participating in Jedi Training Academy requires more planning than many other experiences at Disney World.

During the approximately 20-minute show, children train with a Jedi master and then test their lightsaber skills against the dark side. Following are some basics about the show as well as some tips to help your child become part of the action.

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Disney World Itinerary : Making Epcot a 2-day park

by on October 29, 2014

Epcot.

Epcot.

I recently posted a guide for planning which parks to visit on your 4-1/2 day Disney World vacation, providing a “one-size-fits-most” itinerary for each age group. Epcot doesn’t make it in the preschool itinerary and is only a half day on the school age children itinerary, but it finally gets a full day on both the tween and teen itineraries (two days of Epcot are included on the adult itinerary). My family (with tweens) would tweek the tween itinerary a bit and plan two days at Epcot, because we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface in a one day visit.

With the two distinct areas of Future World and World Showcase, Epcot is certainly large enough to warrant a two day visit. If you are a family who enjoys a more education focused theme park, two days at Epcot may be a winner. Here are ten benefits to spending two days at Epcot instead of one.

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How Much Do Toiletries and Sundries Cost at Disney?

by on October 24, 2014

Despite copious planning with packing lists, it’s all but inevitable that mishaps will occur when traveling. Little Billy gets a fever during your trip and you neglected to bring the Children’s Tylenol. You thought you husband was packing toothpaste and he thought you were, so now you have none. You accidentally left your sunscreen at the pool yesterday and are now about to be burned to a crisp by the thousand degree sun.

IMG_7076

All of these problems are easy to solve at Walt Disney World and on Disney Cruise Line. (Disneyland’s close proximity to the external world makes access to replacement items less of an issue there.) The ship and hotel gift shops are well stocked, with most categories of personal care items represented. So while you won’t be totally left in the lurch in any of the above situations, you will likely pay a premium purchasing these personal care basics at a Disney location rather than at home. But how much of a premium will you be pay? Let’s investigate…

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New! FastPass+ Availability, Dashboard, Attraction Updates

by on October 24, 2014

A few new updates for the site today should make it easier to plan your next Disney World trip:

  • You can see all of the FastPass+ times available for every attraction in every park, up to 30 days in advance
  • Your Trip Dashboard now includes links to the attractions available in the parks you’re visiting, and an easier-to-understand crowd rating
  • Each park’s Attractions page gets a cleaner, simpler layout, and only shows ratings for the age groups in your family

Details are below.

FastPass+ Availability

You’re now able to see all of the FastPass+ reservation times available for every attraction, every day, on a single page:

Dashboard4

 

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A Guide to Walt Disney World Attraction Vehicles and Seating: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on October 21, 2014

t_logo_fbWe recently brought you photo guides to the ride and attraction seating situation at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Completing the series is our guide to the attraction seating at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

And away we go …

The Boneyard

  • Seating capacity per row: NA
  • Seating capacity per vehicle: NA. Playground experience. More than 100 guests permitted entrance simultaneously.
  • Seating surface: There is very little seating here. There are few picnic tables where adults may sit, but these do not have sightlines on the entire play area.
  • Safety restraints: None
  • Boarding procedure: Walk into playground
  • Height requirement: None
  • Note: 1: Wheelchair and ECV users may ride into the attraction. Much of the attraction is inaccessible to guests with mobility issues. The attraction includes stairs, slides, and rope climbing activities.
  • Note 2: It is extremely easy to temporarily lose sight of your child here. There are cavelike areas and child-size tunnels. However, there is only one exit to the attraction. If you have an elementary age child, you may feel comfortable “guarding” the exit and letting him roam. Parents of preschoolers will likely want to closely supervise their kids to avoid minor injury or separation anxiety.
  • Note 3: The dig area is separate from, and typically calmer than, the slide area. If you need some unstructured chill time, head to the dig site.
  • Note 4: During warm weather, a water feature will be activated. Children may get wet.

IMG_6267

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Disney World Itinerary: Which Parks to Visit

by on October 21, 2014

“Which are the best parks to visit?” is the most common question I am asked by Disney World newbies. The short answer is, “it depends!” The appeal of the parks varies quite a bit by age and subject matter interest. But have no fear, newbies, help is here! I have compiled a “one-size-fits-most” 4-1/2 day Disney World itinerary for a variety of demographics. These plans assume there will be four full days and the remainder of one travel day for the Disney World vacation, and only one theme park will be visited in a day (no Park Hopper passes).

 

Magic Kingdom is full of wonder, it's no mystery why preschoolers love it so much.

Magic Kingdom is full of wonder, it’s no mystery why preschoolers love it so much.

Families with Preschool Children (up to age 4) – 4 Day Park Ticket

Rationale:

  • Magic Kingdom is a big hit among the preschool set, and offers the most attractions of any of the parks. Magic Kingdom also few height restrictions, so only four attractions require riders to be 40″ or taller (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain and Stitch’s Great Escape!). Since this demographic enjoys characters, Magic Kingdom gives a lot of bang for your buck where that is concerned.
  • Animal Kingdom is well-liked by preschoolers for its theme.
  • Hollywood Studios has several attractions specifically geared to preschool children (including a character meal featuring Disney Junior characters at Hollywood & Vine).
  • The extra half day is unnecessary for most preschoolers, so save the money and just buy a 4-day ticket. Downtown Disney is a great place to visit on that half day, to shop and eat.

Strategies: Preschoolers are generally early risers, so take advantage of rope drop at each park to experience some attractions before the crowds arrive. Take a 3 to 4 hour mid-day break to re-energize with a nap or a swim (except for the day you tour Animal Kingdom, which closes earlier than the other parks). Four park days in a row will be a lot for many preschoolers, so plan the less intensely-scheduled days for the end of the trip. Plan to be flexible with preschool children and take breaks as necessary, Disney World can be a very stimulating place.

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Traveling with Seniors: Before You Go

by on October 17, 2014

Disney Parks (c) Disney

Disney Parks (c) Disney

Disney Parks are for the young and the young at heart. Any vacation planning can feel harrowing, whether you’re traveling with a young family of infants or toddlers, to traveling with the grandparents. There are tons of things to consider ensuring that everyone is safe and having fun, some travel tips are universal, but let’s explore some of the challenges and considerations when traveling with seniors.

This is Part One of a two-part series, focusing on planning and preparation before your trip. Part Two will go into detail on how to navigate the parks with your favorite Baby Boomers.

It’s important to have an open conversation with your older traveling party. Not every senior has the same energy level, dietary needs, or healthy concerns, so it’s important to assess the individual needs for your loved one. And depending on the age and mobility of Grandma or Grandpa, not all of these topics may concern you, but at least it’s a good place to start.

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