Trip Planning

Selecting an Epcot Resort

by on August 8, 2016

View of the Epcot Resort Area

View of the Epcot Resort Area

With the recent release of the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival menus, I can’t help but think about my upcoming trip. The 60 day FastPass+ window is approaching quickly, and as an avid proponent of planning ahead, I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t fully decided on a hotel!

It’s one of the biggest dilemmas I face when planning any trip to Walt Disney World. It’s especially hard for me during the fall when visiting Epcot’s World Showcase is top priority thanks to the mouthwatering samplings at Food and Wine Festival. I’ve narrowed it down to the Epcot resort area to make walking to Epcot a breeze, but that still leaves me with five wonderful choices – Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Dolphin, Swan, and Yacht Club.

Not one to take the resort decision lightly, I’ve carefully mapped out a comparison to help me (and hopefully some of you) pick the right Epcot resort for any Walt Disney World vacation.

Theming

All five resorts fall into the deluxe category at Disney, and with that designation comes elaborate theming. However, because Swan and Dolphin are the only two that are not owned by Disney, some may find them to be lacking that special Disney touch.

  • Beach Club – It’s a New England-style resort hotel that is painted blue with white trim and adorned with typical beach décor. Think seashells and sand dollars.
  • Boardwalk Inn – Modeled after a turn-of-the-century Atlantic coast boardwalk, the rooms actually sit behind a façade of neon lighted shops and restaurants along a wooden boardwalk.
  • Dolphin – Words escape me when it comes to the theming of both the Swan and Dolphin, and if you’ve ever seen it for yourself, you can probably understand. Disney describes it as “deluxe accommodations inspired by Florida itself, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel juxtaposes modern architectural silhouettes alongside Renaissance flourishes—most notably, the twin stylized dolphin statues gracing its rooftop.” Now, I’m not sure what they think a dolphin is, but based on their designs, I would say that a dolphin is some combination between a goldfish and carp.
  • Swan – Though very similar the Dolphin in theme and design, the Swan is outfitted with two Swans atop the building instead. At least these two actually resemble swans.

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A Primer on Visiting Disneyland Solo

by on August 3, 2016

Sleeping Beauty Castle at NightFirst and foremost, I feel compelled to point out that my favorite way to visit Disneyland is with my family and friends. All else being equal, a visit to any Disney park feels most “right” to me when I’m with my people.  

With that said, my job takes me to Los Angeles pretty regularly lately, and one way to pass your downtime when you’re half way across the country by yourself is to visit The Mouse. While it is by no means my ideal way to visit Disneyland, visiting Disneyland solo is better than not visiting Disneyland at all, and there are actually some perks to traveling alone that you don’t see even when you have just one more person. Read on to learn more!

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A Disney Springs Dining Digest

by on August 2, 2016

New restaurants abound at Disney Springs (pictured here: Chef Art Smith's Homecoming Kitchen)We’ve had an overwhelming amount of news and reviews lately about dining at Disney Springs, so I thought it’d be nice to take a step back this week to compile a Disney Springs Dining Digest of all of the new options now open. Below, you’ll find a quick summary of each new restaurant and what we thought of it here at TouringPlans (with links to our menus and full reviews, because we know you love photos of all that tasty food!). I’ll also rank the restaurants to give a sense of my overall favorites, which will hopefully help you plan your next visit to Disney Springs.

The Big Five (Table Service Restaurants)

Disney Springs has always had table service restaurants representative of a variety of modern cuisines with Wolfgang Puck, Bongo’s Cuban Café, and Crossroads at House of Blues. Recently, though, five new table service locations have opened that diversify the dining scene even further. Since we’re looking at the changing landscape of Disney Springs as a whole, we’ll start with one of the first new locations to open, even before Downtown Disney converted to Disney Springs, and move chronologically to restaurants that have opened as recently as the last few weeks.

The BOATHOUSE

  • Food: American steaks and seafood (priced similarly to Yachtsman Steakhouse or Shula’s); sandwiches, burgers, fried baskets (priced similarly to lunch at non-signature restaurants like The Wave or platters at more expensive quick service locations)
  • Atmosphere: The waterfront location and white tablecloths make it seem pretty fancy, but never so stuffy that eating a burger and fries here feels out of place. Families are welcome here, but it also works well for an adults-only date night out.
  • Quick Tips: Wait times for a walkup table here can creep up pretty high, so take advantage of the indoor/outdoor bar areas if your party is small. Steaks are good, but with few exceptions, require ordering other stuff to feel like a full meal: an appetizer (shrimp cocktail or oysters from the raw bar) or a la carte side (giant bowl of mac and cheese? Count me in.) is perfect for two people. On that note, always share desserts here (they’re huge!). Burgers and filet sliders are among the best budget-conscious meals at Walt Disney World for their quality. Beer selection is mostly bottled, so if that bothers you, stick to the cocktail menu.
  • Previously On TouringPlans…: I haven’t formally reviewed The BOATHOUSE here on the blog, but I’ve previously mentioned it as a great alternative to Wolfgang Puck and STK Orlando. Definitely one of the first places I consider for a meal if I find myself hungry at Disney Springs.
  • How Do We Get Here: Park at Lime Garage or use the walking bridge from across Buena Vista Dr; The Landing’s boat dock for water transportation to/from resorts and other Disney Springs docks is right next door to the restaurant

Morimoto Asia

  • Food: Pan-Asian (influences from Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisines); dim sum appetizers, sushi, ramen, noodle bowls on the lower-priced end ($15-25 for a meal, like a standard table service restaurant), plated entrees including Peking duck and amazing kalbi beef on the higher-priced end (signature dining pricing)
  • Atmosphere: The glitzy centerpiece chandelier is worth a visit to the restaurant alone, and it feels a bit more adult and upscale than most restaurants at Disney Springs due to the modern music and darker tones throughout. Kids and families wouldn’t be out of place, but you’ll probably see far more adults-only groups when you dine here.
  • Quick Tips: Grab a spot in the bar/lounge area or the upstairs Forbidden Lounge if wait times are high. If entrée prices are out of your budget (believe me, though, they’re worth saving for), you’ll still have a great meal by sampling from the extensive dim sum, sushi, and appetizer menus. Desserts are easy to share, but your money is better spent trying a cocktail, sake, or beer from their well-crafted menu.
  • Previously On TouringPlans…: In true Len Testa style, this epic review describes reactions to a vast majority of the menu’s dishes. Overall, Len listed it as “good, quality dining at reasonable prices”, and my meals there have reflected the same sentiment.
  • How Do We Get Here: Technically located on the outskirts of The Landing, just across from Raglan Road, it’s a two minute walk on newly-opened pathways from Orange Garage.

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Summer Crowd and Wait Time Trends at Disney World

by on July 29, 2016

It’s been a challenging summer for Walt Disney World. If you go by America’s economic indicators, attendance should be strong: gas is cheap and getting cheaper, unemployment is below 5%, and stock markets are flirting with record highs.

But Disney is also facing some formidable challenges in getting people into its parks.  From the self-inflicted, sharp increase in admission earlier this year – the largest increase in at least 20 years – and a move to “seasonal” one-day ticket pricing that falls squarely on parents with school-age children, to June’s murder of Christina Grimmie, the Pulse Nightclub massacre, and fatal alligator attack at the Grand Floridian.

Based on our analysis of posted and actual wait times for rides at Walt Disney World, we think attendance is lower to this point in summer for Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom, and higher at the Magic Kingdom, versus the same period in 2015. Overall, we think attendance is flat to slightly lower throughout Walt Disney World.

Here’s a breakdown by park. The date ranges are June 1 through July 24 for all graphs. We focus on standby waits, posted waits, and people in line between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., since this is the peak time for crowds.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wait Times

Animal Kingdom Wait Times Summer 2015 and 2016

Every major attraction at the Animal Kingdom has seen its wait time drop in 2016. The average posted wait is down 2 minutes since summer 2015. In terms of people in line, it’s roughly a 7% decline, from 693 people in line per attraction in 2015, down to 646 people in 2016.

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Walt Disney World August 2016 Preview

by on July 27, 2016

Welcome to TouringPlans’ preview for Walt Disney World for August 2016 – everything you need to know if you’re traveling to the Happiest Place on Earth next month. Who’s ready for August?

Average Weather for Walt Disney World in August

 

Hi 92, Low 76, 78% Humidity, 16 days with rain

August Weather for Orlando

 

 

 

 

 

August in Orlando is nearly identical to July’s with the added bonus of entering the peak (August, September, October) of hurricane season. Florida has not been impacted too strongly by weather in the last few years, but sources say 2016 may be more active than recently. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center is an excellent resource for forecasts that may affect your August trip.

Plan to visit the parks early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the heat as much as you can and spend your afternoons napping or at the pool. Summer’s extended hours mean there is plenty park time available after dark, so take advantage of it, especially if you’re eligible for Extra Magic Hours.

 

Upcoming Live Chats for August

Want to chat live about your trip? Join us on Facebook throughout the month as our experts take your questions in a fun and lively discussion.

We are working on a more regular chat schedule, but we should have a good one to start the month. Our own Brian McNichols will be visiting Disneyland and our West Coast regular Guy Selga. Brian will be there from August 7-10 and he and Guy are planning a dual live chat right from the resort. Make sure you watch Facebook and Twitter for the exact date and time.

Brian will also be doing a wrap-up chat about his trip to Disneyland and any and all news from the Orlando parks on Wednesday, August 17 at 1:00pm U.S. Eastern time. He’ll give you a chance to get your early questions in a few days before the chat.

Times for all live chats are posted in advance on our Facebook page and on Twitter.

 

Walt Disney World Park Crowds for August

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts + Video

by on July 26, 2016

  • yacht clubWe’re back for a whole new episode of TouringPlansTV!

Make your way to Walt Disney World…I’ll meet you there to talk about Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts!

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Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar Update

by on July 26, 2016

ToTouringPlans logonight we will be pushing an update to the Walt Disney World for dates starting August 1, 2016. The changes in the crowd level reflect changes in our wait time attraction predictions. The new predictions reflect changes due to park hours, school schedules, and recent trends of observed wait times. One of the more interesting impact of the school schedules will occur during Christmas break: This year Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fall on Saturdays. While some school districts are off the last two weeks of December, others are taking the last week of December and the first week of January. This will extend the holiday crowds over three weeks instead of the usual two weeks.

Holiday Crowd Levels

2016 Crowds

We are still learning the impact of the increased capacity at Soarin and Toy Story Midway Mania, Frozen moving into Norway, and nighttime hours at the Animal Kingdom. One thing we are seeing is a general increase in crowd levels at Hollywood Studios. With many of the minor attractions being closed, the remaining attractions are seeing an increase in wait times which brings up our crowd levels. With the back half of Hollywood Studios being closed, the park also feels more crowded according to our users.

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Walt Disney World Resort Television

by on July 19, 2016

POR FQ TV ConsoleThere is so much information that you can take in and memorize before embarking on a Walt Disney World vacation…park hours and show times, what the restaurants are and what is on their menu, what is the music playing around the resort and where can you find it for your iPhone, so on and so forth.

There is also a ubiquitous part of your Walt Disney World Resort hotel room that you could potentially familiarize yourself with in advance–and perhaps you should because I’m talking about something you quite possibly have on for every waking moment spent in your room: the television. Walt Disney World resorts, like many hotels, do not simply follow an Orlando area cable or satellite provider. The channel lineup available in the resorts is decidedly Disney and much more varied than what you might find at a typical roadside hotel around the country.

The first few channels, and the ones that many Disney guests watch every day, are the ones programmed by Disney specifically for the resorts. Foremost is the Walt Disney World Resort “Must Do’s” with Stacey, a spunky 13-year-old inside a 23-year-old’s body who rides the newest and most popular rides while spouting the occasional touring tip and trivia fact. Just by the fact that you have pointed your web browser at this site, you are likely already more informed than any actual information you will glean from Stacey. Nevertheless, this channel is considered a Disney World tradition by many longtime guests and “watching the park tour channel over and over again” is something many people always remember after their trip. (If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World in many years, this took over the channel that formerly had the “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah Tip for Today.” And yes, the jingle is now stuck in my head too.) There are also channels displaying park hours and special events while others show round-the-clock infomercials for Disney Springs and the Disney Vacation Club.

Next up are the Orlando affiliates of the major television networks followed by the channels in the Disney cable portfolio, including every ESPN known to mankind. The ESPN networks are followed by other sports networks (some that I don’t even get on my cable package at home!) Notably missing however, are the Fox Sports networks: FS1 and FS2. Make note of this if you are hoping to catch post season baseball, college football, MLB Saturday broadcasts, or UFC, among others. For a more complete rundown of where to catch major sporting events on property, check out this article that I wrote last year.

The next few channels are other Walt Disney World resort exclusives, including one exclusively showing Disney cartoons including bedtime stories for young children in the early evening. (Note that I spoke to someone in guest services at Port Orleans French Quarter while researching this article and she stated that the bedtime stories also appear on the Disney Channel, channel 13.) More special resort channels show up near the end of the lineup including one on Adventures by Disney and another on safety around the resort (which probably should be emphasized a bit more in light of recent events.)

Everything else is typical American cable staples including  The Weather Channel, CNN, TBS, Food Network, History Channel, Lifetime, so on and so forth.

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort + Video

by on July 12, 2016

Photo - Amy FarkasHello.

It’s Angela Dahlgren.

I was wondering if after seven days you’d like to…

Talk about Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort!

I know, I know…I couldn’t resist the Adele reference.

Anyway, if you’re looking to to learn more about this moderate resort at Walt Disney World, check out the video below!

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TouringPlansTV: All-Star Value Resorts + Video

by on July 5, 2016

allstar exteriorYou asked, and I answered!

Today’s episode of TouringPlansTV delves into the All-Star Resorts at Walt Disney World.

Enjoy!

Let me know what other topics you’d like me to cover in the comments below!

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