Trip Planning

Introducing the Trip Dashboard

by on July 28, 2014

Today we’re announcing release 1 of Trip Dashboard, a centralized page on our site with checklists and easy access to planning tools for your Disney and Universal Orlando trips.

One of the most common requests from subscribers is for a single page that contains all of their trip information. Specifically, families planning their first Disney trip are often overwhelmed by the number of things they need to do, often on a deadline, to get the most from their trip.  Dashboard addresses these needs in 2 ways:

  • Provide a centralized place for all of your trip planning information
  • Give context-aware assistance for any trip planning tasks you have to do

What does context-aware assistance mean? One example: if there are 5 people in your family, then in our hotels section we should first show you those rooms that fit 5 people. Or if you tell us your budget for lodging is under $200 per night, we should show you moderate and value resort choices before deluxe resorts. And we should remind you at 181 days before your trip to make dining reservations, and FastPass+ reservations at 60 or 30 days out.

Besides that, this new dashboard also puts on one screen, links to your personalized touring plans, crowd tracker dates, discussions, trips, and lists of things to do.

Since this is release 1 of roughly 12, we’re focusing on basic design and ensuring things are placed on the screen where you think they should be. Other, snazzier functions come later. A mobile version will be released in a few weeks.

Here’s a quick look at Dashboard’s layout. I’ve put orange highlights and numbers on the screen, to organize the explanation that follows.

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Magic Kingdom Attractions for Ride Chickens

by on July 25, 2014

it's a small world entrance

The scariest ride… ever?! No drops on this ride, but what if you get stuck? That song… forever?!

Many times, when people talk about planning a trip to Walt Disney World, and more specifically Magic Kingdom, the talk quickly turns to the attractions that are the most exciting. These attractions are generally the ones that have height restrictions, with required restraints to keep you in the vehicle.

As a self-professed ride chicken, there’s a lot of things that give me pause at Disney World: attractions that are so mind-bogglingly scary, I’m not sure how anyone is brave enough to attempt them.

With that being said, there are far more attractions that even ride chickens can handle. There’s obviously a variety of reasons people do not like certain attractions, and for a long time I just assumed my fear was roller coasters. While I still cannot ride huge coasters, I have since realized that I actually can’t handle changing altitudes quickly.

This leaves out most of the flume-style rides, as well as the larger coasters.

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TouringPlans Everywhere – I’m Going to Tokyo Disneyland!

by on July 24, 2014

Photo courtesy of Tom Bricker

Photo courtesy of Tom Bricker.

Back in April we announced that TouringPlans will be spending a weekend in every Disney-operated destination on the planet. The powers that be (Ed. – your naiveté is adorable, please let Len keep thinking he’s in charge around here) have assigned me to a destination I have always dreamed about visiting. I can finally say “I’m going to Tokyo Disneyland!”

Tokyo Disneyland has always been a bit of a mythological and mysterious place to me. In the late 80s and early 90s (before I had the internet in my home) I would always see glimpses of it in the old Disney News Magazines. The pictures I saw of the park made it look similar, but different enough that it always held my curiosity. Tokyo Disneyland continued to stay on my mind in 2001 when Tokyo Disney Resort’s second gate opened, DisneySea. Every picture I’ve seen of DisneySea make the park look absolutely spectacular. Anyway, back to the Tokyo resort being mysterious to me. I think one of the most daunting tasks most people have when they think about visiting Tokyo Disneyland is that they don’t even know where to start with their planning. I know I was the same way. Hopefully this and future blog posts I write on this subject will help you plan a trip to Japan. That’s my goal.

I’m a native to Los Angeles, California, and have been visiting the original Disneyland since 1986. This will not only be my first time visiting Tokyo Disneyland, but also my first time traveling out of the country. My wife will be making the trip with me, and because it also her first time in Japan, we will take advantage of doing some non-Disney sightseeing in Tokyo and Osaka.

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Tips for the Solo Traveler in Disneyland

by on July 24, 2014

Red Car Trolley Newsboys

Stop and enjoy the show!

Ever find yourself wanting to visit Disneyland but have nobody to go with? It’s nothing to be afraid of! Some of the best trips I’ve ever had visiting Disney Parks have been by myself. I used to be an Annual Passholder for Disneyland Resort Paris and would make a stop in the parks whenever I was travelling from anywhere in mainland Europe back to London, where I was living at the time. (I had to pass through Paris by train anyway, so I figured, why not tack on a half day in the parks?) I also visit Walt Disney World solo on occasion to participate in Run Disney events. (If you’re thinking of visiting WDW alone, check out these great tips from fellow blogger Claire.)

Now that I am a Southern California resident, I frequently visit the Disneyland Resort, but because I’m new to the area and don’t know too many people, I don’t always have someone to go with. (Especially since I’m sure that I’m interested in going much more frequently than any of the new friends I am making, if they even have an Annual Pass. I’m not a “few times a year” guest, to say the least.)

Touring the parks solo offers many advantages: You can can go at your own pace; you aren’t forced to doing anything you dislike; you can make new friends, etc. If you decide to visit the Disneyland Resort by yourself, here are a few helpful tips.

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Disney Cruise Line Alaska Quick Tips

by on July 23, 2014

Ahoy mateys! I’m back from my first trip to Alaska via Disney Cruise Line. In upcoming posts, new Touring Plans blogger Kristi Fredericks and I will be back with tips on activities, excursions, and pre/post cruise hotel options. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few quick tips to whet your whistle, pique your interest, and otherwise get you ready for the frozen fun ahead.

IMG_1580

Vancouver

  • The Disney Wonder port terminal is directly adjacent to Canada Place, a large convention center. Several of the Canada Place coffee shops and snack bars offer free WiFi to their customers. If you’re in need of a last minute Internet fix, grab a cup of coffee with a view of the ship before heading into the terminal where online access can be spotty.
  • A primary attraction at Canada Place is “FlyOver Canada.” This is Soarin’, but with footage of Canadian points of interest rather than shots of California. It ain’t cheap (adults are $19.95, students over age 18 are $17.95, and kids are $14.95, plus tax) for a 10-ish minute ride, but the Disney geek in me felt compelled to compare/contrast the experience to that at Epcot and Disney’s California Adventure. The similarity to Soarin’ was almost shocking; the seating is the same, the lift is the same, even the pre-show safety video is similar. My husband and daughter ended up preferring Soarin’ because the music is better and they like the Smell-O-Vision orange groves in the California version, but I (please don’t take away my WDW annual pass when I say this) think I prefer the Canadian experience. The wind simulation is used to better effect in Canada, the screen is wider/taller in Canada, and most importantly, the film print is totally clean in Canada, so your immersion in the experience is not diluted by specks of dust flying over the countryside.
  • The Granville Island market is a must-do for any Vancouver visitor, but Disney geeks will find special pleasure in knowing that among the displays of fresh salmon, spiced nuts, and exotic fruits, you can find a vendor selling actual real live Dole Whip. Look for a vendor called The Milkman. Enjoy!
Dole Whip in Vancouver

Dole Whip in Vancouver

  • Unlike the somewhat confusing and inefficient town to airport public transportation options in my home town of New York, the Vancouver public subway/rail system is easy to understand, clean, and efficient. If you’re not burdened by copious amounts of luggage, the easiest/fastest/cheapest way to get from the airport to the port is likely public transit. Direct point to point takes about 25 minutes and costs about $7.00, depending on the day of the week.
  • At the Vancouver airport, the international departures area near gates numbered in the 70s and 80s currently features several large display cases with vintage Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto toys dating from the 1930s to present day – think variations on Pez and Happy Meal offerings, but hundreds of them.
  • The Starbucks in the Vancouver airport (and presumably elsewhere in the region) serves an uber-Canadian treat, the Maple Macchiato. It’s like a vanilla macchiato, but with an ample drizzle of maple topping made with “real Canadian Maple Syrup found from the Beauce-Appalanche region of Quebec.” Presumably this is no great shakes for you native Canadians out there, but honestly, this small detail was the thing that made this American most feel like Canada was actually another country.
  • The Vancouver airport will not allow you to check in on site prior to three hours before your trip. Nor, for international flights, will they allow you check in when there are fewer than 60 minutes before your flight. Timing is critical here.

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Disney World Summer Tips: Keeping Cool in the Kingdom

by on July 23, 2014

BoardWalk sunrise Disney World

As the sun rises over Walt Disney World, prepare yourself to beat the heat

Though it’s no secret that Florida summers can be hotter than the surface of the sun, it’s also one of Walt Disney World’s busiest seasons. There’s no way to avoid the high temperatures, but there are some things you can do to plan for hot fun in the summertime. As a follow up to TouringPlan’s previous Disney World summer tips, here are some additional ideas to keep you cool in the kingdom!

 

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Shocking Savings of a Universal Orlando Annual Pass

by on July 23, 2014

Universal AP

Universal Annual Passes are a great way for even infrequent guests to save money.

We have been vacationing to Florida for the past seventeen years; visiting Universal Orlando Resort on each trip. During this time, it had never occurred to me to purchase an annual pass. After all, annual passes are more for those people who live close and can visit many times in the same year, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the potential savings of purchasing an annual pass for Universal. The annual passes can be a money saving option for people visiting as few as two days. Not only do you get unlimited day passes to the parks, but you also get free parking, discounts on food, merchandise, admission and special event tickets, and onsite hotel discounts.

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Taking Disney World by Storm

by on July 20, 2014

First of all, I am not a meteorologist. I don’t even play one on TV.

That being said, I have thirty years of experience in Orlando weather, including doing extensive research on hurricanes.

The 2014 hurricane season has begun, and the year marks the tenth anniversary of Orlando’s “Year of Three Hurricanes”. In this article, I’ll cover the issue of hurricanes and Orlando’s famous thunderstorms as well as how to avoid them and vacation around them.

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo by Thomas Cook

Officially known as “tropical cyclones” but colloquially as hurricanes, the massive summer storms are one of the most powerful and dangerous natural events on earth. The amount of energy released in one day by an average cyclone in producing rain (which is 400 times greater than the wind energy) is equal to the yearly energy production of the U.S.

So you’re thinking hurricanes and Florida go hand-in-hand like Vermont and snow, right? Well, sort of. Florida is a big state. Not only in terms of square miles, but it’s long. For instance, it takes 12 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola.

Of course, every mile is a potential hurricane target, but Walt Disney World is only some 40 miles square. Additionally it’s in the center of the state, relatively far from the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. This means every time your local news tells about a hurricane in Florida, it’s unlikely to be passing close to Disney world.

The U.S. government started regular tracking of tropical cyclones in 1851. Looking at those statistics gives excellent news: The frequency of a hurricane passing through the Walt Disney World area in any year is 1 in 10. A 10% chance each year is all local have to worry about. Want even better news? If you’re visiting for a week or two, you have an even smaller chance of having to deal with one of nature’s super storms.

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I’m a Big Kid Now: A Guide to Your First Disney Trip Without Parents

by on July 19, 2014

Dedicated blog readers may recall Erin Foster’s article “Spring Break at Disney World – Teens’ First No-Parent Trip,” outlining her teen daughter and friends’ first Disney trip without parents. Though now I’m (supposedly) a real adult—I just graduated in May–it wasn’t long ago that I was a teen taking my first Disney trip without parents. My first winter break in college, I went to Walt Disney World with my boyfriend and two other friends. Two years later, I went for my 21st birthday with my three younger siblings. So for any teens or young adults out there planning your first parent-free trip, here’s a quick guide into your first clumsy steps into Disney adulthood.

Peter Pan may never grow up, but my siblings and I had to for our first Disney trip without parents.

Peter Pan may never grow up, but my siblings and I had to for our first Disney trip without parents.

Why a Disney Trip Without Parents?

Walt Disney World is the safest place to go for your first no-parent trip. The crime rate is essentially zero and every single cast member is trained to help you stay safe. It’s also one of the best options for fun. All through college, I never found the MTV Spring Break-style college trip terribly appealing. I enjoy the occasional beverage, but I can only “WOOOO!” for a few hours before I’m bored. Walt Disney World has an infinite number of activities and it’s impossible to get bored. I had been planning my family’s trips for years, so I felt comfortable planning my own trip.

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Incorporating Disney into Everyday Life

by on July 19, 2014

t_logo_fbRecently, fellow blogger, Daisy Lauren, posted tips to beating your post-Disney blues. Inspired by her article, I have compiled a list of ways to keep the Disney magic flowing once you return home. Keep track of how many you’ve done and put your total in the comments!

Here we gooooooo….. (Peter Pan reference anyone? Yes? No? Okay, let’s move on.)

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