Trip Planning

Decorating Your Resort Room

by on November 2, 2016

Lights, window clings, and paper mickey decorations for Halloween

Lights, window clings, and paper mickey decorations for Halloween

Whether you’re planning a vacation to celebrate a holiday, birthday, anniversary, first trip, or some other special occasion, sometimes it is fun to prepare a little extra magic. There are plenty of ways to add that extra touch, but one of my own favorites is decorating the resort room. Coming back from the parks at night to a room decked out in lights and other little embellishments is such a wonderful feeling. Decorations can help you find your room at night and really make you feel at home.

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s set some ground rules. First and foremost, safety is the number one priority at any resort. Don’t do anything that puts you or anyone else at risk. And speaking of other people, be mindful of those around you. While that motion activated ghost yelling “Boo!” might be funny the first time or two, your neighbors probably won’t be feeling too neighborly after they hear it for the thirtieth time. Stay away from anything permanent or that leaves damage, and please don’t leave a big mess and expect housekeeping to deal with it. Follow the rules of the resort you’re visiting as well. For example, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has strict rules about hanging things outside your room since animal safety is a priority.

Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about some decoration ideas.

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort – Part One + Video

by on November 1, 2016

BoardWalk_mainbuildingWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Today, I’m giving you an overview of my FAVORITE resort at Walt Disney World:

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn!

I’ll be delving into the resort’s theme, rooms, room views and transportation.

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Walt Disney World November 2016 Preview

by on November 1, 2016

Walt Disney World November 2016 Preview

Walt Disney World November 2016 Preview

Welcome to TouringPlans’ Walt Disney World November 2016 preview – we hope your October pumpkin spicy. Who’s with us and ready for November? This month we have a little bit of everything. Thanksgiving. Food & Wine. RunDisney. The beginnings of Christmas. It’s a fantastic time to visit Walt Disney World to get the best of the weather, crowds (except the week of Thanksgiving), and holiday spirit.

Ready for more? Read on.

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Flying Southwest Airlines Like a Boss

by on October 31, 2016

Southwest logo

© Southwest Airlines Co.

Many of you are close enough to Orlando to drive down when you visit Walt Disney World or Universal Studios Orlando, but for the rest of us, flying is the only viable option. Southwest Airlines is Orlando International Airport’s largest carrier, and between that and the traffic I often see on Disney trip planning forums and Facebook groups, I know that many of you will be using Southwest to get to Orlando. As you may be aware,  however, Southwest operates a little differently than other airlines, and that can make flying with them a bit confusing to the uninitiated. I happen to fly on Southwest a ton — I am at their highest loyalty tier, in fact — and wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences about Southwest and how to get the most out of your travel experience with them.

Booking

First, the basics: Southwest fares fall into three categories:

  • Wanna Get Away? Fares are the cheapest fares, and they are more likely to be available the earlier you book. You can sometimes find them close to your travel date, but if your goal is to pay as little as possible, booking at the earliest possible opportunity is going to get you the best prices as even the price of these fares tends to rise as you get closer to your departure date. They are nonrefundable, but you can cancel them and get a credit for a future flight or switch to another flight just by paying the difference in fare. These fares tend to be at most approximately 50% less than the refundable fares, but they can be even cheaper, particularly during fare sales.
  • Anytime fares are fares that can be refunded for cash if your plans change and you need to cancel your flights. They are significantly more expensive than Wanna Get Away fares, and are the cheapest fares you are most likely to see if you’re booking within a week or so of departure.
  • Business Select fares are the most expensive fares, and they tend to be $20 or so more expensive than an Anytime fare. They are also fully refundable, and they additionally entitle you to one free drink and allow you to be one of the first 15 people on the plane. This early boarding perk is far more important on a Southwest flight because of their open seating policy, which I’ll explain in a bit more detail below.

The easiest way to book is on Southwest’s web site. The booking screen looks like this:

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TouringPlansTV: Part 2 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge + Video

by on October 25, 2016

Boma Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Boma Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Ready for Part 2 of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge?

Me too!

In this video, I’ll be discussing the pools, restaurants and amenities.

Enjoy!

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New Epcot Touring Plans for 2016 and 2017

by on October 24, 2016

Spaceship Earth in EpcotNow that we have a month of wait times after Sum of All Thrills closed in Innoventions East, we’ve got enough information to update our Epcot touring plans for the rest of 2016 and into 2017. In this blog post I’ll explain which Epcot touring plan strategies work best with Epcot’s current attraction lineup, and the trade-offs in those strategies. I’ll also explain which strategies don’t seem to work at all.

One quick note: I’m focusing on comprehensive Epcot touring plans for this blog post, including Test Track. Our Epcot touring plans for parents with small children use a different touring and FastPass+ strategy.

Epcot Touring Plan with Sum of All Thrills

For comparison with the new plans, here’s the initial part of our last Epcot touring plan to feature Sum of All Thrills. The predicted wait times shown are for November 26, 2016 – the day after Thanksgiving. We’re predicting a crowd level of 9 (out of 10) on our Disney World Crowd Calendar:

Attraction Arrival Wait Duration Free Time Walk Time
 Soarin’ 9:12 am 29 6 0 12
Test Track 9:59 am 19 4 0 6
Sum of All Thrills  10:28 am 37 15 0 6
Mission:Space Orange
Use FP+ for 10:15 am
11:26 am  5 15 0 12
Living with the Land 11:58 am 15 14 0 1
Eat lunch 12:28 pm 0 30 0 1
The Seas w/Nemo 12:59 pm 20 4 0 8
Spaceship Earth
Use FP+ for 12:45 pm
1:31 pm 2 16 0 8
: (steps not shown)
Frozen Ever After
Use FP+ for 7:30 pm
7:50 pm 10 5 0 3

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort – Part One + Video

by on October 19, 2016

Animal Kingdom Lodge LobbyToday’s episode of TouringPlansTV features Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort! This is located in the Animal Kingdom park area of Walt Disney World.

In Part One, I’ll be discussing the resort’s theme, rooms, room views and transportation.

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Disney Maladies (and How To Treat Them)

by on October 18, 2016

TouringPlans logoWalt Disney World has a deserved reputation as one of the most fun places you can visit, but what is lesser known is the litany of ailments such a trip can cause. Did you know, for example, that more children come down with a case of Gigantusmusophobia at Walt Disney World than any other location? Disney maladies are an under-recognized threat to your vacation experience.  

You need not, however, waste your entire vacation in the infirmary. Read on to learn how to quickly identify and treat common Disney ailments!  

Overplanning Paralysis

 

This level of detail might be overkill...

This level of detail might be overkill…

I often tell people that there are few places on planet Earth that reward a little bit of advance planning like Walt Disney World. It can, however, most definitely be overdone. What’s worse, you can find yourself so wracked with indecision that you can’t do anything and you’ve sucked all of the fun out of the trip before it’s even begun.

The prescription for this ailment, simply stated, is to relax. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the overwhelming majority of people that go to Walt Disney World do so with little or no planning and they still have a great time, so the fact that you’re aware of the benefit of planning ahead puts you in a better position that all of those people. Embrace this truism now: there is no single planning decision that you make that will make having fun impossible, nor can a single decision guarantee you The Best Trip Ever. Armed with that knowledge, there is no need to needlessly fret over whether you’ve reserved the right restaurant for lunch, or whether you’ve picked the right attraction for your FastPass+ reservations. You’ve probably done just fine.  

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The Best Disney World Ticket and Hotel Prices – and the Stories Behind Them

by on October 17, 2016

beach-old-13This past July I paid $253 per night – with tax – for a standard room at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. That’s more than 50% less than the $533 rack rate Disney was asking for similar rooms. It was less than Disney was charging for the same room in 2001 – 15 years ago.  And I didn’t have to listen to a timeshare presentation or be a close, personal friend of Disney CEO Bob Iger to do it.  All I had to do was believe what I read on the internet.

In this case, I’d seen a lot of talk in our Lines Chat forum about a company called Magical Vacations Travel (MVT), whose Disney World room offers were far below the prices we were seeing everywhere else.  And that was unusual, because we have relationships with some very large travel companies, who you’d expect would be able to match any offer a smaller company could come up with. But the big travel companies weren’t matching MVT’s offers. I wanted to find out why.

I also thought it would be a good time to look at a new Disney World ticket vendor called Parksavers.com. We first noticed them in 2014, when Lines Chat folks started mentioning the fantastic deals they were getting on multi-day Disney World tickets – prices far, far below what even the biggest Disney World ticket wholesalers were offering. Disney World ticket scams are legendary, so, as with Magical Vacations Travel, I wanted to make sure Parksavers was a reputable business for the TouringPlans community.

Here’s what I found: Both Magical Vacations Travel and Parksavers.com are legitimate businesses that sell exactly the products they advertise. But the way they can make these great offers to you – the business models behind these companies – are fascinating stories in their own rights. This is how they work.

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort Part 2 + Video

by on October 11, 2016

Photo - TouringPlans.comWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Today is Part 2 of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort. I’ll be discussing Dining, Transportation and Amenities.

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