Trip Planning

Walt Disney World Tips for Big Groups: Stay Sane, Stay Happy

by on August 13, 2014

You love your friends and family. I know it. You know it. But when you’re on vacation and suddenly everyone has different ideas of what they want to go and where to eat and when they need bathroom breaks don’t you… sort of… want to push them in the lake? Just a little? Whether this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip or a yearly affair, vacationing with a big group of people can get stressful in a hurry. Here are a few Disney World tips to save your sanity and keep things running as smoothly as possible.

As told entirely by screenshots of The Emperor’s New Groove.

Copyright - Disney

Copyright – Disney

Because nobody knows how to party like Kronk and Yzma, that’s why.

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TouringPlans Everywhere: Budgeting for A Tokyo Disneyland Trip

by on August 12, 2014

cinderella-castle-rear-tokyo-disneyland-guests-posing-640x514A couple of weeks ago I posted an introduction to my upcoming trip to Tokyo Disneyland as part of TouringPlans Everywhere. In this post I will talk about how much each component of the trip costs and share a time line of my different planning stages.

The earliest stage of planning for my trip to Tokyo began back January of this year. The idea of every TouringPlans employee taking a trip to a different Disney destination was thrown around, and we were asked to get a rough estimate on how much a trip would cost. When I was assigned Tokyo, I knew I would want to stay beyond the 4 days the company was paying for. My wife and I discussed how many days we could actually afford to go, and we ended up settling on 8 nights. Anyway, like I said , my first step was to get an estimate, so I started searching for hotel rooms and airfare to get a basic idea. After quickly going through a few travel websites (I was just getting an estimate so I didn’t shop around too much), I figured the total cost would be around $5825. Breaking it down, my estimates were $2500 for airfare, $2000 for hotel rooms, $1000 for food, $325 for park tickets, and $600 for transportation in Japan. That total price is too high for my wife and I to afford, so I knew we would have to adjust the plans or get lucky and find some deals to save us some cash.

Time line

1/14/14 – Very early on in my trip planning I was shopping around for hotels in the Tokyo Disney Resort area. Like any major city or theme park, Tokyo Disney Resort has many hotels with a wide variety of price ranges to choose from. I started to see some good deals for just a little over $100 a night. This would save us some money, but if we stayed at them we would have to take some form of transportation in to the resort. As I mentioned in my last post, there are several hotels on Tokyo Disney Resort property that are also located near a Disney monorail station. After comparing prices at the six non-Disney-branded hotels, the lowest price ended up being the Hilton Tokyo Bay. Hilton.com listed rooms at $171 a night, so we whipped out the credit card and locked in our dates. However, we knew we wanted to splurge a bit and stay in a Disney-branded hotel for at least one night, so we only booked three nights at the Hilton.

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Say Y.E.S. to Disney

by on August 7, 2014

t_logoMy kids are always trying to convince me of the educational merits of activities they enjoy, like video games. At some point, I know they will try to convince me that visiting Walt Disney World is an educational experience. They will actually be right. The Disney Y.E.S. program, which stands for the Disney Youth Education Series, offers accredited educational opportunities. These programs run at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland for students ages 5 through 18. Topics range from arts and humanities, leadership and career development to natural and physical sciences. The Disney Y.E.S. program also offers discounted Disney tickets to its attendees. 

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Visiting Disney with an Infant

by on August 7, 2014

Princess Aurora and her Twin

Princess Aurora and her Twin

After getting pregnant, I’ll admit I was worried that visiting Disney World with a baby would prove too difficult. However, after bringing my daughter Annie at 11 weeks old, I realized that with a little more planning, we could still have an amazing time. With that said, allow me to share my tips and tricks for bringing an infant to Disney.

Top Tips for Visiting Disney with an Infant

- You can check your car seat and stroller for free with most airlines. It’s your choice if you want to check them at the desk or the gate. The employees don’t usually mind either way. It’s a good idea to put a name tag on your stroller (unless someone has a better stroller than you…then you might want to “accidentally” walk off with theirs – I did say I would give you tips and tricks, didn’t I?).

- Most airlines will let people with children board first, giving you extra time to get situated without the crowd. Take note that the airlines will not let you sit in an exit row if traveling with an infant, so keep that in mind when booking your seat.

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TouringPlans #Everwhere: Dining in Disneyland…HELP!

by on August 6, 2014

Photo Courtesy Guy Selga, Jr

Photo Courtesy Guy Selga, Jr

This is the fourth in my series of printed histrionics about my first ever trip to Disneyland as part of TouringPlans.com’s desire to take over the world visit every Disney-run location in the world. I previously wrote about my general excitement, how I budgeted for the trip to California, and the random things I expect to find as a first time visitor to Disneyland. This post is all about choosing my dining in Disneyland, specifically for any meals where I may need a reservation.

I am about 2 months away from my Disneyland trip (I know because my kids have been counting down for over a month already). If I were traveling to Walt Disney World, at this point I would have all of my Advance Dining Reservations, FastPass+ attraction reservations, morning alarms set with precise wake-up times, and my pacemaker linked with Disney’s new heart rate excitement inducement program. Things are a bit different out west; there are no FastPass+ reservations (at least not yet), and dining reservations can only be made 60 days in advance.

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TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going to Aulani!

by on August 5, 2014

Aulani                                                                                            ©Disney

Aulani ©Disney

Imagine this – you get a call from Len asking if you would like to go to the Disney Aulani resort in Hawaii. Really? Of course, the answer is YES! Aulani, is a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii, located just 17 miles from the Honolulu International airport and close to Waikiki. Unlike most of Disney’s other destinations, there are no rides at Aulani, but the resort is designed with families in mind with the intent to immerse all guests in Hawaiian culture, history and traditions.

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Secret Guide to Epcot Food & Wine Festival in One Day

by on August 5, 2014

Matt Stroshane, photographer

Matt Stroshane, photographer

With the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival beginning September 19, it’s time to share my secret guide to doing it all in one day. Although it seems difficult, I have refined a strategy over time and now effortlessly cruise through the day eating and drinking everything that appeals to me. The secret? Eight rules.

The Rules:

1. Stay on-site

The closer you can afford, the better. You won’t want to drive (nor should you) at any point during your day of gluttony. Epcot resorts like Beach Club are ideal, but not necessary. I recommend Port Orleans French QuarterShades of Green is a good option if you have access to it.

2. Arrive early, on a weekday if possible

Booths open at 11:00 AM and you will want to be one of the first guests wherever you choose to start. Weekdays are less crowded since locals are working. If you stick to these rules though even a busy weekend will be okay. The Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center opens with the park and is a good place to kill some time while you wait for the booths to open.

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Favorite Park Series: Disney’s Epcot

by on August 3, 2014

Hello again! Welcome to Epcot. If you haven’t read my highlights on Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, please do so now.

Epcot scenery

Take in the beautiful scenery.

*Twiddles thumbs. Checks Twitter. Reads a blog post.*

Done? Okay, let’s ‘soar’ right in!

Memorable Moments

Pick your mode of transportation! Soarin’ is a popular ride that allows you to hang-glide over California, feeling the wind in your face whilst smelling the fragrance of zesty orange trees. (Fun Fact: The first model for Soarin’ was made out of an erector set!) Once you land on solid ground, hop in a Chevy at Test Track. Strap yourself in and brace yourself for the ride of your life! Put on your space suit, join the NASA team and shoot for the stars as you travel to Mars in your rocket via Mission: Space. To ease back into Earth’s gravity, swim underwater to the ‘clamobile’ where The Seas with Nemo & Friends take you “under the sea.” Finally, use those feet and travel indoors to Innoventions where you’ll find interactive and educational games the whole family will enjoy.

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Park Vue Inn: One of Disneyland’s Best

by on August 1, 2014

I should start by saying I didn’t set out to write a love letter to the Park Vue Inn. I didn’t expect to even like the place that much. I mean, it’s an exterior corridor motel. What could be so special about that? Well, it ends up that a lot is special! Before we jump into things, I want to make sure everyone knows that I paid for my stay, and the hotel staff didn’t know that I’d be blogging about my stay. Sometimes I read reviews from other bloggers and wonder what things would really be like if they didn’t get treated like royalty. Rest assured, I was totally under the radar on my trip!

Location

CaptureYou’d be hard pressed to find a hotel with a shorter walk to Disneyland. Stepping outside the lobby of the Park Vue Inn you can see the pedestrian entrance to Disneyland just across the road. The photo to the left I took while standing under the Disneyland sign, waiting to cross the street. Of course, your room location could make your walk a bit longer than we experienced. (We were in room 123 if you’d like to request it.) But even at the back of the hotel you’d be closer than at some of the Disney owned properties. One thing to note is that we didn’t see an elevator, so you’ll be lugging your bags up the stairs if you’re on the second floor. Of course, we didn’t take our bags to our room at all. We arrived early in the morning and left our bags with the desk while we visited the parks. When we picked up our keys later in the day, they informed us that our bags were already in the room. It was a nice touch and a service I haven’t received at “nicer” hotels in the area.

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Preparing For the Magic: A Timeline Leading to a Stress-Free Disney World Vacation

by on July 31, 2014

Hi, I’m Trista. I live far from Disney World, and I’m an Uber Planner when it comes to my Disney vacation. [Hi, Trista.]

Whether you are a planner or not, there are two reasons to use this Disney World vacation planning timeline. The first reason is to make hard-to-get reservations for attractions and dining. While it’s great to be spontaneous, spontaneity is not your friend if you hope to score the Chef’s Table at Victoria & Albert’s, or if you want a short wait time for Toy Story Midway Mania!. These things are difficult to come by at the last minute, even when the parks are at their lowest crowd levels. The second reason to plan ahead is to avoid decision fatigue while you are on vacation. During one day at a theme park, you will be faced with many decisions: which attraction should you head to next? Where should you eat lunch, and when? Is it worth it to stand in line right now for 90 minutes for a meet-n-greet with a favorite character, or is it likely to be better later? For which attractions should you select FastPass+? And many more. I don’t know about you, but I am a person who reaches decision fatigue rather quickly. Once my brain is overloaded, I’ll begin the “blank stare” until I have some down time to recharge (and down time is a commodity that’s difficult to come by on a go-go-go Disney World vacation).

Before you ever step foot on Disney property, you can influence how long you will wait in line for popular attractions and which amazing  dining experiences you can have. Follow this simple timeline to make your magical vacation stress-free.

Step 0 – Pick your dates

Erin Foster has a great article on a step by step method for picking the best dates for your Disney vacation. If you want some help deciding which park to visit on which day, the Crowd Calendar feature of TouringPlans.com is a valuable tool (especially if you are as crowd-averse as I am). I’ve found that even 180 days out, the relative crowd predictions for each park are pretty accurate.

Reserve your Disney resort lodging, reserve your park  tickets (optional)

6 Months+ to 60 days Prior to Your Vacation (DISNEY RESORT GUESTS)

Disney Important Date Magnet

Shortly after I made my Disney resort reservation for my upcoming trip, Disney sent me this handy magnet in the mail.

If you are certain of your vacation dates at least 6 months in advance, I would recommend making your Disney resort reservation this early. The biggest advantage to early booking is the ability to make Advanced Dining Reservations up to 10 days before the general public (especially helpful for those very popular restaurants with hard-to-get reservations). See the Advanced Dining Reservations section below for details.

If you make make a Disney resort reservations six months prior, it is likely that you will be booking without one of Disney’s Special Offers (such as room-rate savings, a free dining plan offer, etc.) because most offers are not announced that far in advance. If your stay becomes eligible for a Special Offer after you have made your initial reservation, it is easy to have your balance adjusted by simply calling the Disney reservation line with your confirmation number and ask for the Special Offer to be applied. Be sure to act quickly – some deals have limited numbers available, such as limited rooms per resort. (I have had to change resorts once because I called just 3 days after the deal became available and all eligible offers at my first choice resort were taken.) Of course, there is no guarantee that a special offer will become available for your stay, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the cancellation/change policy ahead of booking. A historical record of when Special Offers have been released is a good reference for when offers have traditionally become available.

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