Trip Planning

Custom MagicBand Covers – A Primer

by on January 19, 2015

I knew that custom MagicBands were going to be a ‘thing’ about two minutes after asking for one in purple and learning they don’t come in that color. Y’all are a creative bunch, of course, and sites like Pinterest are full of Magic Band bedazzling, from sparkles and nail polish to fabric and plastic jewels.

But honestly, my DIY skills are limited. I’d probably end up with a glittered house cat and smeared nail polish on the kitchen table. Fortunately, a couple of companies have started making custom vinyl stickers to decorate your MagicBand, for around $5 to $8 each. And for the last couple of months, I’ve been testing them to see how they hold up under heavy use. It turns out they’re great. Read on for more.

MagicYourBand.comMagicYourBand.com Magic Bands

Tracy and Matt Davis came up with the idea for custom MagicBand stickers when their daughter asked for a purple MagicBand and was told they didn’t exist. (Note to Disney: might want to look into this ‘purple’ thing.) And apparently they jumped in to the idea with both feet, purchasing a $50,000 custom vinyl printer in late 2014 to launch their business. Today they produce designs ranging from Halloween and Christmas holidays, birthdays and celebrations, to the flags of different countries.

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A Magic Kingdom Scavenger Hunt

by on January 18, 2015

101_2777

Cinderella Castle

One of the most magical things about Disney World is that there is something to see everywhere you look! But just how much do you actually stop and look? If you’re up for a challenge, I have one for you. Whether you consider yourself a Magic Kingdom Master, or you would just like something extra fun to do at the park, I invite you to try this Magic Kingdom Scavenger Hunt!

I have photos of 15 things that you may or may not have noticed at the Magic Kingdom park and it’s up to you to find them. Don’t worry if you get stuck, there is a hint for each one. Also, to make things a little more interesting, especially if you’re the competitive type, finding each item is worth a certain number of points. The higher the points, the harder it may be to locate. For those of you aiming high, a perfect score is exactly 30 points.

So there are two ways you can use this Magic Kingdom Scavenger Hunt. First of all, you take this scavenger hunt to the Magic Kingdom yourself and see how many of the following you can find. It’s an interesting way to pass the time when you’re waiting in line or when the park is crowded, and is sure to make you appreciate the little Disney touches. It’s also a fun activity for the kids. Another way to use this scavenger hunt is to take a guess from home on where to find the following and see how many points you can win! If you get stumped, there is an answer key at the end of the post, so don’t scroll too far if you want to avoid spoilers.

Are you ready? Let’s start!

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How to Experience an Empty Magic Kingdom

by on January 16, 2015

What do you think of when you think of Disney World? Castles? Princesses? Pirates? I sure do! But just like everyone else, I can also think of less magical things such as crowds, long lines, and wait times. Fortunately, Touring Plans can help cut down those long lines and wait times; but one thing that can’t be done is to remove the throngs of people entirely. That is, until now. Yes, in this post, I will explain how to experience an empty Magic Kingdom before the park opens up to the droves of guests. Read on!

I had the castle to myself!

I had the castle to myself!

The Secret

The Magic Kingdom opens most mornings at 9:00 AM, but the secret is that two park restaurants open even earlier, such as The Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table. (Note: Cinderella’s Royal Table is currently closed for refurbishment but is expected to reopen in spring of 2015.) If you are able to book an advance dining reservation before park opening, you will be able to walk through the empty park in order to check-in for your breakfast!

Now, before you get too excited, let me clarify a few things. For one, the shows and attractions at the Magic Kingdom do not open for anyone until the park opens, and many of the surrounding lands are roped off to guests who do have early morning reservations. Still, getting in early was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had at Disney World.

Getting In

When I first heard about this Disney World secret, I immediately booked an advance dining reservation at The Crystal Palace for my upcoming vacation dates. It took some checking and re-checking for several days, but I finally was able to grab a reservation at 8:20 AM on a day when the park opened at 9:00 AM. Score!

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Disney World Planning Challenges: First-Time Touring at Crowd Level 10

by on January 15, 2015

Fantasyland - December 30, 2014, 11:09 AM (Photo by Sarah Graffam)

Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland – December 30, 2014, 11:09 AM (Photo by Sarah Graffam)

We finally took the plunge this year. After multiple trips to Walt Disney World in assorted months, my family decided to take a trip during the absolute busiest time at the World, between Christmas and the first few days of January. As first-time Christmas time visitors at Disney World, we had certain expectations about how it would be to tour with the masses of people visiting during the holidays. This article tells how these expectations matched up with reality as well as how well our planning and previous trips prepared us for the trip. But first, here is some background on how we got to the point of braving Christmas time crowds at Disney World.

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The Walt Disney World Road Trip: Tips, Tricks and What Not to Do

by on January 14, 2015

Photo - Michael Dahlgren

Recently, my family decided to make a last minute trip to Disney World the week of New Year’s. Before everyone faints at the heresy of going during the busiest week of the year, my brother’s school was playing in a bowl game in Tampa, so my family decided to kill two birds with one stone. Quickly putting aside the loud warnings in the back of my head about the massive crowds, I couldn’t turn down a pseudo surprise Disney trip. The resort reservation was all set (we would be staying at a Finding Nemo Suite in Disney’s Art of Animation Resort), and I already had my annual pass, but the flight fares were absolutely insane from Baltimore, which is the closest airport to me. Being a more intelligent person than I, my girlfriend suggested a simple alternative. Why don’t we just drive down? So we did. I hope everyone who is considering the possibility of driving instead of flying finds this useful.

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Menu Monday – Give Me Liberty Tree or Give Me Death…

by on January 12, 2015

©homeiswherethemouseis

©homeiswherethemouseis

Hold on right here! I am not so sure about this whole death bit. I mean, eating at the Liberty Tree Tavern is a highlight of this foodie’s day. However, I’m not going to put ANY meal up against the likes of serious things like liberty. I am pretty certain that Patrick Henry would not find the humor in this play on words of his famous quote from 1775 regarding the Revolutionary War. But then again, he had never eaten at the Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch, had he?

Note: Liberty Tree Tavern is slated to go down for an extended refurb from July to November.

Location: Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World
Meals: Lunch (11:30-3:00) and Dinner (4:00 – varies with park closing)
Reservations: Highly encouraged
Accepts: Disney Dining Plan (1 credit), Tables in Wonderland

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Planning Tips for Your Disney Cruise

by on January 9, 2015

Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay

Dreaming of a Disney Cruise?
Photo – Laurel Stewart

Greetings from chilly North Carolina! The cold was so bad yesterday that it killed my car battery. My reaction (other than to buy a new battery) was to think of all the places I’d rather be than here. Naturally, one of the first ones that came to me was on a Disney Cruise.

I’m lucky enough that at this point, after 13 cruises, I can pack and prepare for a trip in my sleep. And I’ve learned a few things along the way. Everyone knows about preparing your travel documents, like passports and birth certificates, doing your online check-in, and booking your Port Adventures before cruising. But what about all the little things that come with preparing to be on a ship, somewhat isolated from things like unlimited free Internet and Target? This is my list of things I do before cruising to reduce surprises the day before I pack for a Disney Cruise:

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Here are the Polynesian DVC room layouts

by on January 8, 2015

The images below fell off the back of a truck. Here’s a set of studio rooms showing their layouts; the extended room shows an ADA-accessible balcony:

Disney Polynesian Resort DVC Studio layout

Here’s the 2-bedroom bungalow layout. Estimates are that these will rent for a bit less than the King Kamehameha Suite – maybe around $2,500 – $3,000 per night – when they’re available.

Disney Polynesian Bungalow Layout

Three grand is a lot of money for one night in a hotel room. I’m not sure I’d sell my first-born for that. I probably wouldn’t even consider a long-term lease.

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How Next Week’s Disney World Marathon Will Affect the Parks

by on January 5, 2015

I’ve got a couple of emails from folks asking about how next Sunday’s Walt Disney World Marathon will affect crowds and touring the parks, so I thought it’d be a good subject for a quick blog post.

Here are a couple of facts and assumptions I’m making, based on last year’s event and my experience running the race:

  1. The race starts at 5:30 AM outside Epcot
  2. Because of the size of the field, the last group of runners will get started by 6:15 AM
  3. The slowest runners need to average around 3.75 MPH not to be disqualified and removed from the course

With that, it’s straightforward to map out where the runners should be at various points of the day. Here’s the course map showing when the last group of runners should be past the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

2015WDWMarathonMap

The Magic Kingdom is the first park visited on the WDW Marathon route. If the race pace goes according to plan, the last group of runners will be around mile 7, past the Magic Kingdom, by 8 AM. Crowd diversions should begin to be cleared around 8 AM, although traffic diversions will remain on World Drive until late afternoon.

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Run-down of runDisney Events at Walt Disney World in 2015

by on January 4, 2015

January 7-11 runners from all over will gather for the largest and longest of the runDisney events at Walt Disney World for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. 2015 marks the 21st anniversary of the first running of the race, which was held on January 16, 1994. Marathon Weekend is a jam packed five days of running, eating, shopping, and celebrating fitness and Disney. Runners walk (or run) away with some serious bragging rights and some awesome medals to go along with it – not to mention, some really cool swag from the Health and Fitness Expo.

2015 Marathon Swag ©Disney

2015 Marathon Swag ©Disney

In 2015 there are three more runDisney events at Walt Disney World to look forward to. Below is a briefing of all 2015 events and their costs, along with whether or not registration is still open (as of the time this article was written. It is best to check the event’s webpage and with runDisney directly for up to date availability).

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

January 7-11, 2015 (see race results here after the races)

All races sold out.

  • Marathon – 26.2 miles through all four parks and the Wide World of Sports complex; $170-200
  • Half Marathon – 13.1 miles through Magic Kingdom and Epcot; $170-200
  • Goofy Challenge – 39.3 miles by completing both the Marathon and Half Marathon; $360-400
  • 10k – 6.2 miles around Epcot and the Epcot Resort area; $105-135
  • Family Fun Run 5k – 3.1 miles through Epcot; $60-70
  • Dopey Challenge – 48.6 miles by completing ALL four events above (5k, 10k, ½ marathon, marathon); $530-590
  • Castaway Cay Challenge – 3.1 miles around Castaway Cay plus completion of one of the above races; $65 (plus a booking on the Disney Cruise 4-night Bahamian cruise)
  • Runner’s World Challenge – completion of the Dopey Challenge; $999 (along with the normal runDisney bling you received quite a few bonuses that included preferred coral placement, help with training, access to a private website, entry into the Pasta in the Park and Race Retreat events)
  • Kids Races – 1 mile Mickey run, 400m dash, 200m dash, 100m dash, Diaper Dash (all dependent upon age); $15-30
  • Non-racing events – Health and Fitness Expo, Pasta in the Park Party, Breakfast, Race Retreat, Cool Down Party, and the ChEAR Squad; prices vary per event

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