Trip Planning

Your Disney Trip Planning Timeline

by on February 10, 2015

TouringPlans logoIf you’re planning a trip to Disney World and reading this blog, you’ll have already seen multiple references to certain milestone dates for your vacation: You can make most restaurant reservations 180 days in advance of your arrival, for example. And that got us talking about what a comprehensive Disney trip planning timeline would look like.

Sure, we’ve tackled trip planning subjects before, including Erin Foster’s  and Evan Levy’s excellent Trip Planning 101 series. But we’ve never tried to fit an entire timeline into one page…until now.

Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Best Worst Attraction: TWISTER… Ride It Out

by on February 6, 2015

We’re so happy to bring you an article from Marc Kleinhenz this week. Marc splits his time as contributing editor at Orlando Informer and staff writer at Theme Park Tourist. Between all that and his day job, Marc will also be writing regularly for the TouringPlans blog.

Maybe you’re looking to take a foot off the (extremely) well-beaten path to get away from the crowds. Maybe you have an appreciation for the under-valued (or a defiantly contrarian attitude, generally). Or maybe it isn’t your first rodeo, and you and your family need an injection of something different and fresh at the parks.

Regardless of the reason, it’s time for you to enjoy the smaller, more neglected, and – let’s be honest here – less-polished offerings that Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld have to offer. It’s time to experience the Best Worst Attractions.

TWISTER… Ride It Out

Park: Universal Studios Florida
Location: New York
Opening date: May 4, 1998

Twister... Ride It Out concept art

Image © Universal

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Healthy Habits at Walt Disney World

by on February 4, 2015

Photo Credit - Savannah Sanders

Hollywood Studios Walking Path

Getting and staying healthy is a popular resolution this time of year. But what can be a struggle at home may seem nearly impossible or just not at all fun when you’re on the road.

Healthy habits at Walt Disney World?! That’s crazy talk.

When I go on vacations, I love to indulge myself. It’s all part of the experience! However, on my last trip, I tried to make an honest effort to keep up the healthy lifestyle I strive to live at home.

I spoke with a primary care physician at the Mayo Clinic, who gave me an insight into the do’s and don’ts for maintaining personal health and wellness. Here were his recommendations:

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Non-Disney Pizza delivered to your Resort

by on January 26, 2015

Early last year as we rested in our Disney resort room one evening, I became quite startled as something came flying under our door into the room. This told me two things: 1) I would spend the rest of the vacation wondering what else was going to come under the door. 2) There were unauthorized solicitors of some sort on the floor of my building.

Classic Chicago Style © Uno

Classic Chicago Style © Uno

We quickly rose and looked out the window to see who the culprit was, but they were long gone. I suspect they were moving fast so Disney security would not detect them on property. We then investigated what had been thrust into the room. It turned out to be a flyer for pizza delivery; somewhat crude and lackluster. We decided to hang onto it for future, longer trips when we needed a break from Disney food (don’t judge).

Later that year when we were planning for our return trip, we scheduled an evening for pizza delivery from our mystery solicitors. Then I stumbled upon a thread on one of the many Facebook groups I follow, about where to get “good” pizza when in Orlando. Many people warned about the scams of ordering from these door stuffers. It was even suggested that they are not real businesses, only people looking to get your credit card number. Well, we weren’t up for taking that chance! We threw the flyer away and did more research on where we could get reputable pizza offsite that delivered to the resorts.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Using an Electric Scooter (ECV) at Walt Disney World

by on January 22, 2015

Renting a scooter can help your senior keep up.

Your chariot awaits!

My mom, Terri, has two autoimmune diseases: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Rhematoid Arthritis (RA). Because of this, walking for long periods of time (especially in the hot sun) causes her pain, dizziness and exhaustion. We have visited Walt Disney World many times and each time, she did her best to explore the parks on foot. However, as her diseases progressed, walking became more and more difficult for her. She tried to walk slower and take more breaks, but we could still see the pain in her eyes. My mom is a selfless and caring person, so she felt guilty. She felt she was holding us back and letting us down. She saw us changing plans to accommodate her and so she started making excuses to stay behind in the room to prevent any inconveniences.

Time for a Change

I noticed her attitude change, and explained that she was neither an inconvenience nor letting us down. I don’t see her as a woman with two diseases. I see her as my loving mother. My family and I love spending time with her and were so sad to see her missing out on the fun. I spoke with my Dad and we approached the subject of an electric scooter, or electric conveyance vehicle (ECV). At first, she declined. She was embarrassed because she thought she would be the only one using one. She thought getting around would be difficult and using Disney transportation would be a hassle.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

What You Get at Disney World for $500, $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000

by on January 21, 2015

Abuela Testa's gaspacho soup mix is an excellent money-saver

Abuela Testa’s gaspacho soup mix is an excellent money-saver

For the next edition of the Unofficial Guide, we interviewed dozens of families planning their first Disney trip, and Disney-specialist travel agents who talk to Orlando-bound families every day. Almost all of them said the cost of a Disney vacation was the biggest surprise, and more important to them than when to travel, where to stay, or how to beat the lines.

All money questions involve trade-offs, of course, and only you know what you’re willing to do to save a buck. For every person who thinks a $65 per day food allowance is malnourishment, there’s another who says they can feed a family of 5 on $10 and some budget gazpacho made with leftover Taco Bell sauce and hot water.

To give you a realistic idea of how much to budget, we’ve created the following set of charts showing the kind of Disney World vacation your family can get for $500, $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000. Each column represents a different family demographic, and each row represents a different budget amount. Our starting assumptions are at the bottom of the page.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Memory Maker FAQs

by on January 21, 2015

PhotoPass Memory Maker ©Disney

The Memory Maker gets you digital copies of all of your PhotoPass photos. Photo ©Disney

Disclaimer: While I am a Cast Member, the following is based on my own experience and does not necessarily reflect the policies of the Walt Disney Company.

Philosophers of the age ask: If there are no pictures, did it really happen? Photos are an integral part of preserving your Disney moments and sharing the memories with family and friends. To that end, Disney offers the Memory Maker for purchase. The Memory Maker is a way to get digital copies of all of the PhotoPass photos and videos from your Walt Disney World vacation. Like any major Disney purchase, you should look at the pros and cons before you decide to drop the cash. I recently had the opportunity to use a Memory Maker as a Guest and participated in the One-day Memory Maker pilot program as a Cast Member. Here are the questions I heard from Guests—and had myself—about the Memory Maker.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

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!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

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!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print