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Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort to Offer Private Water Taxi

by on November 8, 2016

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

Disney is looking for ways to provide additional transportation options for Guests, therefore, they are now offering a private water taxi from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.

This new water taxi offering will take Guests directly to any destination around Seven Seas Lagoon for $20 each way, per family. (Do keep in mind that return service must be booked separately and this private boat ride may not be available from the Magic Kingdom.)  Each boat will be able to accommodate up to 10 passengers. The private experience is based on availability from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and to make a reservation, Guests should call the the Grand Floridan recreation line at 321-318-8212.

To access your private water taxi, Guests should visit the Marina at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, located next to the Sugar Loaf building.

This option may come in handy when attempting to get from one resort to another, especially for something like dining reservations.

The water taxi is not replacing current transportation options, but is instead being offered in addition to current offerings.

SATURDAY SIX 2016 Election Special: A look at how Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as President could affect Walt Disney World

by on November 5, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special 2016 ELECTION SPECIAL – a look at how a President Trump or a President Clinton could affect Walt Disney World. We are mere days away from a historic election here in the United States. While many are concerned with the outcome of the election and how it will impact things like healthcare, national security, and taxes, we here at the SATURDAY SIX only care about the most important issue at stake: theme parks. We commissioned an all-star, blue ribbon panel made up of political experts, former imagineers, and futurists to give us a blueprint of what could happen. Unfortunately, none of them showed up. So instead we’re going to present to you OUR thoughts of what could happen to Walt Disney World depeHnding on how YOU vote on November 8th (although, for some of you the voting date is November 28th.) Whether you’re a shill for Hill or belong in a basket of deplorables, we have the result you don’t want to see. So sit back, proudly display your I Voted button, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – IF TRUMP WINS: We’re going to build a WALL around EPCOT’s Mexico Pavilion and THEY’RE going to pay for it

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Sorry La Cava, but we need to protect our borders….and Arendelle’s too. (photo by Daisy Lauren and  Matt Cleary)

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015, he made a bold promise. “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” Donald himself has estimated this cost to be in the range of 10-12 billion dollars, while others have estimated it would be closer to 25 billion. With that type of money at stake, we’ll probably see Disney expand the monorail to the Port Orleans resorts before Mexico pays for this wall. However, a great way The Donald can save face is by actually building a wall around Mexico…the Mexico Pavilion at EPCOT! While it may be hard to get the actual Mexican government to write a check, we feel confident that we could shake a few pesos out of La Cava del Tequila and the Three Caballeros to get this done.

# 5 – IF CLINTON WINS: Princesses to switch their dresses for smart and stylish pantsuits

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Princess Power! (photo by Matt Cleary)

A couple months ago there was a brouhaha in the Theme Park Universe because of something thought unfathomable by many Disney fans: the company changed Jasmine’s meet and greet outfit. For too long Disney Princesses have been forced to wear their iconic dresses no matter the occasion, and if we have our first woman in the White House it is high time to change that! No longer will Ariel cruelly be forced to wear scratchy sea shells as a top, because now the entire Disney Princess wardrobe will consist of smart and stylish pantsuits! As strong, courageous, and powerful women, each Disney Princess will rock these outfits like nobody’s business (attire.)

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Observations From Visiting 3 Different Disney Resorts in 16 Days

by on November 4, 2016

Sleeping Beauty Castle ParisMy wife and I recently decided to visit Paris for a week, and as you may be aware, there is a Disney resort there — so being the complete Disney dorks that we are, paying a visit to Disneyland Paris was a must-do. Of course, our daughter was staying in the Orlando area with her grandparents and we had to come back through there to get her, so we decided to pay the Mouse a quick visit at Walt Disney World while we got over our jetlag. Shortly after arriving back home, I had to head out to Southern California for work, and it presented me with an opportunity — even if only briefly — to visit my third Disney resort in just over 2 weeks. I had to take it.

So, apart from the whirlwind of travel, what is it like to experience every Disney resort in the Western Hemisphere back-to-back-to-back? The three resorts share similar layouts and several attractions, but my biggest takeaway is how much it highlighted the differences between these outwardly similar parks. So, without further ado, let me share some of the biggest stuff I noticed, and pass out a few superlatives…

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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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Brick or Treat at LEGOLAND Florida Resort

by on October 26, 2016

2016-10-23-16-05-49A recent comment from another parent said it all: “When they call it Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, they’re not talking about the price. That truly IS scary!” Even going to one of the most affordable nights (back near the beginning of September), it is a pretty hefty price tag to attend the evening event. This year, we expanded our Halloween celebrations by taking a trip down to LEGOLAND for their “Brick or Treat” event.

Brick or Treat is included with your regular admission, and is a daytime event held on weekends in October and on Halloween day. The park is open from 10 AM to 8 PM. There are events throughout the day, but many of the events occur in the afternoon. Here’s some of the highlights.

Oversized LEGO Sculptures

It wouldn’t be a LEGO park without impressive displays of those signature bricks. From a gigantic Jack-o-Lantern to a 13-foot model of the Monster Fighters set No. 9464 (the Vampyre Hearse), there are some great photo ops that are only available this time of year.

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Costume Parade

Beginning at 4 PM, there are costume parades (4 PM for ages 4 and under, 5 PM for ages 5-7, and 6 PM for ages 8-12). It may not be the Boo to You parade, but every child who participates receives a small gift.

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“Frameable” Disney: Photography Tips for Your Next Disney Vacation

by on October 25, 2016

Let’s be honest: how many of us have come home from Walt Disney World and realized that you experienced 85% of your vacation through a camera lens? (You can’t see me, but I’m definitely raising my hand.) I usually get so caught up in capturing every detail while I’m on a Disney vacation that I don’t think much about exactly why I’m taking pictures in the first place.

As great as it is to look back on photos from every parade, show and character meet and greet, I’m willing to bet that you don’t want to print out a 12”x16” of Pluto prancing down Main Street, U.S.A. and frame it above your mantle (or maybe you do, and in that case carry on). But instead of going shutter happy during Wishes on your next Disney vacation, focus on snapping a few well-thought out photos that you would consider “frameable”. This can help you feel less stressed about capturing every moment and give you a few great souvenirs that cost much less than that Disney home decor you’ve been eyeing.

Lost as to where to begin in your hunt for “frameables”? Here are a few ideas to get you going!

Doors of Disney | Great for: framed posters, canvas collages

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The idea that started it all! I spent an entire Disney vacation taking a picture of every door I could find and the collage turned out to be such a great momento of our vacation. If you print this one out as a collage and hang it in your house, it’s a great conversation starter and a way to subtly display a little Disney.
Photography Tip: When taking door photos, center the doors in every photograph and make sure they don’t fill the whole frame. Leave yourself some room to crop so your doors don’t turn out different sizes when collaging.

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, October 20, 2016: Even the Worst is the Best!

by on October 20, 2016

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in this case, which blogger came up with the idea of trying to find really bad ideas at Disney, Derek and his Value Resorts Bar Crawl or the concept for this week’s Best Week Ever? The world may never know. (That is, if the world is lucky, we’ll never know.) Somewhere along weekly discussions with my family and flipping through the 2017 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, I discovered what I assumed was a glaring error. The Mad Tea Party, one of my favorite rides of all time, is one of the lowest-rated attractions in the Magic Kingdom. In between Kermit-like arm flailing as I tried to explain to my husband just how much of an injustice this is, the idea came up: Could a day doing the worst that Walt Disney World has to offer still be not only good, but the Best Week Ever? Challenge accepted.

Looking at the rankings for attractions, we knew we could get our fill with a day split between Magic Kingdom and Epcot. After parking our car at Epcot, we hopped on the monorail and made our way towards the Transportation and Ticket Center and then on to Magic Kingdom.

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On the way over, I booked FastPass+ times for the attractions we planned to hit. The benefit of going for “the worst” means that it’s pretty easy to get FastPass+ times. It was still fairly early as we took our walk down Main Street USA, but the blue skies and pops of fall color easily brings a smile to your face.

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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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Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Nighttime Spectacular to Debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on October 14, 2016

We all knew that there would be some major changes with the holiday experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, thanks to the retirement of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights last year. This year, an all-new nighttime spectacular will debut to bring in merriment to the park.

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! will premiere at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on November 14. This nighttime spectacular will feature a projection show, special effects, fireworks, and snow.

©Disney

©Disney

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, September 29, 2016: Magic Kingdom is Comfort Food

by on September 29, 2016

If I may wax philosophically for a second….

The idea of a Best Week Ever is a concept that exists somewhat in isolation. Each week is taken for what it is, not in comparison with those that come before nor held up as a benchmark for those that come afterwards. It isn’t something that you compare with other people–and yet as September rolled to a close, I heard from so many people that September was quite the problematic month. On my end, from layoffs at my day job to my ‘transient” diabetic cat suddenly becoming non-insulin dependent at 3 AM by entering near-fatal hypoglycemic shock (he’s fine now), my ideas of a “Best Week Ever” involved fluffy bunny slippers, a cup of tea, and non-stop Judge Judy reruns for a weekend. In other words, I needed a shot of my personal “comfort food”. Much as I love other parks, when it comes to that fluffy bunny slipper feeling, nothing beats the old favorites at Magic Kingdom. So, Saturday night, we headed over for an evening of R&R, comfort food style.

On our way over, my husband noted that there was a DeLorean behind us. There’s a decent group of DeLorean owners in the area, but when he said “Pull out the camera–you’re not going to believe this…” I knew it had to be a bit unusual. I was able to get one quick snap as it zipped by us. I didn’t see if it was Doc or Marty behind the wheel, though.

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When we arrived and parked at the Transportation and Ticket Center, we had the choice of Ferry Boat or….well, Ferry Boat it was. Even though the day had been warm, there was a nice breeze with just the hint of fall cool weather hidden in it.

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