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Disney Hacks #2: Cheap PhotoPass and Packing Tips

by on October 14, 2015

disney hacksOK folks, time for another installment of the little tips and tricks I like to call Disney hacks! In this edition, a trick for current Annual Passholders to save a ton on PhotoPass photos, and a way to streamline your packing. Let’s get to it!

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Would You Rather: Disney Vacation Club edition

by on October 9, 2015

Len Testa does an occasional segment for the WDW Today podcast that he calls “Would You Rather.” In it, he and his cohosts compare Walt Disney World vacations of similar pricing.

dvc-logoIt’s a revealing exercise that forces you to prioritize what you really value in your traveling. Perhaps staying off property doesn’t matter if it means you can use the savings for food and souvenirs. Or maybe you refuse to stay anywhere but a Disney deluxe resort, even if it means scrimping elsewhere.

This concept also works well with Disney Vacation Club, thanks to the vacation point system. Whether you own or rent points, everyone is using the same point charts to determine the cost of their stay, so it’s easy to compare apples to apples.

In this exercise, we will compare five different Disney Vacation Club itineraries at Walt Disney World using around 160 points — a fairly standard annual allotment. We’ll compare units with room to sleep at least eight guests visiting WDW in the summer (Magic Season). Join me below to get a sense of varying options DVC presents. 

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TouringPlans meet-up Saturday 4 PM at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – with refreshments!

by on October 5, 2015

Mulch Sweat and Shears

Mulch is going the great compost heap in the sky. Image (c) Disney.

Please join us at 4 PM on Saturday, October 10 at the Center Stage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We’ll be celebrating the last performance of Mulch, Sweat & Shears – the Studios’ house band for the past 11 years.

We’ll provide refreshments. Center Stage is the stage in front of the Great Movie Ride, in the middle of the park.

If you’re up for it, we ask that you scream as loud as possible for the first 30 seconds of Mulch’s first song. Scream like a UFO just dropped Jimi Hendrix and Elvis together in the middle of the stage, with a note that says “oops!” You’ll know you’ve succeeded when you can’t actually hear the band.

The last show should start at 4:30 PM and finish by 5 PM. We’ll be in the area around the stage, wearing red TouringPlans shirts for easy identification. The offer of refreshments is open to everyone – TouringPlans subscribers and not.

We’ll use @touringplans to announce any last-minute schedule or location changes.

 

 

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Opening Weekend at Morimoto Asia

by on October 5, 2015

I have been a fan of Chef Masaharu Morimoto ever since I saw him on the original Iron Chef series. The problem with shows like that is that you can see these amazing meals that are made, but you can’t taste them, even if you lick the screen. (Not that I would advise that.)

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Almost a decade ago, I made the trip up to Philadelphia and ate at Morimoto’s restaurant there, and had a fantastic meal. Needless to say, when I heard that Morimoto was opening a restaurant at Disney Springs, I was thrilled. As soon as reservations could be made on OpenTable (an insider tip for finding Disney Springs restaurant reservations), I booked the first weekend available.

Morimoto Asia is a restaurant featuring pan-Asian cuisine, located in the old Mannequins Dance Palace in what used to be Pleasure Island. For those who are more recent visitors to the area, it is right across from Raglan Road and around the corner from The Boathouse (making that intersection probably the best dining in all of Central Florida). Upon arrival, we were asked if we had a reservation, and saw a long standby line for people who didn’t have reservations. There were no guarantees about getting in on standby, but they were willing to take phone numbers to send a text if a table is available. According to one of those hostesses, Morimoto Asia was booked solid for the next several days and some weekends, but during the week, there may be some availability.

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More New Foods at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival

by on October 1, 2015

Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival survived its first weekend, although reports of massive crowds and long lines filled social media. If you are going to Food and Wine and can go for a lunch around the world instead of dinner and go on a weekday instead of a weekend, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience. Following up on some new or “not seen in a few years” foods that I covered last week, here’s some more new offerings for this year.

 

NEW BOOTH: Sustainable Chew

Pork Spareribs with Red Wine, Fennel, and Cheesy Mascarpone Grits (GF) ($5.50)

Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (V) ($4.75)

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs and Pistachio Brittle (GF) ($4.25)

Pork spareribs, vanilla panna cotta, and ravioli from Sustainable Chew. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Pork spareribs, vanilla panna cotta, and ravioli from Sustainable Chew. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

I suppose it isn’t a good sign for a review when all I want to write about are the plates that the food came on. The VerTerra dinnerware is simply fantastic, however. According to VerTerra, the dinnerware is made from fallen palm leaves and water. But not only are these plates environmentally friendly, they also look wonderful and are much more sturdy than what you’d expect from a food booth.

On to the food, though. Unlike the Chew Lab, which had some unique techniques for the food, the foods here are prepared in fairly standard ways, with the emphasis on sustainable resources. I’m all for sustainability, and so I wish I could tell you that the food here was the best at the festival. Sadly, most of the food was disappointing.

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How We Evaluate Our Crowd Calendar

by on September 28, 2015

Over the past six years, we have collected over 7 million wait times. Thank you to all the Lines users that have contributed to that monumental statistic.

Besides using a day’s wait time data to predict future wait times and crowd levels, we also use a day’s data to validate our predictions for that day. And we’re the only crowd calendar to show you how our predictions worked for each day. In this blog post, I will explain how we calculate the “predicted” and “observed” wait times and crowd levels for our calendar.

First, let’s cover the methodology we use to convert wait times to crowd levels. Our crowd levels are based on Disney’s posted wait times at specific attractions, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Crowds at Disney parks are usually largest between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., so that’s the best time to get a consistent view of their size. Also, every park is open between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day of the year, so it’s a consistent measure.

The attractions we choose are among the parks’ most popular, and most are able to handle large crowds. Because they’re popular, it’s a good bet that high wait times mean high crowds, and low wait times mean low crowds. For example, if we see a 15-minute wait at Space Mountain at noon, it probably means that crowds are low, not that Space Mountain suddenly became less popular.

Just like the crowd calendar’s 1-to-10 scale, we score each attraction’s daily crowds on a scale of 1 to 10. After the attractions are scored, those values are combined to make the park and resort crowd levels.

Now let’s look at an example:

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A Look at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Merchandise

by on September 27, 2015

After braving the outlets, I found myself once again shopping this week–but this time looking at what is offered at the 2015 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. With this being the 20th anniversary of Food and Wine, I had some high hopes that the merchandise would be worth purchasing.

First things first, while the Festival Center is the place that has the most merchandise available, it is not the only location to purchase festival goods. In the area between Future World and World Showcase, every store sells some Food and Wine merchandise. Even items like the Dooney and Bourke bags are available for sale in Mouse Gear. So if you find that the Festival Center lines are long, you have many other options.

Glassware and Plates

It is no surprise that Food and Wine has a lot of items for the kitchen. Among the most popular are the Tervis cup that looks like it has a wineglass inside, the trash can-design salt and pepper shakers, and official wine glasses and plates.

 

fw_magnets fw_plasticplates fw_glassware

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Universal Orlando Photo Update: September 22, 2015

by on September 22, 2015

Welcome back to another photo update around the Universal Orlando Resort. This week we’ll start things off with a look at the installation of the sign on the exterior of NBC Sports Grill Brew. Over at the Studios, the archway has been decorated for Halloween Horror Nights. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for HHN coverage this week since there’s plenty of new props and merchandise to look at. Over at Islands of Adventure, we’ll take a look a look at King Kong and a Toon Lagoon shop under refurbishment. All that and much more, so let’s get going.

DSC00362

Welcome to Universal Orlando.

DSC00086

The facade of NBC Sports Grill Brew is now finished.

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Best Places to Spend All of Eternity At Walt Disney World

by on September 18, 2015

Epcot Map

Your challenge: pick a spot, and live there forever

Have I got a crazy proposition for you: You have been banished to spend the rest of eternity within a 100 yard radius of a single spot. On the bright side, that site is at Walt Disney World, and you get to pick the spot. What would be the best spot in each park, and the best non-park location, to select? First, the rules:

  • You still need to account for your basic human needs, so make sure you have access to food, potable water, and, unless you’re a complete degenerate, a restroom.
  • Anything that can accessed from within this radius can be experienced. Put another way, as long as the entrance to an attraction, show or restaurant is within the radius, it doesn’t matter if the entire show building or attraction fits within the space.
  • Anything outside of this radius is completely off-limits to you, forever. You cannot set up shop in Tommorowland but have a friend bring you a churro from Frontierland. If it’s not within your circle, you can’t have it, ever.

Other than these rules, let your imagination be your guide. Where did I choose and why? Find out after the jump!

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Disneyland vs. Disney World: Peter Pan’s Flight

by on September 16, 2015

peter_panWalt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort share a number of the same attractions, such as Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, “it’s a small world,” and many others. But if you think that these attractions are the same on both coasts, you would be mistaken.

One of the many things I love about Disney is that they never do the same thing twice; and while the attractions that can be found on both coasts may share the same names and themes, they do have differences too. Hey, who doesn’t like variety, right? But you have to wonder, which resort has the best version of a popular attraction? Which Disney Park has the bragging rights? Well, that’s what I’m going to find out beginning with a classic in Disneyland vs. Disney World: Peter Pan’s Flight.

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