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TouringPlansTV: Quick Date Ideas at Walt Disney World + Video

by on May 31, 2016

photo - touringplans.comWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Walt Disney World is a wonderful vacation destination for people of all ages. There are endless possibilities when it comes to enjoying time with your family.

Now every once in a while, you and your partner may find yourselves alone for a few “kid-free” hours.

What to do with all this extra free time?

Have no fear! With the help of family and friends, I’ve provided a list of quick date ideas to help you and your significant other make the most out of your time together.

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Surviving summer at Walt Disney World

by on May 30, 2016

I’ve literally sweated to get this blog post to you.

As the husband of a teacher, my family’s Disney vacations typically come during the summer months. The heat and crowds of June, July and August keep some away, but we’ve learned to love our summer trips.

While the summer crowds were once substantially heavier than other times of the year, Disney has managed, through events and promotions, to even those crowds out. So long wait times shouldn’t necessarily deter you from a summer trip. Wise use of FastPass+, crowd calendars and a good touring plan can greatly reduce the time you spend in lines. We find that by getting to the parks early, we can knock out a lot of attractions before the sun is straight overhead.

We’ve learned that summer has its advantages, too, such as longer park hours and fewer attractions down for refurbishment. Along the way, we’ve figured out a few tips and tricks that should help you if you’re currently preparing for your summer trek to Walt Disney World.

Midday getaway

The pool at Port Orleans French Quarter.

The pool at Port Orleans French Quarter.

If you think you’re going to be able to do the parks from rope drop to closing, think again. A key part of enduring a summer trip is planning for daily rest and relaxation at your resort when the parks are at their most crowded and hottest. If you’re trying to decide whether you’re going to stay on or off property, you’ll want to factor in the travel time of returning to your resort midday. Thanks to summer park hours being the longest of the year, you’ll still be able to accomplish plenty, even with spending a few hours at your resort.

Ideally, you’ll be able to hit a park at rope drop, head back to your resort after lunch, grab a quick nap or perhaps go for a swim. Then head back to a park refreshed and ready to enjoy more attractions and evening entertainment. This kind of touring is ideal for park hopping, where you can hit one park in the morning and another in the evening. You might even consider saving your FastPass+ reservations for your evening park on select days. The new Frozen attractions in Epcot’s Norway and the evening Kilimanjaro Safaris will be tough to get FastPasses for if you’re trying to add them the same day after you’ve used your three initial FastPasses. If you’ve never done Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during dusk or evening, it’s the best way to experience that final scene.

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SATURDAY SIX Looks at Our Favorite Shows That Went to Disney World (part 2)

by on May 28, 2016

To read part one of this grand adventure, which included a look a Boy Meets World, Step by Step, and Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, CLICK HERE.

Without further ado…

# 3 – Family Matters “We’re Going to Disney World”

Season 6, episodes 22 and 23

“Carl, I never told you this, but when your father was on his death bed he said to me, ‘I have only one regret. I never got to take little Carl to Disney World.’ Then he died”

“Wait a minute, Carl’s father’s died before that place was ever built.”

“Quiet, you want to go there, don’t you?” – Estelle and Harriet Winslow trying to convince Carl to go to WDW

SATSIX_FamilyMatters_logo

Family Matters

Now this is one for the books.

By season six of Family Matters the show had completely transformed from a “working man’s version of the Cosby Show” into The Steve Urkel Show, for good or for bad. This episode started off with Steve Urkel coming into the Winslow household proclaiming that he was a finalist for the “national inventor’s contest” sponsored by “Amateur Innovation Weekly.” Watching these older shows make will make you appreciate how much better the reboots like Girls Meets World and Fuller House really are. Anyway, because Urkel was a finalist he was able to take as many people as he wanted with him to Florida. You just got to go with these things.

Our first stop was Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Again, the resort was never mentioned by name but we did get to see several exterior shots and the gorgeous lobby. Then we were off to Innoventions in EPCOT, where Urkel’s “transformation” machine turned him from geeky Urkel to “cool” Stephan. Urkel’s assistant liked him better as Stephan, so she sabotaged the machine, keeping him stuck as Stephan until a replacement part could be flown in. The judges said they would reconvene in three days to decide a winner to the contest.

SATSIX_FamilyMatters_WildernessLodge

Wilderness Lodge!

SATSIX_FamilyMatters_WLLobby

Wilderness Lodge lobby.

SATSIX_FamilyMatters_Innoventions

Innoventions!

One subplot of the show revolved around Carl Winslow. He had no interest in going to Disney World at first (until the incredible line from his grandmother that is quoted at the top), and even once he arrived still had very little “pixie dust.” However all that changed as soon as he walked through the turnstiles of the Magic Kingdom. Soon Carl was in love with Disney so much that he was ready to quit his job in Chicago and move the entire family to Florida.

SATSIX_FamilyMatters_CarlandCharacters

Carl meets the characters on Main Street USA.

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Seven Must-Dos on Your First Disney Cruise

by on May 25, 2016

First-time cruises can be overwhelming. It can take a few days to get your bearings around the ship, plus the sheer volume of activities on board means that you simply can’t do everything. In reality, going on a cruise can be the most relaxing of vacations, but you may be concerned that, as you’re spending a large price tag for this vacation, that you might miss out on the best of what a cruise might have to offer. Here’s seven suggestions  about what not to miss during your first Disney Cruise.

 

1. Sail Away Party

Immediately following the required safety drill (which truly is the only must-do on your cruise, whether it is your first or your fiftieth), there is a Sail Away party on the main deck. Although it is billed as a show, think of this more like a pep rally. Lots of energy, appearances by some of your favorite characters all dressed for their cruise, and most important, the sounding of the ship’s horn. It can be VERY hot depending on what port you sail from and time of year, so make sure to stay hydrated and wear plenty of sunscreen. If you are able to get in an area where you can see both the Funnelvision screen and the dock as you set sail, you get the best of the sailing away experience.

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Trail’s End Weekend Brunch Review

by on May 24, 2016

2016-05-21 11.33.33Long-time fans of Trail’s End may remember when it offered both a breakfast and lunch buffet. The trick was to get a dining reservation near the end of breakfast so that your first plate or two was breakfast food and the rest was lunch. Eventually, Disney decided to move Trail’s End to a la carte dining for lunch, and the world was suddenly a darker place for many. Time to come out of that dark place, because Trail’s End now offers a weekend brunch buffet from 7:30 AM to 2 PM daily. (And for those who love some of the unique offerings on the lunch menu, it will still be offered on weekdays.)

Part of the challenge with dining at Trail’s End, located at the Settlement part of Fort Wilderness (next to the Hoop De Doo Revue) is getting there. If you are driving, you have to park at the Outpost and take a Fort Wilderness internal bus to get to the Settlement. This means that you’ll want to arrive at Fort Wilderness at least a half hour before your dining reservation (and 45 minutes to an hour is ideal). From the Magic Kingdom, you can take a boat directly to the Settlement. From any other theme park, you’ll be dropped off at the Outpost and then still need to take an internal bus. But enough about logistics–let’s talk food.

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Does Your Vacation Need to Be Extra Special?

by on May 23, 2016

When guests plan Disney vacations, their first questions are usually nuts and bolts basics like, “What tickets do I need?” or “Where should I stay?” Once the mechanics are covered, I’ve found the next tier of planning almost always includes a variation of the question, “How do I make my vacation more special?”

In room deliveries can be nice, but what else could you do with the money?

In room deliveries can be nice, but what else could you do with the money?

Typical versions include:

  • It’s my child’s first time at Disney. What can I have waiting in the room to make it extra special?
  • It’s my child’s birthday. What can I do to make her feel like a princess?
  • My family will be celebrating Christmas at Disney World. What can I do to make it the holiday of a lifetime?
  • I want my child to remember this trip always. How can I make it super fantastic?
  • My spouse is on military leave and we’re going to Disney World. What can we do to make this an extra magical family moment?

You get the idea. You’re going on a trip to Walt Disney World, but that’s not enough. Your trip needs to be more special/unique/exciting than a standard run of the mill trip to Disney. What can you do?

I’m going to let you in on a secret … You don’t need to do anything extra. Your trip is special/unique/exciting all on its own. Here are some things to think about as you consider this topic:

Extras are expensive, sometimes shockingly so.

You may think that having your hotel room decorated in Mickey splendor sounds like just the thing to make your birthday boy’s day, but the primary birthday package available for in-room delivery costs $330.00, plus a $10 delivery fee. The contents of the package includes cake for six (with paper plates and plastic utensils), an ear hat, two balloons, a bag of jelly beans, a door banner, and a Mickey-embellished tote bag, oh, and 12 pieces of confetti. Do the math at your local supermarket and you’ll find that you could purchase all of these items for a grand total somewhere in the ballpark of $50. Let’s give Disney the benefit of the doubt and say the cost of the items should be $90. That means you’re paying a $250 premium for Disney to bring the party to your room. Sure it’s special, but would another night at your hotel be more special? Would paying for a your kid’s ballet lessons be more special?

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Beyond trip planning: More applications of TouringPlans technology

by on May 22, 2016

AACEGraphic1

Update: Our poster presentation won 1st place at the 2016 AACE meeting. Here’s a PDF of our PATH presentation that describes the software we built and its preliminary results.

I’m co-presenting a poster at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) conference this week, with the fabulous Dr. Bradley Eilerman, MD MHI. It’s at the Rosen Shingle Creek – stop by and say hi if you’re there. We’re poster 332 during Friday’s session. You’ll know it’s us when you hear the Epcot background music.

Our poster is titled “Clinical Decision Support Software Versus Primary Care Treatment Recommendations for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” It’s software to help physicians sort through the complexity of finding the right set of diabetes medicines out of millions of possible combinations and hundreds of insurance plans.

What does this have to do with Disney? It turns out that the same technology we use for our Least Expensive Ticket Calculator can be used to find good therapies for treating diabetes. We’ve already got some interesting results, and we’re looking forward to a real-world trial this fall.

I’m most excited about showing off Brad’s approach to diabetes treatment. It’s a new way of thinking about the trade-offs between cost, efficacy, side effects, and more. What Brad’s created is a framework that makes it easy to implement this on a computer. He’s a smart guy, and I really think this has a lot of potential to help a lot of people.

 

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Echo Lake Eats Kiosks to Debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on May 20, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

We all know that dining options have been minimized greatly at Disney’s Hollywood Studios over the past few months. With Studio Catering Co. closed for good and Pizza Planet currently closed for refurbishment, choices are extremely slim when it comes to counter service dining in the park.

To help with that, three new quick service options have opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for this summer. Guests can visit Echo Lake Eats where they will have the option to choose from three different tastes that sound delightful.

Hollywood Waffles of Fame will serve sandwiches including:

  • Shaved Turkey and Gouda Waffle Sandwich with mixed greens, bacon, tomato and herb-cheese pesto served with chips
  • Shaved Ham and Cheddar Focaccia with water cress and spicy mustard served with chips
  • Freshly-baked Chocolate Chip Cookie

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WDW Passholder’s Adventures in Disneyland

by on May 20, 2016

Let me confess. Though I’m a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder, my first love was Disneyland. Like many of us, my first introduction to Disney Parks was at Disneyland as a young child with my family. Through the course of my childhood and teen years, my family visited Disneyland three times (which was a lot on our limited finances!). Disneyland was also the destination of my first adult vacation, visiting there after I graduated college, in fact, that was my last trip to Disneyland, back in 2004. In 2008, I made my first trip to visit Walt Disney World, and have made it priority to go back as often as my pocketbook will allow!

Disneyland, dressed to the nines for the 60th!

Disneyland, dressed to the nines for the 60th!

Like any Disney aficionado, I keep up with blogs, websites, vlogs, and books written about all things Disney. I’ve been keeping abreast of the changes to Disneyland and California Adventure. When the opportunity came up for a work-trip which took me out to California (and only 14 miles from Disneyland!) I had to work in a trip to visit this magical place. Now, I knew my Disney World experience would only have a limited application to visit this west coast sister park. So, I made sure to pick up a copy of the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland to help fill in the gaps where my Disney World knowledge feel short.

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, May 19, 2016: Sea World and Artegon

by on May 19, 2016

I can’t say that I spend the most time at Disney of any theme park aficionado. I try to make it to the parks once a week solo for research or live tweeting, and then most weekends we spend some family time at Disney. There are some weekends when Disney just doesn’t feel like the right weekend excursion. So after begging and pleading not to be sent all over Disney in search for Disney Dollars or to rope drop Disney Springs for the chance of blowing my diet with one bite of cupcakes, pastries, or poutine, the weekend plans had me looking outside the Disney bubble. That is truly one joy of living here–it would be almost impossible to run out of things to do for a weekend.

2015-09-06 09.48.14

Sometimes, it’s time to step outside the bubble.

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