Walt Disney World (FL)

Julia’s Best Week Ever, May 18, 2017: A Mother of a Weekend

by on May 18, 2017

You know that whole “need a vacation to recover from a vacation”? I think I’m there after this week. It isn’t often that a new section of a theme park opens, so we decided to make the most of it. As locals, we don’t spend as many DVC points, so when we heard that there was a DVC preview in Pandora for Mother’s Day weekend, we booked a room at the Beach Club and signed up. (And consider this the spoiler alert–there will be some mild spoiler pictures later on in the article.) Our time slot was for 9 AM on Saturday morning, so in theory we needed to get an early night’s sleep. But Friday night was also the first night of Happily Ever After. My husband and I had seen some of it when it was in testing at 1 AM, but our daughter slept through it. We let her stay up to watch, and she had fun making “water effects” for it in the pool.

Thankfully, even with all that excitement, she was able to get some sleep. The next morning we got up and arrived at Animal Kingdom around 8:30. We walked over to the Annual Passholder line and there was a crowd just hanging out. The Cast Member there asked if we were Passholders, and we said yes. She asked if we were staying on property, and we said yes, but were a little confused how she knew. She scanned our Magic Bands and it occurred to us–everyone else was standing around because they couldn’t go in yet. It was a morning Extra Magic Hour for resort guests. Yay! In we went. Getting in early meant we could say hi to the animals on our way to Pandora. Specifically, an anteater came to say good morning. He certainly looks like he would belong on Pandora, doesn’t he?

It was about quarter of nine, but they let us walk right in. We got a FastPass return slip for Flight of Passage and admired the landscape as we walked over to the Na’vi River Journey.

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Ask It: Are Preferred Rooms Worth It?

by on May 17, 2017

Is a preferred room at Disney World worth the cost

There’s no question that staying on property at Walt Disney World is an added luxury to your vacation. But even with the extra cost of staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, there are options for “preferred rooms” and room upgrades. These rooms may have a more desirable location (near bus transportation, near the pool, near the food court/lobby), better views (of ponds/lakes, pools, or animals on the savannah), special theming (Pirate or “Royal” rooms) or ground floor locations.  Of course, there’s an added cost for anything above a “standard” room. So this week’s question is:

What features are worth paying extra for a preferred room at Walt Disney World?

  • Location (49%, 427 Votes)
  • Never Worth It (21%, 185 Votes)
  • View (20%, 172 Votes)
  • Special Features (9%, 79 Votes)

Total Voters: 863

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Voting is open here and on Twitter and we’ll have your results next week. Feel free to share your reasons for your choice in the comments.


Ask It Results: Land and Sea or Sea and Land

by on May 17, 2017

There’s the old saying about a vacation that sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation. When you do a Walt Disney World vacation in conjunction with a Disney Cruise Line cruise, you truly do get that vacation to recover from your vacation. But what’s the best order to do them in? Last week we asked you:

When doing a Disney Cruise/Walt Disney World combination vacation, do you prefer to do Land then Sea or Sea then Land?

The results are in, and there was a very clear favorite.

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Back to the Basics: Making a Room Request at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel + Video

by on May 16, 2017

Photo - Angela DahlgrenDesire a room close to the lobby? Looking for a quiet place to rest your head? Prefer a King over a Queen size bed?

Make a room request!

In this video, I’ll show you all the ways you can make a room request at a Walt Disney World resort hotel.


Review: Pandora – The World of Avatar

by on May 15, 2017

How We Got to Pandora

The success of Universal’s Harry Potter lands – Hogsmeade Village at Islands of Aventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios – put the fear of God into Disney’s theme park management. The idea that their closest competitor could turn a worldwide film franchise into an immersive, immense tourist draw probably caused more sleepless nights than a warehouse full of wool pajamas. What Disney wanted desperately was to make sure they got the next big franchise for their own parks.

Valley of Mo'ara in Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom

The problem that Disney faced was that only a handful of writers like J.K. Rowling can produce globally beloved stories worth billions of dollars: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron are on the short list. With Spielberg and Lucas nearing retirement, however, and Peter Jackson reportedly non-committal, Disney signed Cameron to a theme park development deal for his Avatar film franchise in September 2011.

That Avatar deal puzzled many Disney theme park fans, including us. Yes, Avatar is the second-highest grossing film of all time (Gone with the Wind is #1), earning more than $3 billion in inflation-adjusted ticket sales since its release in 2009. But it did so because of its then-revolutionary 3-D digital effects, not its writing. Avatar, we joked, was the film everyone saw about characters nobody liked. For Disney, whose motto had always been “It all begins with a story,” building rides based on Avatar was going to be its own kind of alien experience.

Disney tapped Joe Rohde, now an industry legend, to bring Avatar to life at the Animal Kingdom. Camp Minnie-Mickey was demolished to make way, its Festival of the Lion King stage show moved to the park’s Africa section. Five years of construction ensued – long enough for Universal to build a couple more hotels, several new rides, and an entire water park. Disney’s gamble on the Avatar franchise seemed riskier by the day.

Is Pandora Better than Diagon Alley?

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Ask It: Land and Sea or Sea and Land?

by on May 10, 2017

With the relative proximity of Walt Disney World to Port Canaveral, it isn’t surprising that some people enjoy doing a combination vacation of a Disney Cruise and a Walt Disney World resort vacation. Some people say that it is better to do the land part of the trip to Walt Disney World before the cruise, and others say it is best to take the cruise and then go to Walt Disney World. Here’s this week’s Ask It:

When doing a Disney Cruise/Walt Disney World combination vacation, do you prefer to do Land then Sea or Sea then Land?

  • Land then Sea (63%, 268 Votes)
  • Sea then Land (25%, 106 Votes)
  • No preference (12%, 51 Votes)

Total Voters: 425

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Voting is open here and on Twitter, and we’ll have your results next week. Feel free to share your reasons for your choice in the comments.

Ask It Results: Universal Orlando Instead of Walt Disney World

by on May 10, 2017

The results are in! Last week we asked you:

With Universal’s new offerings (like Volcano Bay), are you considering an onsite vacation to Universal instead of Walt Disney World?

Vacation dollars don’t go on trees, no matter how many money trees you buy at your local horticulture superstore, and vacation time is a finite commodity as well. For many years, Disney was the end-all-be-all for the ultimate Central Florida family getaway. Times change, and so are vacation habits. Here’s the results of your voting, with more than 2,000 votes cast.

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Back to the Basics: Booking a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel + Video

by on May 9, 2017

It’s my favorite day of the week: TUESDAY!

To be honest, I’ve always felt really bad for Tuesday. No one cares about it. People dread Monday, Wednesday is the half way mark, but Tuesday? No recognition at all.

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Disney World 4-Park Magic Ticket Now Supported by Ticket Calculator

by on May 8, 2017


Walt Disney World Ticket Calculator

Discounts on legitimate tickets can be tricky to find, but our Walt Disney World Ticket Calculator exists to streamline the process. Simply enter the parameters of the Walt Disney World tickets you’d like, and our software will find the best pricing among several reputable ticket wholesalers (currently, we have seven), taking into account all taxes and fees. We generally check the vendor prices one per day, and we get no commission from any tickets that you purchase; this is a objective tool that we operate for the benefit of the TouringPlans.com community.

On May 6, we made this even better by adding support for the limited-time 4-Park Magic Ticket, a ticket that offers good savings if you’re willing to spend 1 separate day in each of Disney World’s four theme parks. The 4-Park Magic Ticket is not a “hopper,” so you can only visit one park per day. And right now the 4-Park Magic Ticket must be purchased by July 30 and used by September 30, 2017. Be sure to read all Disney’s restrictions prior to purchasing.

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What I Won’t Do On My Disney Vacation

by on May 8, 2017

There are so many things to do at Walt Disney World that it would take months or even years to experience them all! It’s one of the many reasons why I keep going back year after year. Still, there are a few things at the parks and resorts that I skip when visiting Walt Disney World. These activities or choices are either a poor use of time, rookie mistakes, or just not as magical as I expected. So here’s what I won’t do at Disney World.

Boma Breakfast

Character Breakfasts

Don’t get me wrong. I love character meals. I’m all about meeting not one, but multiple characters in A/C and with heaping plates of food. But what I won’t do at Disney World is a character breakfast. Here are my reasons…

For starters, character meals aren’t famous for their food, but my issue with character breakfasts is that breakfast fare is pretty much the same everywhere at Walt Disney World. I know character buffets do offer a lot of food and some have unique or special dishes. But honestly, it’s mostly eggs, fruit, breakfast meats, and Mickey Waffles. My thoughts are if I’m paying a character meal sized bill, I want more than I can get at the resort food court.

Secondly, mornings are prime park time! The parks are empty, most attractions are walk-ons, and no one is worn out or overheated. If a character meal is on my to-do list, I would rather save it for lunch or dinner when the lines are long, not short.

Use FastPass+ For Shows

Shows such as Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, Indiana Jones – Epic Stunt Spectacular, or Mickey’s Philharmagic, offer FastPass+. But trust me, you don’t need them. Most theaters at the Disney Parks are massive and accommodate huge numbers of guests. The only waiting required is waiting for the theater to open. This is why I don’t use FastPass+ for shows as I would rather save those reservations for a ride.

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