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Universal Orlando Crowd Report – September 7 to 13, 2014

by on September 17, 2014

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Universal Orlando Resort saw typically low September crowds last week despite some hot weather. Neither park reached a crowd level above a level ’2′ until Friday and attraction wait times stayed well below annual averages all week.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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Disneyland Resort Crowd Report – September 7 to 13, 2014

by on September 17, 2014 2 Comments

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September is usually the least crowded month at Disneyland Resort. Add in the extreme California heat experienced last week and you get some super low wait times. We also saw some higher than usual waits at rides more likely to cool you off like Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Disneyland Resort Crowd Report:

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Disney World Crowd Report – September 7 to 13, 2014

by on September 17, 2014 5 Comments

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We saw record lows across the four parks last week with level ’1′s most days. Super headliner attractions which measure average waits in the range of 90 to 120 minutes during the rest of year saw averages of 30 minutes or less. Magic Kingdom in particular was virtually empty – or at least as empty as it ever gets.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the Touringplans.com Disney World Crowd Report:

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Tough-to-Get Reservations—From FastPass+ to Dining

by on September 17, 2014 26 Comments

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Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Sign. Photo by Katie McNair

Photo by Katie McNair

Even with lots of research, some aspects of a Walt Disney World vacation are—let’s just say—resistant to planning. In fact, they can seem like downright mysteries to first-time vacationers and expert Disney World planners alike. A major challenge when planning a Disney World vacation is successfully reserving tough-to-get experiences that become available for booking at unpredictable times initially, book up extremely quickly, or both. Although there is no surefire way to snag these reservations, there are some ways to improve your chances.

First, though, it can be helpful for you to have a bit of background on the experiences that have given or are currently giving planners the most difficulty.

Hard-to-Get Reservations

Photo by Sarah Graffam

Photo by Sarah Graffam

Currently topping the list of difficult-to-get reservations are FastPass+ reservations for Meet Anna and Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom. In addition, obtaining reservations at Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant can be a real challenge.

Experiences that have proven difficult for guests to book in the past and that can still present a challenge in some cases include FastPass+ for popular rides like Epcot’s Soarin’ and Test Track as well as Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, FastPass+ for parades and nighttime shows, FastPass+ for shows at special events such as Star Wars Weekends, reservations for the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package, reservations at Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party, and, the original most-difficult-to-get reservation, dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table restaurant. Read the rest of this entry »

Disney Princess Dress (and other Costume) FAQ

by on September 17, 2014 7 Comments

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t_logo_fbWith Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to take another look at the Disney Princess Dress situation. This is an update of my 2012 article on the state of the princess dress, with new photos, pricing, resources, and details on the all important FROZEN dress situation. So put on your tiara and polish your crystal plastic shoes, ’cause here we gooooo.

Do most girls wear princess dresses at Walt Disney World?

When you’re just walking around the park, you’ll see just a small percentage of girls ages about 3 to 8 wearing princess costumes, maybe 5%. However, there are some places at the parks where the percentage of girls in princess attire will be much higher. My non-scientific, personal observation is that something along the lines of 50-60% of the preschool and elementary age girls at the princess-themed character meals will be wearing princess dresses. Note that this also means that 40-50% of the girls there will NOT be wearing gowns. Very few girls older than age 8 or 9 will be wearing princess dresses at meals, or anywhere else.

Something on the order of 80% of the girls getting makeovers at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) will be sporting some form of princess attire. Similarly, something on the order of 80-90% of the children attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party will be wearing costumes. These might be princess gowns, but could just as easily be something else entirely.

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Offsite Options: Rope Drop Rules

by on September 16, 2014 31 Comments

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As avid Disney fans know, the Unofficial Guide recommends arriving at the gate of Walt Disney World’s theme parks 30–40 minutes before park opening during mid-summer months, and 45–60 minutes before park opening during the holiday season. The introduction of FastPass+ into touring strategies, however, may lead some to question whether arriving this early, i.e., for rope drop, is as important as it used to be. After all, if you can make your attraction selections in advance, why go through the “hassle” of arriving at the crack of dawn?

Though I would argue getting to the parks early is important for all guests, this article will examine why it is especially important for offsite guests. I’ll identify some of the benefits to “rope-dropping” as an offsite guest, and encourage you to at least give rope drop a try during your next Walt Disney World experience.

First!

First! – © John Kivus, 2013

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Does Diagon Alley Feel Like Home (London)?

by on September 16, 2014 14 Comments

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The actual Diagon Alley Set from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

The actual Diagon Alley Set from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Ed. – We’re happy to bring back our International Youth Correspondent for another kid’s eye article. We’re also grateful to the Duncan family for being so accommodating when we rang them up and asked to borrow their children for a day.

When I heard that Universal Studios Florida was to welcome Diagon Alley as a new land, and that it was to be connected to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter already existing as Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, by the Hogwarts Express train, I was thrilled. I am a colossal Harry Potter fan and had already visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London, where the eight Harry Potter movies were filmed, for an audio guided tour of the sets. I couldn’t wait to see how Universal was going to duplicate the original Diagon Alley set, replicate my home of London in general, and build the Knight Bus, Platform 9¾, and, of course, Gringotts Bank.

So when we visited Orlando this summer, my brother and I decided to adopt some American parents for the day, Len Testa and Laurel Stewart – the TouringPlans legends – to take us around the new area and attractions. Len had even concocted a back story in case someone asked how my brother and I got our English accents; we were to reply: “From our nanny, Mary Poppins.” And to do so with a perfectly straight face! I would have totally failed and was so glad we didn’t have to use this in the end. Read the rest of this entry »

Day-Of FastPass+ Availability at Walt Disney World

by on September 16, 2014 40 Comments

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Getting a “Fourth” FastPass+ (and Beyond)

One of the first changes to the FastPass+ program was the ability to make more  FastPass+ selections after using your first set of advance reservations. Besides being able to get more FastPasses, this lets you get FastPass+ options that may not have been available to you previously. (For example, the advance FastPass “tiering” rules at Epcot and the Studios aren’t in effect for your 4th FastPass+ selection and beyond, nor is the once-per-attraction restriction.)

This means you have to choose a strategy. The two most common options are:

  1. Book your advance FastPass+ reservations early in the day and have more time for “extra” FastPass+ selections,
  2. Schedule your advance FastPass+ reservations during the busiest time of the day and use the standby lines early in the day, when the wait times are lower

To make this choice, it helps to know each attraction’s day-of FastPass+ availability. Read the rest of this entry »

Menu Monday: When to Expand the Palate and When to Stick with Tradition

by on September 15, 2014 10 Comments

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BBQSlaw

From Casey’s Corner

We all have foods that take us to our happy place.

Better yet, we all have foods in our happy place that remind us we are there.

Best of all, we all have Disney dining favorites in the Happiest Place on Earth that we love to eat – over and over and over again.

For me, it is the Barbecue Slaw Dog at Casey’s Corner in Magic Kingdom park. Ever since I heard about the hot dog thanks to the Disney Food Blog, I have been getting it on every trip – four vacations and counting!

But when is it time to let that delicious habit pass, and replace it with something else that’s delicious? Is it ever okay? It depends on the situation. Let’s think this over together.

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Menu Monday: A Review of the Four Seasons Ravello Character Breakfast

by on September 15, 2014 32 Comments

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Where we live in Central Florida, we are able to drive by a view of the Four Seasons several times a week. When we heard that they offer a character breakfast, it seemed like a great way to take a look at the resort and enjoy a meal without feeling like people going to the resort to snoop around and gawk.

The Four Seasons offers Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and His Pals at Ravello. Before I go any further, I want to point out that I have a four-year-old who is a big fan of characters and an even bigger fan of breakfast. Thus, unless Ravello completely missed the mark, this would be an easy sell. I, on the other hand, am not a big breakfast eater and get a little shy around characters, so I’d be harder to impress. My husband is middle-of-the-road in terms of love of breakfast and characters, but as long as the coffee is good, he will be content. Long story short, all three of us left thinking this was the best character meal we have ever had and possibly the best breakfast as well. We made reservations through OpenTable from the Four Seasons web site and had plenty of availability even at the last minute, even though this is probably the smallest character buffet on property.

ravello bfast

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