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Animal Kingdom Touring: How a Touring Plan Can Help

by on August 27, 2014 2 Comments

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I have grown to love all of the parks at Disney World, but the one that took me the longest to befriend was Animal Kingdom. It’s not that I don’t love the theme (what’s not to love about animals?). It’s not that I don’t love the attractions (Kilimanjaro Safaris and Finding Nemo the Musical are two of the best things at any park, in my opinion.) It’s that I’m always feeling the pressure of the time schedule.

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

I just love the gorillas along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, one of my favorite YOPAs.

Animal Kingdom is made up of three types of attractions. The first (and most prevalent) is Your Own Pace Attractions (let’s call these YOPA, just for fun). These are experiences that take varied amounts of time, depending on your pace and interest level. The YOPA list is long:

 

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Trip Planning Dashboard Now Includes Parks You’re Visiting Each Day

by on August 27, 2014 13 Comments

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Those of you who are subscribers know we’ve recently introduced a new trip planning dashboard, and today we’re releasing the next iteration – adding parks to specific days in your trip, and integrating trips with our main crowd calendar. Here’s what the new features look like.

pyrusj_s_Dashboard

Disney_World_Crowds_-_Thursday__September_4__2014_and_Applications

When you login to your dashboard, you’ll see that your trips now have the option to add parks to specific days. You can click on the link for the day you want to choose parks for (highlighted in orange in the picture above) to go to that day’s crowd calendar, including information about park hours and special events. There you can pick one or more parks to visit that day.

Parks you select will show up on your dashboard as you see above with their crowd levels. We’ll try to guess which parks you’ll visit based on the touring plans you already have for that day, or you can just select the ones you’re interested in (especially handy if you’re not using a plan or haven’t quite decided what you’re doing yet).

Disneyland_Crowd_Calendar_2014

Want to take a look at the big picture? Now the main crowd calendar page will highlight your trips and scroll directly to your next trip dates, turning the crowd levels for the parks you plan to visit green to easily scan. It will also display the name (or names if your trip dates overlap) of your trips in the notes for each day.

All these changes work with all three of our trip-enabled properties (WDW, DLR and UOR), and are available now to all subscribers. Let us know what you think so far and stay tuned – more trip planning goodness is, well…planned. ;)

IllumiNations Cruise: A View Worth Every Penny

by on August 26, 2014 5 Comments

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Epcot lights up the sky.  Photo by Disney

Epcot lights up the sky. Photo by Disney

If you are one of the unfortunate ones to never have experienced IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth before, you have really been missing out. IllumiNations is the story of our Earth’s history, its present, and the hope for its future, showcasing people, flora, and fauna. This fireworks, laser, and video show will be the culmination of your extraordinary day at Epcot. After visiting Future World and then stuffing yourself with wonderful delectables throughout the many countries around World Showcase, find a seat or standing area around the Lagoon and be prepared to experience pyrotechnic greatness.

The only downside to IllumiNations is that I sometimes find it a waste of good Disney time to be camping out around the World Showcase hours before the nightly showing to get a prime viewing location. If this has ever crossed your mind or if you are just looking for that over the top experience, perhaps to celebrate a wedding, birthday, or anniversary, then you should try an IllumiNations Cruise.

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Fair Trade and Eco Friendly Souvenirs at Walt Disney World

by on August 26, 2014 8 Comments

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t_logo_fbRecently, a TouringPlans user asked for suggestions about where to find eco friendly or fair trade souvenirs at Walt Disney World. Although Walt Disney World does frequently issue statements about their corporate culture of environmental awareness and ethical trade practices, finding souvenirs that are clearly eco friendly or fair trade does take a bit of looking.

As I shopped, three common themes I found were:

  1. If you are trying to find non-mass produced, fair trade, and/or eco friendly souvenirs, you can almost always skip the larger shopping locations (The Emporium, Mouse Gear, World of Disney).
  2. If you want something that has a Disney character or says Walt Disney World, you will have a lot of challenges finding anything that meets these standards.
  3. When talking with different people about what they consider to be eco friendly or “ethical souvenirs”, there is a lot of variation to what people find acceptable.

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Disney World Ticket Scams

by on August 26, 2014 2 Comments

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Disclaimer: While I am a Cast Member, I do not speak for the Walt Disney Company. The following information is based on my own experience and does not necessarily reflect the Walt Disney Company’s policies. Please see the Walt Disney World website for official rules and regulations regarding ticket use.

I’m always on the hunt for a bargain, and I’m willing to take some risks to get one–my recent purchase of clearance yogurt comes to mind. However, Walt Disney World tickets are not the purchase to mess with. I work as a vacation planner (read: ticket seller) at the Transportation and Ticket Center, and I’ve witnessed the many ways guests have tried to game the system to avoid paying full price for tickets. Here’s a quick list of the most frequent Disney World ticket scams and why you should avoid them:

Disney World ticket scams

Beware “Cheap Tickets.” They’re especially scary at night. Photo by Maddi Higgins

Used Tickets

Somebody bought a 7-day ticket, only used 5 of the days. Why not hand those two days off to somebody else and get a little extra cash? Then you can pick up those extra days at Cheep Ticketz on 192 for a major discount.

Why you shouldn’t try it:

The only way to know if a ticket has any entitlements left is through Disney. So when you stop at Tickets ‘R Us on 192, you’ll have to take their word that there are any days left on the ticket. You also have no idea if the person who originally purchased the ticket also got the No Expiration option; if not, the days on the ticket expired 14 days after first use. The biometric scanning information is connected to the ticket, so if you have a different finger than the original user, you will not get through the touch point. So unless your used ticket comes with the chopped-off index finger of the original owner, you won’t have much luck getting into the parks. Read the rest of this entry »

Menu Monday: Top Places to Find Ice Cream

by on August 25, 2014 7 Comments

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In Florida, summer seems to last until October. Unless you have a personal flurry, like Olaf, you will quickly find yourself looking for ways to stay cool. In addition to ducking into some of the air conditioned attractions around Walt Disney World, a sure-fire way to cool off and satisfy your snack cravings is to enjoy a cool, refreshing treat. Let’s explore some of the top ten places to find ice cream in Walt Disney World. (Prices listed are current as of post date.)

 

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich at Sleepy Hollow.

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich at Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow (Magic Kingdom): Sleepy Hollow Refreshments is a quaint window at the entrance to Liberty Square, just off the hub. You’ll know it from the aroma of funnel cake wafting through the air, beckoning you to come closer. But don’t be seduced by the funnel cake, there are giant ice cream sandwiches to be had here! The ice cream cookie sandwich is probably one of best bargains if you’re using a Disney Dining Plan Snack Credit. And at $4.19, I’d argue it’s a bargain paying out of pocket, as well. You get two full-sized, giant, homemade chocolate chip cookies (often still warm from the oven), and squished between them is a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s large enough to share, but why would want to?! It’s that darned yummy!

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Menu Monday: Best Disneyland Candy – Candy Palace vs. Trolley Treats

by on August 25, 2014 2 Comments

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Candy Palace sign - Disneyland - Natalie Reinert

The surprisingly understated sign of Candy Palace, at Disneyland

Disneyland candy. It’s a tradition, right up there with corn dogs and churros. From elaborate candy apples to house-made toffee, Disneyland serves up some of the most toothsome sugary treats in the theme park business. But where’s the best spot to get it? Do you opt for the original in Disneyland’s Candy Palace, or head over to Disney California Adventure for the sweets at Trolley Treats? I tried both, checking out the selection, atmosphere, and amenities at each location, to help you acquire the best sugar buzz on Disneyland property.

Disneyland traditionalists will argue for the Candy Palace. This Main Street, U.S.A., institution has been dishing out the treats for nearly sixty years, after all. In 2012, the Candy Palace was expanded, increasing display space as well as the iconic show kitchen, where guests can watch Read the rest of this entry »

Disney World Crowd Report – August 17 to 23, 2014

by on August 25, 2014 2 Comments

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Our prediction that summer crowds would dwindle starting last week seems to be well timed. We saw some low crowd levels at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom last week that we haven’t seen since May. Lots of ‘4’s, ‘5’s and ‘6’s elsewhere with only a few minor surprises. Guests using our crowd calendar to plan late August trips will be very happy with the moderate crowds we observed.

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

 

Walt Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, August 17, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
5

We considered Sunday to be the de facto end of the summer break for Disney World guests and the moderate crowds seem to agree. Only Animal Kingdom, which hosted Extra Magic Hour morning hit a level ‘6’ but the average posted time at Expedition Everest was only 25 minutes.

Epcot
4
5
Hollywood Studios
6
5
Animal Kingdom
6
6

Monday, August 18, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
7

Magic Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios edged a little higher on Monday but crowds were mysterious at the Studios. We saw Toy Story Mania hit an average of 91 minutes (a ’10’ on our scale) while Tower of Terror only averaged 41 minutes ( a ‘1’ on our scale). Animal Kingdom was a stark contrast with the lowest crowd level by far, as predicted.

Epcot
4
5
Hollywood Studios
5
8
Animal Kingdom
3
3

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
7

On Tuesday, it was Magic Kingdom that stood out with most attractions showing average wait times higher than expected. Splash Mountain averaged 49 minutes (predicted 34), Jungle Cruise 36 (predicted 23) while Big Thunder Mountain Railroad averaged 33 minutes, only one minute lower than the 34 minutes we predicted.

Epcot
7
6
Hollywood Studios
5
5
Animal Kingdom
3
4

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
5

Crowds at Magic Kingdom and The Studios settled nicely on Wednesday while Epcot’s wait times went up. Again, average waits at Spaceship Earth are up significantly with an average posted wait of 24 minutes, a ’10’ on our scale while Test Track was way down, averaging a mere 54 minutes, a ‘1’ for that attraction.

Epcot
3
6
Hollywood Studios
5
5
Animal Kingdom
6
8

Thursday, August 21, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
5

No park hit a level above ‘5’ on Thursday, a sure sign that summer crowds are dwindling. Magic Kingdom hosted Extra Magic Hour morning but only Splash Mountain averaged a posted time above 50 minutes. Our predictions for Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan, Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion were all within a couple minutes of what we observed.

Epcot
4
5
Hollywood Studios
4
5
Animal Kingdom
3
4

Friday, August 22, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
4

Animal Kingdom’s level ‘2’ on Friday was the lowest level we’ve seen at any park all summer. We almost didn’t believe our prediction of a level ‘2’ but the predictions were right, including a 19 minute average at Expedition Everest and a 16 minute average at Kilimanjaro Safaris. Crowds seemed mostly focussed at Epcot and The Studios where we saw ‘6’s, both two levels higher than expected.

Epcot
4
6
Hollywood Studios
4
6
Animal Kingdom
2
2

Saturday, August 23, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
3

Saturday’s ‘3’ at Magic Kingdom was the lowest we’ve seen at that park all summer as well. Only Peter Pan’s Flight (40 minutes) and Space Mountain (43 minutes) reached average posted times in the 40s while most other attractions averaged posted waits in the 20s.

Epcot
4
6
Hollywood Studios
5
3
Animal Kingdom
4
4
What to Expect This Week
Aug 24 to 30, 2014
How Crowded is Disney World

How Crowded is Disney World?

Now that summer crowds have left, fall crowds have begun and we enter the single best time of the year to avoid crowds at Disney World. The heat will remain but we’ll see average wait times at some attractions reach their lowest point of the past 365 days. Labor Day weekend will bring a small bump in attendance but not enough to push crowds above average for the year.

To see Walt Disney World Crowd predictions for the days of your vacation, check the Crowd Calendar.

To get details about our predictions of future crowds or details about crowds in the past check out the Crowd Calendar and select “Jump to Date” on the left margin.

New Villains’ Sinister Soiree Added to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

by on August 25, 2014 22 Comments

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Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

©Disney

Guests who are looking to add more treats to their Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party experience can participate in the “Villains’ Sinister Soiree: A Wicked Takeover of Cinderella Castle” Dessert Party. The event will include many perks, including a preferred viewing area for the 8:15 p.m. “Mickey’s Boo-To-You Parade,” a preferred viewing spot for “Happy HalloWishes” fireworks extravaganza, as well as a special dessert party at Cinderella’s Royal Table, hosted by Lady Tremaine. The restaurant will be transformed into a villainous atmosphere, with a piano player and haunting solos from Cinderella’s evil step-mother. The dessert party will include over-the-top desserts and non-alcoholic beverages, plus an autograph card and a souvenir Maleficent Dragon cup.

To check in for the event, guests must visit the Will Call booth outside the main entrance of the Magic Kingdom between 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Guests may begin checking in at the parade and fireworks viewing area, located in the central plaza by the Castle Forecourt Stage starting at 7:30 p.m. where they’ll receive wristband identification, which must be presented to enter the preferred viewing areas and Cinderella’s Royal Table. The dessert soiree will take place at either 10:15 p.m. or 11:45 p.m., depending on the day. It will take place at both 10:15 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. on September 1, 9 and 12 and at 10:15 p.m. only on September 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28 and October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30 and 31.

The cost is $99 per person (ages 3 and up), plus tax (gratuity is included). Admission to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is required and not included in the price of the event. Reservations can be made by calling (407) 939-5262.

Menu Monday: Snacks Around the World Showcase – France

by on August 25, 2014

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It’s time to continue to make our way around the World Showcase, sampling packaged snacks that we generally wouldn’t try in our daily lives. If you have been following along, we have already hit JapanCanada, and United Kingdom, trying snacks from a lollipop to chips. There’s more to discover, so let’s head to France to find a French snack to sample!

the iconic spaceship earth from Epcot.

It’s a great day to look for snacks!

Before we go, since we’re on a snacking challenge, let’s make sure we remember the rules:

Snack Rules

  • No snacks over $10; preferably less than $5
  • As unusual as possible
  • Something I personally would eat

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