Your subscriptions support new blog articles and research. Please consider

subscribing.

today.


Offsite Options: Is a Disney World Annual Pass Worth It?

by on July 28, 2014 16 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

I. INTRODUCTION

I have a confession to make: I stay offsite when I visit Walt Disney World. I know, I know. Go back and re-read my previous articles here on TouringPlans and wonder how you ever could have believed anything I said. While you do that, however, I’ll address Walt Disney World Annual Pass Savings, especially for those staying offsite.

Annual Passholder Box

Annual Passholder MagicBands – © John Kivus

The Disney World Annual Pass certainly seems to come at a substantially higher cost than other ticket options. If we view the passes at face value, then this is an accurate conclusion – an annual pass does cost more than any other pass, even a 10-Day Park Hopper. You may think this means you have to visit the parks at least more than 10 days to get your money’s worth out of an Annual Pass.

The problem with this reasoning is that there is so much more to everything Disney than face value, and having at least one Annual Pass for your party can be very valuable, especially for offsite guests.

Before we get into the details, I do want to warn you that there is no easy answer to the question of whether or not an Annual Pass is a good value for a particular party’s Walt Disney World trip. In fact, the analysis will require planning, and DUN DUN DUN: math.

Read the rest of this entry »

Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 7/28/14

by on July 28, 2014 2 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

I’m back with all the great little Disney planning details that I think you need to know!  There’s quite a few little nuggets that have passed through my desk, so enough with this chit chat, yick yack, and flim flam; let’s get on with it!

  • As always, we’ll start with refurbishments. This time I only have one to let you all know about. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin at the Magic Kingdom will be closed for a brief refurb this Fall from November 10 – 21, reopening on November 22.
  • The WonderGround Gallery, which can be found at Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney, now has a presence at the Marketplace Co-Op in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World.
  • The Epcot After Hours Wind Down event has been extended. The extra experience, which takes place after Illuminations:Reflections of Earth on select nights, will now last until November 9. The event was originally supposed to run until September 15. The After Hours Wind Down includes a menu featuring a selection of appetizers and one beverage flight. The price is $35 per person, per location. A cash bar option is also available.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! July 2014 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on July 28, 2014 18 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

MMM positiveWe all have our favorite stores in Walt Disney World such as Mouse Gear in Epcot, the Emporium on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, or Villains in Vogue at Hollywood Studios. Disney has made gift shops as ubiquitous in theme parks as churros and turkey legs. Most of us have Disney magnets on our refrigerators, coffee mugs in our cabinets, and shirts in our drawers that immediately bring back memories of previous vacations.  Not all merchandise gets sold though. Some of it sits on the shelves long enough to be shipped over to the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando, and that’s where we come in. The Magic, The Memores, and Merch! is your monthly guide to these products which never found a home.

Our first find at the outlet is AULANI DUFFY. Original priced at $35, these are now $9.99.

IMG_7542

Turns out that ancient taboo idol that Bobby Brady found wasn’t the worst thing to come out of Hawaii after all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Walk Disney: A Review of the Boardwalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour

by on July 28, 2014 12 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

t_logo_fbThe Walk Disney series will provide a description and review of activities that can be done while walking the grounds at Walt Disney World resorts.

Do you know why the ESPN Club on Disney’s BoardWalk is shaped like an octagon? Do you know where the hidden Tinkerbell is near the elevators of Disney’s BoardWalk Villas? By taking the free BoardWalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour, you will learn these and many more interesting details about Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas resort area.

Before describing the experience that my wife and I had on the tour, here are the tour basics:

What does the tour entail? The tour covers many of the design choices that the Imagineers made when constructing Disney’s BoardWalk Resort area. The walking, informational tour begins at the Bellevue Lounge, continues through the main floor of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and eventually ends up on the boardwalk outside of the Boardwalk Bakery.

Read the rest of this entry »

Introducing the Trip Dashboard

by on July 28, 2014 37 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Today we’re announcing release 1 of Trip Dashboard, a centralized page on our site with checklists and easy access to planning tools for your Disney and Universal Orlando trips.

One of the most common requests from subscribers is for a single page that contains all of their trip information. Specifically, families planning their first Disney trip are often overwhelmed by the number of things they need to do, often on a deadline, to get the most from their trip.  Dashboard addresses these needs in 2 ways:

  • Provide a centralized place for all of your trip planning information
  • Give context-aware assistance for any trip planning tasks you have to do

What does context-aware assistance mean? One example: if there are 5 people in your family, then in our hotels section we should first show you those rooms that fit 5 people. Or if you tell us your budget for lodging is under $200 per night, we should show you moderate and value resort choices before deluxe resorts. And we should remind you at 181 days before your trip to make dining reservations, and FastPass+ reservations at 60 or 30 days out.

Besides that, this new dashboard also puts on one screen, links to your personalized touring plans, crowd tracker dates, discussions, trips, and lists of things to do.

Since this is release 1 of roughly 12, we’re focusing on basic design and ensuring things are placed on the screen where you think they should be. Other, snazzier functions come later. A mobile version will be released in a few weeks.

Here’s a quick look at Dashboard’s layout. I’ve put orange highlights and numbers on the screen, to organize the explanation that follows.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Review of Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge Tour

by on July 27, 2014 4 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
Our tour guide Ranger!

Our tour guide Ranger!

From the first moment I stepped foot into the Wilderness Lodge just to look around, I fell in love with it. The architecture and ambiance are romantic to me. Both my husband and I are nature lovers. We dream of staying at the Wilderness Lodge someday. But until then, we just visit it often, walking through the lobby and grounds, eating our hearts out. When I learned there were actual free guided tours of this majestic beauty, I couldn’t wait. My husband, on the other hand, was skeptical and thought it would be a waste of valuable park time. What could a tour offer that we hadn’t already seen on our many strolls through? We were about to find out.

On Thursday morning of our trip we had opening breakfast reservations for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary. As soon as we finished we grabbed a boat over to the Wilderness Lodge, where our tour was about to begin. The meeting spot for the tour is in front of the large fireplace in the lobby of the Lodge. We were a little early, so we sat in the rocking chairs and enjoyed the slower pace. Soon another couple joined us, and we all waited patiently for our tour guide to arrive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Newsies to Go on Tour: Why Disney Fans Should Be Excited

by on July 27, 2014 2 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Disney’s Newsies will give its final Broadway performance on August 24, 2014, after more than two years on stage and an incredible 1,000+ performances. The good news is that the Tony Award-winning musical, which was inspired by the 1899 newspaper boy delivery strike in New York City, is kicking off a 25-city North American tour starting in October.

Copyright - Disney

Copyright – Disney

Aside from the opportunity for many Disney fans to see Newsies close to home, reasons why the tour of Newsies should excite Disney enthusiasts include its potential to inspire fans and the Disney theme parks.

The Connection to Walt Disney

One of the main themes in accounts of Walt Disney’s boyhood is his familiarity with the kind of hard work depicted in Newsies. In fact, as a boy, Walt likely would have identified with the boys in Newsies. Walt’s father, Elias, purchased a newspaper route for the Kansas City Star in 1911, and Walt and his brother Roy became delivery boys, without any pay. The route required them to start their day at 3:30 AM seven days a week, whether in summer heat or winter snow and ice, and Walt delivered newspapers for six years. The lessons about responsibility that likely came from that work are echoed in the musical.

Read the rest of this entry »

Disney Wildlife: Florida’s Native Birds

by on July 27, 2014 11 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

The Magic Kingdom’s most famous birds might live in the Enchanted Tiki Room, but Disney World’s native birds far out-number the singing and talking ones in Adventureland. All around Walt Disney World Resort, you’ll see magnificent tropical birds, native to Florida and happily adapted to life in a theme park. It’s Disney wildlife: Florida’s native animals living right there amongst the attractions. Thanks to central Florida’s waterlogged environment, many of the most distinctive species are wading birds, inhabiting the trees and rooftops around the Seven Seas Lagoon, Bay Lake, and even Frontierland‘s Rivers of America.

Most people just point and call them storks, or flamingos. But you want to look more clever than that, right? So here’s your guide to the native birds of Walt Disney World. Here are some tips: only one of these birds is a stork, and the only flamingos you’ll find are on Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Great Egret: One of the most elegant birds you’ll ever see, the great egret stands more than three feet tall. Although the egret has the long legs and neck of a wading bird, you’ll often find them perched high in trees or on the roofs of show buildings at Disney. Their diet isn’t limited to seafood either — I’ve seen egrets flying over with long wriggling snakes dangling from their beaks. And they think they ought to live on turkey legs — great egrets stalk guests near the Turkey Leg cart in Frontierland, waiting for hand-outs. While it is funny to watch an unsuspecting tourist turn around and let out a scream at the giant bird lurking behind them, turkey skin isn’t in their natural diet at all. Don’t feed them and encourage the madness.

Keep your eyes open for smaller egrets around Disney World, including the less-common Snowy Egret, which has amazing breeding plumage feathers in spring, as well as bright yellow feet, and the Cattle Egret, a small white egret often seen foraging for insects in roadside verges and grasslands.

From Left: Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret. All call Walt Disney World home. Images: Wikimedia

From Left: Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret.
All call Walt Disney World home. Images: Wikipedia

Read the rest of this entry »

Top Ten Places to Find: Romance in Disney World

by on July 26, 2014 3 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Already a popular destination for fairy tale weddings and fun honeymoons, the Walt Disney World Resort is no stranger to romance.  If you’re looking to find a little romance during your Disney vacation, here’s a list of top ten spots to check out for a bit of romance in Disney World.

A smooch in front of the castle is pretty romantic!

A smooch in front of the castle is pretty romantic!

Cinderella Castle – Magic Kingdom: One of the most popular locations in Walt Disney World to pop that life-changing question, Cinderella Castle definitely tops the charts as one of the most romantic locations at the resort. Take advantage of the plethora of PhotoPass Photographers in this location to get a picture of you and your sweetheart in front of the castle. Whether it’s a smooch, a slow dance, a firework show, or a marriage proposal, head to the castle for a bit of love pixie dust.

Boat Rides: The Love Boat doesn’t have anything on the fleet of boating options available at Walt Disney World.  And nothing says romance more than snuggling up with your loved one on one of the many cruising options Disney offers. From Pirates of the Caribbean in Magic Kingdom to Maelstrom in Epcot, enjoy a slow, entertaining cruise in the arms of the person you love. Kick up the romance another notch by booking a Fireworks Cruise and enjoy the leisurely romance of a luxury boat in addition to the sparkle and pizazz of the nightly fireworks shows at either the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. It costs a bit extra, but who can put a price on love? Book your own personal love boat cruise by calling 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529)

Walk Along the Beach: Everyone enjoys a romantic stroll on the beach, and Walt Disney World Resorts offer several beach options. Enjoy the white sands and calming beach atmosphere at the Wilderness Lodge, the Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian Village. For a bit more upbeat vibe, stroll at the beach at the Yacht Club and Beach Club Resort or Caribbean Beach Resort. Holding hands and burying feet in soft white sands offers a great tropical romance. Visit the Polynesian Beach in the evening and get a unique view of the Wishes fireworks show, complete with music!

Victoria & Albert’s: Fine dining is always a great resource for some much needed romance. Again, Disney has a multitude of options for every adventurous (and every not-so-adventurous) palate out there, but Victoria & Albert’s is the cream of the crop. The only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in Central Florida, Victoria & Albert’s has amazing food and service beyond your wildest dreams without being at all stuffy. Quiet and decorum are enhanced by the most stringent dress code of any Walt Disney World restaurant and an age limit for diners (must be 10 years old or older). If you want to dress up and leave the kids in one of Disney’s kids clubs, this is the place to go. Its price list is not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth every penny! Go online or call 407-WDW-DVNA (939-3862) to make your reservation.  Read the rest of this entry »

Disney World Weddings: Great Reasons to Say “I Do” With Mouse Ears

by on July 26, 2014 2 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
One option for a Disney World Wedding at the Yacht Club Copyright - Disney

Copyright – Disney

Look, there are a lot of places you can get married, and good reasons for each one. If you get married at the court house, you can be at home with your feet propped up on the dog and a pizza in your lap within the hour. If you get married in Las Vegas, you can have your reception photos taken with Chippendales dancers and load up on cheap shrimp cocktails. Both of those options sounded equally appealing to me, a distinctly laid-back, “Do I have to put on pants for this” type of gal. In 2007, however, my husband and I had a Disney World wedding. Telling people this usually brings up a few reactions… people either expect you to have paid through the nose for the cake alone, or they giggle a little at the sudden mental image of you typing the knot in a Minnie Mouse themed dress that shows off your cartoon underpants. There are a lot of misconceptions and assumptions out there about what, exactly, a Disney World wedding entails, so here’s a little bit of first-hand information and experience that may help you make a decision… or open your eyes to another possibility!

Read the rest of this entry »