This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to find links to our other Basics posts.
One of the most exciting and often nerve wracking parts of planning a vacation is selecting a hotel. Some people view a hotel as simply the place where you sleep and shower, and nothing more. Others, like me, see the hotel as home base and a destination unto itself. I’ve even planned entire vacations around the hotel more so than the local area and attractions (but then again I work in the hotel industry and am a self-proclaimed hotel nerd).
If the weather is bad or if somebody gets sick, this is where you’ll spend much of your vacation time. At the end of a full day touring the parks this is where you can rest, or depending on which location you choose, you can come back in the middle of the day to relax. The amount of options in all of Central Florida can be astounding, after all there are over 400 hotels in the Orlando / Orange County area.
Old Key West Resort room
Let’s assume for the purposes of this post that you’ve decided you really want to stay on Walt Disney World property. You still have to sort through over 20 hotels in order to select your hotel. The main focus of this guide is to help you decide between Walt Disney World resort hotel categories. I will include some of the pros and cons of each category, as well as a general overview of the features of each category. This includes location, transportation, food and beverage, and amenities. In follow up posts, we will dig into the specifics of these features for each resort in particular.
Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels, Swan and Dolphin, and Bonnet Creek
If you’re looking for close proximity at lower cost, then the hotels near Disney Springs on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, as well as the hotels of Bonnet Creek, offer easy transportation. If you want the extra perks such as Disney transportation and Extra Magic Hours, however, you’ll need either a Disney-owned hotel or the Starwood Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, which offer these benefits with slightly lower room rates. The MagicBand (as a room key and ticket) and Disney’s Magical Express are exclusive features for Disney owned and operated. For some folks this is a major plus, while for others it is not worth the extra money that a Disney owned property can cost.
The Walt Disney World Swan: Very close to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but technically a Starwood hotel.
This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.
Even if you’ve never been to Walt Disney World before, you’ve probably heard mention of the mammoth lines that certain attractions can generate. You might be thinking that a trip to Disney is essentially an exercise in standing and waiting, with occasional bursts of fun. While lines will indeed be a part of any Disney trip, there are steps that you can take to minimize the amount of waiting that you do and one of the best tools you have in your arsenal is the DisneyFastPass+ service, which is a ride reservation system that allows you to experience headliner attractions with minimal wait at Walt Disney World.
FastPass+ is free to use for everyone visiting Disney and it can make an enormous difference in the enjoyment of your trip. There are few things that make me cringe quite as much as someone coming back from a trip and being upset because people kept jetting by them as they stood in line because they weren’t aware of FastPass+. They assumed either that it was some sort of VIP line, or that it was a special line for people that had paid extra on top of what is already a costly vacation. Don’t be that guy. Read on to learn what FastPass+ is and how to use it!
What is FastPass+?
First, a little history and background to put things in context. When Walt Disney World first opened, the queues for attractions were handled the same way they might be at your local carnival — you got in line for the attraction you wanted to do when were are ready to do it, and waited your turn, which often meant standing in a really, really long line. In late 1999, Disney developed FASTPASS as a way to minimize the amount of time you had to physically be in line. To use it, you would go to the attraction you wanted to experience, put your park ticket into a kiosk, and it would print out a little ticket with a time window for you to experience the attraction with little or no wait. Once you had one FastPass, you had to wait two hours or until the start time printed on the ticket before you could get another one. This same system is used at Disneyland today, in fact.
Nothing is quite so magical as meeting Mickey for the first time!
This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.
One of the quintessential Walt Disney World experiences is participating in Character Meet and Greets. That magical moment when your child meets Mickey for the first time is right up there with their first spin on Dumbo or the first time blasting off on Space Mountain. Like most Disney adventures, I would also caution those adult-only travelling parties not to overlook character experiences as just for the little ones – you can still have a magical experience with Mulan or Aurora even if you’re in the over-18 set!
This is the first article in my series on Character Meet and Greets, in which I will tackle every park and give you a run-down of who you can meet and where. I’ve decided to start with Epcot (this is traditionally the first park we visit on every trip – why not begin at the beginning?!), so buckle up for a tour of Future World and World Showcase and the characters who live there!
I’m about to let you in on my latest and most favorite Disney secret? Are you ready? Okay, it’s the Shop Disney Parks App, which allows iPhone, iPad, and Android users to search and browse pretty much everything available at the Walt Disney World Resort and to purchase such items through the app in the parks and at home. Yes, you can now buy items from Walt Disney World at home! Seriously, this is revolutionary fellow Disney shopaholics and it has completely changed my Disney shopping experience. I’ve used the app myself multiple times in recent months and I’m here to give you my review of the Shop Disney Parks App.
Now with Disney Store locations and the DisneyStore.com, you may be asking why is the Shop Disney Parks App even necessary? Well, the Disney Store locations and the website only carry certain merchandise and in actuality barely scratch the surface of all that’s available at the parks and resorts. But the Shop Disney Parks App allows users to purchase products from the different Disney World Resorts, Epcot’s World Showcase pavilions, and even select Disneyland 60th Anniversary items. The only catch is that some products, particularly food items and those that are exclusive to special events or labeled as limited editions, can only be purchased in-store.
Where a selected souvenir can be found at the Magic Kingdom
The app is the perfect shopping tool for when shopping are at the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts. Users who have found an item they like on the app can simply select the Find on Map icon to see where at Walt Disney World the item is being sold. The app also shows the stock levels of the stores in which it is available too. This is a huge help for those of us who have spent valuable vacation time in the past hopping from store to store to find that one souvenir they just can’t leave without. The app also features a scanner so that when users find an item they like in a store, they can simply scan the item’s barcode to know where else it can be found on Disney World Property. Lastly, for further convenience, app users can send their purchases to their Disney World Resort or to the front of the park to skip the lines at the registers and having to lug shopping bags around for the rest of the day. They can also directly send their purchases to their home address, perfect for users who may not have enough space in their luggage for the flight home.
Now let’s move on to my personal experience with the Shop Disney Parks app…
I first downloaded the Shop Disney Parks app on my iPhone last November for the sake of Christmas shopping, as most of the members of my family love Disney World and park merch just like I do. I ordered through the app several times during the holiday season, and have even made a purchase or two since then. Here’s what I liked, and also what I didn’t…
Behold the glory that is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort!
When planning a Disney World Vacation there are a number of decisions to make ranging from which FastPass+ reservations to book, what ticket option is best for you and your group, and even how to get there. But one of the most important, if you’re staying on property, is which Walt Disney World Resort to choose as your home away from home during your stay!
Now as you may have guessed, the size of your budget will help with the decision-making process. This is why Disney has conveniently grouped the Disney Resorts into three different categories based on price with Deluxe Resorts being the most expensive, Value Resorts being the least, and Moderate Resorts falling somewhere in the middle. I’ve covered my Why Port Orleans Riverside is the Only Moderate Resort for Me in the past for when I have to keep to a budget; but for today’s post, I’m totally tossing the budget out the window and splurging with Why Wilderness Lodge is the Only Deluxe Resort for Me!
But first, a little more info about the Disney World Deluxes!
The Disney World Deluxe Resorts offer the most benefits and the best theming and consist of Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Yacht and Beach Club, the Boardwalk Inn, the Contemporary Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the Polynesian Village, and Wilderness Lodge. All of the Deluxe Resorts now offer Disney Vacation Club Villas, where non-Disney Vacation Club guests can also stay if there’s availability. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa and Disney’s Old Key West Resort are Deluxe Villa Resorts only; but again, non-members can book stays here too.
So with all of these resort options, how could I possibly choose? Believe me, it was difficult and my choice can vary depending on when and why I’m visiting; but if I had to just one Deluxe Resort, it would have to be Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort!
Are you a Disney Park critic? I know, it’s hard to be critical of anything Disney (at least I think so), but even I have to admit that I’ve experienced a few things that some parks don’t do as well as others. For today, I’m breaking down the Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses of not just a theme park, but a water park! Yes, I’m wearing shades and dreaming of the waves as I analyze the Disney Park strengths and weaknesses of Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.
Typhoon Lagoon first opened to guests in 1989 and is still famous to this day for its Surf Pool, which is the largest in North America and which boasts up to 6-foot waves! In true Disney fashion, Typhoon Lagoon has a theme and a story which is that a tropical typhoon tossed a tropical paradise upside down and left it rather windblown. This is why the buildings lean and the shrimp boat, “Miss Tilly,” is resting precariously on the peak of Mount Mayday!
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon has 11 attractions, ranging from a themed play area for kids to enclosed water slides to Shark Reef where guests can snorkel among stingrays, tropical fish, and sharks!
Let’s start with Typhoon Lagoon’s strengths!
Crush n’ Gusher!
Crush n’ Gusher– This Typhoon Lagoon attraction is Disney’s first and only water coaster! The story behind this coaster is that, before the typhoon, it was once a fruit processing plant and the slides or “chutes” once washed the fruit before it was packaged. There are three different chutes, each with their own ride experience! There’s the Banana Blaster which can have up to two riders, and then the Coconut Crusher and Pineapple Plunger which both can have up to three! This water coaster is a real strength for Typhoon Lagoon in that it provides that thrill factor, plus multiple experiences at one attraction. Note: Guests must be 48 inches to ride.
If you’ve ever felt hunger pangs while trekking through a tropical jungle outpost or while traveling niles and niles and niles down a dangerous river, then you know what it’s like to be a skipper in need of sustenance. Luckily for you, I’ve got just the place for you to visit the next time you’re in need – the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen! The Skipper Canteen is a new table-service restaurant at the Magic Kingdom inspired by (and thematically connected to) the Jungle Cruise attraction. The skippers who traverse the wild leading guided excursions through the jungle have to have a place to eat, right?
One of the biggest victories from my latest trip to Disney World was the fact that we managed to catch the soft opening of the Skipper Canteen, and I’ve got lots to share! As of the writing of this article, advanced reservations are not yet being accepted for the canteen, but it is expected that they should be available in the near future. We learned of the soft opening simply by walking by the restaurant. Skippers were outside letting people know that the Skipper Canteen was open and they were taking walk-ups.