Archive for April, 2009

In The Parks? Send Us Your Wait Times!

by on April 29, 2009

If you’re going to be in the Disney parks, you can help improve our crowd calendar by sending in FASTPASS and wait times from any attractions you’re near. Read on for more details.

WDW Today Episode 558 – Listener Questions

by on April 29, 2009

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Episode 558 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

Disneyland Meet-Up Saturday, May 9 – 4 to 6 p.m.

by on April 28, 2009

If you’re at Disneyland on Saturday, May 9, 2009 between 4 and 6 p.m. stop by the Rancho del Zocalo to meet Len, Fred and a host of other Unofficial Guide researchers and fans. As with April’s Las Vegas meet, this will be an informal thing. Len will be happy to buy you a drink and some crispy chips con limon in exchange for your best Disneyland tips and advice. No RSVP is necessary. Look for a bunch of unusually handsome Disney geeks. (Our backup plan is tan-colored Unofficial Guide shirts.)

Teen Enthusiasm Injection! Stat!

by on April 28, 2009

You’ve announced to your family that your vacation destination is Disney World! The 5-year-old won’t shut-up about meeting Mickey Mouse, the 9-year-old is psyched about the roller coasters, and grandma is already planning a character breakfast. And in the corner, your teenager is rolling his/her eyes, moaning about how Disney is full of “kid stuff.”

How are you going to get a moody adolescent excited about Cinderella Castle and TriceraTop Spin? Below are some tips on how to get teenagers in the Disney spirit.

1. Stress to your teen that s/he won’t be stuck riding the kiddie attractions. When most people think of Walt Disney World, they think of rides aimed at young children. Remind your teenager that Disney has thrills and (for girls) plenty of shopping. If an adult in your party isn’t willing to join in on the plummets, the inversions, and the disc-rupturing Mountains, give your teen some freedom to roam the parks alone. Disney is very safe, after all, and cell-phones can keep everybody in touch.

2. Let teens help plan. Studies show that kids who help buy the food at the grocery are more likely to eat it. The same logic goes for a Disney vacation. When you’re making decisions about your itinerary, consult your teenagers. If you give them influence over the budget, they’ll be especially responsive (i.e. should we spend more money on a nicer resort or on food?).

3. Give your teenager charging privileges. If you’re staying at an on-site hotel, put charging privileges on your teen’s resort ID. Charging privileges are like having a credit card in Disney and this is sure to excite any adolescent on a low budget. If you’re terrified about your teen running up huge bills on their ID, let them know that a charging privilege is a privilege – which can be revoked at any point on vacation. Furthermore, any dollar amount over a decided-upon number must be paid off by the teen.

4. Teenagers make great photographers. Of course, you’re teen will have to be with the rest of your group some of the time. But nothing will humiliate a teenager more than being forced to meet a character, especially a face character that they have to talk to (I’m having France Pavilion 2006 flashbacks). And since most teens know how to work the camera better than their parents anyway, let them be in charge of pictures.

5. What happens in Disney stays in Disney. Teenagers have constant “pull out the baby pictures” fear. In other words, they’re afraid that what they do with their family will come back to haunt them. Assure them that the fun, silly things they do with their family in Disney World will not be brought up in front of their friends or mentors. This is the most important tip that I can give you. Doing this for your teens is like giving them permission to be in the Disney spirit.

Of course, I can’t make any promises. There are some teens who just refuse to enjoy a Disney trip – or any trip, for that matter. If your teenager falls in this category, don’t try to accommodate them by letting them doing whatever they want. Simply let them be Grumpy dwarves. If your adolescent is acting like this, the message s/he is trying to send is: “leave me alone!” If you do that, s/he might actually be tolerable.

That’s all I’ve got for now! If any readers have questions about teens, feel free to post them as comments; they’ll most likely be the source of my next post.

New Resorts, Restaurants Added to Photo Gallery

by on April 28, 2009

The Unofficial Guide photogs have been hard at work over the past few weeks, covering hotels and restaurants in and around Walt Disney World. We’ve uploaded many of their photos to the website, and should have the videos posted soon. Here’s the list of new photo galleries:

Celebrity Resorts Kissimmee
Rosen Shingle Creek
Marriott Harbor Lake
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort new Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo rooms. We have almost 500 photos of this resort, and the new rooms begin at photo 442.
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside New photos of the playground.
Disney’s Yacht Club ResortMiscellaneous photos from around the resort.

Magic Kingdom
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2008

Magic Kingdom Restaurants
Casey’s Corner
Columbia Harbor House
Cosmic Ray’s
The Crystal Palace
El Pirata y El Perico
Liberty Tree Tavern
Tomorrowland Noodle Station
Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
Pinocchio Village Haus
The Plaza Restaurant
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

Tren-D is umm… Trendy

by on April 28, 2009

A quick look at the new Downtown Disney shop at Walt Disney World, including a tour from the management and a bit of up-tempo music to remind us it is, indeed, trendy.

And gratuitous celebrity endorsements…

Getting Ready for the Big Trip

by on April 27, 2009

There is always a lot to do in the week leading up to a trip to Disney World. There’s trying to finish up projects at the office, getting all of the travel sized bottles together, and checking to see just how hot it’s going to be in Florida. I don’t know about the male readers, but I’m sure all of the women will agree that packing can be a daunting task. My lists of stuff to pack starts to take shape a couple of weeks in advance, but I don’t start to throw anything in the suitcase until a few days before taking off. Last week, I got all of my toiletries together to see if there was anything I needed to pick up. Since I make multiple trips every year I keep all of my travel sized toiletries together in the linen closet to make for quicker packing. But that’s the only quick part about my packing! Everyone has there own list of must bring objects for their trip so I won’t tell you what you should take on your trip. I have no doubt I will wind up bringing too much, but I’ll feel prepared for just about anything.

But, packing isn’t the only thing on my to do list. I live alone so there is plenty to take care of around my condo before leaving it vacant for 10 days. For example, for such a long trip I want to stop mail delivery. The US Postal Service makes it pretty easy to put a hold your bills, magazines, and junk mail. Just log onto their website and you should be able to make the arrangements within a few minutes without having to stand in line at the post office. Also on the home front, I’ll have to clean out my fridge and make sure to take all of the garbage out. I don’t want to come back to a smelly apartment! I’ll also be sure to set my thermostat and turn off my water at the last second before I lock up the apartment for the big trip.

I also have to figure out how I’m getting to the airport. The cost of parking and Newark International is insane so I never drive myself. Fortunately, I live close to my parents and I work for my family business so my dad usually gets the job of dropping me off and picking me up (thanks, Dad!). But it’s not always so cut and dry. On my last trip I had to be at the airport at 5:30 a.m. and I just couldn’t ask him to get up so early. Like I said, parking is expensive and the airport’s website told me I would have to allow an extra 30-45 minutes to get from the economy lot to the terminal. At that hour an extra half hour feels like an extra two hours. I called a few car service companies, but they wanted a crazy amount of money too. We decided that I would drive myself then call the office and leave a message telling my dad where to find it. Later in the day the Helmstetter men retrieved it and brought it back to my condo.

All this to and I don’t even have any kids to prepare! It’s going to take me a month to get ready once I get to that phase of life. Just another reason to enjoy being a 20 something, childless traveler while I can!

Well, I’ve been talking about this big trip all month and it’s finally almost time to depart! During my trip I’ll try to blog a bit, but I’m not making promises of any sort regularity. You see, we are generally up at the crack of dawn and out until the wee hours so it doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging. But, I’ll twitter, tweet, or whatever the right term during the trip to you can keep up on my whereabouts. I’ll be doing lots of “research” (if you can call drinking around the world research) so keep a lookout for fun topics in the coming months. Stay tuned from April 30- May 9th to see how my trip is going!

In The Beginning

by on April 27, 2009

Hi everyone! I am excited to be joining the blogging world! My name is Sarah Biggs, and I am the other part of “Josh and Sarah.” Josh already introduced me in his introductory post, but I will tell you a little more about myself. I am currently a student at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando and have been a researcher for the Unofficial Guide over two years now. You may be wondering how Josh and I got started with this job. Well, it all started with a little podcast called WDW Today.

During our freshman year in college, I bought Josh and I annual passes to Walt Disney World for his birthday. I hadn’t gone to Disney since I was seven, and he hadn’t been for a few years. Well, needless to say, we immediately fell in love with all things Disney. Josh found the podcast, WDW Today, and we started listening to their shows. We loved how connected we felt to these four guys we had never met just because we shared a love for Disney.

While listening to the podcast, we kept hearing the guys talk about this event called Mousefest (a five-day gathering for Disney enthusiasts at Walt Disney World). We decided to go down to Disney  and check out the Mousefest events that were planned for the day. Well, while we were there, we actually got to meet the four awesome guys of the WDW Today podcast. I remember Josh being really excited to meet Len Testa, and he actually went and bought a copy of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World so Len could sign it. We ended up talking with Len a little bit, and we mentioned that we live in the area. He gave us his card and said, “Call me if you want to do some research for the guide.” A few weeks later, we called him.

Looking back now, it has been somewhat of a crazy two years. Josh and I have done lots of different kinds of research–some of it really long and boring and some of it fun and exciting. Next time, I will talk about the research we have been doing in Disney’s water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.

WDW Today Episode 557 – Favorite Hidden Attractions

by on April 27, 2009

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Episode 557 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

An Unofficial Introduction

by on April 25, 2009

Since this is my first blog entry I thought that I would introduce myself. My name is Josh Carver.  Some of you may recognize me as part of “Josh and Sarah,” the dynamic duo of Unofficial Guide researchers often mentioned on the WDW Today podcast (ding!). Most of Sarah’s and my posts will be about our observations while doing field research and data collection at the Walt Disney World Resort. We will also be sharing reviews of the many experiences that Walt Disney World has to offer.  We hope to shed some light and background about what it’s like to be an Unofficial Guide researcher as well as keep our readers up to date on our current data collection/research assignments.

Just last Thursday we were in the Magic Kingdom collecting wait times at all of the attractions in the park. We wanted to see the effect of the additions to the morning Extra Magic Hours attractions list. So I took down the times for one half of the park, and Sarah took the other half. We did this from the early opening at 8am until 3pm, which is usually when peak crowds start to taper off. Even with the closure of Space Mountain, the TTA, and the Hall of Presidents, we did not see a noticeable  increase in wait times throughout the day. Peak waits at Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain were 70 minutes, which is what was predicted. So, the attractions that were added to morning Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom, including Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad,  seem to be good additions to the list.

Look for Sarah’s first post very soon. She’s going to go into how we got started and what else we’ve been doing lately in the parks.