Archive for December, 2010

Fastpasses and the Rider Exchange: A Powerful Combination

by on December 17, 2010

“There is nothing wrong with your computer monitor.  Do not attempt to adjust the settings.  We are controlling content.  If we wish to excite you, we will bring you a post about the Fantasyland Expansion.  If we wish to bore you, we will bring you a post about which brand of band-aid best accommodates walking-borne blisters.  If we wish to bend your brain, we will bring you a post much like the one to follow.  For the next five minutes, sit quietly and try to wrap your mind around what we are about to deliver.  We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your computer.  You are about to participate in a great adventure.  You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from within the insanity of Type-A, commando, vacation planners to . . . The Outer Limits.”

This is how I imagine a blog post such as this one should open.  My mind explodes as I try to comprehend the magnitudinal impact of the information that I am about to share.  In terms of a Disney vacation, this is where it is at for a die-hard.  The time that could be saved . . . the biological energy that could be conserved . . . the amount of Disney territory that could be conquered . . . it’s almost more than a little Neurotic Disney Mom such as myself can take.  But a word of caution: This information is not for the faint of heart.  It is possibly not for the faint of anything because once you are able to comprehend this complex trickery of Touring Plan bliss, the execution of it might cause you to . . . well, faint.  Consider yourself warned.

Many a Disney fan is familiar with the Fastpass system that is an option for most of Disney’s longest “wait-in-line attractions”.  To refresh, though, I will pull an excerpt from the latest edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World:

” . . . . insert your park admission pass into a Fastpass machine and receive an appointment time (for later in the day) to return and ride [the attraction for which you opted to get a Fastpass].  When you return at the designated time, you enter the Fastpass line and proceed directly to the attraction’s preshow or boarding area.” – p. 79

In the Fastpass system, each ticket is limited to one Fastpass at a time.  The holder of the Fastpass for one attraction may not acquire a Fastpass for a second attraction until the time indicated on the original Fastpass has transpired.  Only then can a ticket-holder seek a Fastpass for a second attraction, but the “Rider Exchange” is a game-changer for those that are serious about time efficiency.

The “Rider Exchange” (referred to as the “Switch-Off” in The Unofficial Guide) is possibly a less-known time-saving technique amongst the Disney guest population because it is not as widely publicized.  However, it is a necessary option for parties that have a person who is unwilling or unable to ride attractions but can’t be left alone while the rest of the group experiences them.  Here is another excerpt from The Unofficial Guide to briefly explain:

“To switch off, there must be at least two adults . . . . On most Fastpass attractions . . . . When you tell the cast member that you want to switch off, he or she will issue you a special “rider exchange” Fastpass good for three people.  One parent and the non-riding child (or children) will at that point be asked to leave the line.  When those riding reunite with the waiting adult, the waiting adult and two other persons from the party can ride using the special Fastpass.” -p. 331-332

So here is the mind-blowing part.  You can incorporate Fastpasses with the Rider Exchange in order to have Fastpasses for multiple attractions at the same time. This is an enormous benefit for larger groups.

Because the “rider exchange pass” can be used by the adult holding it as well as three companions, this essentially gives a “four for the price of one” scenario in terms of Fastpass currency.  The basic idea is that we’re using one one-person Fastpass to get one multi-person rider swap pass.  Naturally this give you more “bang for your buck” in terms of covering ground during your hours at Disney.

An alert reader in Mequon, WI discovered this strategy of combining the two time-saving line options to ride more Fastpass attraction headliners:

You advise sending someone to get Fastpasses for Big Thunder and then “switching off” so all the adults can ride.  But if you have at least two adults in a group and one non-riding child, it’s possible to use the “switching off” pass to get Fastpasses for more than one attraction at a time.

Our group consisted of two adults, two teens, and two young children.  We split our tickets into two groups of three and used one group to get Fastpasses for Big Thunder and one group to get Fastpasses for Splash Mountain.  When the half with the Big Thunder Fastpasses went to ride, we asked to “switch off” and obtained a pass good for one adult and up to three other people.  My husband used the three Fastpasses to ride with our two teens.  Then, with the switch-off pass, I rode with the teens again and one of our younger sons who was willing to ride.  We did the same thing on Splash Mountain immediately afterwards because the time on our Fastpasses for that ride was already here when we finished riding Big Thunder.

Depending on size and number of ticket-bearers, this strategy has the potential to hold Fastpasses for as many as five attractions at any given time while still maintaining the ability to get the entire group on each attraction with a single “swap.”  This mass Fastpass acquisition is accomplished by dividing up the group’s tickets for Fastpasses at different attraction kiosks, but the maximum number of attractions a party can exploit this way diminishes as the size of the group increases.

Used at its fullest potential, a family that consists of two adults and four other ticket-bearing people (one which is not able or willing to ride) can divide their tickets into five groups.  One ticket would be used to obtain a Fastpass at “Attraction A.”  One would be used to get a Fastpass at “Attraction B.”  The pattern would continue for acquiring tickets for “Attractions C, D and E” simultaneously.  With the attraction of the earliest Fastpass time stamp being called “Attraction A”, an adult wielding the Fastpass for “Attraction A” would request a rider exchange pass by approaching the Cast Member at the Fastpass Return entrance.  After securing the rider exchange pass, the adult would use his Fastpass to board the ride and give the rider exchange pass to the second adult when he rejoins the group.  At that point, the second adult–accompanied by the three others whom are riding–would present the switch-off pass to the Cast Member guarding the Fastpass Return entrance.  All four family members would be permitted to enter the Fastpass lane for the ride while the first adult would remain with the non-riding individual.  Upon the return of the second group, the same procedure could be followed for the remaining four Fastpass attractions without having to wait an extended period for the assigned time-frames.

This scenario may seem unappealing as it would require an adult that was always willing to ride solo as well as some serious team cooperation in gathering the Fastpasses from all corners of the park.  For that reason, we see dividing the group’s tickets into thirds and using them for three different attractions as a more reasonable option (providing the number of riders in the party doesn’t exceed six).  Here is how it might play out:

Two parents, two adventurous grandparents, two excited teens, and one terrified child named Clarence want to make the most of their time.  Dividing their tickets into three groups of two, Dad runs to grab two Fastpasses at Space Mountain and plans to meet up with the rest of the family after they have used two tickets to get Fastpasses at Splash Mountain and two tickets to get Fastpasses at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Once the time rolls around, Dad and Grandpa use the Fastpasses for Splash Mountain, being sure to ask for the rider exchange pass when they enter the Fastpass line.  After they ride, they give the rider exchange pass to Mom who then takes Grandma and the two teens through the Fastpass lane.  Dad and Grandpa wait with Clarence near the exit, and the group is reunited when Mom, Grandma and the happy teens emerge.  This same scenario would play out for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain in short duration due to the fact that the FastPasses for those attractions have already been grabbed and the time for entry has probably arrived.

Now that I have completely amazed you with the brilliance of this Touring Plan technique, you are left with two questions:

1. How far are you able to take this mind-boggling strategy within the demographics of your particular vacation party?


2. Are you willing to take it to the “Outer Limits”?

WDW Today Episode 813 – Reunion Recap

by on December 16, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 813 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

Reunion Team Challenge

by on December 16, 2010

The last year of my life in the Disney community has been an amazing ride.  Oh sure, I’ve been around for a while, being one of the original fans of all the podcasts that going back many years now – remember the first Podfest?  I do.  Some of my oldest friendships within the community as we know it today date back that far.  But before that I’d been on the DISBoards and gone on DCL cruises with groups from there, and I’d lurked on the RADP news group for years before that.  MagicMeets, MouseFest, TentFest, various New England meets, etc.  I’ve been there.

Looking back, I think the turning point for me was the morning of the Reunion 2009 Kim Possible Adventure Challenge when Matt Hochberg introduced my wife, Cheryl, and I to Katie and her then fiance, Ed.  Katie and I bonded on a few levels, but most importantly on our inability to put down our iPhones for any extended length of time.  Had you told me at that moment in time that I’d be blogging here at TouringPlans, working on C++ code for the TouringPlans Engine, managing the website for The Disney Driven Life, and being rich with friends, I’d have probably scoffed.  And yet here I am.

It’s been a little more than a year since that point, and Reunion 2010 has come and gone.  Now, as I indicated in my last blog post, I had an amazing time.  One event that I imagine a lot of people have been wondering about is the Reunion Team Challenge (a.k.a, “The Mouse Fan Team Challenge: Community Edition”).  There are probably a lot of questions surrounding this like how many teams there are?  How you get picked to participate?  What it’s like?  How does it work? etc.  I had a lot of the same questions last year.

For starters, you need to know what Reunion is, how and why it got started, etc.  The answer is actually quite simple.  After MouseFest 2008 ended, the planning committee decided to terminate the event, the logistical planning of it had become too much.  The problem was that many people in the Disney community, myself included, had gotten used to visiting Walt Disney World during the beginning of December.  So, this left a void waiting to be filled.

The WDW Today Podcast teamed up with MEI & Mouse Fan Travel to create a new event to fill that void.  That event became simply known as Reunion.  And behind all of this is one truly amazing woman in the Disney community, Beci Mahnken.  For two years now Beci has coordinated this event along with the help of her travel team.  And I will say that after experiencing how much better 2010 was over 2009, I can’t wait for 2011.  If you have any doubt about joining the event next year, don’t hesitate – just plan to go.

Now “the boys” and Annette, the hosts of the WDW Today Podcast, are a fairly close knit family.  And families tend to need to have an opportunity for one-upmanship over each other.  Beci recognized this and during Reunion organizes a Team Challenge allowing for them to sort this out on the field of battle.  However rather than being fought with swords or missiles, this is a battle of wits as it is designed to test both your knowledge of the Disney parks and of Disney trivia.  This is also charity event where MEI & Mouse Fan Travel will make a donation to a charitable organization chosen by the winning team.

Each of the five show hosts gets to pick a team to be associated with their organization: All Ears, MEI, Mouse World Radio, Studios Central and TouringPlans.  This year, I had the distinct pleasure of being asked Matt to participate on Team Studios Central.  And, when asked, I jumped at the opportunity.  Now truthfully, I had no real clue what I was getting myself into.  But I figured, “Hey, it’s for charity, how bad could it be.” In addition to Matt, the other team members were John, Sarah, and Glenn.  You can find out the members of the other teams here.

At this point you may be thinking, “But wait Todd, you work here at TouringPlans.  What gives?” To be fair, I got a lot of that going into this.  I had to apologize to some really close friends of mine from BETAMOUSE since I would not be able to attend their Sum of All Thrills meet.  As I’ve mentioned previously, this is a very special ride to me as it and I share the same birthday.  That made it doubly hard.  In the end, Matt asked first, but I would have said yes to any of the teams.

So in addition to agreeing to participate I’d also been asked my T-Shirt size, and told to show up outside the gate at Magic Kingdom by 8:45am.  Next thing I know we’re told to go to Saratoga Springs at the same time instead.  I told Matt that I thought this was odd, but went along with it.  Turns out that a certain boss of mine was trying to pull a fast one on the other teams to give himself a leg up in the competition (shenanigans!).  The matter was rectified though when the final rules were delivered as they directed us to the real starting point of Beach Club lobby.  They also included one very important rule:

“Anything Len says or does or tells his team to say or do… is considered illegal & could result in deductions and/or expulsion and/or time out for the amount of time and in a corner of the facilitators choice for him and his team.”

So we met in the lobby of the Beach Club.  A “check in” picture was recorded of each team.  Some costumes were more creative that others, all teams had organization themed shirts that unified their teams.  For our team, Matt designed them to be like team jerseys where Matt’s had a “C” for Coach.  We were: Hochmania (Matt), Wichita (Sarah), Boilermaker (John), It’s A Trap (Glenn), and 01110100 – the first letter of my name in binary.  Each of us also had a number, mine was 42 – I was the team geek after all.

After pictures we were bussed from the Beach Club to the Magic Kingdom.  On the bus we got additional rules from both Beci and a Disney castmember – no running, pushing, shoving, trampling, etc.  Some more anti-Len clauses were added to the mix.  And two additional things were added.  First, while the challenge started in the Magic Kingdom and was predominantly to be done there, we had to finish in at the Wonders of Life Pavilion in Epcot.  3 hours, a crazy amount of trivia to be completed, and objects to find for pictures now had to include travel time as well.

However, to spice up the contest, Beci plussed the event.  This was no longer just a charity event, the teams now had some additional incentive to win.  She threw in two free nights at any deluxe resort on Disney property to each member of the winning team.  Honestly though, my teammates and I all looked at each other and agreed just to do our best not to come in last place.

The bus went into the side entrance of the Magic Kingdom between Main Street and Tomorrowland and we got to enter through the castmember entrance by Tomorrowland.  We were given some final instructions including the warning about how difficult crossing the park would be that way due to the taping of the Christmas parade.  Then we were handed our first challenge, a fairly simply word puzzle.   Well except that it was really two word puzzles, one you must complete and the other optional but worth extra points.

My team was still waking up, but we banged our way through the puzzle, I remember about halfway through that I solved the actual puzzle for us, but the rules of the puzzle said all the keywords had to be circled.  And we agreed to complete it that way.  We tried to get the secondary puzzle for a short bit, but then decided to head to where we thought the puzzle was trying to send us: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  And look for the “Facilitator”.

We cut across the parade (not much choice really), past the Crystal Palace, across the secondary bridge to Liberty Square, and along the boardwalk to Frontierland.  We kept trying to figure out the secondary puzzle, but could only discern it had to do with Toontown.  Once at BTMR we walked around the ride looking for someone to whisper the secret phrase to.  We then walked through the queue, skipped past riding the ride and out the exit.

It was then it hit us.  The Facilitator wasn’t a thing, it was the Disney castmember who handed us the packet initially.  Who was back over by Tomorrowland.  <insert big *sigh* here> We’d made our first big mistake and lost about 15 minutes of our precious time.  We quickly backtracked, found the castmember, and whispered the phrase.  He allowed for us to consider the secondary puzzle once more.  We gave ourselves 3 minutes, and then gave up.  Getting our second clue.

Sarah got this right away and we headed to the Mad Tea Party.  On the way we made the promise to take things more literally for the rest of the game, and not make assumptions.  We also re-iterated our “no last place” mantra.  We get there and find Beci who immediately asks us who our 2 best trivia folks are, and the team picks Sarah and I.  Beci tells the two of us to go ride the teacups while the rest of the team has until we get off the ride to solve the trivia pack she’s handed them.

At this point we have no idea which teams are ahead of us, but we do come to find out that Team All Ears is behind us because they show up to the teacups about 5 minutes after us.  The line had already wrapped twice.  And then it breaks down.  Beci holds us for 10 more minutes, and then releases us.  She hands our team our trivia and picture guidebook for the rest of the challenge along with a digital camera.  We really are feeling the hit to our clock, we’re a half hour in and feel that we’re doing terribly.

We look over the guidebook, and do some planning as to how to tackle the challenge.  We fill in a number of answers right off the bat, including a bit of Lost trivia.  And then we determine that a large chunk of points is to be had in Toontown.  We spend a bit of time in there and get all but two of the basic trivia answers, but make that up with getting a bunch of the bonus questions.  We get a few of the pictures, and later realize we missed a few too.

We headed into Tomorrowland, as there were a number of questions to be had in there, and we determine that for the points to spend some time riding the Carousel of Progress.  There’s not a lot of questions to be had in there, but each is worth a lot of points.  We decide that between the answers that we’ll do more of the basic trivia and strategize.  We got through quite a bit, and were starting to feel more sure of ourselves not coming in last.

It was at this point that I started memorizing all the pictures we had to find – its a trick I can do with pictures (not words).  Suddenly locations and a route came before us as we discussed the pictures and all started saying where we thought things were (gah! Snow White! Just remembered one that we missed now!).  We finished off at least a half dozen along the path between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.

We wound our way though Fantasyland trying to avoid and then ditch Team MEI.  More pictures and trivia, and then on to Liberty Square.  At this point, looking at the time we decided to completely skip Frontierland.  There was no way we had the time to get back there.  So we finished up Liberty Square, and headed into Adventureland.  We got a few obscure items that I knew from a prior Mouse Adventure mini-challenge I had done.  And then started heading out along Main Street as we were cognizant of the time.

Along Main Street we must have picked up about another dozen pictures including a few at Casey’s and others like the sign of the Confectionery.  We finished out at the Main Street Railroad Station, as this was another area with a lot of points.  Our final trivia in the park was from the Magic Kingdom sign out in front, the last thing we did before we hit the exit gates.  And on our way to the Monorail we caught a bonus picture of the sign for the old Polynesian boat launch.

On the Monorail we did more trivia, making sure pretty much everything had an answer of some sort.  We also decided that we couldn’t afford to ride all the way to Epcot as it would take too long.  Instead we headed down the ramp to take a taxi, knowing that with a good driver we could be walking into Epcot in less than 10 minutes.  We managed to get an SUV for $18 that fit us all comfortably.  The driver was awesome and he listened to and followed my directions to get us as close to the gate as possible, and allow us to go through the smaller of the two bag checks.

At this point we made our way to the Wonders of Life with minutes to spare.  When Beci showed up we lined up to turn in our packet, and the challenge was over.  Woot!  And then, later on, a funny thing happened.  As Beci was eliminating losing teams, we were immediately exited that we weren’t eliminated first.  We weren’t eliminated second, or third either.  Matt was left standing with Len.  It was a surreal moment, we really didn’t ever consider that we could beat Len.  And then there it was, Team Studios Central had come out on top.*  Matt Hochberg gets bragging rights.  Go Team!

What I loved about our team was that no one took control.  Everyone held the camera, everyone got to ask people to take our picture at some point, everyone held the trivia book, the pen, the extra items we had to return in tact at the end, etc.  We all participated, we got along great, and despite all the running around we were having a ton of fun playing the game.  Or at least I was.  Sure it was tiring, and I was tired, hungry, and thirsty by the end.  And going into withdrawal from not having my iPhone.  But I couldn’t have asked for a better set of teammates, and I’ll get to see them all again during Star Wars Weekends, as we’ve made a pact to take our Deluxe stays then.  Woot!

What about you? Have you ever done any sort of trivia challenge and/or scavenger hunt at WDW before?  Is this something you’re interested in doing?  Do you like trivia?  Photo hunts?  Just running around the parks in a mad dash?  To my team, *boom* *POW*!

* and because I work here at TouringPlans, I didn’t just come in first, I also came in second 😉 No guys you can not sleep on my floor for Star Wars Weekends.

BETAMOUSE #44 – Winnie the Queue

by on December 15, 2010

betamouse logoA new episode of Betamouse is out, co-hosted by developer Henry Work.

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

Off the Beaten Path Holiday Fun

by on December 15, 2010

A few weeks ago I wrote all about the holiday happenings in the parks at Walt Disney World, but today I’d like to discuss some of the beautiful Christmas decor at the resorts.  One of my favorite things to do when I visit WDW at Christmas time is to take some time to visit the resorts.  Many of the deluxe properties have extraordinary decorations which help to put me in a festive mood.  Its also very relaxing to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks and enjoy a few hours of peace while roaming around a few hotels.  The easiest way to do this is to take the monorail to check out the monorail resorts or to take a stroll around the Boardwalk area.  You’ll be glad you did!

Let’s start with the best decorations of the monorail resorts: The Grand Floridian. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more impressive Christmas display than the one Disney constructs every year at this resort.  The life size gingerbread house should be a “must do” for folks looking to get into the Christmas spirit.  It is large enough, in fact, cast members take residence to seen gingerbread treats from inside the house!  It takes its place in the lobby of this regal resort every year after Thanksgiving and is visited by guests throughout the holiday season.  The attention to detail with flowers made of sugar, figures made of chocolate is amazing.  I love this special Disney tradition and I try to make it there every year.

I may be biased since the Boardwalk is my favorite resort, but I really love the Christmas decorations there.  Huge boughs are draped between the lobby’s columns which look like they are being weighed down by tons of vintage ornaments.  There is also always an edible display at this resort for guests to enjoy as well.  For the last few years a gazebo made of gingerbread and chocolate takes center stage to wow guests with edible art.

While you’re in the Epcot resort area why not stroll over to the Beach Club to check out their display made of gingerbread and chocolate?  A carousel made of gingerbread and chocolate actually spins, giving folks a view of each of the elaborately decorated horses.  I’m a sucker for the patriotic horse every single year.  Once again, Disney’s attention to detail is incredible with this edible display.  The aroma of gingerbread hits you as soon as you walk into the room!

Likewise, the Yacht Club has a festive display.  Obviously, nautical themes are used to celebrate the season at this resort which always strikes a cord with me.  I’m a sucker for the sail boats nestled into the trees among ornaments.  Train aficionados will also enjoy the large train set which is displayed in the resort’s lobby throughout the holiday season.  Kids will get a kick out of checking out all of the various village scenes and trains zipping by.

Some of the most beautiful resort decorations can be found at the Wilderness Lodge.  This resort is gorgeous all year round, but there is something magical about it at Christmas time.  Their tree towers at the center of the vast lobby decorated with teepees nestled in among the white lights and evergreen branches. If you need a breather from the park I recommend hopping on the ferry from the Magic Kingdom over to the Wilderness Lodge to nab one of the chairs by the fire and soak in cozy atmosphere.

For some unofficial fun, head over to over to  the Fort Wilderness Campground where guests decorate their campsites with their own lights.  Many families stay at the campground for an extended amount of time through the winter months so they make themselves at home with their own decorations.  They go all out with everything from inflatable lawn decorations to lights surrounding their motor homes.  I’ve always wanted to go to the campground in December, but I’m usually so busy with other stuff to make it.  A Christmas time trip to Fort Wilderness certainly on my Disney geek bucket list.

Take the time to experience some of these decorations as well as those at at the other resorts I haven’t covered.  Fighting the crowds to see the Osborne Lights or the Candlelight Processional can leave guests feeling a bit like a grinch.  But, taking a breather and getting away from all that to relax and see some truly special Disney magic.  They make my two Christmas trees in my one bedroom condo look like child’s play.  I think people can appreciate these fun (and it some cases tasty) decorations no matter what their faith.  Happy Holidays to all of our readers!

Next week I’ll be back to review what has been a great year!

WDW Today Episode 812 – Listener Questions

by on December 14, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 812 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

Candlelight Processional at Epcot

by on December 13, 2010

The holidays at Walt Disney World are unbelievably magical.  The decorations on seemingly every building, stand, terrace or pole really serve to get you into the spirit.  Then there’s the food – the cookies, the cupcakes, the hot chocolate or apple cider – all of it serves to warm the heart and expand the waistline.  But my favorite thing about Walt Disney World at the holidays is the music.  The Main Street Christmas loop always gets me in the mood, as does the singing of the Voices of Liberty or other groups around the World.

The best example of this, however, is also my favorite show in all of Walt Disney World.  The Candlelight Processional at Epcot only comes out for a scant few weeks at the holidays, but it is my absolute favorite show throughout the year at Disney.  The pageantry and spectacle of it are simply breathtaking.  

If you’ve never seen the show, take some time right now and go.  I’ll wait.

Seriously, though, if you have not seen the Candlelight Processional, it’s one of those “must do” experiences that you hear Stacy go on and on about in the resort TV loop.  The basics are that a celebrity narrator joins the Voices of Liberty, an orchestra of musicians and a choir composed of cast members and local school kids to perform a rendition of the Biblical Christmas story.   

Immediately, some people will be turned off by the fact that it’s a religious story.  For those people, all I can say is that you should give it a try.   I have been to the event with people like me who (try to) attend church every Sunday, and I have been with people who do not participate in religious ceremonies.  Both have raved about the Candlelight Processional.  If you can handle A Charlie Brown Christmas, you will enjoy Candlelight.

The show begins with a procession of the various choir members from the American Adventure pavilion across to the America Gardens Theatre.  Then, the Voices of Liberty are introduced and the orchestra begins to play.  Finally, the celebrity narrator is introduced.  And let me tell you, we’re not talking minor celebrities here.  A few weeks ago I saw Corbin Bernsen of Psych and L.A. Law do the ceremony, but there have been major stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris and Isabella Rosselini doing the show in recent years.   

From there, the ceremony alternates between the narrator reading verses or writings about the birth of Jesus and all that happened that fateful evening, and the choir and orchestra performing songs that reflect what the narrator is saying.  My personal favorite is when the musicians strike up “Shout for Joy,” but there are so many favorite moments, all the way through to when they cap the performance with Handel’s “Messiah.” 

It’s a hard show to describe, frankly.  There is a CD that Disney released several years ago featuring the show with Phylicia Rashad of Cosby Show and Dinosaur pre-show fame as the narrator, but it hardly does it justice.  The show is extremely popular as well.  Even though there are three shows nightly, lines are long.  Disney does sell a dinner package that offers a reserved seat, but the prices are quite expensive.  However, if you’re looking for a pleasant evening at Epcot, it’s hard to beat a nice meal at one of the World Showcase restaurants, seeing some of the Epcot Holiday storytellers, then watching the Candlelight Processional and Holiday Illuminations.   

On my last trip, I was fortunate enough to share the show with my children, as well as fellow Touring Plans bloggers Kristin and Caroline, as well as some other wonderful friends.  It is a memory I will always cherish, because it was my daughter’s first time seeing the show, and I got to share the experience with some great friends.   

What about you?  Have you seen the Candlelight Processional?  What did you think of it?  What’s your favorite experience at Disney during the holidays?

WDW Today Episode 811 – Holiday Dining

by on December 12, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 811 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

December Hours Increased To Historical Levels

by on December 12, 2010

Slowly, the official hours and park schedules for December have fallen in-line with historical levels. Initial hours for December, published in June showed a significantly reduced schedule compared to most years. So unlike most years in fact that we didn’t believe them and used our own historical hours for the Crowd Calendar.

Sure enough, Disney has published several updates to the park schedule for December, each time bringing hours up to historical standards. These updates included two this week affecting the days over the Christmas Break (December 24th – January 1st).

Make sure to double-check the crowd calendar for the dates of your visit. An adjustment to park schedules can have an affect on our estimates.

BETAMOUSE #43 – Science of Touring Plans – Part 2

by on December 10, 2010

betamouse logoA new episode of Betamouse is out, co-hosted by developer Henry Work.

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.