Archive for January, 2011

Predicting Crowds During Spring Break 2011

by on January 31, 2011

April crowds at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort have always been a bit of an enigma. Holidays like July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas are super crowded but at least they are easy to predict because they stay in the same place on the calendar every year. Easter is a holiday based on the lunar cycle, the solar cycle, the division of the year into 365 days and a 1,700 year old ruling by Emporer Constantine I. Just confusing enough to keep us on our toes.

This year, with Easter falling at the end of April (which hasn’t happened since 2006), it means very little overlap between School Breaks and the Easter break. The majority of Spring Break vacations will be taking place between March 12th and March 27th. There are always a minority of school districts that schedule a Spring Break outside the others but this year that minority appears to be a little larger than normal. As many as 10% of school districts will have their Spring Break between March 27th and April 10th including some school districts in Florida and Georgia. Our estimates for the crowd levels during this time have increased to account for those vacationers.

There is no doubt that crowds in March and April are among the most unpredictable of the year. We strongly encourage you to use a Touring Plan during your Spring Break visit. Touring Plans are your best insurance against large crowds.

WDW Today Episode 832 – The other holdiays

by on January 31, 2011

wdwtoday logoEpisode 829 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:

Happy Family Touring

by on January 31, 2011

Every family has ways that they like to attack a visit to Walt Disney World.  If you’ve been in the summer, you’ve seen some of them standing in the middle of the walkways, park map unfolded, occasionally looking up and pointing.  If you are visiting this site, that is not the type of family you want to be.  No, you want to be the type of family that has a destination in mind and always knows what to do next.

 There are specific touring plans on the site for that sort of family, called the “Happy Family” touring plans.  If you’ve ever tried one, you know that the description is quite appropriate.  The idea behind these plans is to allow for each member of the family to enjoy something at any given time, so that every member from young to old, is getting full enjoyment out of the parks.

 It was these plans that sparked my family’s touring strategy for our frequent short trips to the World.  As I’ve mentioned before, since we live so close, a long weekend at Disney is not a bad trip, so we take frequent short visits down.  One or two days in the parks is not a lot, though, so the key to enjoying that sort of trip is prioritizing.

 On our recent trip over MLK weekend, we did just that.  Before leaving, each member of my family picked five attractions, shows, food or experiences we wanted to do while we were down.  Our choices were: 

My son – Expedition Everest, Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, American Adventure and Maelstrom

My daughter – Mad Tea Party, Seas with Nemo and Friends, Journey Into Imagination, Country Bear Jamboree and Muppet Vision 3D

My wife – Buzz Lightyear, Rosa Regale from Italy, Tower of Terror, pastry from France and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Myself – the new Pixar Pals parade, school bread from Norway, Impressions de France, Soarin and Carousel of Progress

 A complex list, right?  Not the way we attack things.  If you look at the list, most of what we wanted to do was in Epcot, so we would need a lot of time there.  If we wanted to do Everest and the Safaris, we needed to get there first thing in the morning, so we could get in and get out.  None of the things we wanted to do at Magic Kingdom were that urgent.  The Pixar Pals parade was only on the second day, so we could hit the Studios for a few moments in the afternoon.

So, we laid out our plans as follows: 

Day 1 – Animal Kingdom first thing – do Everest and the Safaris.  Head over to Magic Kingdom – get Big Thunder Fastpasses, ride the Mad Tea              Party, Peoplemover, Country Bears – go back and ride Big Thunder – get Buzz Fastpasses, ride Carousel of Progress then Buzz and we’re done.

Day 2 – Rope drop at Epcot – ride Soarin, Mission Space, Nemo, Imagination before  lunch.  Grab lunch and school bread.  Take the boat to the Studios.   At the Studios, ride Tower and Muppets then see the parade, and back to Epcot to finish the World Showcase things we wanted to do.

Did it work?  Mostly, yes.  Of all those things, the only one we did not get to do was Tower of Terror, because a large Brazilian tour group hit the ride almost the minute we got there.  If we had timed things a little differently, we would have made it all. 

So, my recommendation to you if you’re a family with children like mine is to find out the absolute essential things you and your kids want to do, and make sure you get those things done.  If you’ve never been before, read the Unofficial Guide or the attraction descriptions on this site to get an idea of what the attractions are like.  Doing things this way has helped my family to get a lot of things done with minimal complaining. 

What about you?  What strategies do you have for making sure your family hits the right number of attractions and keeps everyone happy?

Are you bringing a group to Disney?

by on January 30, 2011

Are you planning an event at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort for 8 or more people? Are you hosting a wedding or corporate gathering for visitors who need help using their limited time in time in the parks or who need to know which parks to visit on which free days they have?

If so, contact We can help with volume sales of our premium subscriptions, which give you access to our trip planning tools – the Crowd Calendar, premium touring plans, and Lines, our mobile app.

For more information on the benefits of being a subscriber to, click here.

WDW News Recap: EPCOT Center rebirth?

by on January 29, 2011

This is a guest post by Aaron Johnston of Disney Report – The latest Disney news from the World, Land, and Studios. Each week, we recap our best WDW headlines here in a tidy package for you to enjoy. Follow D-Report on Twitter.

Our news recap this week begins at Epcot where minor changes may indicate future plans…

Spaceship Earth paint changes suggest maligned Leave a Legacy structures may be on track for removal…

Not up on Epcot’s Leave a Legacy? Check out Re-imagineering’s history lesson…

2011 Flower and Garden festival ‘Flower Power’ concert lineup announced…

Italy’s Via Napoli adds ‘build-your-own-pizza’ option to menu…

A quick jaunt over to the Animal Kingdom finds yet another Wild Animal Trek review…

Miceage’s Kevin Yee says Wild Africa Trek ‘almost’ worth the $129 price tag. Maybe not after May price bump…

…word is a lion overlook is currently under construction and would add additional value to the tour.

Meanwhile at Magic Kingdom, news of the revamped Fantasyland expansion continues to be disseminated, examined…

Progress City likes revamped Fantasyland expansion. Concerned about appeal of circusland…

Imagineer Eric Jacobson reveals Seven Dwarfs Mine Train thrill to be ‘somewhere between barnstormer, Big Thunder Mountain’….

Disney and More discovers new details after a closer examination of Fantasyland expansion artwork…

California Adventure Blue Sky Cellar update offers new look at upcoming Little Mermaid attraction at both resorts…

Beyond Fantasyland,  minor construction and other changes continue at a brisk pace throughout the park…

New Adventureland bridge in the works, more Splash Mtn lap-bar pics, Dumbo construction walls in place…

The Disney Blog traverses the Magic Kingdom and suggests major changes coming to Peter Pan queue…

Anticipation mounts for Spring opening of revamped Star Tours at Hollywood Studios. Frankly, I am surprised we haven’t heard more with a May opening date bearing down…

Screamscape posts unconfirmed Star Tours 2 details…

On-going speculation on the future of Downtown Disney’s jumbled West Side continues…

Jim Hill wonders if WDW is targeting Cirque’s La Nouba for replacement post-the Hyperion Wharf makeover…

On the topic of resort transportation, becoming an imagineer, and behind-the-scenes design…

MousePlanet outlines the continuing Magic Express debate. So many gripes over a ‘free’ service…

DisneyatWork explains how to become Disney by out-doing Disney…

Imagineering Disney goes Behind-the-scenes of attraction audio design…

Finally, more reviews continue to pour in from Disney Cruise Line’s Dream

Disney Food Blog reviews Disney Dream’s super-upscale Remy…

Foto Fridays: Spring Face-off

by on January 28, 2011

Welcome to Foto Face-off, a visual treat of images from members of the TouringPlans Flickr Group. The theme for this Face-off is “Think Spring.” To view more of each entrant’s photography, click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream.

Who are all of these strange people?
When I think of spring at Walt Disney World, two of my favorite activities come to mind: Golf and Star Wars Weekends. Since I don’t have any photos of the wonderful Disney golf courses, here’s a shot of a few of the visitors to SWW 2010.

Wesley Cullen’s Mom:
Fantasia Brooms
This photograph reminds me of Spring for the simple fact it’s been one of the coldest/snowiest winters on record here in NC. I’m so ready for a broom to pour out brightly colored flowers and fresh kelly green grass all over my yard. I’m ready for Spring and nothing says spring like Disney’s displays for the season.

Isabelle Boivin:
I thought that I had nothing for this subject… but found it this morning. Spring in Disneyland in 2009. It was my first trip there. Beautiful trees, warmed my heart ! And I wanna say that it is -30C today in Quebec…. freeeeeeezzzzzzzzziiiiiinnnnnnnnggggggg.

Centerline 717:
Canada - EPCOT
The gardens at Canada in EPCOT always remind me of spring. They are especially beautiful during the flower and garden festival, one of our favorite times to visit.

Sorcerer's Welcome
When I think of Spring and Disney one thing comes to mind The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. I love this event purely for the topiaries that come to life around the park. Sure, you can find other topiaries around WDW year round, but at Flower & Garden you will surely get your fill. The time and effort required develop and maintain these is mind blowing. It’s much more than just adding water.


Finally, my entry and commentary:
The Dawn of a New Disney Era
I have never been to the parks in the spring, so I don’t have any pretty photos of butterflies or Flower and Garden Festival, but everyday in Walt Disney World or Disneyland is like Spring to me. For some reason, maybe it’s because I know that’s where Flower and Garden is held, but I also love the vibrant colors, beautiful flowers, sun reflecting off Spaceship Earth and Universe of Energy, and the upbeat background music playing all around, EPCOT really gets me in that positive Spring mood.

Now, if only the real Spring would arrive.  I think I speak for everyone in the Midwest, East, and even South, when I say, “we’re ready for you, Spring!”


The next challenge features FANTASYLAND! Post a shot of your favorite aspect of Fantasyland from either Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Enter your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Fantasyland!” You could have your comments and photo chosen to be featured in the next Face-off blog, so get to Postin’!

A Dining Story – Part 2

by on January 28, 2011

A Dining Story – Part 1

I sit at my computer to check the park hours of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While I’m notating particulars about Extra Magic Hours for Disney resort guests, a pop-up box notifies me that I have received an e-mail from someone named Chef Patrick.

I open the letter to read a thoughtful note from the chef of The Hollywood Brown Derby.  He explains that he was contacted by Brenda, the head of Disney’s Special Dietary Requests Department, about our family’s circumstances and is very interested in enabling us to visit the park.  He then requests an e-mail back specifying the items that my children cannot eat.

I am quick to put my current task aside.  After all, if our dietary dilemma does not get resolved, Extra Magic Hours will be meaningless anyway.  I feel much like Milo when he cohesively organized all his research in hopes of securing passage to the lost city of Atlantis, and I carefully begin construction on my dietary epistle to Chef Patrick.  Since the list of foods my children can eat is more brief and specific than the list of foods they cannot eat, I start my small e-book with this itemized list.  After that I give an abridged explanation of my children’s medical diet, the science behind it, and our current position in its progression.  This is all followed by explicit warnings of the potential physical, behavioral, and neurological consequences for my children if their food is not prepared within the set guidelines.

As I proofread my e-mail, which is probably worthy of publication in a medical journal, I wonder what Chef Patrick’s response will be.  The diet actually is a return to whole foods in a very restricted and pure form.  However, I am acutely aware that to most contemporary persons, the kids’ diet seems like a maniacal menu designed by The Swedish Chef and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.

I expel a heavy sigh and acknowledge that the note cannot be helped.  If I am going to trust this man with the health of my children, I need to be sure that he understands the magnitude of our situation.  So with some reservation, I hit the “send” button, and my short novel takes off through cyberspace to an inbox somewhere in Orlando.

Several minutes have passed, and I’m back to searching the Disney website for details on height restrictions of attractions and recommended activities for toddlers.  Another pop-up box informs me that Chef Patrick has responded.  Already?  I know that Disney tries to be timely in responding to guests, but this is very impressive.  I open the new message and read, “May I call you right now?”

“Oh my!  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” I wonder.  I oblige by sending Chef Patrick more specific contact information and wait for the phone to ring.

Over the last two years, our family has received a wide variety of reactions to our diet.  But the most common reaction is one of disbelief.  In spite of the evidence that my children’s recovery provides, most people seem unable to grasp that our extreme dietary measures have been completely necessary (as if I was putting us all through these severe restrictions just for fun).  When Joel (my husband) and I first encountered these responses, they were shocking.  Then they grew to be infuriating.  At this point, they are expected, but they have never become less painful.  So – more often than I care to recall – my experience when conversing about my family’s diet has been negative.  I brace myself for what I may confront in my next phone call.

The phone rings, so I pick up.  I’m greeted by a kind voice, “Hi. This is Chef Patrick from The Hollywood Brown Derby.”  I return the greeting.  Chef Patrick explains, “I’m sorry to bother you.  I received your e-mail and have looked it over.  With all my experience in dealing with dietary issues, I’ve never seen the likes of this.  I’m calling because I want to make sure that I fully understand it.  Is it alright if I ask you some questions?”  I take a big breath and agree to answer his questions even though most of these types of conversations turn into something resembling an interrogation.

We start off discussing the kids’ medical condition and its affect on their digestive system.  I explain that most likely the reason he is unfamiliar with their prescribed diet is because most individuals on it are unable to visit restaurants.  This is why we haven’t been in a restaurant as a family in two years.  Chef Patrick exclaims, “Two years!”  But rather than with disbelief, Chef Patrick treats my research and experience with a sense of respect and admiration.  He continues to ask very specific questions about ingredients and cooking processes.  His manner is one of genuine interest, and he asks me to occasionally pause so that he can catch up on his notes.  I find myself feeling slightly at ease with Chef Patrick.  He is very likeable, and even though I am neurotic, he seems to take me seriously.

After all the questions have been answered, I express my fear that the meals could accidentally be cross-contaminated due to the nature of a restaurant’s operation.  Chef Patrick very calmly addresses me, “I want to lay all your fears to rest.  Should you decide to come to my restaurant, your meals will be treated with the utmost care.  My restaurant is the only five-star restaurant within a Disney theme park.  For this reason, we have two kitchens – one that is rarely ever used.  If I’m on duty that day, not only will your meals be pulled off the main line and prepared in an entirely separate kitchen but I will also prepare them myself.  I want your family to eat in my restaurant.  You have been through so much.  Please allow me to serve you this way.  I truly want to feed your family.”

I nearly choke as my eyes tear up, and I struggle to catch my breath.  His words ring in my ears. IWANT to feed your family?  Of all the times I’ve witnessed reactions to our story, I’ve never encountered this.  I’ve seen arrogant condescension.  I’ve seen irritated tolerance.  At best, I’ve seen sympathetic compassion.  This is the first time though I’ve seen aggressive inclusion, and I am moved in a powerful way.

It is in this moment that I know I can place the safety of my family’s health in the hands of this incredible man.  He has succeeded where so many have failed by being humble and realizing there are some things that he can still learn in life (even from a Neurotic Disney Mom).  Because he has made himself teachable, he has also made himself trustworthy.  My defenses are coming down, and I smile as I imagine my family enjoying the luxury of a restaurant together for the first time since Elle’s birth.

Chef Patrick and I end our discussion with my promise to make a reservation and his promise to remain in touch.  He says that he plans to periodically check on our progress before we arrive, and once again I’m awestruck by his desire to be so “hands-on” with us.

I feel most of my apprehension melt away.  In its stead, the familiar feeling of Disney excitement grows.  Somehow this saintly man, disguised as a chef, has broken the curse of Disneyphobia that has tortured me for too long.  Upon recognizing this, I whisper a prayer of thanks for his entrance in my life.  He is the Genie in a lamp that I’ve been waiting to find, making my Disney wishes come true.

*Contact information for Walt Disney World special dietary requests:

(407) 824-5967;;

WDW Today Episode 831 – Stranded At The World

by on January 28, 2011

wdwtoday logoEpisode 831 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:

Walt Disney World February 2011

by on January 27, 2011

Whatever the month, holidays and special events affect crowds and touring at Walt Disney World. As part of commitment to provide the best possible touring information, here’s what’s coming up in February:

February 6, 2011: Super Bowl Sunday

On February 6, 2011, at 6:30pm ET, the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers in the epic battle that will be Super Bowl XLV. Crowds in the parks will not be greatly affected, but, for those who want to watch the game, check out Ryan Kilpatrick’s post on where to watch within WDW. Since the few places on property get very crowded, very quickly, it might be better to look off site. A top choice for many sports fans is Orlando Ale House on Winter Garden Vineland Rd. Alternatively, there is Frogger’s Grill & Bar or Friday’s Front Row, both in Orlando. Remember, this is one of the biggest sports days of the year and it is important to show up early wherever you choose to enjoy the game.

Usually, after the game, players on the winning team are asked what they are going to do next. Of course the correct response is “I’m going to Disney World!” In the past, key members were featured in a parade down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom the week following their big win. In 2010, the victory parade was on the Monday after the Super Bowl, and will in all likelihood be on the same day this year.

February 14: Valentine’s Day

As with Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day will not have a huge impact on crowd levels, but those wishing to celebrate will need to plan ahead. For a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World suggests several wonderful restaurants that set the perfect mood. In the parks, some suggestions are Bistro de Paris, Tutto Italia Ristorante, both in Epcot, or The Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios. Outside of the parks, there are even more options. Downtown Disney has Fulton’s Crab House, Paradiso 37, and Portabello; Disney’s Boardwalk has Flying Fish and Kouzzina. In the resorts there are Citricos, Narcoossee’s, and Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridan, Jiko-The Cooking Place at Animal Kindom Lodge’s Jambo House, Shula’s Steak House at the Dolphin, and Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge. At the time of this writing, all of the restaurants listed, with the exception of Victoria and Albert’s, still have Advanced Dining Reservations available for a dinner for two.

February 19-21: President’s Day Weekend

President’s Day weekend is one of the busiest times of the year at Disney World. The entire weekend, as well as the following week, the Crowd Calendar is predicting 9’s and 10’s. With crowds like that it is best to be prepared. Use the Crowd Calendar to help pick your parks, plan to be at the turnstiles at least 45 minutes before Rope Drop, and take advantage of the Holiday Touring Plans.

In celebration of the holiday, will hold a meet at 4pm the following Friday, February 25th, hosted by blogger Kristen Helmstetter. Kristen has a special love for the Hall of Presidents (she even wrote her senior thesis on it) and is excited to share one of her favorite attractions. Come and enjoy it with her!

February 25-27: Princess Half Marathon Weekend

The last weekend in February brings the Princess Half Marathon. There are several races during the weekend in addition to the half marathon, including kids races and a family 5K. The courses will be set up through and around the parks, including in the streets, which will, in addition to crowds, affect traffic. There will be more information on this event in an upcoming blog post.

Are you visiting Walt Disney World in February? What are you looking forward to?

Image credits: Darren Wittko, Heartlover1717, Len Testa, and mguertin.

BETAMOUSE #50 – Shootin’ Fireworks

by on January 27, 2011

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

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.