Archive for February, 2013

New Florida Law Requires International Driving Permits

by on February 24, 2013

A curious new Florida law came quietly into effect on January 1, 2013, that requires non-Americans to possess an international driver’s permit, reports The Toronto Star.

Although intended to aid law enforcement in their ability to read licenses in foreign languages, the law has received unexpected backlash from Canadians and British tourists who flock to the Sunshine State each spring. The law has resulted in significant commentary from media and international travel agencies like the Canadian Automobile Assocciation (CAA), which states that Florida regulators are working to alter the law so that English foreign licenses may be accepted without the international permit.

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Limited Time Magic Walt Disney World and Disneyland – Dapper Dans: The Original Boy Band

by on February 22, 2013


This week, from February 25 to March 3, guests will be able to hear the Dapper Dans perform boy band hits from past and present groups, focusing on the fact that they are the “original boy band.”

The group will perform hits like “Everybody” from the Backstreet Boys, “What Makes You Beautiful” from One Direction, and “Bye, Bye, Bye” from ‘N Sync, in addition to some of the classic barbershop quartet numbers they already perform.

This is scheduled to take place on Main Street, U.S.A., in both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park.

For exact showtimes, make sure to pick up a Times Guide.

10 Ways to Save Money on Food at the Disneyland Resort

by on February 22, 2013

It’s time for saving money tips again! Woo hoo! Who doesn’t like to save money? Everyone knows that food at Disney is expensive. Sometimes it’s crazy expensive. So unless you’ve got money to burn, I’ll assume saving money at Disneyland is a good thing. Here are some tips I’ve found, please share yours below!

1. Eat Breakfast in Your Room – Unless you’ve got a character meal or some other exciting option for breakfast, eat in your room! Most hotels have refrigerators in their rooms, so milk and juice will keep. We like to bring a new box of cereal, and disposable bowls and silverware. Then we buy milk on property, or nearby, and have cereal in the room. It saves us a small fortune and gets us going quicker than having to stop somewhere. Sometimes we even splurge on a box of donuts to keep in the room. We like to walk on the wild side like that.

2. Share – Of course you should always share; didn’t you learn that in Kindergarten? But that’s not what I meant! At Disney, many portions are big enough for two. So, if you’re not starving, try sharing a meal! If you’re still hungry when you’re done, get a snack (isn’t getting a snack mandatory at Disney?!?), or just order some more food! It’s worth a shot, right?

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Join Us For A Princess Half Marathon Meet

by on February 21, 2013

Join us on Sunday, February 24, 2013, for some post-race fun. We are meeting at noon at the seating area near the water in the France Pavilion in Epcot. We are going to be hanging out and congratulating all of the runners who stop by. If you are running the half marathon and show us your medal, we will give you a nifty congratulatory TouringPlans water bottle.

Register on Plancast and follow us on Twitter to keep up with us that day. Hope to see you there!

New Meet and Greet Location for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on February 20, 2013

Late last summer, the Beastly Bazaar shop over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom closed with word that it would become a new character meet and greet location. That location will finally open up this spring. Called the Adventurers Outpost, this new indoor spot in Discovery Island, will be where guests meet friends such as Mickey and Minnie. As of right now, no opening date has been announced.

Guests will still be able to meet some characters in Camp Minnie-Mickey, and Festival of the Lion King is expected to continue performances in that land, too. (Keep in mind that this area is rumored to be the location of the upcoming Avatarland and could close at an unknown date in the future.)

My Walt Disney World Secret Happy Place: The Affection Section

by on February 20, 2013

I’m here to give a little love to one of the least frequented parts of all of Walt Disney World: Affection Section at Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Affection Section is my personal oasis of calm in what can sometimes be the chaos of a Disney vacation.

Inter-species bonding at Affection Section

Rafiki’s Planet Watch is accessed only via train from a station located near the exit to the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride. The train ride, itself, is a pleasant five minute journey into the far reaches of the Animal Kingdom. On the way, you pass many of the animal keeping buildings where the four-legged residents of the park spend their evenings. You can often get a glimpse of a rhino or elephant taking a break from being “on stage.”

After the train ride, you disembark at a walking path which takes you past several small primate exhibits. Oooh and ahhh at the tamarins for a while, then continue walking to the main Conservation Station building. Inside you’ll find character greetings, instructional displays, and sometimes animal medical care taking place. Much of this is fascinating, but I find myself being drawn out the back door to where the really good stuff is: Affection Section.

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Dining Review: Les Chefs de France

by on February 19, 2013

Back when I was a teenager and went to Disney World once a year, I would always walk by the France pavilion and imagine that I could someday eat French food in a faux French bistro in the middle of a theme park. I never had the extra money as a teen to dine at any sit-down restaurant at Disney World, so now that I am a money making grown-up, I get to try all of the restaurants that I want. I took a few semesters of French in high school, so recently I figured I would brush up on my skills at Epcot’s Les Chefs de France.

My husband, Matt, and I were enjoying a lovely day at Epcot and got hungry for an early lunch. We did not have any reservations and had fully intended on getting counter-service for lunch. However, we walked by Chefs de France and glanced at the menu. We both agreed that it was fairly reasonably priced. We inquired inside very soon after it opened about getting a reservation. The very nice staff told us to come back in a half hour, and they would be happy to seat us without a reservation.

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Ten Things I Love about Universal Orlando Resort

by on February 18, 2013

It’s probably the worst kept secret on the Internet that TouringPlans has been in the process of launching Universal Orlando content this year. Actually, the worst kept secret is about Tom Bricker and Brian McNichols and that time on “it’s a small world”…but I digress.

Universal Studios Florida (the park) and Islands of Adventure have become more than an afterthought to Central Florida vacations. They are destination parks with a lot to offer. The following are some things I really like about Universal:

  1. Centralized bag check. Once you go through security at the entrance to CityWalk, that’s it. You’re then free to move from park to park without going through another bag check line.
  2. Parking garages. No more getting into your sun-baked car at the end of your park day.
  3. Generous Annual Pass discounts. Universal Annual Passholders get discounts on dining, merchandise, and the onsite hotels all the time.
  4. Thrill rides. Disney may still be the master of telling a story with an attraction, but you don’t care when you’re screaming for your life on Hulk or Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.
  5. No Princesses. No Pirates. That’s right – I said it. I’m over Aurora, Rapunzel, and Jack Sparrow. Bring on Harry Potter and Marvel (for now).
  6. Lower crowds. In general, a slow day at Universal is less crowded than a slow day at Walt Disney World.
  7. Team Members. I’ve have universally (see what I did there?) great experiences with the folks who work at Universal Resort. They are as friendly and helpful as the best Cast Members at that other resort.
  8. Halloween Horror Nights. A Halloween event that isn’t afraid to be scary. If only Disney could give us something a little more adult-oriented (Donald’s Kinda Sorta Scary Halloween Party at the Studios maybe?).
  9. Easy access to two parks with no transportation issues. Disneyland folks know what I’m talking about here. You want to go back and forth between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure? Go for it; it’s just a short walk.
  10. Universal Express (yes, this will also show up on my “Things I Don’t Like” list). No return times to worry about – just show your pass and get in the shorter line.

That’s what I have for now. Have you visited Universal Orlando and think I’m way off base? Tell me in the comments. Are you considering a trip there and your curiosity is piqued? Check out the great new Universal content on the site and ask questions in the comment section. Stay tuned for the inevitable follow-up list of “Things I Don’t Like at Universal” in a future article.

Disneyland Resort Now Enforcing FASTPASS Return Windows

by on February 18, 2013

Until this past weekend, one of our top insider tips for Disneyland Resort visitors was that the return time windows printed on FASTPASS tickets were rarely if ever enforced. Even though FASTPASS tickets clearly display a one-hour window during which the ticket is valid for expedited admission into an attraction, the end of the time period could previously be safely ignored. This was a great boon to savvy guests, who could get FASTPASS tickets for popular rides in the early hours of the day and stockpile them for use at any time before park closing.

Walt Disney World used to have a similar unwritten policy, until it began enforcing FASTPASS return times last year in preparation for the new MyMagic+ program. Now, Disneyland Resort has joined its Florida counterpart in requiring guests adhere to the designated return times.

As of this morning, Cast Members at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure attractions offering FASTPASS will refuse entry to guests arriving after their printed pass time has expired. Cast Members have been warning guests of the policy change for the past couple weeks, and signs reminding guests to observe their return times have been posted at all FASTPASS dispensing kiosks.

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New Book: 3,500 – An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance With Snow White

by on February 17, 2013

An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White Unofficial Guide readers will recall the review of Snow White’s Scary Adventures, where we mentioned Ben, an autistic boy whose love of the attraction led him to ride thousands of times. Equally amazing were Ben’s parents, who not only had unlimited patience and love for Ben, but unlimited tolerance for Snow White. Ben’s dad, Ron Miles, said that they coped by re-imagining Disney’s rides with different effects. Their idea for a Stitch-based Tiki room is still the best I’ve heard for that attraction.

Ben’s story is now out in book form. 3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White, written by Ron, tells the story of raising a child with autism, finding Walt Disney World, and the amazing Cast Members who helped make Ben’s childhood a little bit better. It’s funny. It’s emotional. It reminds you that there are patient, good people all around the world (especially The World). Mostly, it reminded me of how lucky I am as a parent. Worth the price of the book alone is the story of Ben getting to be the last person ever to ride Snow White’s Scary Adventures, before it closed for the Fantasyland expansion. Get it today.