Ask Me Anything – August 8, 2018

So this morning I Slacked our intrepid editor and said:

The Ask is all out of questions
All out of questions!

And, Julia, bless her, didn’t reply “you could have mentioned this sooner than 5 hours before publish?” But Julia is awesome, and used to working with Derek so she took it in stride. Then inspiration hit – I’ll turn the mirror outward. So, your turn, ask me anything.

I split my time between Manhattan and Celebration, Florida. I like to work out a lot. I’ve been managing operations at TouringPlans since 2011 (that means I pay the bills). And you may have heard my name or voice on the Disney Dish Podcast. My Instagram is a window to my soul.

Oh and last week’s pollCinderella’s Royal Table was the most popular Princess meal, followed by Akershus. I had breakfast at Akershus last week, so feel free to ask about that.

Ask away.

Laurel Stewart

Laurel has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1971 when she was negative-15 years old and running the Disney races since 2007. Her favorite attraction is Big Thunder Mountain.

33 thoughts on “Ask Me Anything – August 8, 2018

  • August 8, 2018 at 11:24 am
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    What are the top three things that come to mind that you have said no to for touring plans.com

    • August 8, 2018 at 12:37 pm
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      Mostly I say no to travel. Behind payroll, travel costs are our biggest expense and everyone wants to do it. Because Len and I live half the year in Florida now, we just don’t need to fly people in for “research trips” like we used to. On that note, we’ll often get requests for more coverage for Disneyland Paris or the Asian parks. We did add Tokyo Disneyland to the site, but there’s no way we’d make our money back on the other destinations.

  • August 8, 2018 at 11:25 am
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    Do you watch more movies than Len does? Have you seen Frozen or read Potter?

    • August 8, 2018 at 12:39 pm
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      Neither of us are big movie people. I like to read (mostly on Audible, so maybe that’s “read”). I have seen Frozen – it was on a DCL cruise. I like to leave Disney movies until my cruises. I have read Potter too. He got kind of insufferable as he aged, but my parents would probably say the same of me. Right now, Diagon Alley is in my opinion the best themed land in a domestic park.

  • August 8, 2018 at 11:26 am
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    I just looked at your instagram: do I need a vitamix??

    • August 8, 2018 at 12:41 pm
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      Yes! But here’s a secret – buy a factory refurbished model either straight from Vitamix or from Amazon. You’ll save a quick $100 or so. Even though I mostly post smoothies, my favorite thing to make in the mixer is soups. They come out hot and ready to eat with almost no clean up.

  • August 8, 2018 at 11:27 am
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    How would you explain the love of parks to Manhattan types that may think they are trite?

    • August 8, 2018 at 12:43 pm
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      The city parks show how much NYC is willing to spend for the public good. If that’s trite, call me trite, but I enjoy feeling like I’m part of something bigger. Riverside is my favorite because I love to run along the Hudson.

  • August 8, 2018 at 1:12 pm
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    What’s the rationale behind this and other Disney park fan sites copy/pasting posts from the Disney Parks Blog without attribution (instead of just linking to the original article)? Is it just about driving traffic and clicks?

    • August 8, 2018 at 1:22 pm
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      We try to add commentary to the news posts that come from Disney, and not everyone follows the Parks Blog. Plus, it allows us to attach the news to relevant pages on our site.

  • August 8, 2018 at 1:15 pm
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    How has the proliferation of “official” wait times in Disney’s own apps affected you guys? Have you seen less usage of the Lines apps? Are you able to extract the wait times from Disney’s apps for more comprehensive data analysis than relying on the in-park reporting? Any other changes that might not occur to a layman?

    • August 8, 2018 at 1:27 pm
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      It hasn’t. Disney’s posted wait times are less accurate than our own as Disney will game the times to send guests to other attractions by posting higher than actual times. That’s why we give both a “posted” and “actual” in our app. We rely on in-park user waits and Disney’s own data as we crunch the numbers throughout the day. We have also seen an increase in wait times due to attraction breakdowns over the last 18 months which is now built into the predictions. Our biggest surprise of the year is how little Toy Story Land increased waits and attendance. That probably surprised Disney too.

  • August 8, 2018 at 1:24 pm
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    Who is Bob Sehlinger? He’s listed as a co-author on several of the unofficial guides that you publish, but I’ve never seen him mentioned here on the website or blog. Is he still involved in writing the books? Are those courtesy credits since the books still contain stuff he wrote years ago?

    • August 8, 2018 at 1:32 pm
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      You have a lot of questions! Bob is the owner of AdventureKEEN, the publisher of the Unofficial Guides and other books. He is not involved with TouringPlans, which is a completely separate company. TouringPlans/Len are contributors to the books, but our business is running this site. That takes the bulk of our time. Bob still writes in the titles that have his name on them, but all the UG titles are collaborative efforts.

  • August 8, 2018 at 2:01 pm
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    Do you miss the Space Mountain kitchen?

    • August 8, 2018 at 2:41 pm
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      Not really. I’m now a happy renter, and that means no custom work. Also, the banquettes were terribly difficult to keep clean with the light upholstery. If I do another Disney-inspired interior, it will be the living room scene with the moon landing broadcast from Spaceship Earth.

  • August 8, 2018 at 2:29 pm
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    Is your Berkin bag new or pre-loved?

    • August 8, 2018 at 2:44 pm
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      I have one I bought in the boutique (my Graphite 35) and one pre-loved from the Real Real (white 30). Sometimes you have to hit the secondary market for colors you’re looking for and white is really hard to find. My dream color is the discontinued Vert Anis.

  • August 8, 2018 at 4:21 pm
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    How long have you been vegan?
    I know there’s plenty of vegan junk food at Disney World, but what are your best tips for eating real food and vegan without spending a week’s worth of grocery money on one day of eating at the World?

    • August 8, 2018 at 6:26 pm
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      I have tried to maintain a plant-based diet for….. 5 years? Was vegetarian before then. Truthfully, sometimes the job interferes with keeping that up, like when we have to review restaurants that aren’t plant-friendly, but I figure a part-time vegan has a better footprint than a full-time omnivore. Anyway, because I live in FL, I’m not hostage to having every meal on property. The good news is every park has at least one vegan quick service option. Last week, I had a “vegan bahn mi” at Tomorrowland Terrace, that was tasty (though no crusty bread will stay that way in the Florida humidity, so I just ate the inside). There’s a new vegan burger at ABC Commissary that’s on my “to try” list too. Pretty much, eating vegan in the World costs as much as eating anything there – a lot. I try to only eat one meal a day in a park, just for the calories alone – the cost savings is a bonus. Packing snacks is a good idea either way, like a bag of almonds or even some peanut butter crackers.

  • August 8, 2018 at 4:37 pm
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    Does an upper limit to exist to what Disney can charge before attendance drops in a significant way? It feels like they could double prices and people would still pay it.

    • August 8, 2018 at 6:34 pm
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      I think they’re starting to approach the limit. We talk about this all the time at TouringPlans. If you’re Disney, your best case scenario is fewer people spending as much money as the more guests do now. Significant numbers? That probably depends more on the economy than on Disney pricing unless they REALLY bump things up. But Cruise Line and DVC, two very expensive Disney vacations are still going big guns so the well isn’t drying up soon.

      The most likely scenario is more upcharge experiences. Disney is fairly democratic now. It’s like Andy Warhol said about Coca Cola:

      “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

      Right now, Disney is mostly like that Coke. I think that’s going to change and quickly.

  • August 8, 2018 at 7:27 pm
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    How do you /Touring Plans imagine that the new Magic Your Way variant pricing is going to effect crowds? WDW seems to be hard at work still trying to fill the fall dates this year, I can still find Free Dining Offers for certain dates, so do you think that new discounts will roll out with variant pricing this year or next?

    • August 9, 2018 at 6:58 am
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      Everything around changes to MYW is a big unknown right now. I’m not even sure how Disney will able to sell it without a user manual. That said, there are discounts to be found now, more than usual. In general, though, Disney has been aggressive about matching staffing levels and park hours to attendance, so no one change to the price will swing things much.

  • August 9, 2018 at 9:27 am
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    Do you think Disneyland will get Magicbands anytime soon? Also, if you were to recommend one thing to splurge on at WDW, what would it be?

    • August 9, 2018 at 9:56 am
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      Disneyland is so slow to bring on new things because the locals LOSE THEIR MINDS whenever there is change. So….no? And MaxPass doesn’t use the same RF technology the bands do, so I’ll stick with “no time soon.”

      Just one thing? A day at the water parks with a cabana. The cabanas are nicer at Typhoon Lagoon, btw, for the same price. If that’s not in the cards because of weather or whatever, I would have one really nice signature meal and then stick to quick service for the rest of the trip. And, finally, if you’re not a DVC member I would splurge once on renting points for a one-bedroom villa – the space is so worth it. Sorry that was three things. 🙂

  • August 9, 2018 at 10:26 am
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    Are you and Len cat or dog people, and do you currently have any?

    • August 9, 2018 at 12:52 pm
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      Sadly, both our cat and dog died last year within months of each other after thankfully short illnesses. We miss them every day. Luckily we live in a dog-heavy neighborhood and get to see so many being walked when we go out. It’s a treat.

  • August 9, 2018 at 3:09 pm
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    On a recent trip, there were a few occasions where I thought of taking a Minnie Van, then decided that I rather keep my $25 and spend a little extra time bussing it. Is there a use-case for the vans where spending the money would be completely worth it?

    • August 9, 2018 at 4:43 pm
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      Well, I’d just call a Lyft or cab, which is cheaper. I don’t need a Disney-themed ride. But resort to resort by bus is slow and tedious.

      • August 10, 2018 at 2:13 pm
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        I thought the Minnie Vans were operated via Lyft? Are they more expensive than regular Lyft? I ask because we will be there with two kids needing car seats in a couple months.

        • August 10, 2018 at 4:40 pm
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          They are more expensive than Lyft even though they’re booked through the Lyft app. A Minnie is a flat $25. A regular Lyft is about half that.

  • August 9, 2018 at 3:47 pm
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    I received an email from Guest Experience Services apologizing for the confusion that’s arisen over the meaning of the 14-day ticket expiration issue. I provided my upcoming touring plans, and he assured me that “If you use your ticket on Sept. 28, the ticket would be valid through Oct. 12” (which is the 15th day, or 14 days after the first day’s use). This corresponds with the ticket wording on undercovertourist.com, but differs from the explanation on touringplans.com. (Brian McNichols did some investigating and leans toward the “day 15” side, but hasn’t actually tested the theory.) I’ve been suggesting for some time that one of your team members tries out the “day 15” admission policy so the matter can hopefully be put to rest (which would be especially nice for me since I’m otherwise intending on entering the park on Oct. 12, my “15th day”).

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