My MyMagic+ Test Experience

by on July 31, 2013

Last week I took part in a MyMagic+ test at Walt Disney World. When I let Touring Plans blog readers know that I was headed down for testing, you all came up with some great questions about using the new electronic systems at the parks and resorts. After having spent four days with my MagicBand and after having spoken to many cast members about the program, I’m here to give you some answers and a full report about my experience.

MagicBand presentation box.

MagicBand presentation box.

Before I get going, let me first say that every MyMagic+ cast member I encountered was incredibly enthusiastic about the testing. They bent over backwards to solicit real, honest feedback about the guest experience. There are kinks in the system, but they are trying very hard to work them out.

MyMagic+ starts with with the My Disney Experience center on the Walt Disney World website. You can find this prominently displayed at the top right of the welcome page at DisneyWorld.com. You must have (or create) an online account with Disney to access any of the MyMagic features. At my home computer, I linked my resort confirmation number and several existing dining reservation numbers to my account. I selected colors and names for MagicBands for myself and my husband, Jeff. We also chose FastPass+ attractions and ride times for our park days.

Read the rest of this entry »

Least Crowded Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2013 Dates

by on June 5, 2013

If you’re looking for the least crowded, best day to visit Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in 2013, circle Tuesday, December 10, 2013, on your calendar. That Christmas Party, on a Tuesday in early December, was the least-crowded event in 2012’s schedule.

If that date doesn’t fit in your schedule, last year’s crowds indicate that Tuesday Christmas parties are less crowded on average than parties held on any other day of the week.

Friday is the next-best day to attend a Very Merry Christmas Party. Thursday and Sunday are the busiest days, although that may be a bit skewed since Magic Kingdom often has morning Extra Magic Hours on Thursdays.

Unlike our analysis of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the earlier Very Merry Christmas parties are not the least crowded. With the higher crowds arriving at Walt Disney World around the Thanksgiving holiday, many November dates rank among our most crowded.Nov200

Where you will find lower crowds for the Christmas parties is in the lull between the Thanksgiving and Christmas busy periods. Four of the five parties between December 3 and 10, 2013, are among our top 7 least-busy parties (we expect Sunday, December 8 to be a bit busier).

While there are no Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties during Thanksgiving week, the parties just prior to and just after that break are traditionally busy. The last few parties before Christmas are also quite crowded.

Read the rest of this entry »

Least Crowded Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2013 Dates

by on May 28, 2013


[Click here if you’re searching for the best 2014 parties]

If you’re looking for the least crowded, best day to visit Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in 2013, circle Tuesday, September 17, 2013, on your calendar. That Halloween Party, on a Tuesday in mid-September, was the least-crowded event in 2012’s schedule.

If that date doesn’t fit in your schedule, last year’s crowds indicate that Tuesday Halloween parties are less crowded on average than parties held on any other day of the week.

Friday and Sunday are the next-best days to attend a Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Thursday was surprisingly the busiest day, although it may has something to do with the Magic Kingdom often having morning Extra Magic Hours on Thursdays.


Not surprisingly, September dates are generally less busy than the October dates, although Tuesdays are still the best days regardless of which month they are in. The one big exception to this last year was Friday, September 28, 2012, which was the busiest Halloween party we tracked. The most likely cause was that this was also the opening weekend of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival as well as the weekend of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon.

A strange quirk in attraction wait times is that October 31, 2012 (Halloween), was one of the parties with very low wait times. In this case the data is deceiving, as that party was sold out (as was Sunday, October 28). While the sellout indicates high crowds, our research shows very short attraction lines. In reality, both of those are true, and all of the parties near Halloween tend to be quite busy, regardless of the wait times.

Read the rest of this entry »

Free Stuff at Disney World: Part Two – MORE Free Disney

by on April 24, 2013

A while ago, we published some tips about FREE things you can get at Walt Disney World. Well, we’re back now with more. In addition to our previous list of freebies, here is a whole new batch of suggestions for free things you can get or do to enhance your Disney vacation experience. Thanks to the many readers who gave us ideas for additional items to include.


Free cookies and cider at the Wilderness Lodge at Christmas.

Free cookies and cider at the Wilderness Lodge at Christmas.

  • Tasting portions. You’re not sure that Junior is actually going to eat that kids’ meal sweet n’ sour chicken they’re serving at the quick service restaurant in Epcot’s China? Well, ask them for a taste. Many restaurants on property will be happy to provide you with a tasting-size portion of an item to help you decide what to order. Just let them know what you need.
  • S’mores. The moderate and deluxe resorts often list a campfire on their recreation schedule. These feature cast members armed with sticks, marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers, ready to share with passing guests. There’s no requirement that you be staying at the resort to participate. Campfires usually start around dusk, but schedules are variable. Unlike the campfire at Fort Wilderness, which charges for marshmallows and s’mores kits, the hotel campfires are typically sparsely attended, so they’re great if you want to just pop in for a moment or grab a second s’more without seeming greedy.

    Read the rest of this entry »

10 Tips For Planning Your 2013 Walt Disney World Visit

by on December 26, 2012

Many families use this week to begin planning their 2013 Walt Disney World vacations.   We’ve assembled some of our own Erin Foster’s most popular blog posts into a step by step list to get started.

1 – Trip Planning 101: Deciding When to Visit Walt Disney World
The first choice most families have to make is “When?”  Erin has a simple system for narrowing down your options.  It also works great for scheduling any kind of vacation!

2 – Trip Planning 101: How Long Should We Stay at Walt Disney World?
Explains how much time to budget, considering everything from budget and vacation time available, to stamina and non-park activities.

3 – Trip Planning 101: Budgeting for Your Trip to Walt Disney World
Includes a handy set of worksheets to use when trying to figure out how much your trip will cost.

4 – Value, Moderate, Deluxe, Villa: What’s the Difference Between Disney World Resort Categories?
A handy primer on the different kinds of lodging at Walt Disney World

5 – Deciding Where To Stay At Walt Disney World, Number Crunching Part 1: Getting the Most Sleep Surfaces Per Dollar
If you’ve got a large family, getting the most beds at the cheapest price can be important.  Erin’s got some tips on how to maximize your lodging dollar.

6 – Deciding Where To Stay At Walt Disney World, Number Crunching Part 2: Spending The Least Amount of Time In Transit

7 – Deciding Where To Stay At Walt Disney World: It’s All About the Bathroom
For some people, bathrooms are the most important part of the hotel room.  Learn the ins and outs of WDW bathrooms.

8 – The Art of the Disney World Room Request
Once you’ve settled on a resort, learn the tricks the pros use to get the perfect room.

9 – Trip Planning 101: Packing for Your Walt Disney World Vacation

10 – Frequently Asked Questions About Disney’s Magical Express

And a bonus:

11 – Trip Planning 101: Disney Dining
A reference on the restaurants and dining options available on your trip.

Let us know if there’s anything else you’d like to see.  Happy planning!

101 Ways to Propose at Walt Disney World

by on December 12, 2012

You’re in love! You want it to last forever and ever! You’re going to propose! You want to make it special! What to do? Propose at Walt Disney World!

While there are no real statistics about how many people get engaged at Disney World each year, my personal guesstimate is “lots and lots.” (Hey, I said there were no firm statistics.) I’ve personally seen five WDW proposals (all as a bystander) and we’ve answered hundreds of “How do I propose at Disney World?” questions on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. In conversations with cast at the Grand Floridian’s posh Victoria & Albert’s restaurant, I’ve learned that they typically host several proposals each week, at that location alone.

Obviously many people have found great joy through their Disney betrothments, but before you start hatching your plan there are few things you may want to consider:

  • Does your intended truly love Disney (as much as she loves you)? You don’t want to inadvertently link your eternal happiness to something she finds unpleasant, or even just meh.
  • Will you or your intended mind having an audience for your proposal? Walt Disney World is a busy place, even relatively secluded spots may have other people nearby.
  • Are there costs involved with a Disney proposal that you would not encounter if you had proposed elsewhere? Would you be better off saving those pennies for the wedding, honeymoon, or other more practical purpose.

Assuming you’ve thought it through and decided that a Disney proposal is the perfect way to start your happily ever after, here are 101 ideas to help you brainstorm the perfect proposition. When deciding which route to take, be sure to take your beloved’s personality and interests into consideration. Some of these suggestions are sweet, some are silly, some are splashy (figuratively and literally), some are inexpensive, some are pricey, but any of them will be perfect if she answers, “YES!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Analyzing Disney’s Quick-Service Dining Plan for 2013

by on November 28, 2012

In my third and final in-depth evaluation of the 2013 Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World, I am going to analyze the least expensive plan option, the Quick-Service Dining Plan. In 2013, this plan costs $37.58 for an adult and $14.32 for a child, per night. Every guest staying in the same room (on Walt Disney World property, of course) must be on the plan, with the exception of children under 3 years old. Children under 3 are free to share from another family member’s plate at no additional charge or a separate meal can be purchased. Per night, each guest using the Quick-Service Dining Plan will receive two Quick-Service meals and a snack. Each guest will also receive a refillable mug that can be used only at the resort he or she is staying at for the length of the stay.

The Quick-Service Dining Plan is often seen as the time and money-saving plan. This plan does not include a sit-down meal; however, that does not mean a family cannot pay for one out of pocket. If you think your family is more of a “one sit-down meal a day family,” you might want to think about the standard Disney Dining Plan. If you are thinking about pricing out the Quick-Service Dining Plan for your family to see if it is a good fit, consider your family’s eating habits. How many full meals do you like to eat a day? Do you often order dessert and a soft drink with each meal? Does your family ever share meals?

Let us take a look at how a family of four (two adults and two children) does on the Quick-Service Dining Plan at the Magic Kingdom. This family is my favorite kind of family. They are very money-savvy and like to get the biggest bang for their buck. To do this, they are going to eat breakfast in their room before heading out to the Magic Kingdom for the day. My prototype family is also going to try to order more expensive options off of the Walt Disney World restaurant menus as they dine throughout the day.

Read the rest of this entry »

Could the Disney Dining Plan Save You Money?

by on October 2, 2012

Back in July, I wrote an article for the TouringPlans.com blog about the history of the Disney Dining Plan, the 2013 changes for the plan, and a break down of the plan and how it often times does not save families money.

In the past I have stated that I believe the 2013 Disney Dining Plan is only truly economical for families that can stretch the plan’s savings and get the biggest bang for their buck. There are many ways to do this and those in the know can pull tricks out of their sleeves to ensure that they are not on the losing end of the deal.

I have decided to examine three different family prototypes using the Disney Dining Plan. I tried to keep the three families varied enough to spawn different results in savings. The first family, Family A, includes just two adults. Family B includes two adults and two children. Family C is a larger family. They have two adults, two children over the age of ten, and two children under ten years old. That means they are technically paying for four adults and two children on the plan. Keep in mind that my prototype families maximized the plan and chose higher priced options off menus. They also have eaten breakfast at their resort before heading to the parks to save money. Let us see how each family works out at a day on the Basic Dining Plan in the Magic Kingdom.

Read the rest of this entry »

Disney’s PhotoPass Plus Review

by on August 27, 2012

I mentioned in a previous post that our recent trip to Disneyland was our first occasion to try out the new PhotoPass Plus service that Disney has begun offering. I can say without hesitation that if you are headed to Disneyland for longer than 3 days, this is absolutely worth your money. If you prepay, it’s only $69.99 plus taxes and shipping, and you get an amazing amount of benefits. At Walt Disney World, it’s a little more complex, but I’ll explain.

Pictures like this were a common occurrence because of PhotoPass Plus

Read the rest of this entry »

Frequently Asked Questions About Disney’s Magical Express

by on July 25, 2012

Disney’s Magical Express is a service that provides free bus transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and Disney’s resort hotels, for guests staying at those hotels. While the word “FREE” always sounds good, there may be some situations where using Magical Express does not make sense. There are also some tips and tricks that can make your Magical Express experience better if you do choose to use it. Here’s what you need to know.

Who can use Disney’s Magical Express?

The Magical Express check-in desk at MCO

Registered guests of Disney-owned hotels are eligible for Magical Express Service. These hotels are:

  • Art of Animation
  • All-Star Movies, Music, & Sports
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas, Jambo & Kidani
  • Beach Club & Villas
  • BoardWalk & Villas
  • Fort Wilderness Cabins & Campgrounds
  • Caribbean Beach
  • Contemporary & Bay Lake Tower Villas
  • Coronado Springs
  • Grand Floridian
  • Old Key West
  • Polynesian
  • Pop Century
  • Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside
  • Saratoga Springs
  • Wilderness Lodge & Villas
  • Yacht Club

    Read the rest of this entry »