Full Ride Through of Seven Dwarves Mine Train

Click here to see the video of the entire ride through of the newest ride at Walt Disney World!

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Fastpass +: Your questions answered!

Goodbye my old friend Fastpass…Hello FastPass + and My Disney Experience!

FastPass + at PoohI have to say that I am nostalgic about the old system because most of us frequent WDW visitors had that down to a science. But as of this month, the old fastpass machines at the entrance to the most popular rides are no more! Instead, all guests are now expected to take part in the new My Disney Experience, My Magic+, Magic Bands and FastPass + (FP+) online system.

Things work differently depending if you are staying on property or off site.

This is the same for all guests:

  • You select (and can change) your return time for the ride/experience.
  • You can only choose 3 FP+ per day
  • You can only get your 3 FP+ in one park each day
  • FP+ includes character experiences and seating for fireworks & parades
  • You can change your FP+ selections at any point, even during your return time(if you get to your ride return and see no line, you can adjust your FP+ at the entrance for a different ride) Continue reading

Oh No! I can only go when it is crowded!!

What do you do if you can only travel during the more crowded times of the year? Don’t fret, help is on the way.

First of all, you need to know the most crowded times of the year. Basically, if kids are on a break then WDW is crowded.

The busiest times are:

  • February over President’s Day Weekend
  • Spring Break season: Mid March through Easter
  • Easter: Date changes but week before and after are second most crowded of the year
  • Summer: Mid June-Early August
  • Columbus Day Weekend: Modest increase in crowds
  • Thanksgiving: Third busiest time of the year for the week
  • Christmas – New Years: Busiest time of the year from Christmas Day-New Year

Here are my tips for traveling during the busiest times of the year:

Lower your expectations: You can not expect to go to Magic Kingdom and ride everything on your list. Pick your top 3 priorities and know there will be time to do other things. By doing this you won’t be walking away disappointed and you will be pleasantly surprised when you get more accomplished.

Stay on Property: The convenience of staying on property outweighs the additional cost in this situation. The resort transportation will be more crowded than normal, but will not be as bad as driving your own car into the crazy parking lots, then taking a tram to the entrance or WDW transportation. This is especially important for Magic Kingdom because you park at the Ticketing and Transportation Center then take a monorail or ferry to the entrance of the park. By staying on resort property you also have the benefit of Extra Magic Hours (EMH).

Extra Magic Hours:  When staying on property you are given access to certain parks for 1 hour in the morning before it opens to the public and 2 hours in the evening after close. Taking advantage of this can greatly increase the amount of attractions you are able to see and do! I personally like to enjoy EMH mornings at one park and then leave when it gets crowded to go to a different park by park hopping. Alternatively, if you are a night owl the evening EMH might be up your alley. The evening EMH are much more crowded than the morning, but if you can stay until the end you will reap the benefits of extra ride time with little wait. If you are not staying on property, avoid the parks with EMH during your vacation.

Park Hop: The additional cost of the park hopper is the most beneficial during these times. You can go to one park until the crowds overwhelm you, then hop over to a less crowded park. Or you can head back to your hotel (especially when staying on property) and then hop to a different park in the evening.

Go to the parks EARLY: I know you are on vacation, but so is everyone else going to Disney. That being said, WAKE UP EARLY and be at the parks for rope drop (official opening) or soon after! Most people will not get themselves together and moving by 8am, but by 10am the parks will be crowded. No one goes to Disney for a relaxing, sleep in vacation. For example: Christmas Day at Magic Kingdom has been at capacity the last few years around 10:30am. You can walk right in at 7am, but you can’t even get past the gates at 10:30. What does this teach us (other than avoid MK on Christmas!)? Get to the parks early, you will thank yourself when you are walking out to take a swim at 11 and the entrance turnstiles are 20 deep!

Take a Mid Day Break: The parks are most crowded from 11am-4pm. Take a break back at the hotel for swimming and a nap. Or have lunch in a hotel near the park and do some hotel hopping to check out the different WDW resort hotels.

Make ALL your dining reservations: When going during a crowded time of year, you will not have a snowball’s chance of getting into the more popular restaurants without reservations far in advance. That being said, you can still get into table service restaurants. Choose less popular restaurants in the park or ones located in the resort hotels.  

Utilize the Fastpass system: This is the time when Fastpasses are your best friend. Decide your most important priority and get a fastpass at park opening for that ride. You can get your next fastpass 2 hours later, so at 9am if your fastpass return for Space Mountain is not until 2-3pm, you can get another fastpass at 11am for a different ride as well. With the new Fastpass+ system, you can prearrage your fastpasses (up to 3) which will be a huge benefit to staying on property during a crowded time.

I hope this advice helps and doesn’t scare you! I have traveled over Christmas with a group of 14 and I am going back at the same time this year. Take this advice and you will still enjoy your trip!

What you need to know about park tickets…

One of the most common questions is about the different types of park tickets. This can be very confusing for anyone who is not a WDW nut like myself. So here are the answers to those questions!

Theme Park Tickets:

  • These are tickets for admission into the 4 Walt Disney World Parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, & Animal Kingdom)
  • Adult tickets are for ages 10 +, Child’s tickets are ages 3-9, Children under 3 are free of charge for tickets (and dining plan)
  • Base Ticket: Allows entry into ONE park per day. You can leave and reenter later in the day, but you must return to the same park.
  • The ticket cost varies based on how many days you purchase. The per day ticket cost is less per day for each additional day you add. The longer you play, the less you pay! is the tagline used by WDW.
  • Park Hopper option is an add on to your base ticket that allows you to enter more than one park per day.
  • Water Parks and More option is another add on to your base ticket that gives you access to the following: Blizzard Beach & Typhoon Lagoon Water Parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports, DisneyQuest Indoor theme park, Oak Trail Golf Course, Fantasia Gardens & Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Courses.
  • WP&M option does have some limitations. You cannot hop between these activities, you can return to the same one. Mini Golf must be played prior to 4pm as well.
  • Each of the add on options are a flat rate per ticket of $62.84/ticket including tax, but if you add both it is $89.46/ticket including tax. This is the cost for both adult and child tickets.
  • Tickets expire 14 days after the first use.
  • Tickets cannot be used by more than 1 person. Disney uses a biometric finger scan upon entry to guarantee this.
  • This is a great site to look at the prices from www.allears.net

There are reputable discount ticket agents out there, but I prefer to purchase mine through WDW. If you purchase through a second party vendor and there is a problem, Disney is less flexible about assisting you. I have priced AAA as well and when you include the tax, AAA can be more expensive than buying from WDW directly. Now, if you are someone who needs a travel agent to handle the details, then go for it. In this day and age of Internet, it seems much easier to make your own arrangements and do  your own research. I have found that travel agents are happy to make the commission but might not have the knowledge of all the aspects of Disney outside of a training session.

mymagic+What are the MYMagic + bands you ask…Soon there will be wrist bands instead of cards that will contain all of your information for ticketing, dining, room key and charging back to your room. In May, they had the RFID readers at Hollywood Studios and Epcot and you just placed your card in front of the Mickey and waited to the biometric scanner for your finger. It will also include your fastpasses if you so choose, but you will need torfid at pooh schedule your fastpasses prior to leaving for your trip similar to dining. But that is a topic for another article. This is an example of one at the Winnie the Pooh ride.

Words of warning:

  • Do not purchase used tickets! Disney uses biometric scanners to link the ticket to the individual. You can’t use anyone’s ticket but your own. So avoid eBay and Craigslist for discount tickets.
  • If you have old tickets with no expiration, you must trade them in at a ticket window or WDW hotel concierge desk. Disney now uses RFID technology and you need a ticket with a chip to get past the scanners.
  • Your tickets do expire 14 days after the first use, so make sure you use all your days or get the no expiration option. I find the no expiration a waste of money, but I plan my days to utilize them.

May the 4th be with you…

For you Star Wars fans out there, tomorrow is the big day…May the Fourth be with you! may4001836SMALLNow that Disney owns Star Wars, they are capitalizing on this popular day among the geeks. (No offense, this includes me too!) As part of this year’s Limited Time Magic, tomorrow Hollywood Studios will be celebrating “May the Fourth be with you”. The plans are special Star Wars entertainment, merchandise, dance party and fireworks (which are a rare occurence in Hollywood Studios).

There will be Star Wars characters greeting guests and even riding on Star Tours occasionally. I can imagine what my kids would do if we went to sit on Star Tours and Boba Fett was sitting there! Characters will appear from 9-7:30 and expect to see Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Boba Fett and many more surprises.

Jedi Training AcademyJedi Training will also be changed for the day with parents being able to join their children on stage (ages 4-12) for training and fighting the Empire. Oh, how I wish I could be there to wield a lightsaber at Darth Vader! Shows will be every 30 minutes from 9-7:30. Get to the park before opening to sign up for Jedi Training.

After dark, a Star Wars themed dance party will take place with DJ Lobot from Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. Expect Star Wars characters to be dancing as well. This will be from 6-7pm & 7:45-12am.

The day will be capped off with a special Star Wars themed fireworks show at 9:45.

So, put on your best Star Wars gear and head out to Hollywood to celebrate May 4th. This is a good way to pump yourself up for the upcoming Star Wars weekends!

Coming Soon to Magic Kingdom: A Pirates Adventure

The success of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom has led to a new interactive experience, A Pirates Adventure: Treasure of the Seven Seas in Adventureland. This was supposed to be open in the spring but has been bumped to an ambiguous “summer” opening. This looks even better than Sorcerers when you watch the video from Disney Parks Blog. Some are saying that this is a way to keep park guests busy and happy while waiting for their fastpass return times with the new Magic + system. If this is true, then I am happy that they are trying to find a way to entertain the masses between rides.

Reservations Tricks…

I have now been able to book the impossible for our May vacation!

Right away I was able to snag a much coveted Cinderella’s Royal Table breakfast reservation and I took this as a good omen. I have been determined this trip to eat at all new restaurants (at least new to us).

I have been checking for Be Our Guest everyday for months and all of a sudden there was an opening for the evening of our arrival!! Yes it is at 9:20 pm, but we don’t arrive until 6:15 and we’re planning on heading over the new Fantasyland anyway to see what is all about. What a beginning on the surprise vacation for the kiddos!

Now, I have been calling for about a month (every day or so) to get into the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party. This is a dessert buffet with seats/viewing of the Wishes Fireworks in Magic Kingdom. I have heard many good things on the blogosphere and chat rooms about this and I wanted to check it out for myself. Finally, on April 1 it was open for the month of May and I was able to book the night of my choice. This isn’t on the dining plan so we do have to pay out-of-pocket for it but I think it will be worth the experience.

So my advice for these hard to get reservations…Be Our Guest and Royal Table are worth checking the online reservation site every day or even multiple times a day. You want to book these 180 days in advance if you can. My problem is that I very rarely book a trip that far in advance. You do have to put a credit card guarantee down, but you can cancel 24 hours in advance without penalty. Be Our Guest is more difficult because it is only dinner for the sit down, but at least you can be in the restaurant for lunch as often as you like!

Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party seems to have a very flexible booking start date. Some WDW reservation agents have told me they release it to them 4-6 weeks prior to the beginning of the month and others have said it varies even more. I tried to book starting about 8 weeks out and called every other day. When it neared to about  5 weeks before May, I started calling (407)WDW-DINE every day and finally yesterday on April 1 my work paid off. The phone reservations seemed correct that they do release those reservations starting the month prior, so keep that in mind and start bugging them about 6 weeks if TTFDP is something on your bucket list!

Penny Pressing…a fun (cheap) souvenir

Are you trying to think of ways to bring home souvenirs that won’t collect dust and you won’t have the urge to throw away after a year? I discovered the penny press a few years ago as a way to keep the kids busy while my husband was collecting the stroller. After digging into my wallet for 2 pennies and 4 quarters, I let each kid press one penny. They were so enamored with the process and the different options it kept them happy and involved for longer than it probably should have. After pressing one penny each, they continued to ask to look at it the entire trip. I didn’t think anything of it until I started to notice penny pressing machines everywhere around the parks and hotels.photo 1 In a gift shop, I found a book to hold your pennies next to the autograph books.

Now, I purposely pack a roll of pennies and 2 rolls of quarters from our Disney Fund. The kids each has a baggie in the backpack with their coins and are allowed to stop at any machine they want. They hunt high and low for penny presses. Hotels, outside bathrooms in the parks, at rides…penny press machines are everywhere and it is a fun and inexpensive thing to collect and bring home. Each penny costs 50 cents and a penny to press. They also have quarter press machines, but that is too rich for me so I just stick to the pennies.

Here is a site that can give you a list of where to find the penny press machines and what they have for the hard core collectors. I am not so hard core yet, but that may change as the kids get older…