I have written about Traveling to Disney with Food allergies, but now it is time to talk about other dietary restrictions. I understand the stress that occurs while planning a vacation when there are medical issues with foods. Where do we eat? Can we bring our own “safe” food? One thing to know is that you can bring in your own cooler with your comfort foods (with some rules attached) or just stuff your backpack and stroller with necessary items.
Goodbye my old friend Fastpass…Hello FastPass + and My Disney Experience!
I 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
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!
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.
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 to 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.
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!
Everyone thinks of Disney as a travel destination for parents with small children but this is not the case. There are tons of adults that love Walt Disney World and may want to enjoy the parks without the kids (or grandkids). Here are my recommendations for resort hotels that are more suitable for adults. These are based on location, amenities, restaurants/bars on site and the general grown up feeling of the resort. Yes, you will find families there but it’s Disney World and you can’t avoid that! Most of the resorts I recommend for adults are in the Deluxe category because you will find more and more families when you go to moderate and value resorts. Continue reading
I have so many people ask me about the various Character Dining options in Walt Disney World. I have compiled a list with descriptions for each to make deciding easier for you! I have previously written about my favorites if you want to take a look. This is a basic list that tells you the facts, not my opinions of each (which I have many).
(Organized by Character type)
Mickey & Friends Continue reading
This past vacation was the first time I was able to have a glimpse of the renovations done at Port Orleans Riverside. Last summer, we stayed at French Quarter and were very happy about the new rooms there. Riverside is my favorite moderate resort, so I was very excited to stay here once again. Originally, I was booked for a normal, no view double room. When I called to change a few things to our reservation (I added 2 more nights) I was upgraded to a Royal Guest Room with a garden view free of charge. I was pumped! Who doesn’t love get something extra for free! Continue reading
Today is the day to make your reservations for the Be Our Guest Restaurant for dinner starting November 19th. Don’t bother with trying online, as of today they are only taking phone reservations at 407-WDW-DINE. Online reservations should be forthcoming, I assume they didn’t want to take down their system for the day! If you are traveling within 180 days, you should try to get a reservation! This is opening a few weeks before the rest of the new Fantasyland which tells me that you will possibly be having “soft” openings of attractions as well.
For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about…Be Our Guest is the new restaurant inside the Beast’s Castle in the Fantasyland expansion. It will be a quick service during lunch and a sit down for dinner. There will be 3 themed dining rooms, The West Wing, Ballroom & Rose Gallery. If you are a Beauty and The Beast fan, this restaurant is a must for you.
I have written a previous article about the cast members at Disney. Now it is time to focus on the people who make your hotel room your home.
Mousekeeping is the term WDW uses for its housekeeping staff. These people work very hard every day to make sure you come back from the park to a clean room full of surprises. They are happy to leave extra towels, coffee, or shampoo if you ask. They set up the kids toys in a fun way to make coming back to the room magical. The mousekeeping staff deserves a tip and is allowed to take it. One way to make your mornings go more smoothly is to put your tips for each day into an envelope before you leave for your trip. Make enough envelopes for each day of your trip and write your little housekeeping thank you note on them. Continue reading