Monday, May 31, 2010

Disney's Main Street USA

As you’re running to your favorite attraction in the Magic Kingdom, have you ever stopped to wonder what magic Main Street USA holds? Is it an attraction like Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Space Mountain?
Technically, no. Main Street USA doesn’t move and thus, typically becomes an afterthought in tourist’s vacation plans. Yet, those that have experienced it best know that Main Street USA can hold some wonderful Disney surprises as well.
For instance, the entire street is actually only 4 buildings. Each one is designed to look like a separate structure, but it is actually only those four. As a result, tourists can stroll in between stores without ever having to go outside. And there are plenty of stores here to satisfy a shopper’s desire to find the perfect souvenir or gift. The best place to shop is on Main Street’s front corner at the Emporium. This is a HUGE place, so be sure NOT to separate inside the store. This shop is certain to have the souvenir you seek; if not, they can order it. If you have something particular in mind, when you first enter the store, ask a cast member to direct you. This shop will have everything from toys to costumes, t-shirts to caps, snow globes to mugs, pencils, autograph books, get the picture. Another favorite store of mine is the Crystal Arts. The glass figurines feature your favorite Disney characters and a variety of other designs. The store also has glass blowers doing demonstrations during certain times of the day.

And Main Street can be more than just shopping for souvenirs; it can also be about finding the perfect sweet treat. Main Street has an ice cream parlor, which features a Mickey Mouse cone with chocolate ears. With a variety of desserts, cookies, and sweets, the Main Street Bakery is the perfect place to satisfy a shopper’s sweet tooth. Here, you'll find both freshly baked goodies, as well as packaged candies and treats.
So like most of Disney World, you want to experience Main Street USA with fewer crowds and less waits to check-out, right? The majority of people head here as they are leaving the parks at the end of the day or waiting for the fireworks to begin. At closing time, the shops extend their hours to maximize the time that guests spend shopping there. Instead, I always recommend building a break into a day of touring the Magic Kingdom. Taking some time off in the afternoon, to swim at the resort pool or rest in your room, can rejuvenate your family for more activities at night. When you return in the evening and re-enter the theme park, spend some time exploring Main Street USA. The afternoon parade crowds will have departed and the nighttime fireworks crowds won’t have gathered yet.
The stores will be somewhat quieter for you to explore and locate the best souvenir, gift, or sweet treat. As a result, on your next trip to the Magic Kingdom, remember that while Main Street may not move as fast as Space Mountain, it does hold its own unique charm to discover. It can be a shopper’s paradise where you can indulge in the perfect sweet or discover the perfect memory.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Maximizing Disney's FastPass

Disney’s FastPass system is easily one of my favorite features in the theme parks. I remember that when it debuted in 1999, I was amazed that Disney would let their guests get away with “not standing in line!” Even though I was quite young (a teenager), I immediately recognized that this was a big deal in terms of the way we toured the parks.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the FastPass (FP) system, the simplest breakdown is this: In an effort to alleviate long lines at certain popular attractions, Disney created the FP, which allows guests to come to an attraction at a designated time and enter with very little – sometimes no – wait. Here are some tips to help you use FP:
1. MAKE A PLAN: You are probably not going to be able to utilize a FP on all of the attractions for which it is offered (especially in the Magic Kingdom!). Go through your park map before you get there and determine which attractions are “do or die.” This will mean either using the Stand-By Line for some attractions or coming back a second day to do some attractions. Making this decision beforehand will reduce disappointment and frustration in your group.
2. GET TO THE PARKS EARLY: There is a set amount of FP distributed for each attraction in a day. For some headliners, if you do not get a FP within the first few hours that the park is open, you will be relegated to the Stand-By Line (I’m talking to YOU Toy Story Midway Mania!!!!)
3. IF POSSIBLE, HAVE A RUNNER: If your group has a reliable teenager or otherwise energetic person, sent THAT person to get a FP for everyone. It is more efficient for one person to navigate crowds than a whole group, and it allows the others in the party to take a breather (i.e. restroom break, quick shopping, grab a snack, etc…) as they work their way to the next attraction or meeting spot. I have been the designated runner since I was a teenager, and this definitely helps in my family.
4. BE AWARE OF THE TIMES!: This tip is two-fold. First of all, look at the Stand-By Line. If the wait is 25 minutes or less, you should just get in line and save your FP for another attraction. Secondly, be aware of the return time—especially if you are park hopping later or have Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). If the return time is 6:30pm and you have ADRs at a resort for 7pm, you are NOT going to make it!

***Spread the magic***
If you have a FP for later, but realize you’ll be unable to use it, for whatever reason, give them away to unsuspecting strangers! This way the FP is not wasted AND you’ve spread a bit of pixie dust to another family.

I really wanted to share specific directions, an itinerary even, for making the most out of your FP—which ones to get, when, and in what order—but it really all boils down to what YOUR family’s favorite attractions are. That being said, I’ll tell you with a few thoughts on individual attractions and some of my personal strategies.
In the Magic Kingdom
-- FP for Space Mountain run out early. If you want to ride, get this FP first.
--If your child wants to ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh or Peter Pan’s Flight, you have only 3 options that will keep your sanity: 1.Be there at park opening. 2. Get a FP. 3. Ride during a parade/fireworks. Otherwise you will be left in a LOOOOONNNNGGGG line for a short (although adorable) ride.
--If I have to choose between a FP for Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I’m going to choose BTMR every time. The queue for Splash Mountain is much more interesting, and it is much cooler temperature while you wait in line. Also, although the logs seat few people, they load very quickly, making for a constantly moving line (for me, a moving line makes me feel like I’m not waiting long).
--I never waste a FP on Mickey’s Philharmagic*. The theater seats several hundred people at a time, so even when a line looks long you generally only have to wait for the next show. If worse comes to worse, you can literally walk into the attraction directly after the fireworks.
*It should be noted that I avoid the Magic Kingdom like the plague on high capacity days, so I might rethink the FP on those days.
In Epcot
--If you want a FP for Soarin’, get it early. However, I must interject that because of the slow-loading nature of this attraction, even with a FP I waited nearly 30 minutes to ride. In my opinion, if the wait is 45 minutes or less I would rather go through the Stand-By Line because it has some very cool interactive games along the way to keep guests entertained while they wait.
--Test Track and Mission: Space are about even when it come to running out of FP during the day. Base your decision on what your group wants to ride and check the Wait Times Boards in Future World to check out Stand-By times.
In Hollywood Studios
--Toy Story Midway Mania: get there early, or don’t get a FP. My husband and I could never get to the Studios early enough for a FP on this attraction, thusly dooming us to a 1+ hour wait in the Stand-By Line (totally worth it though; this attraction is awesome!).
--Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster vs. Tower of Terror: I always get a FP for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and go through the Stand-By for Tower of Terror. Similar to the BTMR vs. Splash, this decision boils down to the fact that the Tower or Terror loads much more quickly than the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
In Animal Kingdom
--Arrive early! Get a FP for Expedition Everest, then go straight to the Kilimanjaro Safari. Being early has two benefits: you’ll beat the crowds and you’ll see more animals on the safari, as they tend to be more alert in the cooler mornings.
--On hot days FP for Kali River Rapids will run out quickly.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Walt Disney World Resort Amenity Value

There is nothing like staying at a Walt Disney Resort to make your vacation that much more magical. What’s the allure of staying onsite if you hardly plan to be in your room or on the resort property? Why spend the extra money on a beautiful room when all you plan to do is play in the parks?
1. Disney Transportation
Disney transportation is free to guests staying onsite. The first time I ever went to Disney World my family and I stayed off property. The off property site advertised being only 1 mile from the main gate. Plus, they provided FREE transportation to the parks! When we arrive though, we found that Disney property is approximately twice the square miles of Manhattan and Magic Kingdom is about a 20 minute drive from the main gate. Not only that, but that transportation only took you to a hub and then you had to travel to each respective park, almost doubling travel time. Also, the transportation didn’t run all day, and was spotty at best. We were sorely disappointed. Disney runs busses, boats and monorail direct from your Disney resort strait to the gates of each park! The busses run frequently and have long hours and usually you never have to wait more than 15 minutes. This is definitely a reason to stay on property.

2. The Magic
There is nothing like staying on property than enjoying the Disney magic 24/7! This is not a touchable or definable amenity, but more of a feeling. It allows you to extend your stay from the parks into your room. This includes 24 hour park tv in the room and whimsical d├ęcor in some resorts. The other more refined Disney resorts place you in the middle of a wonderful theme, like South Pacific Islands or a New England Boardwalk. The thought and detail of your day in the park continues on to your relaxing night.

3. The Pool
Every Disney resort has themed pools, some with wonderful elaborate slides. Even if you plan to be in the park all day, a nighttime swim or early morning pick- me- up has some allure. The magic can continue even if you are only taking it in for an hour in the afternoon before your nap.

4. Food Courts
All Disney resorts have food courts where you can pick up a snack or a full meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The food is affordable and delicious! When better to snag yourself a tie dye cheesecake then at your stay at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Also, don’t forget the refillable mugs you can purchase at any resort and refill at any time of day unlimited. I like to fill up on Gold Peak sweet tea in the morning before heading off to the park and at night after a full day of fun!

Disney resorts are convenient and filled with magic even if you only plan to be there to sleep. Any complete visit to Disney World is not complete unless you fill your days with magic 24/7!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All Current Promotions

It’s baaaaack! It’s the promotion we all love the most…FREE DINING! One of the most popular promotions Walt Disney World throws our way, the FREE DINING promotion is one of the most valuable to travelers. Here’s the way it works…

When you purchase a 5-night, 6-day package that includes accommodations for five nights at a select Disney Moderate Resort and a 6-day Magic Your Way Base Ticket, you’ll get the Disney Dining Plan free.
Another option is that you can purchase a 5-night, 6-day Magic Your Way Package with accommodations at a select Disney Value Resort, and get a free Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan.
Disney offers a long booking window for this promotion. You can book all the way up to August 14! This offer is good for stays most nights August 15 – October 2, 2010.
Still not convinced? Well, here are some sample pricing so that you can see it in terms of dollars and sense!
$1,843 for a family of four, staying in a standard room at a select Disney Moderate Resort. That’s like paying $77 per person, per day!
$1,440 for a family of four, staying in a standard room at a select Disney Value Resort. That’s like paying $60 per person, per day!

What? You want to go to Disneyland? There’s a promotion for you, too! Disneyland is offering two more nights free when you buy a three night package! Here’s how this promotion works:
When you buy a 3-night Disneyland® Resort vacation package that includes a 3-Day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper® souvenir ticket, you can get two more days and nights free.
This offer can be booked from now through September 1, 2010. This offer is available for arrivals May 1 – Sept. 26, 2010. Travel on this offer must be completed by Oct. 1, 2010. Ask your travel agent for a list of the Good Neighbor hotels. This is a great offer!

So, maybe these land destinations aren’t your cup of tea. Well, Disney Cruise Lines has an offer for you that will help you go to a country far, far away. There are two departure dates left on this Disney Cruise Line promotion. Here are the details:
Kids ages 17 and under can sail free on select Northern European cruises departing June 12 and June 24, 2010, when traveling with two full-fare Guests in the same stateroom. This offer applies to stateroom Categories 8-11. Government Taxes and Fees not included.
June 12, 2010 (itinerary includes Helsinki, Finland)
June 24, 2010 (itinerary includes Tallinn, Estonia)

A few final details are these: you’ll receive a $25 onboard credit when you book this package, and verification of age is required within 48 hours of booking for children who will be 17 years old by the sail date. A deposit is not required and cancellation fees are not assessed for kids with this offer.

Still not convinced that Disney has just the right vacation promotion for you? Are you looking for something a little more…fantastic? Well, here is the ultimate in Disney vacations. This vacation is a combo between Adventures By Disney, and Disney Cruise Lines. You will receive a $300 discount off of a regular rate, PER PERSON, on any Adventures By Disney 2010 season departure, when it is booked within 14 calendar days after disembarkation from a qualified Disney Cruise Line package. The Adventures By Disney vacation must commence prior to April 26, 2011. WOW! What a way to take an Adventures by Disney vacation! This is a great way to introduce your family to a great new Disney vacation experience.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Are you hungry for some fun? At this affordable price, you can enjoy meals included for every night of your visit!

What a delicious way to enjoy your Walt Disney World® Resort vacation.
Offer Details:
When you purchase a 5-night, 6-day Walt Disney Travel Company package that includes accommodations for five nights at a select Disney Moderate Resort and a 6-day Magic Your Way Base Ticket,
you’ll get the Disney Dining Plan free**.
Clients who purchase a 5-night, 6-day Magic Your Way Package with accommodations at a select
Disney Value Resort get a free Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan.
Booking and Travel Window:
Booking Window: May 3 – Aug. 14, 2010

Travel Window: Valid for stays most nights Aug. 15 – Oct. 2, 2010
Sample Pricing:

$1,843 for a family of four*, staying in a standard room at a select Disney Moderate Resort. That’s like paying $77 per person, per day!

$1,440 for a family of four*, staying in a standard room at a select Disney Value Resort. That’s like paying $60 per person, per day!

Ask about packages for other lengths of stay and accommodations at other select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels.

Contact WDWTravels