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Thursday, April 03, 2008

What We'll Do Differently

As amazing as our trip was last time, there are a few things that we plan to do differently this time around.

First, one week is not enough time. You'd think it would be, but it isn't. It's just long enough to give you a taste of what's available and whet your appetite for your next trip. Up until then, we were used to visiting the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California where seven days is more than enough time to see and do everything. So, this time we're planning to stay 15 nights. This gives us a full 14 days at WDW, not counting travel days.

Second, instead of October we plan to go during December this time. Hopefully, December will be cooler and much less humid. Although I've heard people say that October is a great month to visit, we found it to be extremely uncomfortable. Begin from the Northwest, we're used to cooler weather and relatively low humidity.

Third, we won't be taking advantage of the Disney Dining Plan. It was the offer of free dining that prompted us to take our first trip. And while it was fun to be able to order freely without thinking about the cost, it was an incredible amount of food. I don't think I experienced a single hunger pang during the entire week we were there. Rather, it was all about hoping the feeling of fullness would subside enough that we would be able to partake of the next table service meal. Of course being free it was an excellent value. The only expense we incurred for food was the Fantasmic Dining Package at the Brown Derby which we paid for out of pocket as it wasn't available on the Dining Plan at the time we booked our ADR's. We prefer to graze our way through the parks, snacking on things like turkey legs, Dole Whips, churros, chocolate chip cookies and Mickey ice cream bars. Sure, we'll throw in an occasional table service meal, but mostly we'll enjoy counter service meals and snacks. Plus, we didn't like the amount of time that we spent eating at the table service restaurants. It definitely took away from the amount of time we had to explore the parks.

Lastly, we plan to rent a car this time around. On our first trip, we took advantage of Magical Express to get from the airport to our resort and relied of the Disney bus service to get to and from the parks. While it was nice to not worry about navigating through unfamiliar surroundings, it also took more time to get from point A to point B. A lot of time was spent waiting in lines for the bus to come. Also, many times the bus was standing room only. I have trouble with my knees and standing for long periods of time causes me a great deal of pain. I knew I would be spending a fair amount of time standing in line for attractons and didn't want to waste the little stamina I had waiting for a bus. Since we're visiting during the Christmas holiday, we want to be able to go from resort to resort, taking in all the different decorations. This is difficult to do using Disney transportation.

Next time I'll discuss the things we'll do the same.

Have a magical day!

Planning Our December 2008 WDW Vacation

We're now in the midst of planning our next Disney Park vacation. This time we'll visit Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the second time. Our first trip was in October 2005 when we spent seven wonderful days. Even though it was incredibly hot and humid the entire time (I don't think I've ever been as sweaty), we've spent the past two and a half years looking forward to the time when we could return. Through a monumental amount of research and planning I think we did quite well for first time visitors. This time around we'll do some things the same and a somes things differently. Mainly, we want to have plenty of time to just stop and soak in the atmosphere. Over the next eight months I'll be blogging about our trip preparations.

Have a magical day!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Disneyland Tip #4

You can get free coffee refills at the Market House on Main Street. We learned this on our trip in December 2005. Save your receipt and you can go back anytime that day and get free refills of your coffee. This is the only place in the park where you can do this. You don't need to save your cup. Just show your receipt and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee anytime. We did this several times on our trip this past October. We stopped at the Blue Ribbon Bakery one morning for a Really Sticky Sticky Bun (which is huge and plenty for two people to share). My son waited in line at the bakery while I went across the street to the Market House to buy coffee, which is .10 a cup cheaper than at the bakery. The Market House also has a nice selection of fresh-baked cookies. One afternoon we stopped to pick up a coffee refill and a cookie to enjoy while we waited at our favorite spot for the Parade of Dreams to begin.

Where Did the Time Go?

I can't believe it's been over six months since my last post. This summer has been crazy busy. Our long awaited October trip to Disneyland has come and gone. I'll be posting a trip report soon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Disneyland October 2006

I'm in the early stages of planning our next trip to Disneyland for October 2006, right before our annual passes are due to expire. Our hotel rooms are reserved at our favorite hotel, Howard Johnsons Plaza Hotel. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get the really low rate that we enjoyed during our first two visits. So, I booked with the annual passholder discount that gets us about 20% off the regular rack rate. I'll try calling back periodically in hopes that they'll offer an Entertainment Book rate of 50% off the rack rate. Anyway, it's nice to know that we have a place to stay in case things fill up. One thing we're hoping for is that Disney will offer really good annual passholder rates sometime during our stay and we'll be able to spend at least a few nights at the Disneyland Hotel.

Airfare has been climbing steadily and I'm beginning to think that I should have booked airfare earlier in the year. Right now it's hovering at around $330 round trip. Last December we paid $196. I guess if it gets too expensive, we could drive. This would save us the cost of renting a car once we're down there. However, it's a long, hard drive and takes most of two days each direction. These are days that could be spent in the parks.

Anyway, as plans for the trip unfold, I'll be posting them on this blog.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Disneyland Tip #3

Make priority seating reservations for your table service meals. Although Disneyland has far fewer restaurant options than Walt Disney World, it's still a good idea to make priority seating reservations for any table services restaurants you plan to visit. Priority seating reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance by calling (714) 781-DINE.

During our last visit, we had priority seatings at the Carnation Cafe for three mornings during our trip. Each time there was a long line of people waiting to be seated. After checking in at the podium, we were immediately ushered to our table, bypassing the long line of hungry and envious people.

We also love to have lunch at the Blue Bayou restaurant. The restaurant was very busy the day of our priority seating and they were not accepting any walkups. So if you had wanted to eat there and hadn't planned in advance, you were out of luck.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Disneyland Tip #2

FastpassTake full advantage of the FastPass system. The Fastpass system is a great way to reduce the amount of time you spend standing in line for an attraction. Although it's not available for all attractions, most of the more popular attractions have the fastpass feature available.

When you arrive at an attaction that offers Fastpass, you insert your park ticket into the Fastpass machine and out pops a FastPass ticket. On the ticket it indicates a one hour window for you to come back and ride the attraction without waiting in the regular line. Only a designated number of Fastpasses are available each day so the earlier in the day you get a Fastpass, the earlier your return time will be. Return times are posted on a sign above the Fastpass distribution area so you'll know what your return time will be before you get the Fastpass.

There is also a limit to the number of Fastpasses you can have at one time. You are eligible to get another Fastpass after the either the start time of your one-hour return window or two hours after you received your last Fastpass. Here are two examples of how this works:
  • At 10:00 AM you go to Space Mountain and get a Fastpass with a return time window of 11:15 AM to 12:15 PM. You would be able to get your next Fasspass at 11:15 AM, which is the start of your one-hour return window.
  • At 10:00 AM you pick up a Fastpass for Space Mountain but this time the return time window is between 6:30 to 7:30 PM. Instead of making you wait until 6:30 PM to get your next Fastpass, you would be able to get one two hours after you were issued the Fastpass, which would be 12:00 PM.

When it's time for you to return to your attraction, you'll use a specially marked Fastpass Return line. A Cast Member will check your Fastpass to make sure you're not entering before your return time window. The amount of time you'll save waiting in line depends upon the attraction. At some point, all Fastpass return lines merge with the regular line and you'll end up waiting in some sort of line. However, it will be shorter than if you had waited in the regular stand-by line.

A little known fact about Fastpasses at the Disneyland Resort is while you are not able to use them to enter the return line before the start of your return window, you are able to use them anytime before park closing that day. So if your return time window is from 11:15 AM to 12:15 PM and you don't make it back to the attraction by 12:15 PM, you are still able to use the Fastpass anytime up until park closing. This is important to remember and will help you make the best use of the Fastpass system.

One thing we like to do is pick up a Fastpass for an attraction before we ride it. For example, it may be 9:30 AM and the wait time for the Buzz Lightyear attraction is only 10 minutes. The Fastpass return window for the attraction may be from 10:30 to 11:30 AM. We'll pick up a Fastpass before entering the regular standby line and save the Fastpass for use later in the day when the lines are longer. Because the Fastpass has such an early return time, we're eligible to get our next Fastpass after 10:30 AM.

The smart thing to do is be aware of when you're eligible to get your next Fastpass and to make a point of getting one as soon as your eligible. This way you'll have a selection of Fastpasses to use later in the afternoon and evening when crowds are at their peak and the allotment of Fastpasses for the day may have been reached.

Another thing to remember is that the Fastpass sytems for Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure are not connected. So theoretically you would be able to get a Fastpass for an attraction at Disneyland and them immediately go over to Disney's California Adventure and pick up a Fastpass for one of the attractions in that park.

The Fastpass system is a win-win situation for both the park guest and for Disney. Guests are happy because they spend less time in line. Disney is happy because guests who are not waiting in line may be shopping or dining, therefore creating more revenue for Disney.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Disneyland Tip #1

As my reputation as a Disney fan spreads, I am occasionally asked to provide tips on how people can make the most of their Disneyland vacation. I decided to list a few of things that come to mind.

Get to the park before opening time. The first few hours that a park is open are what I refer to as the "golden hours." The crowds are fairly low and it's a great time to ride attractions without long lines. As tempting as it may be to stop and browse through the Main Street shops, I urge you to resist and take advantage of the low crowd levels to ride some of the more popular attractions. Many people use their vacation to sleep in and eat a leisurely breakfast before wandering over to the park mid morning. You'll see an increase in the crowd level around 11:00 AM. By that time you would have covered all the attactions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.