Walt Disney World: Back to Basics

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It’s been a long time since I had some time to write so it’s time to go back to basics! Let’s talk about the basics of Walt Disney World. This is the perfect way to plan for a first time visit or the first time in a long time visit.

Packages vs. room and tickets ala carte

In almost every single scenario, having your package bundled together is the best thing for you. First, it’s the ONLY way you can include a dining plan and second, it gives you the most protection of your money. Disney packages require just a $200 deposit to confirm (which can include as little as your room and tickets but as much as dining plan, travel insurance, and more!) If you purchase items ala carte, you’re going to pay a one night + tax deposit on your room space, separate purchase for your tickets (which is non-refundable), Memory Maker (non-refundable), and you don’t have the option to include travel protection insurance in case something happens. With packages, you can add travel insurance which protects your entire package and in many cases, you stand to lose less if you have to cancel your plans for the unexpected.

So what is a package?

  • In the most basic form it’s room + tickets booked together
  • Guests can also book a “ticketless” package – if you aren’t planning on going into the park, are an annual passholder, member of the military, or have old non-expiring tickets from a trip long ago, you can book room + dining together and skip the ticket portion
  • Packages can include the optional additions of dining plan, travel protection insurance, Memory Maker, or even flights!

The Resorts

What do the resort categories mean?

Disney has 4 unique resort categories with their own pros and cons…

Value Resorts. These are the most cost effective options out of any resort category. This isBoardwalk Across the water.JPG best for guests that are looking to save money on their resort experience. Keep in mind that these resorts are at many times host to youth sporting events and international tour groups so it can effect your resort experience if you’re planning on spending any significant amount of time at your resort, this may not be the best place for you. These are resorts are great for those that are going to be spending all day in the parks and not thinking about a resort break in the day – essentially a place to sleep and shower! The exception to this rule is Art of Animation which have family suites and can feel a bit more robust in terms of offerings and experience than the other value resorts.

Moderate Resorts. These resorts offer additional resort amenities on site. Some notable upgrades from the value resort experience – larger resort rooms (some of these resorts sleep up to 5 guests), water slides at the main pool, additional on site dining options, and covered bus stops (so if it’s raining or really hot, it’s a nice feeling of relief to be out of the elements). These resorts are more middle of the road in term of pricing and many first timers find this resort a comfortable starting point in terms of price point and resort experience.

Deluxe Resort. This is my favorite resort category. You add even more to the available amenities from the moderate category and you’ll find stronger theming throughout the rooms and resorts (NOT Mickey around every turn – just stronger central themes – like African Safari, Yacht Club, a tropical oasis, and more) These rooms are larger yet – most of which sleep a total of 4 guests and some can sleep 5 (or more in suites). These resorts Beach Club Inside roomalso have additional dining options (at least 2 if not more choices to dine on site), things like watercraft or tours available in the resort, a room with a view (theme park, savanna, fireworks, etc.) and often special park access – whether it be a different way to get to the parks besides a bus – boat, monorail, walking. The key to most of these resorts is location, location, location! We also feel a little bit more of the warm fuzzies when it comes the guest experience.

Deluxe Villas. These are similar to deluxe villas in amenities. The difference in these are the room layout and overall size. These rooms come in different sizes – studio (similar to a standard hotel room), 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, and 3 bedroom grand villa. This is more like condo living. Studios have a microwave in room, and 1 and 2 bedroom villas have both washer/dryers AND a full kitchen inside each unit. It makes it feel a bit more like home plus the same benefits of the deluxe resorts above!

Theme park tickets.

Choosing your park tickets can be a difficult piece of the planning puzzle for everyone. Single day tickets, park hopper tickets, park hopper plus which includes water park access. I like the convenience of park hopper tickets for my family so we can go back to a favorite park and open up additional options for dining.

Park hopper tickets are incredibly important during the fall and winter months when Disney hosts some special events in Magic Kingdom which limit park hours as well as dining in that parks. Additionally, days without parties become VERY crowded (over the last 2 years it’s been almost unbearable on non-party nights like holiday crowds on mundane October Saturday night)! Park hopper tickets allow you to start your day in Magic Kingdom on a party night and hop somewhere else for the evening. And on the other side, start in another park in the morning and hop one night to Magic Kingdom to see the amazing fireworks show!

Water park tickets. When is this a good option? Disney water parks are amazing and a great heat relief. It’s also a really great addition for guests with longer stays as well. It’s a nice way to do a little bit of relaxing and do a little less walking than a normal park day. And with park hopper tickets as a park of your package, it’s a very inexpensive addition!

Dining plan

Disney has 3 dining plans for 2018: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Regardless of your choice, each member of your traveling party will receive a refillable mug to be used at your resort. It can actually be refilled at any resort during your stay. No refills at the parks though!

The quick service dining plan provides you with 2 quick service credits and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  • Each quick service credit comes with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

PLUS dining (or the Disney dining plan) provides you with 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and TWO snacks for each night stayed.

  • Quick service credit comes with an entree and  beverage (it can  be alcoholic OR photo 1(2)non-alcoholic) whether you use it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Table service credits come with an entree, beverage (it can  be alcoholic OR non-alcoholic) and dessert. No dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast.
  • Table service credits can also exchanged for a buffet or family style meal.

The Deluxe Dining Plan provides you with 3 credits which can be used for either table service or quick service and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  •  Quick service credits come with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage.
  • Table service credits come with an appetizer, entree, beverage (it can  be alcoholic OR non-alcoholic), and dessert. No appetizer or dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast. (This is an appetizer per person – not for your entire group so if you have a group of 4 you will receive 4 appetizers)
  • Table service credits can also be exchanged for buffet or family style meals.

Dining plan makes your reservation a more “all inclusive” type of vacation. Cost wise, it’s close to “break even” in terms of paying as you go vs. using a dining plan (we often end up saving money with a dining plan. I also like the convenience of the dining plan so everything is paid in full ahead of time vs. spending a ton of money on a package and hen spending a ton more money on food (because people really under estimate how much money food actually costs once inside the Disney bubble!)

MinnieBox

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

So that’s a primer of the basics of Walt Disney world? So what’s right for you? I’d love to talk about your next Walt Disney World vacation! My planning services are 100% free for guests who book a package with Magical Vacations! Talk to me about a free, no obligation quote today!

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party dates for 2017 + Tips for your travel!

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It’s official! Disney has released dates for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party for 2017. Are you attending? I AM! This year, Disney starts the party at the end of AUGUST and it runs through November 1. What a schedule. I can’t wait to see what magic they bring this year!

  • August – 25, 29
  • September – 1, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26, 29
  • October –1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, 31
  • November – 1

No official on sale date yet but going based off of historical data, they should go on sale in early May.

The big question for adults with the change in costume policy earlier this year is “can I wear a costume?” The answer is YES! They are discouraging guests from some specific types of costumes and larger costumes are subject to further inspection in security – it’s a safety thing. So plan accordingly but definitely bring you creativity!! For adults, long layers and full length dresses are not allowed. Capes may be worn but not past the waist. Remember all of these things are for the safety of all guests!

Some highlights from the 2016 party:

  • Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade – including Disney Characters and the stars of the Haunted Mansion attraction. The parade kicks off with a ride from the Headless Horseman.
  • Happy HalloWishes fireworks – an AMAZINg display different from the everyday fireworks!
  • Many favorite Disney Characters and Disney Villains in special Halloween costumes.
  • Special lighting, music and theming effects transforms special areas of Magic Kingdom into happy haunted hollows.
  • Hocus Pocus Villain spectacular bringing back the Sanderson sisters to put a spell on the park. This stage show was wildly popular!
  • Trick or treating around the Magic Kingdom with more candy that I know what to do with (and tons of options for guests with allergies).

I expect this year to have even more haunting magic! While it is a separate admission into Magic Kingdom, if you travel in fall it’s 100% worth the cost to take advantage of lower crowds and all of the fun things that ONLY happen during the party.

Tips & Tricks for Special Events in Magic Kingdom:

  • Depending on your length of stay and number of days with park tickets, you have two options for the morning and early afternoon of your special event.
    1. For longer trips or those with park hopper tickets: Take the morning off! Sleep in (you’ll rarely hear me say this on a Disney vacation, so take advantage). It’s a great opportunity for a late morning character breakfast at Chef Mickey in Contemporary or the delicious flavors of Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge. Enjoy your resort’s pool and explore to see some of the hidden things it has to offer. Use Disney’s transportation to navigate to another resort to explore (I choose the deluxe resorts!) or head to Downtown Disney for the morning.
    2. For shorter trips with only base day tickets, you may want to take the opportunity to “park hop”. Since you do not need your daily ticket and your special event ticket, enjoy a morning in another park
  • Regardless of your morning plan, eat a large late lunch before you arrive at Magic Kingdom! While select quick service restaurants are available, you don’t want to use your precious time eating a meal you could have any other time during regular park hours. You may find yourself roaming around the park for something that’s open by the time you are hungry. There are dining options both table service and quick service during the party, but you’ll use up precious time if you dine during the party.
  • Skip the long character lines and enjoy some of the special live shows and open attractions. You’ll rarely ever see lines that short! If there is a must do character, don’t worry about waiting! Do what is important to your kids (if characters are more important than rides, GO FOR IT! We are a character meet and greet family so seeing them in different attire is fun and it’s the only way to see some villains!)
  • Arrive as close to 4 pm as possible. While the park may still be a bit crowded with ticketed day guests, you’ll want to use as much of your ticketed time as possible.
  • Rest up earlier in the day (make sure kids have napped appropriately). Bring a stroller for your younger ones to take a little snooze waiting for a parade or a place if they are just too tired.
  • Consider Memory Maker. It’s a great little add on to any Disney vacation, but why not grab a few holiday photos for your Christmas card or capture some lasting Halloween memories through the eyes of Disney! Even if you don’t add it on, you can still take advantage of Disney’s PhotoPass photographers throughout the park.
  • If you know you want to attend one of the parties, buy your tickets before your arrive. Advanced purchase is a bit cheaper (usually about $5) and some popular dates sell out.
  • If you are not attending the party and you have base tickets, avoid these party dates! You won’t get a fireworks show at the end of the night (unless you watch it off the Magic Kingdom grounds). If you have park hopper tickets, it’s a pretty good park to start your day with as many people do avoid Magic Kingdom on party nights!
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Friday Five: 5 Favorite Mickey Meet and Greets at Walt Disney World

It’s the big cheese’s birthday – Happy birthday Mickey! In his honor, today’s Friday Five is all about where to find him and the best ways to meet him whether it’s a character experience inside the park or a dining location! Here are our top 5 with assistance from my favorite Mouseketeer – my 3 year old daughter!

  1. Mickey at Town Square Theater in Magic Kingdom. For anyone that has experienced this, it’s not a townsquaremickey
    surprise that it’s our number 1 choice. It’s a great way to ease your new to Disney World kiddos to meeting characters. Why? Because HE TALKS!! It’s truly the most magical experience and perfect for kids young and old. Moms – grab the tissues because I can tell you get a little teary almost every time. I can also tell you we’ve played with Mickey at least 15 times and I’ve had a different experience every time. He’s also got a different experience for children vs. adult groups so it’s a fun interaction no matter what your age!
  2. Epcot Character Spot in Epcot. This fun location has a meet and greet with Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto in their more classic attire. We love it because it’s a relaxed, air conditioned area that has a fun theme backdrop and the characters are always warm and welcoming! It’s a don’t miss img_6270experience for  us when we hit Epcot!
  3. The first character DINING experience on the list and it’s not as well thought about as many others – Garden Grill in Epcot. This location now serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Mickey (dressed as a Farmer), Pluto, and Chip and Dale coming around to visit! The food here is good and the character interaction is quite good as well. Chip and dale are full of mischief. We actually like booking a late breakfast because it’s often fairly empty during that time of day which means more time with the main man for us!
  4. Adventures Outpost in Animal Kingdom. One of the few places to see Mickey in Animal Kingdom is at Adventures Outpost where Minnie and Mickey are ready to head on their very own safari. Unique attire make this location fun but watch out – lines can get long mid-day with its proximity to Expedition Everest. It makes for a great “split” for families with little ones that don’t measure up for or are too scared for one of Disney’s bigger coasters.

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    Mickey taking some time to doodle on a photo of himself at Garden Grill!

  5. Sorcerer Mickey in Hollywood Studios. Hit the Red Carpet – Mickey is ready for his close up inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With his Sorcerer robes and hat, it’s another unique experience that everyone can enjoy. With the current construction work going on in this park as well as this meet and greet’s location, we often don’t find the line very long so it’s an easy way to sneak in an extra Mickey hug!

What’s your favorite place to meet Mickey? If you want your first hug from Mickey or are just missing the main mouse, let’s plan your 2017 Disney World adventure! Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an agent that is

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

part of authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Early 2017 Disney World promos are here!

It’s baaaaaaack! Play, stay, and dine, the little sister of free dining is back and Disney is also offering a room discount which saves guests money on their resort stay (percentages are based on your travel dates and resort, but it’s just another way to save yourself a few dollars on your next Disney World adventure! So let’s break down the details…

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If it’s difficult to read the fine print – excluded from this offer are Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, all 3 bedroom villas, Bungalows at Polynesian Villas, campsites at Ft. Wilderness (but Cabins are included), and Port Orleans French Quarter (which is not listed on this document but). Guests are required to have a minimum 3 night stay and minimum 2 days of park tickets to qualify for this offer!

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This offer is a bit more general. Similar exclusions with Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, all 3 bedroom villas, Bungalows at Polynesian Villas, and campsites at Ft. Wilderness (but Cabins are included. The percentage of savings varies by travel date and resort. How does it break down?

Resort Category Resort Savings

Select Disney Deluxe Villas

Save up to 25%
Stays most nights
1/1/17 – 4/8/17
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas 25%
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows — Studios only
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House 10%
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Select Disney Deluxe Resorts

Save up to 25%
Stays most nights
1/1/17 – 4/8/17
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 25%
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa 15%
Disney’s Beach Club Resort 10%
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Select Disney Moderate Resorts

Save up to 20%
Stays most Sunday through Thursday nights
1/1/17 – 2/18/17
Stays most nights
2/19/17-4/8/17
The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort 20%
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter 10%
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside

Select Disney Value Resorts

Save up to 15%
  Stays most Sunday through Thursday nights
1/1/17 – 2/18/17
Stays most nights
2/19/17-4/8/17
Disney’s All-Star Music Resort 15%
Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort — Family Suites Only
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort 10%

As you can see, you can save a lot if you are flexible in your resort destination! If you’re looking for a new favorite Disney resort, now is a great time to explore a fun new option!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an agent that is part of authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

2017 Disney Salute to the Military Offers are now available!

Salute to the military

For all of the brave men and women who are currently serving or have served our country, let me be one of the many to thank you for your service! Disney also thanks you by a wonderful “Salute to the Military” offer which has been extended through 2017! This offer is very similar year over year, but if you’re new to Disney military offers, or just want to know what has changed or what is new, I’m really excited to provide the details. This offer is available NOW.

At Walt Disney World Resort – active and retired U.S. military personnel (including active and retired members of the United States Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists) or their spouses can purchase:

  • 4 Day Park Hopper OR Water Parks, Fun & More $209 each
  • 5 Day Park Hopper OR Water Parks, Fun & More $224 each
  • 4 Day Park Hopper AND Water Parks, Fun & More $246 each
  • 5 Day Park Hopper AND Water Parks, Fun & More $261 each

Walt Disney World Resort tickets may be used January 1, 2017, through December 19, 2017, except that the tickets may not be used April 9-23, 2017. For me the addition of a FIVE day ticket is a huge one! Most families prefer to spend a week in Disney World, so now you don’t have to worry about filling an “off day”!

Active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase Disney Military Promotional Tickets for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. No more than six Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or spouse). All tickets and options are non-transferable and must be used by December 19, 2017. (THIS PART IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!)

Here are some other details you should know about:

  • Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased at participating U.S. military sales outlets ONLY by Eligible Service Members or their spouses (but not both), for use by those family members or friends. They cannot be used in the absence of those military members.
  • “Eligible Service Members” are active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Participating military sales outlets must require that Eligible Service Members (or their spouses) present valid military identification to purchase Disney Military Promotional Tickets.
  • Disney 4-Day or 5-Day Military Promotional Tickets for admission to the Walt Disney World Resort are not valid until activated by the Eligible Service Members (or their spouses) at Walt Disney World theme park ticket windows.Valid military identification will be required for purchase and use. You still may link these vouches to your My Disney Experience account to select FastPasses 30 or 60 days in advance (30 days if you are not staying in a Disney resort)
  • No more than six (6) Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased and (if applicable) activated by any Eligible Service Member or spouse (regardless of the place of purchase and whether purchased by that person or that person’s spouse). In addition, one of the six (6) Tickets purchased must be used by the Eligible Service Member or his/her spouse. Exceptions may be made for immediate family that is larger than 6 people.
  • Each Disney Military Promotional Ticket must be used by the same person on any and all days. (This is the same of all Disney tickets.)

Disney World Resort Discounts

Disney typically offers an annual discount to members of the military and their families. Same inclusions as listed above apply for this room discount as well.  Room discounts are based on resort category:

  • Value Resorts – 30%
  • Moderate Resorts – 35%
  • Deluxe Resorts – 40%

The only exclusion I am aware of are the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation, 3 bedroom villas, and Bungalows at Polynesian Villas. This is of course subject to availability and black out dates (This year is the week around Easter and that’s it!)
You are also able to book up to 3 rooms with your military discount, although the qualifying member must be present, with proper identification, at check in for each room booked. They are not required to pay for every room.

Like any Disney package, booking a room only reservation will require 1 night’s room cost and the remaining balance is due upon arrival at your resort.

An additional benefit of this discount is Disney’s Dining Plan! You can add either Plus Dining (or the full dining plan) or the deluxe dining plan. There is no discount to adding the dining plan, but with the money you save on tickets and your room it’s likely worth it! (You cannot use a package promotion like play, stay, and dine or free dining since you do have theme park tickets, but the large percentage off of your room rate generally is a better deal in conjunction with the discounted theme park tickets as well).

What about Shades of Green?

Shades of Green is an Armed Forces Recreation Center located on Disney World property. Be aware that this is NOT one of the Disney World resort hotels. While I cannot go into great detail about the resort or it’s amenities outside of what is available on the internet (as I’m a civilian), I can provide the following comparison between Walt Disney World resorts and Shades of Green:

  • Cost: Cost of a Disney World Value room during peak season and Shades of Green are roughly the same cost depending on the booking category you qualify for at Shades of Green and your party size.  In a close race of cost after a comparison, choose a Disney resort as the benefits outweigh the difference of $100 or more depending on your party.
  • Transportation: Shades of Green does have bus service to all Disney World theme parks. Once at the theme parks you are welcome to use any additional method of Disney Transportation to get around. Unfortunately this bus runs on a structured schedule which is often once an hour. Disney buses run every 15-20 minutes continuously. If you miss a bus for a Disney resort, there is likely one right behind it! You must show proof of stay to board any Shades of Green bus. There are no requirements for Disney buses.
  • Airport Transportation: Shades of Green does not qualify for Disney Magical Express Service. You are able to book somewhat inexpensive shuttles, however you can’t beat the cost of free!
  • Parking at theme parks: Parking for Disney World resort guests is free at all of Disney’s theme parks. Unfortunately this benefit does not cover Shades of Green as it is not considered a Disney resort. The current cost of parking is now $17/day.
  • Dining Plan: Shades of Green guests unfortunately do not qualify for the dining plan as they are not resort guests. As noted above, you are able to add Disney’s Dining Plan to your room only package without the purchase of park tickets with the military discount.
  • Extra Magic Hours: Both Shades of Green and all Disney Resorts qualify you for Extra Magic Hours at Disney World theme parks. One of my favorite benefits!
  • FastPass+: FastPass+ service is available to add Disney World guests with valid park tickets. If you purchase tickets ahead of time, you are able to make reservations 60 days in advance at Disney World resorts and 30 days in advance at Shades of Green (as it is considered an “off site” hotel). Your tickets must be linked to your My Disney Experience account in either situation.
  • MagicBands: MagicBands are free to all Disney World resort guests. Any guest can purchase a MagicBand in the theme parks.

If cost is a major factor in your Disney World vacation, you may have a less expensive option (and a little bit more space) at Shades of Green over a Disney value resort. With such a great year round discount, you’ll save a great deal of money regardless of your resort category in a Disney World resort hotel.

Something else to note…

  • Once you arrive at Disney, check for discounts at stores (especially in Downtown Disney). You can save up to 20% on your purchases!
  • You will not find pricing online anywhere for military offers – this is available via phone only.
A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an agent that is part of authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Mistakes I’ve made in Disney World (and how you can avoid them)

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away…I was a first time Disney World visitor (as an adult). I traveled to Disney World a few times as a child with my family but when you’re young, you just go with the flow. As an adult and in charge of my first ever trip to Disney World in which I was paying out of my own pocket, I made some mistakes. Some big ones! Here were my biggest faux pas and how you can avoid them…

Not Making a Plan ahead of timeThis is much harder to do now that FastPass+ is in effect and more guests than ever are choosing to add a dining plan to their package. It was my sister and me. She had just graduated college and we were celebrating in Disney World. We found a great promo, made 2 dining reservations and just planned to eat as inexpensive as possible as 2 girls just starting with our careers. Neither of our dining reservations were in the parks, so I truly went in with ZERO plan for the day. A marker of Disney World success is knowing park hours, extra magic hours, and having a plan of action prior to your arrival. We truly wandered around the parks (which was fine for two 20somethings, but I felt like we missed a lot – AND WE DID!!)

Not researching resorts enough. My initial research involved finding the absolute rock bottom lowest price. Disney, just like the rest of the world, you get what you pay for! Poly signBooking the cheapest room in the cheapest resort gave us the cheapest experience. Shared bus system, an almost 10 minute walk to from our room the the main building to refill mugs and not our kind of “people” in the resort! If I would have taken 10-15 minutes to research the resorts, look at reviews, or look at other options, I would have spent $75 more (for the entire week – not just one day) on a different resort!

Not realizing how Extra Magic Hours affect crowds. This was one of our biggest mistakes! We saw early morning magic hours for each park and thought that would be a great park to go to with our base tickets (OOPS!) Early Magic Hours increase park crowds and unless you can arrive at the parks before that early hour opens (which can be as early as 7 am during peak travel time), you’re doing yourself a disservice and will end up seeing MORE crowds than you would have on a different day.

Arriving lateWe were on vacation. We took time to sleep in. No college classes, no work, why should we get up early? 9 am – 12 pm are the most important hours of the day (or if park open is 8 am during peak travel time). Being part of the late arriving crowd will have you miss the lowest crowds of each day where many attractions are “walk on”. Set an alarm, wake up early and plan on a nap or a break if the early mornings are getting to you! Consider an off day to let everyone sleep in instead of arriving at the park at 11 am or 12 pm each day and then just staying until park close.

Our amazing view from the FastPass viewing area of MSEP!

Our amazing view from the FastPass viewing area of MSEP!

Not understanding FastPass. Again, we’re going back in time when FastPass was still the paper version. We didn’t figure out how things worked until the end of our trip but the theory still holds true with FastPass+. In Disney’s new system, each guest receives 3 FastPasses for every day they have theme park admission. These can be scheduled up to 60 days in advance of your arrival if you are staying on site and on site guests receive the bonus adding more FastPasses throughout the day by using the My Disney Experience app. FastPass is a key to success no matter what time of year you travel!

Not having the option of park hopping.  Two adults, no kids in tow, lots of rain, cancelled fireworks and shows. We should have park hopped! Our first night, Magic Kingdom fireworks were cancelled because of lightning in the area and we missed Epcot’s because we were so water logged later in the week. With base tickets, we didn’t have the opportunity go back to Epcot based on how our days ended up falling into place. It would have been a nice addition to our trip just to give us some flexibility in our days.

Being afraid to explore other resorts. We hopped the boat from Hollywood Studios down toward the Boardwalk and walked around, had some lunch and then started to peek around Boardwalk Inn. Since it wasn’t our resort, I was uncomfortable walking inside because I didn’t feel like I belonged there. The good news for you? You are welcome in ANY Disney World resort if you’d like to explore the common areas! You don’t need a reservation for a dining location. Hop a bus, boat, or monorail and explore!

Not using Magical Express luggage service. We were flying an airline that offered resort airline check in but we didn’t understand what that meant! For those on qualifying airlines, you may check your luggage with Magical Express at your Disney World resort and only your carry ons will come with you on the bus back to the airport. Luggage is secured and sent to the airport and then next time you’ll see it is at your home airport. Amazing little time saver to not deal with anything at the airport and there are rarely guests in line (at least in my 10+ experiences with it!)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

I hope you learned a few things from my mistakes! I’d love to help plan for your magical adventure! If  you’re ready to get started planning your 2016 or 2017 Disney World vacation, Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Making the most of your Disney World FastPass+ selections

 

UPDATED for SUMMER 2016 and beyond!

If you’ve been to Disney World or Disneyland you’re probably familiar with FastPass service which allows you to skip the line for some of your favorite Disney World attractions. As technology continues to move forward, so does FastPass+. This change allows guests to make their reservations prior to their arrival. It’s great for families that want a day to sleep in (which I don’t recommend), park hop, or start their day with a dining reservation. Rules and available passes are different for on and off site guests. We’ll start for guests staying at any Disney World resort:

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able to make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These first 3 reservations must be in the same theme park. These initial reservations can be made up to 60 days prior to guest arrival date for the length of their stay.
  • Guests will be able to make one additional selection at a time, based on availability. Guests have the ability to make additional selections via the My Disney Experience app or via FastPass kiosks located inside each theme park. You may schedule your 4th, 5th, 6th, etc. FastPasses from the app for any theme park. If using a kiosk, you can only schedule additional FastPasses for the park you are in.
  • Guests will be able to make their additional selection(s) for an experience at which they already redeemed a FastPass+ selection earlier that day (for parks like Epcot and Hollywood Studios, no “tier” requirements)
  • Guests with valid park-hopping privileges will be able to make their additional selection(s) at another park.

It’s a little different for day guests (a.k.a. non-Disney resort staying guests);

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able ot make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These reservations must be made in the same theme park. Initial reservations can be made up to 30 days prior to arriving in the park and do not qualify to make reservations for their length of stay as Disney has no way of knowing what their length of stay really is!
  • No additional FastPass+ reservations will be given to non-resort guests.
  • Not much of any advantage – sorry off site guests!

FastPass+ Reservations, Strategy & Planning for Disney resort guests:

  • Make your three FastPass+ reservations online 60 days prior to your arrival (the window opens up at 7 am EST on the 60th day). You can make the reservations for your entire vacation.
    Choose FastPass options for the most popular attractions and for lines that get the longest (see below for list at each park)
  • Make your choices earlier in the day. I start passes for my guests sometime around 9:45 or 10 am with a headlining attraction and then continue back to back until all 3 passes are used (pending any dining reservations during that time).
  • Arrive at the park before opening and ride one popular attraction standby (ideally one you don’t have a FastPass for); Based on the time you exit the attraction, continue until you hit the middle of your first FastPass time.
  • Continue riding standby as attractions allow. Do your next FastPass as close to the end of the window as possible to use your last 2 FastPasses back to back (it feels so much more successful!)
  • After you use your 3rd FastPass, check the app and grab something for later in the day ASAP!
    Grab lunch and then continue your afternoon (or take a break after lunch and schedule a FastPass for your return).
  • Be flexible! If you see the line for Splash Mountain is short at 10:30 am and your FastPass is for 11, hop in the standby line and change your FastPass attraction (or ride again!)

I know it’s A LOT of planning, but you have the ability to get through 5-6 different attractions before lunch which is HUGE! This works best in Magic Kingdom as there are the most attractions in the least amount of space, however the strategy can be used in any of the 4 theme parks. It becomes more important than ever to know the parks before you arrive.

Choosing FastPass+ Attractions

This is where the process gets a little bit easier. Below is a breakdown of all the available FastPass choices. I have put them in order from longest to shortest wait time (on average). Once you get past the first couple, they are fairly interchangeable. I would highly recommend, you choose FastPasses from the top of the list for your initial reservations as these will be the first to go (and likely will be unavailable by the time you get to a kiosk later in the day). As a reminder, the bold selections in Epcot and Hollywood Studios are the tier one choices. You may choose one RED attraction, and two non-red attractions for your three reservations.

MAGIC KINGDOM

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales With Belle
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Meet Rapunzel and a visiting princess in Fairy Tale Hall
  • Meet Cinderella and a visiting princess in Fairy Tale Hall
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Meet Ariel at her Grotto
  • Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (Mickey Mouse talks here!)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • The Barnstormer
  • Meet Tinkerbell in Town Square Theater
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • it’s a small world
  • Mad Tea Party (Spinning teacups)
  • Festival of Fantasy Parade (preferred seating)
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

EPCOT

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Soarin’
  • Test Track
  • Mission: Space

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

  • Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Turtle Talk With Crush
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Living with the Land
  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment
  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Star Tours
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • First Time in Forever: Frozen Sing-along
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • DINOSAUR
  • Jungle Book Alive (more important when it transitions to Rivers of Light)
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Primeval Whirl
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 or 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!