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!

 

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Everything you need to know about Disney Dining Plans in 2017

dining2017

Disney’s dining plans can be a confusing, but it’s meant to simplify your your trip. Adding the dining plan to your package reservation essential makes it an all inclusive stay! So what do you need to know about it and is it for you?

Adding the dining plan to your reservation

In order to add a Dining plan to your reservation, you must be an on site guest and booking as a package ($200 deposit required and final payment due 30 days prior to your arrival). Disney does allow room + dining packages with no tickets and full packages with room, tickets, and dining coupled together. Military families can only book room + dining packages (tickets must be purchased separately from their local ticket office. If you elect to add the dining plan to your package reservation, each guest in your room MUST be included and it must be for your entire length of stay (there are some ways around this policy including booking a “split stay” reservation).

What about free dining?

The free dining promotional offer has been available over the last several years. Disney used to offer the same discount for January and February, but that seems like it is going by the wayside with other similar promotions (discounted but not free). During the fall months, Disney has offered this promotional offer for select dates but I think we’re all waiting for the year when it does go away. These big package promotions are used to help fill unbooked rooms but with overall park attendance up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go.

Dining credits?

All of Disney’s dining plans provide you with dining credits to be used during your stay. Your credits are broken down into credit categories – quick service, table service, and snack. All of your credits will be given to you upon your arrival at your Disney World resort to be used any way you choose during your stay. Depending on the plan you choose, you’ll receive credits for each NIGHT you stay.

Who gets credits?

Anyone on the dining plan age 3+ will receive credits. Children under age 3 are free at Disney and therefore will not need their own credits. This means they must share with a sibling or another adult at any plated table service meal and quick service locations. Credits are broken down to child credits (ages 3-9) and adult credits (ages 10+). This is important for table service and buffet restaurants. Child quick service credits can be used for adult meals (SHHH! Little known fact – helpful if you stretch your dollar and share more meals during your stay).

Dining Plan Options

Disney has 3 dining plans for 2017: 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 non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Table service credits come with an entree, non-alcoholic beverage 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, non-alcoholic beverage, 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. 

What is a snack?

Disney suggests a piece of fruit or box of popcorn as a snack. I suggest any drink at Starbucks (yes my venti raspberry white chocolate mocha was covered!), a cupcake, Mickey premium bar, giant pretzel, etc. There are so many great snack options available at Disney, so don’t limit yourself! In years past, there used to be a correlation to a dollar value for snack credits but I’ve seen snacks that are anywhere from $5-8!

What about two credit dining options?

Several Disney table service restaurants require 2 credits on Disney’s Dining Plan. These are listed as “dinner shows” or “signature dining” when searching for dining options. These include:

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table

    Cinderella's Royal Table is one of Disney's most popular restaurants

    Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of Disney’s most popular restaurants

  • Le Cellier
  • Monsieur Paul
  • Hollywood Brown Derby
  • Jiko
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse
  • California Grill
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
  • Citricos
  • Narcoosee’s
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
  • Artist Point
  • Fulton’s Crab House (becoming Paddlefish in Late 2016)
  • Flying Fish
  • The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe

As always, this is subject to change and up to Disney’s discretion!

What about tipping?

All table service restaurants do require gratuity. This includes buffet restaurants. This is NOT optional as your servers are providing you a service. The exception are the dinner shows and Cinderella’s Table which have gratuity included in the price of the experience.

Should I add the dining plan to my package reservation?

Generally yes! Most families benefit from one of Disney’s dining plans. You have a lot of food but it doesn’t limit your options/choice in terms of menu items.  Disney says you can save up to 15% on your food by choosing the dining plan. Out of pure curiosity, I kept all of my receipts from a recent trip and we came out ahead after we used all of our dining credits!

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 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!w!

Friday Five: 5 Updates to your princess themed vacation

I’ve talked about the perfect princess vacation for Disney World goers, but there’s some updates with a whole bunch of princesses either moving locations or just some new Disney magic. So what’s new in princess land around Disney World?

1: Anna & Elsa are on the move! Thankfully not literally but they’ve moved into their new home, the Royal Sommerhus in Epcot. This new location is extremely well themed to the snow sisters and has a more immersive experience. The best part about this location is its size. It allows more guests per hour than ever before so long gone are the 4 and 5 hour wait times to meet the girls! The bad news for moms and dads is that there is not a FastPass option, HOWEVER even shortly after opening, wait times are regularly 30 minutes or less so it’s very manageable.

2: Frozen Ever After. In a huge overhaul of the Norway Pavilion, this one of the biggest summer headlining attraction. For Disney fans, this is in the old Maelstrom attraction. The boats and the overall “track” remain the same but everything else is very different. Great advanced animatronics (they enhanced on the style of the characters they created for the dwarves in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train). The experience is very cute and is getting great views of both children and adults. For those that remember the old Maelstrom ride, they will also remember that it’s well known for it’s frequent outages/breakdowns and that still remains even though the theme has changed. If this is on your must do list, GET A FASTPASS! I can’t stress that enough. If you have a FastPass while the ride goes down, you’ll be able to return anytime later in the day so it’s a failsafe option vs. trying to get there early to be one of the first guests in line!

3: Princess Fairy Tale Hall Shakeup. With Anna & Elsa moving out of Princess Fairy Tale Hall, some princesses packed their bags for a better location. Officially if you look at the FastPass list, your options are Cinderella & a visting Princess and Rapunzel & visiting Princess but thus far Tiana and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) have found a comfortable home in the air conditioning from their previous outdoor locations. I like this change for several reasons (some selfish because I’ve got a big Sleeping Beauty fan). Tiana is a highly requested princess and although she’s parted ways from Prince Naveen during meet and greets, it’s a great way to get her more exposure and guarantee princesses an opportunity to meet her. Additionally, since Rapunzel is not often at any princess dining locations, she now has a dedicated meet and greet without duplicating Cinderella a second time if you have Cinderella’s Table meal + a fairy tale hall meet and greet. This also lowers the traffic in this area and makes standby queue more manageable!

4: Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire. A new stage show made its way to Magic Kingdom in mid-June and while I was sad to see Dream Along with Mickey go, Disney did a wonderful job incorporating some new and more modern princesses as well as under-recognized ones as well. In 3 different sets (similar to the old Dream Along with Mickey show), Princess Tiana (and Naveen) kick up their heels, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider have a dream, and Anna, Elsa, and Olaf Let it Go. Great show. Fun for princess lovers as well and it’s nice to see Rapunzel finally getting some love outside of a bathroom!!

5: Upgrade to Disney Springs Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Disney officially opened the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Disney Springs. In addition to moving to it’s new location (in the building that has the Once Up a Toy Store), it has increased its capacity/seats by 5 TIMES its previous booking availability. This means that more princesses than every can be made over. Disney made this experience incredibly special and I’m really excited to see princesses receive their royal transformation. In addition to having more space, there is a princess dressing room/changing area, more seating for the adults looking to watch the transformation, and some unique photo opportunities following your princess (or prince) makeovers including in front of Cinderella’s Carriage. You may also receive a special visit from the Fairy Godmother. Don’t let my words tell you all about it, check it out for yourself!

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!

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!

Why your SECOND Disney World Trip will be one of the best!

So you’ve made it through your first Disney World vacation. Congratulations! Do you feel like you just barely survived or did you feel like you had the time of your lives? For my family, the first trip (whether it’s a first trip as adults, first time planning myself, first time with grandparents, or first time with kids) wasn’t always the greatest. Things don’t go as you’ve planned even though you’ve likely been planning for anywhere from 3-12 months! So while I’m nearly positive your first Disney World experience was magical, you’ve probably learned so much which is why your second trip is going to be the absolute best. WHY?

Because you know the parks! Not like the back of your hard, I can navigate through Magic Kingdom without a map or tell
you the countries around World Showcase off the top of my head, but you have a general idea of their size, and a general idea of where many of the attractions are in each of the parks (especially family favorites).

Because you know what you like! Whether your first trip was just a little long weekend taste or a 7 night extravaganza, you know a little bit about what you like. You’ve probably found a favorite attraction, a favorite theme park, and perhaps a favorite restaurant. You know things you want to do again and maybe a few things you won’t do again (which is all part of truly enjoying the parks!)

Because you know what you missed! Do you feel like you missed something something in the parks? Whether it was an attraction on your “hope to do” list or maybe a show that you just missed? It’s something to add to your do list in Disney World. Maybe an attraction was under refurbishment during your previous stay and you weren’t able to experience it at all through no fault of your own. Or MAYBE it was pouring rain and you didn’t get to have the full experience of the Magic Kingdom parades.

Because there is always something new! Disney is always innovating. Just this summer, there are more than a handful of new things. You could travel to Disney World every 6 months and see something new and different. That’s the great thing about Disney parks. You’ll never have the same exact experience twice even if you plan it out that way. Even if you just returned home from your last Disney World vacation, your next trip will see no less than 5 new things on your next trip – Rivers of Light and the Awakening of the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom, Updates to Soarin’ and a new Frozen attraction in Epcot, upgraded Star Wars fireworks and the first Olaf meet and greet in Florida in Hollywood Studios, and a new stage show in Magic Kingdom. Can you believe that all of that magic is coming in one year? In 2017, you’ll see all things Pandora, the World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom as well with multiple new attractions!

Because the magic is real! You very likely got a little taste of Disney’s magic in your own little way, but now you know how

The pure JOY on this little girls face is why we continue to travel to Disney destinations!

The pure JOY on this little girls face is why we continue to travel to Disney destinations!

to create the magic yourself. The magic is real and being in the middle of it at a Disney World resort is amazing. I’ve lost count on how many Disney World adventures I’ve been on between family trips and training/business trips and no matter what the circumstances, it’s magic. My last trip was work related and we were surprised with my friends Minnie and Mickey right before we were dismissed AND I got a front row seat for Festival of Fantasy parade. You can also open yourself up to the magic a bit more than you may have the first time around. Hug a character, pose with a princess, or (gulp) get matchy shirts!

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)

Whether you used an authorized Disney vacation planner on your first vacation or not, the second time around is almost more important than the first! 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!

Everything you need to know about your Disney World MagicBands!

MagicBands

As part of MyMagic+ and staying on property at a Walt Disney World resort, each member of your party will receive a MagicBand. Regardless of age, each member will be able to customize their very own (even babies and under 3 year olds who don’t require tickets!) This small wristband feels like a rubber/plastic composite and an RFID chip inside. In the last several months, the material the bands are made out of has changed making it a more breathable and lighter! These little guys are adjustable (similar to how a baseball cap is adjustable in the back with little plastic snaps) and have the ability to make a really small version for tiny wrists. Disney truly does thing of everything.

Snaps on the back of the MagicBand to fit to any wrist size!

Snaps on the back of the MagicBand to fit to any wrist size!

So your trip is booked and it’s time to customize your MagicBands, now what? Once logged into you’re My Disney Experience (MDE) account and your reservation linked, you will have access to your MagicBands. Use the drop down on the right and choose MagicBands and Cards.

You will have a list of all of your guests and get to choose a color and a name or nickname for each person. Color choices include: red, yellow, green, blue, gray, orange, purple, or pink. You may also enter a name or nickname which is a maximum of 9 characters including letters, numbers or spacing. Your choice is case sensitive. Feel free to be creative! The nickname on the inside of the band isn’t used for anything – the name that appears on your reservation will be what pops up on the cast member’s screen when scanning your band. BUT, get creative! Family of 4 want to be Minnie, Mickey, Donald and Daisy? You got it! There’s no limit to your levels of creativity here! Names will also be imprinted on the inside of each band. Once you are done with your customization you need to confirm your address and mark them as DONE. This important step will save all of your changes and keep you from getting all gray bands! You are also welcome to choose the same color as another member of your family!

You’ll get a countdown of how many days you have left to customize your bands, but typically goes into customization 30 days prior to your arrival and ships shortly after that via  USPS mail.  Delivery comes in a plain brown box, so if you’re keeping a secret from your kids (and bravo to you!) just follow the package delivery to make sure you get the mail that day. The return address does say it’s from Disney, so it’s not completely anonymous!

Opening your MagicBand package

Plain packaging for delivery of our MagicBands

Plain packaging for delivery of our MagicBands

While I’m an adult, Disney always makes me a kid at heart, so watching and (im)patiently waiting for their arrival even though I’ve received more than 10 separate MagicBand deliveries!

Taking it out of the packaging is incredible (get it?) The inside packaging is also really well done and exciting as well! Each MagicBand is labeled by the name or nickname you chose during customization. While we only have two, it looks like that specific packaging could fit up to 5 in each. if you have a larger party, you’ll receive more than one box full.

Incredible packing of our MagicBands!

Incredible packing of our MagicBands!

I took my band out to try it on for size. Trying to make the snaps work with one hand was somewhat difficult, especially for this mama who does things with one hand all the time (a baby typically in the other). Once I finagled it on my wrist, the fit felt pretty perfect! I’m used to wearing a watch, so it didn’t feel much different. After I wore it around the house for awhile, made dinner, hung out with the baby, who seemed very interested in the band on my wrist as well as the box.

I decided to pick up the inside packaging and there was a little pamphlet discussing all the capabilities while on Disney property and a warning for those with pacemakers. If you booked your Disney vacation as a package (minimum room + tickets), you’ll also receive souvenir luggage tags with a corresponding Disney character on it. These tags are DIFFERENT from your Magical Express luggage tags which are sent via separate delivery.

After your vacation, they are yours to keep. They will remain linked to your My Disney Experience account unless you deactivate them or mark one as lost or stolen. They will remain available for use for the next 2-3 year and are reusable for future vacation! By booking an on site reservation on a Disney resort, you will receive a new band for each reservation so if yo lose track of your bands between trips, you can always receive a new set. If you don’t want to keep them, Disney will recycle them for you. Ask a Cast Member at your resort for more details.

In more recent times, Disney has also allowed those of us that travel more often to decline a MagicBand if they identify that there is an active band associated with your account. I’m a collector, so I’ve yet to decline a band yet! I usually bring 2-3 with me when we travel so I can color coordinate as well.

So what does my MagicBand do and why do I need one?

  • MagicBands are your new Key to the World and they do a whole lot more than the old system. You can:
  • Open your resort hotel room door
  • Enter the parks each day (if you have linked park tickets to your account) – it will also hold special event tickets
  • Access your FastPass+ selections (for guests that have linked park tickets to their account and made FastPass+ selections prior to arrival)
  • Link any photos you take on property to your My Disney PhotoPass/Memory Maker account
  • Using your Disney dining plan credits
  • Make purchases around Disney property. By setting up a 4 digit pin prior to your arrival or at check in, you don’t even need a wallet in Disney! . You’re just a wave away from payment! Parents, don’t worry, you have to enable charging privileges for your children.
Even babies love MagicBands!!!

Even babies love MagicBands (and how they grow so fast!!!)

Arriving at the Orlando Airport & Boarding Disney’s Magical Express

Make sure your MagicBands go in your carry on luggage. You’ll need them to access your Magical Express (Disney bus taking you from the airport to your hotel). Once you arrive at the airport, head straight to the Magical Express and you will be sent to your first line of your Disney World vacation! This is a great opportunity to put on your MagicBands. Once your bus arrives, each band will be scanned before you are allowed onto the bus. Remember, Disney will take all your luggage straight to your room, so this process makes getting to resort even faster! Remember, plan for about 75-90 minutes from arrival time at the airport to arrival at your resort. It could be less and the bus ride seems to go fast while you enjoy the welcome from Disney characters!

Arriving at your resort hotel

Once you arrive at your resort, find the correct line to check in: 1. online check in if you checked you in online prior to your arrival or 2. the check in/check out desk which is available if you did not do online check in. One of the very nice cast members will help walk you through the process of check in, confirming all of your contact and billing information as well as using your MagicBands to pull up your reservation! Once your room is ready, you’ll be asked to tap your MagicBands to your door. If you’re staying club level at one of the deluxe resorts, you’ll be asked to tap each MagicBands to your door to register them as a club level guest. You may also have received a direct to room notification if you completed online check in and you can head right to your room and bypass the front desk!

Heading to the theme parks

Once you are checked in, you are able to use your park tickets and dining plan! Whether your room is ready or not, you can head to the parks (another benefit to arriving early in the day!) If you are driving to the park, the driver will need to present his or her MagicBand at the gate to prove your stay inside one of the Disney resort hotels allowing you free parking! You’ll find one of the many MagicBand scanners in the park, mostly noted by the giant Mickey Heads! Hold your band to Mickey’s head as it reads the RFID chip. Once that’s done, choose one of your fingers to put on the finger scanner. You’ll need to use the same finger every single time afterwards. This will turn Mickey’s head green and you’re off to enjoy your first attraction! If there are any issues, you’ll get a blue flashing light and to be asked to try again.

Using your FastPass+ reservations Your FastPass+ reservations will be available via your MagicBands. Each attraction that has FastPass+ capability will have the same Mickey Heads at their FastPass entry. Hold your band to Mickey to wait for the green light. You are unable to arrive prior to your FastPass+ time, but you are given several minutes of grace period after your reservation time ends (I tried 20 minutes late which was too long). For suggestions on making your FastPass+ reservations or what attractions are available, review the most up to date FastPass+ strategy for Disney World Resort Guests.

Extra Magic Hours

What if I’m taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours? It’s different for morning and evening hours. For morning magic hours, only Disney hotel guests are able to enter the park early. You’ll need to show your MagicBand at entry only. For evening hours, one member of your party will need to show your MagicBand for scanning at the entrance to each attraction available during extra magic hours. A cast member will ask how many is joining in your party as you enter to save on scanning each and every time!

Charging to your MagicBands

When you do online check in OR check into your resort, you will be asked to set up a 4 digit pin to allow charges via your MagicBand. The pin can be different for each adult or the same for each member of your party. Additionally, based on age, some children will not be allowed charging privileges at all. Some older children may be allowed to charge with parental permission (they’d need access to the pin as well). If you don’t want your children to purchase anything, that’s ok too.

Dining Plan Credits

If you elected to add Disney’s Dining Plan to your package, your dining plan credits will also be on your MagicBands. Your MagicBand will be scanned to use your credits. As always, your remaining credits will be listed at the bottom of your receipt.

Taking Photos/Memory Maker

Each photographer is now armed with a scanning device. So take as many photos as you’d like, enjoy the benefits of Disney’s Memory Maker package! After you are done with your photos, the photographer will scan one MagicBand and the photos will be instantly added to your account! Again, easier than trying to keep track of another card along the way of your entire vacation!

What if I’m staying at 2 separate Disney hotels/resorts or have 2 reservations because of 2 discounts?

We actually stayed at 2 different resorts so had 2 MagicBands each. Our first resort reservation had our hotel and park tickets and the second was a room only reservation. We were told to formally check out of our first resort (instead of leaving the reservation open through the end of the day). When we arrived at the second resort, we were told that both sets of bands would work for both the resort entry as well as the park tickets. We brought both sets of bands with to the park that day and the cast member was correct! We were able to use our new bands to continue our park tickets.

My review of MagicBands

I really enjoyed using our MagicBands! We used them for everything. I never had to worry about digging in my bag for my Key to the World card to get into the park or grab my credit card to pay for anything (especially as we toured World Showcase in Epcot). We never had a problem throughout our entire trip getting into our hotel room, accessing the parks and our FastPass+ reservations, charging at quick service or table service restaurants, etc. It was a great overall experience with no snafus! I’m excited for others to try this upgrade to Disney technology!

Related posts:

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 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!

Disney World Tips for Jedi Training Academy

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It’s been awhile since I talked about Jedi Training Academy in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For those that are unfamiliar with the experience, it is an interactive live show in which kids age 4-12 can train to learn the ways of the Force to defeat the dark side. Kids are given lightsabers and don cloaks. As a part of their training they will have a run in with one of many villains including Darth Vader, Darth Maul, or even the Seventh Sister Inquisitor (from Disney XD).

This experience was updated to incorporate experiences from The Force Awakens for the new Jedis and will very likely continue to evolve as additional movies come out! If you want your young Padawan to be a part of this fun experience, you’ll need to plan ahead!

This is an experience that is not available via FastPass or something that can be signed up for ahead of time and only 12 children are able to sign up for each available time slot. Sign up begins as soon as the park opens and shows are scheduled approximately every 30 minutes (beginning around 10 am). This is an increase from even a year ago at this time (I remember days that there were only 10-12 shows per day and I counted on today’s daily schedule a total of 20 (and this is not considered peak travel). DSC_1436

If this on your must do list, here are a few ways to set yourself up for success:

  1. Arrive at the park at least 30 minutes before official park opening. This will put you closer to the front of the turnstiles and allow you walk quickly and safely over to sign up.
  2. Know where to go. Sign up has MOVED from where it was a year ago at this time. Sign up is now located at the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost which is between 50s Prime Time Cafe and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. The child interested in participating AND a parent must be present at the time of sign up.
  3. Have a list of your FastPass to ensure you’re not going to overlap something like Toy Story that cannot be moved.
  4. This cannot be a park that can be “hopped” to with the expectation to get a time after 12 pm.
  5. Have patience! The queue forms quickly with excited families, but with more shows, you’re still sure to be able to sign up for this experience.

A few additional notes:

On days with early magic hours, you sign up begins DURING magic hours which is a leg up over leading the charge with day guests and Disney resort guests. You can also attempt to get a leg up on the action by booking the first breakfast at Hollywood & Vine. This may give you a little leg up. I wouldn’t book anything after 8:15 am because it may end up being a detriment to your end goal if you don’t get seated right away or you’re waiting to get your final bill (especially if park rope drop ends up earlier than the posted 9 am time).

Prep your kids! Make sure they know they will be facing a villain as part of the process. There is also a reason that the age requirement is 4 and not 3 (like things like bibbidi bobbidi boutique). It requires the ability to follow direct and wait turns. As a mom of a 3 year old, I know my child wouldn’t be capable of such direction (she’s also a “new” 3 and not closer to “almost 4”). Know that they will be away from mom and dad during this experience as well.

For moms and dads looking to get the best view of the action, fear not! When you check in for the time you chose at sign up, your padawans will be lead to the stage with family right behind so you’ll have the best seat in the house!

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)

Are your young padawans ready to become Jedis? Please feel free to contact me anytime 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!