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!

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!

An update to Disney World FastPass service – April 10, 2016

It’s been rumored that Disney was changing FastPass service on April 10th allowing guests to choose their FastPass times at the time of booking as well as the ability to add FastPasses via the mobile app. Some major and helpful updates:

  • The ability to choose the time of your FastPass from the start (you want Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but don’t see a time earlier in the day like you were hoping. You don’t have to go through the entire process to see available times which makes this component a bit faster)
  • The ability to choose as little as one or as many as 3 FastPasses. For people that don’t like some of the attractions available in the 2 theme parks (Epcot and Hollywood Studios) that have tiered FastPasses, you can skip making selections you don’t want.
  • Scheduling FastPasses when park hopping – while this functionality is still not available prior to your arrival. Once all of your pre-scheduled FastPasses are used or time has passed, you can use the app to schedule FastPass in ANY of the 4 theme parks. That means you can be on the monorail from Epcot to Magic Kingdom and scheduling a FastPass before you even walk into the park. SUPER helpful!

What I don’t love about the changes:

  • It makes scheduling FastPass a little bit slower as you can only choose one at a time (Something that normally takes me 10-12 minutes took me 17 today). Some of that was because I was trying to take some screen captured of the experience and trying to navigate the new system. It’s not a huge deal in time, but it’s one thing I miss about the old system.
  • The system is not “smart” enough to not provide you times that don’t overlap an existing FastPass so you have to remember the time you previously grabbed or it will take more time.
  • It will take more morning times away from the savvy people with strategy to pull FastPasses in the AM to add more later. It also provides morning times as a first option so they will now be going a little bit faster making the higher value options like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Toy Story Mania a little less available in the morning.

Overall it’s a nice improvement of the system. Hopefully some of the bugs will get worked out over the next few updates of the workflow to get a better overall user experience. The experience on the My Disney Experience app now looks nearly identical to the web site which makes for a familiar user experience from start to finish (and a lot less clicks to make changes on the app which is a welcomed change). If you’d like to see the changes to the app, you will need to update your current version of My Disney Experience.

So what does the new system look like? A few photos:

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 11.03.17 PM

One of your first screens in the new FastPass selection system. – choosing the date you want to select your FastPasses for!

 

Once you select your day, hours for each of the 4 theme parks will pop up to show you park hours, extra magic hours, or any special events for the day in question.

Once you select your day, hours for each of the 4 theme parks will pop up to show you park hours, extra magic hours, or any special events for the day in question.

 

Once your park is selected, available times for each attraction pops up. It looks very similar to the dining options. There are some buttons at the top to allow you to select morning, afternoon, evening, or drop down to find a specific time.

Once your park is selected, available times for each attraction pops up. It looks very similar to the dining options. There are some buttons at the top to allow you to select morning, afternoon, evening, or drop down to find a specific time.

 

Once you choose a time for your first experience, you will get a confirmation screen. You then have the option to choose another experience (if you've only chosen 1 or 2) or to make a selection for a different day.

Once you choose a time for your first experience, you will get a confirmation screen. You then have the option to choose another experience (if you’ve only chosen 1 or 2) or to make a selection for a different day.

 

As a reminder, you can still choose up to 3 experiences each day but you are now not required to choose 3. This makes the experience a little easier for me (a chronic FastPass “waster” in parks like Hollywood Studios because I’m not a thrill rider). I can just choose Toy Story Mania and MAYBE one of the shows for my 3 year old and then we can hop over to Epcot or back to Magic Kingdom to ride it’s a small world over and over!

I’d expect to see less availability inside the parks for FastPasses as the day goes on or you may find yourself waiting a longer time to grab an additional FastPass. As a reminder, with anything new, please be patient! It looks like the initial roll out is working well from my experience today, but there’s always hiccups in the system. This system is also new to cast members, so please be patient with them as well as they learn the new experience!

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)

If you would like help planning your next Disney World vacation, I’d love to be a part of the process. 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!

Navigating Disney parks during holidays and peak season!

Epcot ball

Happy Easter Disney fans! It’s another peak travel date in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. So for the families that don’t have the luxury of traveling during off peak travel dates outside of holidays whether you’re a teacher, your child’s school doesn’t allow you to take them out, or it’s just too difficult to take kids out of school because it would be too difficult to catch up. This means you’ll be traveling during summer, school breaks, or holidays. And that’s OK! I’m sure in 5-6 years we’ll be facing that struggle with a child in school full time and learning things every day that it would be much more difficult to miss!

So how do you navigate Disney parks during peak travel? Here are a few great tips to help save yourself time and frustration whether traveling with kids or just adults!

  • Plan ahead when possible. Book early to get the best rooms available which often gets you the best rates. If you FullSizeRender 2want to stay at Polynesian over Christmas, you should be thinking about that NOW! Disney raises rates during peak travel, so if you want to save some money, choosing one of those lower cost rooms – a standard view or a lagoon view, those will go more quickly than the more expensive club level rooms!
  • Prep everyone in your travel party for the crowd levels. Know that there will not be as much “room to roam” and less opportunity to “walk on rides”. Think about some games to play while you are in line (Heads Up!) is a popular app and easy for anyone who can read to play! Also bring some snacks and something to drink with you.
  • Think park hoppers to maximize your time. During peak travel times, park hoppers are incredibly helpful! They allow you to start your day in a park with early magic hours and then “hop” elsewhere when the crowds increase beyond a level you find manageable. Outside of peak travel time, I’m not a huge fan of extra magic hours because it increases crowds more quickly than other days so it’s not always a great use of your park time during off peak travel days.
  • Plan for mid-afternoon breaks (with an asterisk). Disney ALWAYS has the late arriving crowds and that’s what really makes the crowds increase. As those always late arriving people arrive, that’s your key to take a mid-afternoon break as noon until about 4 pm is the peak of crowds during the day! If you’d like to see Magic Kingdom’s afternoon parade, pick a day to stay but know you’ll have to find your “front row seat” early! The big asterisk here is if you want to be in Magic Kingdom on the most popular days of the year that often see closures due to park capacity – Christmas Eve, Christmas day, New Years Eve, and New Years Day. Those are the days that you need to arrive early and plan on being there ALL DAY! To break up your day, schedule dining reservations inside the park when possible!
  • IMG_6600Speaking of parades, avoiding Main Street will help lower crowds a little bit and you won’t have to arrive as early. There’s also very little shade along the parade routes, so plan “shifts” to hold spots so one person isn’t stuck in the sun the whole time! The rumor is that Disney is doing away with FastPasses for parades but I just pulled one for June 1st so they’re not a think of the past quite yet! If parades are important (especially during peak time), consider a FastPass!
  • Know the places to “rest your feet” or relax your eyes for a bit (sorry Disney)! I love most of these attractions so don’t get your pitchforks out! Magic Kingdom has plenty of options – things like Carousel of Progress, TTA PeopleMover, PhilharMagic, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, or find a tree at Tom Sawyer’s Island! Epcot World Showcase is full of shows but not all of them have seats so be careful as you choose your options! American Adventure and Impressions de France are both good options! Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom both have some great shows available throughout the day so check your times guide!
  • LIVE IN THE MAGIC! Whether this is your first time and you’re soaking it all in or your first time during peak travel time, enjoy it! This is my advice to every single guest no matter when your travel. Disney destinations are about magic. You just have to decide if you want to be a part of it with a positive attitude or worry about crowds and shut the magic out. ENJOY!
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 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!

How to make the most out of your Disney World summer vacation!

disney world summer vacation

It’s finally spring, even though it doesn’t feel like it here in the Midwest. With summer vacations right around the corner, here are my tips and tricks for beating the heat this summer but still having an absolutely AMAZING time!!

1. Get water for free. Ice water is free at all quick service locations, even if you don’t buy anything else. Disney understands that the sun is hot in Florida and they’d much rather have hydrated guests then ones going to the hospital or leaving for the day because of heat related illness. Feel free to ask for a cup of water at any time of year, but it’s most common in summer. Many guests don’t like the taste of Orlando water so bring some Mio, Crystal Light Packets, etc. For us sometimes this isn’t enough (my husband is the water monitor for our family to ensure we are staying hydrated, so we order water from a delivery service and bring bottles with us into the park).

2. Know the park hours and arrive early. Check Disney’s website before your arrival and plan ahead. Arrive before park opening (rope drop) and head for the major attractions first. Make sure you know which park has extra magic hours and if you can’t get there at 8 am, go elsewhere. Remember, crowds get longer faster on EMH mornings. You’ll regret arriving at 11. If you have park hoppers, try and take advantage of those parks with extra magic hours to enjoy the parks before it gets hot out. If you’re going to add the park hopper, consider the water park fun and more ticket as well (it’s less expensive than a single day water park ticket and you can enjoy the parks for more than one day).

3. Schedule your FastPasses appropriately. There are a few different schools of thought – use FastPasses in the early portion of the day and then add more as the day goes on vs. leaving your scheduled FastPasses for mid-day. You may want to escape the heat in mid-day and you don’t want to be married to a park just for FastPasses (especially popular attractions like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or meeting Anna & Elsa that you won’t be able to change!) For a full rundown of FastPass strategy and best use, check out one of my most popular posts!

4. Use water rides to your advantage. Water based attractions often have long lines during the hot sun of the afternoon. It’s a great cool off and utilization of one of your FastPasses! Think Kali River Rapids and Splash Mountain.

IMG_6499

Kid’s Splash area at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

5. Take a break. The hot sun between noon and 3 can be exhausting. Regardless of the time of year, plan on taking a break. Whether it’s a nap or a swim, make sure you don’t wear yourself out. All Disney resorts have uniquely themed pools and if that’s not enough, hit the water parks!

6. Don’t try to do it all in one day. Don’t be a hero! You don’t need to do every attraction, even on a short vacation. You’ll be exhausted, hot, and cranky. You can always come back again 🙂

7. Don’t let the rain chase you away. Pack some ponchos and enjoy the free cool off! Don’t forget an extra one for your stroller! Plain on rain almost every afternoon in late summer based on humidity alone. Almost every single attraction stays open in the rain, so don’t let it ruin your day. The exception would be lightning in the area or torrential downpours!

8. Don’t forget the sunscreen. PLEASE don’t forget the sunscreen! Nothing will ruin vacation like a horrible sun burn and not wanting to head back into the sun. Apply in the morning, reapply throughout the day! Between sweat and water rides, you’ll need it. Spray sunscreen is very easily applied.

9. Bring your own water. Yep! It’s allowed 🙂

10. Make sure your feet are comfortable. Get some moisture wicking socks and comfortable shoes with good soles. A bad blister or bad shoes can be a damper on your vacation.

11. Know where to go for some air conditioned attractions. Indoor character meet and greets and theater shows are two of the most popular. Theater shows often seat a large number of people at once so crowds are often low!

12. Dress appropriately. Wear light layers, loose fitting clothing, and breathable material to keep yourself cool.

13. Cool off in a bathroom. Sounds strange, but they are air conditioned and it makes a big difference as you’re getting overheated! For families with younger children, check out the baby care centers. These are additional areas to allow you and your kiddos to cool off. They are popular, but it’s a nice little break!

14. Check out a water park. I know this got mentioned a few different times throughout this post, but they are incredibly fun! I couldn’t believe how much fun we had as adults rolling down the slides and family rides. Even during the heat of a 90 degree day, the lines aren’t incredibly long! Check out a little bit more on Disney’s Blizzard Beach:

15. First opportunity for some of Disney’s newest experiences. This spring and summer there are SO many new things popping up:

  • Frozen Ever After and the opening of Arendelle in Epcot
  • Reopening of Soarin’ in Epcot: Soarin’ Around the World
  • Rivers of Light and extended hours in Animal Kingdom theme park
  • All things Star Wars in Hollywood Studios – an amazing new Stage show with favorite Star Wars characters as well as an enhanced fireworks show each evening.
  • Evening events in ALL four parks for the first time ever! It’s going to be the best summer ever!!
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 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!