Go! Go! Go! Or No Go! Go! Go!

Now, you may look at the title and be saying to yourself…HUH! This entry is not about whether to go to Walt Disney World or not! I believe I would have to relinquish my status within the fabulous Disney community if that was the debate.

Partner's Statue, Magic Kingdom Park

No, this is about how you decide to tour the resort. Do you hit the ground running like a platoon of commandos? Or, do you like a more leisurely pace what is the order of the day? There are more than two trains of thought on how to handle the parks. And, don’t forget that there ARE things of interest outside of the parks to occupy your time.

Commando Style of touring means hitting rope drop no matter what! Breakfast may be an optional meal for those who are aiming to make certain rides and attractions at certain times. These folks carry spreadsheets and touring plans. Everything is laid out and there is very little, if any, room for augmentation! You know going in that your first stop is a FastPass machine (may be a thing of the past, soon). Then you hit a few of the main attractions, before going back to cash in that FastPass. Your constantly moving all around the park to get everything done in a day! If you’re lucky, you get a 30 stop for food, and a 3 minute bathroom break along the way. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired just typing all of this up!

The Leisurely plan allows for a few change-ups along the way. Sure, you may still make rope drop, but you will either eat a little something in your room, or grab something at a Counter Service and sit to take in the surroundings. As you stroll from one attraction to another, you may take a moment or two looking at some of the details that are put into the facades and queue lines. After all, Disney is in the Details! You may not finish an entire park in one day, but you will have relaxed and really enjoyed your day.

Some may blend both of these styles and make them work according to what day they visit a certain park. And, depending on how much time your vacation allows will be critical in determining how you tour the parks at The Walt Disney World Resort. It seems the shorter time that we have, to more we feel the necessity to hit it and keep running!

There are some really good resources available to help in the planning, regardless of the style you may choose. One place is at http://www.touringplans.com. Touring Plans is the brainchild of Len Testa, one of the co-authors of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. They have crowd calendars, suggestions, touring plans for all types, and an optimizer that you can use while in the park that uses current wait times to help you navigate your way around the park.

Another fabulous site is http://www.easywdw.com. Here, you are given an everyday guy’s view of what goes on at WDW. This site also has some calendar information, and some planning tools. I love to read his postings on a regular basis as it feeds my own Disney habit, and the pictures really help to understand what he is doing. If he visits a restaurant, you get a picture of the current menu with prices.

Whatever your style of touring the parks of WDW, if you can look back and say you’re satisfied, you’ve had a great Walt Disney World vacation.

Thanks for reading! Have a blessed and magical week!

Weekend Wind-up for October 27, 2013

In this week’s wind-up we have news on the Jungle Cruise, Mickey Mouse, and more news on MagicBands.

courtesy Disney Parks Blog

Up first, the Jungle Cruise will be transformed into the Jingle Cruise for the Christmas season at Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland. The skippers will have some to dialog, the boats and surroundings will receive overlays of Christmas decorations. The changes will take effect in early November. I am excited to see what this will look like, especially at night!

Mickey Mouse meet and greet in the Town Square Theater has a new feature. He talks! He blinks! My question is, how will this interaction be guided by the use of the MagicBand? One possible use could be to greet visitors by name, especially if there is a special occasion or celebration. Imagine your little ones face when they are wished a Happy Birthday by Mickey! What a magical touch that could be!

And, finally, the MagicBand roll-out continues, what is rumored, to be completed by November 1, 2013. Just about all of my friends and acquaintances have been using them and the feedback is quite promising. Sure, there are still a few bugs in the system. But, it appears that Disney is working hard to complete the debugging as quickly as they possibly can. I’ll have more personal input on this in the coming months.

Well, that’s it for this week! Have a blessed and magical week, my friends!

Fastpass+ Flexibility

As some may recall, a week back I had not been able to choose MagicBands (MBs), nor had I been able to access Fastpass+ (FP+) attractions. Well, an hour after I published that entry, I saw someone was wondering if you could pick FP+ without the MBs. Well, I was pretty sure that the answer was ‘no’, but I wanted to experiment to see for myself.

I got on http://www.mydisneyexperience.com (MDE) and clicked on the “Make FP+ Selections”. I was then surprised to find that it was allowing me to choose attractions for our upcoming visit to Walt Disney World! So, in the interest of gaining more knowledge, I decided to see if I was indeed able to select MBs. When the selection screen opened up, I had to wake my wife and kids to get our color choices made!

MB Turnstiles

Since that moment, I have been making FP+ selections, moving things around, changing time and then it hit me! One of the benefits of being able to use this new system is the ability to make things fit in a time order that makes sense.

If you are in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and you want to see Beauty and the Beast and Lights, Motors, Action! you can make sure that you don’t overlap the times. Do you have a meal time that conflicts with what FP+? Just take click on the attraction you have on your MDE mobile app, choose Change Time, and choose a time that fits better. This appears to be easier than trying to change those precious dining plans, especially if you have an ADR.

In the last week, I have changed a few times, and few attractions, to just see how it all works. So far, so good!

Overall, this is an impressive system. Sure, there may still be a few bugs to work out, but if it works as well during our next stay, I think it will be a lot of fun and a new level of magic!

Have a blessed and magical day, my friends!!

Saving Money at Walt Disney World

We all know that it ain’t cheap to go to Walt Disney World. But, we also know there are ways to minimize the pain once we arrive there. Here are just a few ideas to pass along to you. These are not in any specific order.

1. Whether you are on the Disney Dining Plan or are paying out of pocket, consider sharing some of your meals. Most eating establishments serve meals large enough to easily share with one or two others, especially kids.

Good menu, Big portions
Good menu, Big portions

2. Take snacks or packed lunches into the park. It is allowed and a great way to save a few more bucks! And, don’t forget to bring some water. If you have the ability, freeze some bottled water and put them into a backpack to keep you cooler as you walk. As the day goes, you will have plenty of water to drink. If you take a cup with you, ask for ice and water at any counter service food stop.

3. When considering hoppers, think about how you want to tour the parks. Depending on your length of stay, it may make better sense to add a few extra days on your tickets and maximize your time in-park. In my opinion, Hoppers are best for shorter visits.

These are just a few ideas. I’d love to hear what you might suggest. Please post your thoughts on this blog to share with other readers.

Thanks, and have a blessed and magical day!!

Pandora and Entertainment at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Avatar_4

One of the questions I find myself asking is…Will ALL of this take four years to come to fruition? Sure, the creation of Avatar’s Pandora may take some time, but what about the evening entertainment? What about the evening ride on Kilimanjaro Safari?

It would make sense, and maybe this is the issue, to get the things that can be put together quicker to begin operating in preparation of the hopeful premiere of Pandora in 2017.

Well, maybe some of you have ideas on how this could all work…it’s your turn!

Be blessed and may the Magic of Disney make your day brighter!

Weekly Wind-Up for October 20, 2013

This week saw the introduction of Glow With the Show Ears at Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and just this Saturday at the Magic Kingdom for Celebrate the Magic and Wishes! The videos I watched really show the crowd enjoying the way that the Ears augmented these spectacular finales to the park-goers day.

While the cost may be prohibitive for some guests, it seems that there are enough willing to pay for them to really make a difference. Keep in mind that it looks better if people with the ears on are close enough to each other to be visible.

In other news, the MagicBand rollout continues and appears to be in full use by December 1. It appears that the Fort Wilderness Campground, Saratoga Springs, and The Grand Floridian will be the last of the resorts to begin the “testing” phase by the end of October. In addition, there are fewer big issues being reported through various Disney boards and chatrooms. Maybe, this will all work out well, after all.

Construction at the Disney Springs project appears to be moving forward. There are walls up near DisneyQuest and House of Blues, earthmovers are moving earth and cranes are helping to position supplies and equipment. Only time will tell how he development will be impacted. Personally, I am anxious to see it once completed!

Thanks for reading! Please consider sending your trip reports to share. Email them to threestrandswdw@outlook.com. Have a very blessed and Disney magic filled Sunday!

Waiting To Go To WDW!

My family is eagerly awaiting our next trip to WDW! Don’t worry, it’s not THAT far off! Problem is it gets harder to wait as the time moves closer to departure. We don’t know if we will be able to order MagicBands, FastPass+, etc. And, that’s got us a little nervous! But, according to a Cast Member I spoke to last week, we should be good at about 28 days from arrival.

Magicband-Box

In the meantime, I keep checking My Disney Experience, double checking that all my information is in place. We keep talking about what attractions we want to use, if we get to choose. I see reports from friends all the time about their experience with MBs, and really want to see it for myself! I’m not very patient, sometimes.

We are going to watch a different Disney movie over the next several Friday evenings to put us in a Disney frame of mine and we are hoping to score “Fantasia” for the ride to Florida. I have all the music and am downloading some podcasts to keep me company during my overnight shift of our, planned, 17 hour trip. And, of course, I talk about Disney World with anyone who will listen.

So…the countdown continues, the packing will begin soon, and we are waiting for our Mickey Mail to arrive with whatever documents may come our way.

How do you wait for your vacation to Walt Disney World? Leave your comment on my blog and share some ideas with me and other WDW fans!

Have a blessed and magical day!

Epilogue: As I got on My Disney Experience this morning, I got on the Fastpass+ portion and found the ability to choose attractions. As a result, I decided to click on the Customize Magicbands, and voila! MBs ordered!!!

Aulani Trip Report

Welcome to Aulani - A Disney Resort and Spa
Welcome to Aulani – A Disney Resort and Spa

Please welcome guest writer…
Kristin Jackson – Hawaii October 4-11

Our Hawaiian adventure began last March when our best friends invited us to go to Hawaii with them. They had enough frequent flyer miles to get all seven of us over there. We had enough points for 5 nights at Aulani, they had enough for 2 nights at the Marriott Vacation Club. After pulling all of our resources we knew we could make it work!

We began our vacation at the Marriott Vacation Club at Ko’Olina on Friday afternoon in a 2 bedroom villa. This was a beautiful resort. Very different from Aulani. The resort has wide open grassy areas and much less Hawaiian theming. The lobby is lovely, open air and welcoming. The first day we asked for directions to Diamond Head as valet pulled our rental car around. The employee at the concierge desk not only gave us a map but also a bottle of water for each member of our party. What a nice touch! I would recommend this hotel if visiting Hawaii, especially an all adult traveling party.

On Sunday we moved to Aulani. We checked-in at 8:30 am as we were meeting friends on the North Shore at 10:00. Imagine our surprise when they said our room was ready! We made our way up to room 1450 of the Ewa Tower and could not believe our luck! We had a view of the ocean overlooking the pool and if you looked the other way we had a view of the mountains! I quickly realized we had the room I had read about on trip reports with the very large balcony.

Aulani Room 1450 Ewa Tower
Aulani Room 1450 Ewa Tower

The room was perfect for our party of 7. It was a 2 bedroom dedicated. The master had one king bed and we moved the sleeper chair into the master bedroom. The second bedroom had 2 queen size beds. There are 2 1/2 baths and the couch also pulled out. Moving the sleeper chair into the master left the living area free of sleepers. This was just what we needed with our clocks being off 6 hours! Those who woke up early were able to go into the living area and balcony to have breakfast and coffee without disturbing the others.

During our trip we made some outings on the island to Diamond Head, Manoa Falls, Hanauma Bay, the North Shore, Waikiki and other scenic areas. We had rented a van for less than $200 for the week. This allowed us to tour the island without having to pay the expensive excursion prices from the resorts. With a bit of preplanning this was not an issue at all and we saved thousands of dollars. Most of the outings are state or city run parks. Some have fees only for parking and others have a small fee to enter. An example is Manoa Falls. The Disney excursions costs around $100 a person. This includes a tour guide, transportation, a bottle of water, and hiking boots. We were charged $5 for parking only. We knew it would be muddy so we bought cheap water shoes before we traveled. We didn’t have a guide explaining all the flora to us but we did have a great time hiking and exploring! That being said, I do like to preplan and save money. The excursions would be great if you want to sit back and let the others do the planning for you.

Our five nights at Aulani were wonderful. Included in our party was 4 40-something year olds and 3 children ages 10,14, and 16. There was something to do for everyone.

Lets start with the pool area. The new expansion area was open. We never had trouble finding chairs together. Like most others we found the pools to be fun and the lazy river relaxing. We spent many hours in the lazy river, infinity pool, and infinity hot tub. There is now an adult only pool which is small. Plenty of chairs and 2 cabanas in the adult only section. I saw many couples without children relaxing there. I think it’s a nice touch for “more seasoned” DVCers and the many number of couples we saw on their honeymoon. Even in the off season the other pools were full of children splashing and playing.

We spent lots more time in the lagoon than I thought we would. The way the lagoons were developed keep the big waves out which made it very easy for the kids. We rented from Makiki Joe’s Rental Shack 2 days. We rented paddleboards and kayaks. The stand up paddleboards were $30 per hour and the double kayaks were $20 per hour. Both kids and adults enjoyed the lagoon activities. This area also had plenty of chairs. My husband especially liked snorkeling in the lagoon out by the rocks. He even saw an octopus! Several in our party had sone the Rainbow Reef length of stay pass that was only $20. They could also use the Rainbow Reef snorkeling equipment in the lagoon.

photo

Our dining was limited to a breakfast at Ama Ama, the quick service restaurants, and the Olelo room. I thought the prices were very reasonable and not outside the norm for Hawaii or Disney. The new Ulu cafe had some nice offerings for a plate lunch and warm sandwiches. The only problem we ran into is my husband spent the last two days very sick from salmonella poisoning that we think came from the Olelo Room. He ended up at the Urgent Care getting an IV of fluids, moriphine, and antibiotics. The food and beverage manager contacted us after hearing of the illness (or as Disney calls it “the allergic reaction” from our restaurant). He stated no other complaints were made that evening but that’s the only meal I did not share with him for two days prior to him getting sick so we’re pretty sure we narrowed down the culprit. The manager was very apologetic.

We enjoyed a few of the offerings from the free resort activities. The Starlit Hui is a must do! We did not do a luau while visiting but a nice dinner out and the Starlit Hui seemed just as good. The ukelele players were amazing. The kids participated in some of the teen events and community hall events. They reported back that they had a great time. They also enjoyed the Menehune hunt with the phones, especially the lobby hunt. The list of daily events is available in the lobby each day of your stay. Unfortunately we were unable to do all the activities we wanted to do since my husband spent the last two days sick but the ones we did were top quality.

A few last thoughts on Aulani and Ko’Olina.
-They are a distance from Waikiki and many of the activities on the windward side of the island but the beach is so uncrowded and beautiful I wold take the drive over staying in Waikiki any day.
-Aulani is expensive but with the activities and childcare at Aunty’s Beach House it’s a decent bargain.
-The hotel and grounds are really beautiful. The day we were at Waikiki the beach was so crowded. I kept saying to my friend, “I can’t wait to get back the Disney version of Hawaii!”
-Don’t plan to stay in the resort the entire vacation unless you only have one or two nights. There is plenty to do at the resort but the experiences hiking and sight seeing were extraordinary.

People keep asking if I would go back. The simple answer is yes. However it is a LONG flight from the East Coast and very expensive. I would like to go back one day but would like to experience some other places first. And of course, next year we will be vacationing at WDW. No matter how intriguing Hawaii was, I still missed my yearly trip to The World!

If you would like to share your trip report, please send it to threestrandswdw@outlook.com.

What a trip!

I don’t know about any of you, but I love to hear Walt Disney World trip reports on the podcasts I listen to everyday. I also love reading what people share on Facebook, or other sharing sites. So, I was thinking that it might be fun to share through this medium!

Today, I would like to ask for some input from my readers and their friends. I would like to share trip reports with everyone who loves Disney vacations. Whether Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise, or Adventures by Disney, I’d love to know more about your personal adventures. Simply type something up, sharing as much as you want, and be sure to include some pictures.

Send your stories to threestrandswdw@hotmail.com.

Thank you and have a blessed, magic filled day!

Weekly Wind-Up October 7 – 14, 2013

Today, begins a new endeavor for this blog.  I just want to give some bits and pieces of the news coming out of Walt Disney World for the past week.  And, maybe give just a little feedback, when warranted.

This week’s Limited Time Magic was An Imagineer’s Tour of Expedition Everest.  This looks like it would have been really fun!  I am thankful to a few faithful friends who post on YouTube and were able to capture this tour for those of us who couldn’t be there.  The detail in the entire story make me want to evaluate how much time needs to be spent in Animal Kingdom.

Tuesday saw the new Disability Access Service go into affect.  This new system allows anyone with need for assistance to make use of a FastPass type system that allows them to enter a ride or attraction within the posted wait time.  Guests with disabilities who need to, may choose to wait for their ride time somewhere more comfortable for them.  So far, I haven’t heard of any real issues with the new system and I believe that Disney will work out any of the issues that arise as quickly as they are able.  Maybe, this will eventually be linked to the MagicBands.

Finally, the big news came from the D23 Japan Expo, when Disney announced the 2017 opening of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  With the concept art being displayed, Avatar looks like it may actually add something to the park.  We only hope the real thing comes close to the concepts shown.  This will also see the introduction of some evening activities and a feature stage.  While I am optimistic that this will happen, I am cautiously looking forward to seeing this once it opens.

One more thing, If I may…

I would love to start sharing trip reports via my blog.  If you would like to share your experiences at any Disney venue, I’d love to know about it and share it with other Disney fans.  Just send your reports to threestrandswdw@outlook.com.  I will do no editing of your material.

 

Have a Blessed, and Magic-Filled Week!