Battle of the WDW Podcasts

Repost: Round 2 starts Saturday, March 28,2015

I am certain that I am not alone when it comes to using any method possible to fill the gap between visits to Walt Disney World.  One of the most common, I suspect, and one I use daily is Walt Disney World Podcasts.  I currently have 22 in my list!  So, I thought it would be fun to run an unofficial poll and see how we all rank our favorites.  This will NOT be an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but in the style of my friend Bob All-In-WDW we will have 5 sets of 4 to begin our time.  I will leave it up for two days to give everyone a chance to vote.  The top two from each set will move into the next round.

FIRST TIME VS. SECOND, THIRD, AND BEYOND AT WDW…PART TWO

First View

In our last post, we looked at some ideas for first time guests. Today, we look at the return guest experience. If you read this blog, you are likely a fan of Walt Disney World, or pretty much any part of the Disney universe. I can tell you that, for me, return visits are just as exciting as first visits. Why? Because, it is an opportunity to have new experiences, see new attractions, take in the details, or even revisit a few favorites from previous trips.

On my last trip, I decided I wanted to experience one of the Disney World tours. So, I took the Backstage Magic tour. It was fun, but very long! It is a seven-hour tour starting and ending at EPCOT. You see something in all four theme parks, and have lunch at Whispering Canyon Cafe (my favorite part). It is also quite expensive, but if you really want to dig into some history, imagineering, and story, it’s worth taking. There are also many smaller tours at various location and prices. Look into one, if you are making a return visit in the future. Check out the many offerings at Events and Tours At Walt Disney World

As for details…It is said at Walt Disney World, you see the REAL Disney IN the Details! One of the coolest things to do is to find a bench, table, or stretch of wall to sit on for even a few minutes. Look, Listen, and Smell the details that have been put into your park experience. Did you know that most, if not all, of the areas have some background music playing at a low volume? If you are spending your time running one place to another, you likely have never heard all of the areas that have music! Look at the architecture, especially on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom, at World Showcase, in Harambe at Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Blvd. at Disney Hollywood Studios! And, if you decide to go during Halloween or Christmas, well there are enhanced details to say the least!

My next trip, I plan on slowing WAY down and enjoying the atmosphere of the entire resort. Slightly more hotel pool time. Maybe a water park, some mini-golf, a horseback ride? I will make the minimum FPP and ADR reservations to fit my style for this trip, but probably not much else! I might even work on some romancing of the Mrs.! Yes, that CAN be done at WDW!

I guess my point to all of this is that no matter your age, no matter how many times you visit, there is something for EVERYONE at Walt Disney World! How your tour depends largely on your personality, group makeup, and goals. So, enjoy the planning. Or, if you don’t want to do all of the planning yourself, contact a Disney travel agent for assistance. If you need one, I’d be happy to help you! You can just email me at threestrandswdw@outlook.com, and I’ll hook you up with one of the fine agents at Magical Starr Travel, to official agency of threestrandswdw! Check them out at http://www.magicalstartravel.com!

Thanks for reading! May you have a very Blessed and Magical Weekend, my friends! Bye now!!

First Time vs. Second, Third, and Beyond at WDW…Part One

The Walt Disney World Welcome Archway
The Walt Disney World Welcome Archway

When it comes to planning trips to Walt Disney World, h)ow you plan may depend greatly on what number visit it is for you.  Today, we will begin to look at some of the differences that may take place in those plans. And, we will start with the first time guest.

If you are a first time guest, how you plan may also depend on kids or no kids!  For our purpose, today, we will be using some general plans.  If you have kids, feel free to adjust accordingly.  Or, better yet, leave a comment below to help others who may need some help.

First time guests often want to push as much into their plans as possible.  They may even attempt to ‘do it all”!  Having a good plan is essential to making this work.  Start by determining how many days you want to be in the parks, to help you plan for your overall number of days for your Disney World vacation.  Then, look at a crowd calendar (there are a few available online), and that will help you judge the flow of each park on a given day.  For first time guests, I do not usually suggest Park Hoppers, as it can be confusing enough just getting to one park each day.  Once you have figured out which park to do on what day, it’s time to plan our order of attractions.  And, there are a number of methods that can be used for this, as well.

If you want to do a few Character meals, make sure you make your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) at the 180 day before arrival point, or as soon as you book a vacation if less than 10 days.  If you are an onsite guest, you can book your entire stay at the 180 point before your ARRIVAL day.  This is called the 180+10 rule!  Also, if you have a larger family, and want the convenience of just making the ADR and showing up, you may want to consider the Disney Dining Plan.  For more information on that, see DDP – Plus Dining at https://wordpress.com/post/30334162/1132/

With the new Fastpass Plus (FPP) system, you can choose your rides up to 60 days in advance, if you are staying at a Walt Disney Resort.  If you stay at a hotel off-property, you have 30 days in advance to make your ride selections. You can do three a day, for one park.  After you use those three FPPs, you can select another one at one of the FPP Kiosks found throughout the parks.  If you want to do one of the hard to get attractions (ie, Anna and Elsa Meet, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, Soarin, Toy Story Midway Mania), you may want to plan those for later in your stay to increase your chances of getting one of those.

I try to tell my clients to set a flow, not necessarily go WITH the flow, that works for your family.  I find it easier than criss-crossing the parks and putting more mileage on my feet.  However, do what works best for what you want to accomplish.  And, if you do have little ones, you may want to plan a midday break for rest and recovery.  Then, return to the park in the evenings.

One last thing I would suggest.  Don’t plan to do EVERYTHING there is to do!  I have been to WDW 12 times, and STILL haven’t seen it all!  But then, that gives me an excuse to go back over, and over, and over again!  We will look at how to plan when you return in the next issue of the threestrandswdw blog!  Thanks for reading and have a Blessed and Magical day, my friends!!

Measuring Up At WDW

Many of the rides at Walt Disney World have minimal height requirements for safety reasons.  It is one of the most asked questions we get.  I will attempt to give you an accurate idea of how to measure up in the parks.

Magic Kingdom…

Space Mountain®…44″  Splash Mountain®…40″  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad®…40″  Stitch’s Great Escape…38″  Tomorrowland Indy Speedway…52″ to ride alone

EPCOT Center

2013-12-07 09.34.01Test Track®…40″  Soarin’®…40″  Mission: Space®…44″

Disney’s Hollywood StudiosDSCF5665

Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster®…48″  Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™…40″  Star Tours® – The Adventure Continues…40″

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Expedition EverestExpedition Everest – Legend of The Forbidden Mountain®…44″  Kali River Rapids®…38″  Dinosaur…40″  Primeval Whirl®…48″

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon

Humunga Kowabunga…48″

Disney’s Blizzard Beach

Slush Gusher…48″  Downhill Double Dipper…48″  Summit Plummet…48″

Keep in mind that Disney Cast Members are not very forgiving for an inch or two!  So, I would recommend following these guidelines very closely to avoid any issues.

Thanks for reading and have a Blessed and Magical Day, my friends!!

Who Needs To Plan For a Trip to WDW?

One of the most asked questions I get from people is “do I really need to plan for a trip to Walt Disney World?” In a quick answer, yes! Let’s explore this a little deeper, because while the answer is ‘yes’, there are different levels of planning.

The first type of planner to look at is the Uber-Planner! This is the person who has to have EVERYTHING planned to the second! They may begin their initial planning anywhere between one and two years in advance of their trip. They begin looking at dates, figuring out potential resorts, looking at crowd calendars just to get an ‘idea’ of what the next trip could look like. They will probably even make the initial resort reservation to make it real! At the one year mark, they will refine their crowd numbers, and begin planning meals, parks, and attractions for each day. There will be little room for changes, as long as Disney World doesn’t mess things up with their scheduling.

The second type is what I like to call the thumbnail sketch planner! This person just wants to know a few of the basics! They will look at when to travel, where to stay, and basic days in parks. They may book the three allowed Fastpass+s they are allowed per day, but not really go much beyond that stage in their planning. Meals will likely be just quick service, or a potential walk up, on the fly. And, the remainder of each day will be relaxed, and allow time to take in some of the detail. They may even take some time to search out a Hidden Mickey or two!

Finally, we have the ”I don’t need a plan” planner! They may book a room three months out, put together one or two special meals, if they want them. But, otherwise, there is no specific plan to their trip. This planner may choose to not use Fastpass in any form! They may choose to just walk-on as many rides and attractions as they can in a completely open daytime schedule. They will catch a meal if they are hungry, with no plans as to where or when! And, there may even be days when they choose NOT to go to a park and just make use of the resort amenities.

So, what kind of planner do YOU need to be? It really depends on the needs of you and your family! Special events at WDW require advanced planning. And, the farther out, the better chances you have of making that event special! Remember, Advanced Dining Reservations (including tours, dessert parties, etc.) open up at or about the 180 day point. If you are wanting to do any Character Dining in the parks, this is very important to remember! And, as a reminder, if you are staying at a Disney-Owned Resort, you can make your dining reservations at 180 plus 10 days into your vacation.

Just a Teaser

The No Way Jose', Beaches and Cream Disney's Beach Club Resort
The No Way Jose’, Beaches and Cream
Disney’s Beach Club Resort

What Is It About Walt Disney World?

With all of the places we could choose to take a vacation, why do we continue to visit Walt Disney World?  The reasons can be varied, and many time very simple!  My love for the Disney product began when I was a kid watching “The Wonderful World of Color” on Sunday evenings before getting ready for school the next day, and going to bed.  I loved the stories, the visuals, and the commentary by Walt Disney himself!  If they ever decide to run the shows again, you would see in color what was in Black and White when originally aired.  Walt was a forward thinking man, and always working to stay ahead of the curve.

When I first heard of Walt Disney World, I would have been about 11 years old at the time, I wanted to go, but my parents said there was no way we could afford the trip.  It wasn’t until I was 21, that I made my first entry into The Magic Kingdom!  And, as an added bonus, the next day we went to the newly opened, 2 day old, EPCOT Center!  And, all I could say was WOW!

Walt Disney World, as a whole, is an attraction!  It attracts people from all walks of life!  It pulls people from all around the world to spend their vacation time, and money!  And, once we are exposed to the magic, many of us return time and time again.  Personally, there are only a few other places in the world I want to see, and they happen to also be Disney Destinations!

The anticipation begins the first day you decide to make your trip, and continues beyond your last day of your vacation.  When you decide to go, will affect how much time you have to nurture your excitement.  I typically plan 9 months to 1.5 years in advance.  And, that is determined by the time of year I plan to visit!  Spring breaks, 4th of July, and Christmas are times that may require more advanced planning because of the heavy crowds.

What is hardest is to have to wait so long between visits to WDW!  But, thanks to the digital age there are ways to soften the heartache!  One way, is to listen to WDW Podcasts, such as the Disney Parks Podcast, to keep up on changes, planning tips, and even some Disney World “celebrities” who may drop by for a visit! You can also make use of YouTube to watch some of your favorite attractions, jog good memories, or just forget about real life for a moment or two.  There are WDW specific Facebook groups, many dialog boards, and other social media outlets to talk and share your experiences and questions about Walt Disney World!

But, the best way I know to soften the blow between trips, is to begin planning the next one.  Even if you don’t have a specific date to travel, start talking about what resort you may want to try?  When do you want to go?  Are there any special events you may want to try to include?  Do you want to celebrate a special occasion?  Then, start asking questions in Facebook, or other source.  Send questions to Disney Parks Podcast, or other resource.  Or, contact a Disney Specialized travel agent!

Planning is a big part of the fun for the Disney enthusiast!  Almost as much fun as the trip, itself…okay, maybe not!  And, there are many who are content with just visiting anything Disney for their vacation!  Are you one of us?  You will be…You WILL be!

Matthew Wallace is a Travel Planner for Magical Starr Travel, living in Ohio, and specializing in Disney Destinations!  You can contact Matthew by email at matthew@magicalstartravel.com or by calling 888-534-3569 ext  1.  Visit our website at www.magicalstartravel.com.

What Next? More Planning For WDW

So, you have set your dates, and begun planning what attractions you want to see and what meals you want to eat.  What’s next, you may ask?  Let’s look at a few possibilities here at threestrandswdw!

Citrico's at  The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Citrico’s at
The Grand Floridian
Resort and Spa

You began planning at the nine to twelve month in advance time frame.  Now you are at the 180 day mark, and it’s time to make your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) for your sit-down meals.  Where do you begin?  Well, you can start on the http://www.disneyworld.com website, click on the Things To Do tab, and cursor down to the Make Reservations link to begin looking at restaurants, dates, and times. You may need to be a bit flexible with some of the more popular selections, especially Character Meals!  And, you might have better success selecting off peak hours for your meals.  There is less demand, AND it can help you get more attractions in while everyone else is eating at the ‘usual’ times!

You can also make your reservations via the My Disney Experience portion of the website,  it takes you to the same page with less steps to get there!  And, you can get there by way of the My Disney Experience App on your Smartphone.  This is very convenient for those day of reservations.  Yes, they can happen from time to time, but it may not be at a more popular spot.  Be adventurous and try something different, you may find a hidden treasure!  Also, remember that you may have to give a credit card before your slot is confirmed.  A $10 per person charge can be given if you do not show up for your reservation.  But, this policy is also what makes walk up and day of reservations possible!

Making ADRs is a major mark in the waiting for your Walt Disney World vacation!  It is hard, sometimes, to know what you are going to do six month out, but I strongly suggest that you at least book the Character and Signature meals at this point, as they are the most difficult to secure in the best of circumstances!

The next mark in you planning will be the customizing of your MagicBands and making your Fastpass Plus reservations for attractions!  We’ll cover THAT in our next post.  Until then, my friends, have a very Blessed and Magical day!!