Monday, May 31, 2010

Top 10 pieces of advice to NEW vacationers to DisneyWorld

I have been on several vacations in my short life I am grateful to say.  Some have been very relaxing and others have been exciting.  I am a big fan of the Disney Vacation.  I've always loved Disney.  Many people like Disney for the same reason other people don't like it.  I'm not going to go into all of that right now.

Instead I would like to impart my wisdom to those that are going to Disney for the first time.  More specifically, Disney World.  Disney Land is similar, but really the difference between Land and World pretty much covers the difference between Florida Disney and California Disney.  These are the bits of advice that I've either learned myself by sad experience, or learned by the much happier method of observing others.

1.  Go big or Go home - I'm not a fan of cheap people.  They are the cowards of the financial world.  Cheap people can not really stand Disney.  Disney is a business and businesses make money.  Disney does a good job of that by charging you a lot for the services they bring you.  If you have a problem with this, you might as well quit right now and just save your money for the local state fair.  Books and websites that are written to separate the cheap from their money by promising Disney for some super cheap rate or ways to get an angle on the Disney vacation that really don't do much to help.  Buying a ticket to Disney is like buying a new car.  You don't want to part with the money, but once you do, you enjoy the car you bought.  So decide up front that you are parting with the cash.  This doesn't mean you have to be a financial buffoon, but when you are in the park, stop your CONSTANT complaining about how much things cost!  You set yourself up to be a hero by bringing the tribe to Disney only to nickel and dime your image to death by complaining about the 5 dollar churro (I think it's really 3.50).

2.  Decide a good time to go - Bear in mind that any day in the summer is BAD.  If you are going once and once only, I suggest that you don't go during the summer.  This seems obvious, but many people get concerned with what they will miss or when they will be able to take time off etc.  This kind of vacation demands that you adjust your schedule.  There are many websites that will tell you when the traditional low tide times for attendance are.  You will notice that the best times to go will be when either or all of the following conditions are present:  a.  School is in session.  b.  cold time of year.  If your kids are young, pull em out of school.  Fewer crowds will be better for everyone concerned and when your kids are young, they aren't missing anything they can't recover from.  If you are going for the first time, don't try to stay for 1 day for each park, it will just seem like a fast dream.  Give yourself those extra days so you can really soak it all in.

Now you are here, you have 4 parks to choose from and these are they typical days that are heavy for each park so DON'T go on days that park has listed next to it

Magic Kingdom: Monday, Thursday, and Saturday
Epcot: Tuesday and Friday
Disney's Hollywood Studios: Sunday and Wednesday
Animal Kingdom Theme Park: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

if you find yourself in a bind because you went to Disney during memorial day weekend?  Go to Epcot.  That place is so huge that if it's really busy, you still really don't notice it.

3.  Exercise in good shoes - Ok Grandma and Grandpa, If you think you are in fairly good shape, think again.  D-world will test your feet like not much else.  Remember, you will not be working 8 hour days, you will be working 10 - 12 hour days.  Your dogs will bark like a werewolf at an independent film festival. You will need to walk a lot every day and really put yourself through your paces to be ready for the D-world. The problem is, there is just not a lot of sitting done outside of rides.  Sure there are benches etc, but you aren't there to rest, you are there to ride!  That being said, pace yourself and enjoy the surroundings. Of course you could take the scooter way out, but I think I can speak for most of the Disney going public, people in scooters at the park because they just can't hack it are looked at with a jaundiced eye.  On the other hand, nobody will say anything, so maybe that's your best bet.

4.  Unless there are only 2 of you, rent a car - The truth is, if there ARE only 2 of you you should rent a car anyway.  The car rental prices are pretty cheap and the freedom you gain in exchange for the 'savings' is immeasurable.  If you are staying on Disney property, you can avail yourself of their transportation services.  This is ok if you are going by monorail.  If you happen to be going by bus, you will be using the same system of transit you refuse to use at home because it is not convenient.  If you are off property and they offer  park transportation, remember, they are probably going to charge you around 15-25 dollars a person and it's on their schedule not yours. You will have to pony up 14 dollars a day for parking, but that will let you park at any of the parks you need to go to so at least there is that.

5.  Don't eat fast, eat well - Fast food is readily available at Disney and at very uniform and high prices.  The fast food there is ok, but for a little bit more you can eat at a sit down meal with some pretty fun atmosphere.  Every park has several places that make for good restaurant dining.  Make your reservations at least a day in advance and you will be glad you did.  Usual 2010 price for a plate sit down is about 20 dollars per person.  Yes it's a lot, but you get a lot of food and it's pretty good and don't forget the surroundings.  Fast food is about 1/2 to 3/4 the price and there is never enough.  I suggest finding a good breakfast and everyone eating big.  Then go to the park.  and get your reservations for around 2 or so at one of the many fun restaurants.  Eat well there and then maybe have a small snack/drink somewhere.  Oh, you'll be tempted to bring lunches and dinners and little bags of fruit snacks along with you to save those 5-8 dollars a pop.  The little bags of snacks MIGHT work it's a 50/50 bet at best.  Unless your kids are 4, they won't be fooled and few things look funnier than people with bottles of water that you froze that are bone dry except for the 2 inch ice core that rattles around inside them.  They do actually have drinking fountains at all parks.  This year at the eatery in France you can see a VERY cool animitronic remmy the rat that will really steal the show.  If you can slip in for a late lunch, it's a real treat.  Also, Don't eat those turkey legs! - This is more of a personal request.  I just hate the look of those turkey legs they serve.  I'm sure they are tasty and have a truck load of calories, but they look horrible and it makes everyone look like King Henry VIII's niece or nephew when they eat them.

6.  Learn the FASTPASS system and get a Runner - Fastpass is the biggest innovation Disney has brought to their parks since the eradication of the ticket system (but what a system!).  Every park has 3-4 big rides that everyone wants to go on several times.  The problem is, people hate standing in lines and Disney doesn't like you to stand in line either, they take some of the happy out of the happiest place on earth.  Big rides with big lines will have fastpass boxes in front of them and a friendly Disney attendant that will help you with them.  The boxes will allow you to put in EACH of the passes for your party into the box and get a fastpass for that ride.  The pass will tell you when the first time you can come back.  You can use the pass any time after the first number unless you are fastpassing a show or timed event.  Every 1 to 2 hours you can get another pass.  It doesn't matter if you have ridden your first ride or not.  This is crucial!  You need to get a runner to take everyone's passes in your party to bolt for the next ride you don't want to wait for and get the next round of passes. I would suggest someone young and responsible (oxymoron?)  During a typical Disney 10 hour day, you can probably get 6 fast passes for the day if you are sharp.  Why not more you ask?  Well the way fastpasses work, they only have a set amount of passes per hour that they will give out, once they are out, you are done.  So if a favorite ride has everyone getting passes for it early, that ride could be out of fastpasses before noon and they are scheduled through closing.  This ride is called Midway Mania and it's at the Disney MGM.  If you are going there get your fastpass for THAT RIDE until it stops giving them out.   But still on a busy day you get 6 rides that will be a 5-10 minute wait is pretty good.

7. Don't bother with the park hopper - What a scam!  they charge you an extra 56 bucks per person to make your tickets 'park hoppers'  This allows you to spend part of one day at one park and then hop to another and spend some time there.  This also allows you to visit the Disney Water parks.  If you are coming down to hit some of the water parks, then ignore what I just said,  the park hopper is the only game in town.  Otherwise don't do it.  Every park with the exception of the Animal kingdom takes a very full day to complete.  Epcot and Magic Kingdom take 2 days each pretty easily.  Hopping parks just burns your time away on a bus or monorail or in your car getting between parks.  It will take a minimum of 1/2 hour and I think that's being generous.  Just spend the day in the park you went to.  Oh, and if you think you are going to be clever by buying up extra days on your ticket and then using those days LIKE they were park hoppers, forget it.  Disney didn't just fall off the turnip truck, you are only allowed one park per pass per day unless you have purchased the park hopper pass.

8.  Your kids are how old?!  -  This is a big mistake.  If your youngest child is not at least 8 years old, you may not want to bother unless you are the VonTrap family.  You will likely have paid Disney for the privilege of scaring your kids to death.  Plus they won't remember a thing except the fear.  I promise.  Wait till your kids are at least 8.  Save the money and go when everyone is tall enough to ride all the rides.  There are some park benefits to having a stroller, but I'm not sure they are worth the trouble.  Individual families may vary and you know your kids better than I do.  I tend to think of this in terms of the age ratings on the sides of board games.  If you follow those, you will get games your kids will love.  If you try to push 3d-chess on your 6 year old, you are just wasting money.  Same thing with rides.  When you are really small, that Pirates of the Carribean is a daunting and scary ride that you may rather not remember and probably won't ever forget.

9.  Research the fun! - Disney has a habit of trying to make things fresh all the time.  Ask your kids if they have heard anything about what's going on at the D-parks.  Chances are, they know better than you because they might be tuned into the Disney Channel.  Check the Disney website and go to each parks sub-page.  There are things that you will want to know about the time you spend there.  For example.  Right now Kim-possible is a pretty hot Disney property and they are using her show to recruit kids into the Kim-possible mystery club at Epcot center.  They are given special cell phones (not real phones) that activate different hidden effects around the park after following clues they look for.  It's a lot of fun and keeps the kids interested because they don't much care for what France looks like.   Since this is for first timers, I wouldn't recommend the specialized tours unless it's for day 2 of that park.  One thing that I enjoy doing is pin trading.  Like at the Olympics, pin trading has become a big deal in Disney.  pins cost at minimum 4.50 apiece in a package.  Park employees will have lanyards strung with pins and you can just go up and ask them to trade.  Blue lanyards are special for small kids only (really cool pins).  Here is my secret.  You can go to ebay and buy a BUNCH of pins for around a buck apiece if you time it right.  Make sure you buy from a reputable pin seller but once you do, you really start getting into it.  When 30$ buys you about 28 pins, it's a lot easier to get excited about pin trading.

10.'re on Vacation...Unless you aren't - I've always said there are 2 ways to do Disney.  All out, or at a leisure pace.  Taking it easy, you may not get as many rides per hour in and you may miss out on something that someone is standing in line for, but you may enjoy your trip more.  On the other hand, this may be your only shot, so open the park and stay till they kick you out.  You'll have time to rest when you are dead.  Both ways come with a certain satisfaction but if you are new, I suggest the killing yourself method.  You'll really feel like you've wrung every last bit of Disney goodness out of every darn Disney minute!  Also, don't be so hooked to your schedule that you can't explore something that looks fun you may have overlooked.  Don't worry about missing stuff because you will.  Over and over.  Just enjoy what you did catch and take lots of pictures.  It will be a great trip!

Our latest trip to Disney has been a lot of fun.  I would call it the Robert Frost tour of Disney.  Since we decided to go when it was at the absolute worst time ever to go (Memorial Day weekend)  we ended up seeing a lot of things we may not have bothered with otherwise and were the better for it.

Sorry it's late, but I'm on vacation ;)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

top 10 Ideas for inventions by me.

Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door.  At least that's what they say.  The they is Ralph Waldo Emmerson.  He didn't build mousetraps, He wrote.  The sentiment is still the same.  Everyone has an idea about how to make things better.  99% of these ideas are stupid and not well thought out.  Oh, but that miraculous 1% is truly amazing.  The fact is, you have to wade through quite a bit of the 99% in order to actually get to the 1%.  We have had some great inventions in our time and those great inventions build on even greater innovations.  We live in an age of excess for less.  Thanks to invention/innovation we now live better lives than all the kings of antiquity.  All they had was good food and a soft bed.  We would be very mad if that's all we had now.  Well, my inventions are not life changing ideas that will turn society on its head.  Instead they are minor contrivances designed to make my easy life even easier.

1.  Shrink wrap present wrapping - So this idea is a pretty easy one.  It was made for guys like me that think present wrapping is for the birds.  you just have colored patterns on a bag made out of heat wrap.  drop whatever you want to wrap in, pick up the blow dryer and bingo bongo!  Instant wrapped present.

2.  Philadelphia cream cheese EZ style - So there I am in the office and someone has been kind enough to bring bagels and little tubs of cream cheese.  I'm spreading the cream cheese on my bagel and it hits me.  They have cheese in pressurized cans for spreading on crackers, why not cream cheese in pressurized cans for bagels?!  It makes perfect sense.

3.  New Christmas Day - I know I've harped on this one before.  Valentines day is a stupid holiday.  Christmas is in the wrong place.  We already know that late December is NOT Jesus' Birthday.  In fact Christmas was picked to be in December because of a bunch of Druids and winter solstice.  Great.  I don't know any druids, but I bet they wouldn't mind us taking our copy of their holiday and moving it to Valentines day.  MUCH easier to find snow and the other 2 holidays that surround Christmas will gain more meaning.  Thanksgiving and Newyears.  I'm not sure how you go about getting this changed, but I think it's a good idea.

4. LED lights around skate tracks. - My son dabbles in speed skating.  I've watched a bit here and there and I noticed that they superimpose on the ice, the flag and name of the skater as they go by.  This is great for the folks at home, but it sucks for the live audience.  Then last Winter Olympics there was in incident where the first place skater was incorrectly told by his coach to change lanes and it disqualified him.  That was horrible.  Then it all hit me.  They should have little LED chaser lights embedded in the ice.  They could be deep enough that they wouldn't impede skating, but they could shine the different color for each skater.  They could even light up based on the fastest time so you knew what you needed to beat.

5. LCD window shader. -  I had this one a LONG time ago, but I've seen it in practice since then.  I actually saw it on Knight Rider (the old one).  You adjust the LCD slider and the shading of your window changes from clear to dark.  I know they have it, but I had my idea around 1984.  Yeah, I know, a day late and a dollar short.

6. Medical Testing like fast food. - A lot of  Medical tests are not rocket science.  They take a sample from the subjects and mix it with some chemicals and tada!  You have your results.  Some are easy and some are a little more involved.  But MANY of them are just as easily read by the consumer instead of the local health official (with it's associated costs).  A couple of years ago I took one of my boys in to the local clinic after having given him a strep test.  While he did not test immediately positive I looked again after 24 hours and the test gave me a faint positive.  That warranted a trip to the Doctors office where I told the doctor that I felt like my son would pass the long strep test.  The doctor asked why I thought that and I told him because I had already tested him and it came up vaguely positive.  He looked at me like I had just looked into his magicians hat and discovered it's false bottom.  They administered the strep test and it came back negative.  I told him the long test would say otherwise.  He said 'I doubt it, your son just has a virus'  This is hypocratus greek for 'Yes you are sick, thank you for your money'.  The next morning the clinic called to ask me where to phone in my sons antibiotic treatment because he passed the long test.  The most interesting thing about this all is that MY strep test costed about 3 dollars.  Their strep test costed me about 80.  So I thought that a convenience store type of place where medical tests are sold but not administered would be a good idea.  a nurse practitioner could be on site to inform people on how to read various tests and there you go.  I would make a boatload of money just by charging 8 dollars for a 3 dollar strep test.  I would be embarrassed charging 15 and ashamed to charge 80.

7. Dart Board with LED through fiber-optic to approximate the bristle effect. -  I love to play darts.  Unfortunately I'm not that good, but I still like to play a lot.  I have an automatic scoring steel tip dartboard.  It's great fun, but as I was playing I thought 'wow, those bristles are really not any more around than fiber optic cable so why not sprinkle the dartboard with cheap fiber-optics so we can see visual effects and targets etc?  I think it would be great!  (probably good for a lot of games)

8. Faraday cages to house movie theaters. - I'm tired of people texting and getting calls etc. in the Theater!  It totally puts me off of my movie experience.  Well, if you put the theater in a farraday cage, no signals would get in.  It would be awesome!  I would also love to see the looks on peoples faces as nothing shows up on screen and all the bars are 0.  Can you hear me now?

9. Large returnable containers for real BULK foods.  - My political leanings are definitely to the right.  That being said it doesn't mean I think that we should run around filling up holes with trash.  Without going into the political sides which I know only too well, I will say this.  If the people embrace recycling as an economic engine then it will work.  I don't like the idea of throwing away plastic packaging over and over and over for the same goods.  It seems a waste, and it is.  We have 'bulk' food areas in the grocery store but we really just give them a cursory glance.  they are called bulk because they don't have packages.  But we need packages because we need to hold our stuff.  So I thought that any dry good could be held in large bins and filled into smaller plastic containers  once used those containers would be handed back for washing and a rebate against the next container of product.  Not a really original idea I know, but I think they have the scale wrong.  I would like to see an end to cereal boxes.  But not the prizes.  I would miss those, so i'm not sure what to do with that.

10.  Universal Time Zone. -  Mountain Standard, Pacific, GMT, UTC (the current time model for the world, and it already started off on the wrong foot.  UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time or CUT which I guess doesn't trip off the tongue like UTC does.) it's all nonsense.  Since we are a more connected globe perhaps we should act like one.  We should take a time zone that has nobody living in it.  Say, the international date line and make THAT our UT or Universal Time.  This would be the real time all around the world.  Yes, I know, the problem is, that if it's 10 Oclock all around the world, in some places that would be the middle of the night and others it would be the early morning.  That's ok.  But when I'm traveling and I have a flight to catch and I have to base the timing of that flight on when the people of that particular region get up in the morning thats when I think things aren't quite right.  If it's the same time all around the world, then that flight leaves at the same time no matter where it is because it's based on the International Date line (out there in the Pacific Ocean).  Also cross country business meetings conducted on the phone would not be missed because of some daylight savings nonsense also rooted in time zones.  I'm afraid it's like the metric system in the US.  Nobody is in the mood to change to it, even though it is more efficient.

Thanks for reading!