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 ;)


Joseph Dewey said...

Excellent blog! I was telling a friend of mine whose going on a cruise about how this blog should apply to her.

And, you inspired me to make a top-ten list of my own:

Unknown said...

Our faves this year were the dinner at Chefs du France with the singing Remy; and the most crowded day we had: Memorial day Saturday/1st day of Star Wars Weekend. Ironically, it was so crowded, but really enjoyable seeing all the Star Wars guys running around. I've never seen so many Darths and Fetts of one type or another, and weapons-bedecked Chewbacca under a little girl umbrella was a hoot.