Wednesday, June 29, 2022

What Makes Disney World Such a Complicated Vacation?

 


For many vacations, including other theme parks, you can plan when you're going to go, book your hotel and then just show up each day.  For guests visiting Walt Disney World, this is absolutely not true.  Blogs like this one (and many others!) wouldn't exist if it were really that simple.  With all the rules and exception to rules, planning a trip to Walt Disney World is one of the most complicated things you can get yourself into.  Combined with how tiring it is, the running joke when you return is that you need a "vacation from your vacation."


Does it have to be this way?  What makes Walt Disney World different from other similar destinations (in large part including Disneyland in California, though that has some of these issues we'll discuss below as well)?  What does Disney gain from making guests jump through so many hoops just to visit?  We'll take a look at these questions in this post and see if we can make things simpler for everyone.

Friday, June 24, 2022

How Can Dinoland USA Be Fixed?



Most lands inside Disney theme parks are exquisitely themed, making you feel like you are part of the story being told.  There are often jaw-dropping attractions, great restaurants and colorful characters.  Some of these are classics, like Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom.  Some are more recent inventions, showcasing the best of Imagineering, like Star Wars Galaxy's Edge.


And then there's Dinoland USA.  This section of Animal Kingdom has never been the best as far as attractions go, the theming and backstory have left a lot to be desired (and are often ridiculed by Disney fans) and most recently, attractions have been cut without any replacements.  It largely sticks out from the lands around it, most notably the beautiful Pandora: The World of Avatar on the other side of the park.


Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Returns



As announced today, Disney is bringing back Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party for the 2022 holiday season.  We're going to talk about what is being offered, when it's happening and why it's back this year for the first time since 2019.


All of the basic information is on the page I linked above, but essentially Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) is back for 24 select nights between November 8 and December 22, 2022.  Prices range from $149 to $199 per person, with discounts for annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members.  The parties take place from 7:00 p.m. to midnight each night they are offered.  But a ticket to this event will allow you to enter the park at 4:00 p.m., without needing a day ticket or park reservation.  This is a good way to spend eight hours in Magic Kingdom if you have limited time otherwise.

 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Disney World News: More Meet and Greets Return!

 

Photo from Disney Parks Blog

 Traditional meet and greets began returning to Disney World in April (and by traditional, I mean where guests could interact with the characters directly instead of the pandemic-era distancing rules) and at the time, this was promised to be a gradual process.  Little by little things have returned to normal, and according to this post today from Disney Parks Blog, a whole bunch of more meet and greets are coming soon!


This post will look at what's coming back and talk a little about some of the things that still haven't returned, with some possible explanations.  More normalcy equals a better park experience, and all of these announced additions made me nod my head and smile.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Stop and Smell the Roses at Disney World



When I think about going to Walt Disney World, what's the one thing I wish I had more of?  If you said "money", you would be ... well, correct.  It's hard to dispute that one.  As we've discussed (and common sense would dictate), these trips can be expensive.  But I wanted to talk about a different finite resource today - time.


As someone who isn't a Florida local, a trip to Walt Disney World is a BIG deal, something that has to be planned many months in advance, something that requires a lot of energy and devotion in order to get things done.  That was part of the reason I wanted to start this blog, really - I was hoping to provide that perspective, as someone who doesn't live there.  Many (great) Disney blogs are filled with people who live in or around Orlando, and can visit the parks anytime they want.  This is not my perspective, and therefore one I can't write from


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Disney Creates a 24 Day, $110,000 Trip Around The World

 


Adventures By Disney just announced a new "exclusive" trip that would take 75 guests in a private jet on a 24 day trip around the world.  This would include stops in every one of the twelve Disney parks on the planet, as well as visits to the Taj Mahal, Pyramids of Giza and the Eiffel Tower.  All this can be yours, starting at $109,995 per person (not a typo).



I saw this news yesterday and decided against writing a post on it, but I can't stop thinking about it.  I know plenty of blogs and vlogs have already dunked on this, and cries about Disney only catering to rich clientele have been renewed.  I get all that.  But this is so outlandish that I had to put down some thoughts on it.  Let's dig in.

Harmonious Live! to Livestream on Disney Plus

 


To help celebrate World Music Day (I guess this is a thing?) Disney announced today that it will livestream a performance of Epcot's nighttime spectacular, Harmonious, on Tuesday June 21 at 9:00 ET. (and available for replay starting the next day). This isn't just any performance of Harmonious, though - it will feature "a culturally diverse group of 240 artists from all around the world, all performed by a live orchestra and ensemble of international vocalists." 


I wrote a review of the new nighttime spectaculars a while back and was kind of down on Harmonious.  I revised that opinion a bit after seeing it in person.  And while I still don't think this is the awe-inspiring phenomenon that Disney wishes it were, it's still a worthy show in their canon.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

What Percentage of Guests at Walt Disney World Are First Timers?

 


One of the little magical touches I appreciate at WDW is seeing others guests wearing commemorative buttons celebrating special occasions.  There are ones that say Happily Ever After (often applies to couples who were just married, but also anniversaries), Happy Birthday (I recently broke out of my introvert shell to wear one of these in Animal Kingdom and it was a great, uplifting experience) and ones that simply say "Celebrating" with a blank underneath where you can fill in whatever important event is happening in your lift.


The most common buttons by far, though, are ones that simply say First Visit.  You'll often see kids wearing these but I especially love seeing adults with them, as it means they finally got around to that trip they always wanted to take.  These buttons are a signal to cast members (and sometimes other guests) that you are celebrating, and cast members go out of their way to pay special attention to First Visit buttons.  That really adds that extra Disney magic on top of a trip that hopefully is already fun and magical.


Friday, June 3, 2022

Epcot - Park Strategy

 


 

 

We’re going to be looking at park strategies for all four of the parks at Walt Disney World.  These strategies will assume two things – one, that you’re not staying on property, and therefore can’t take advantage of early theme park entry.  And two, that you will NOT be purchasing Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL) for anything during your day.  These assumptions might not be true – in fact, I gather that at least one, if not both, will be false for the average person reading this. However, I wanted to write this from the perspective of a regular guest showing up and trying to accomplish what they want without any particular advantages.  If you are participating in either of the above, the strategy becomes a lot easier.  This should cover the basics either way.  Today we’ll be discussing Epcot. (Updated June 3, 2022)

 

Epcot attractions:

Highest wait times – Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, Test Track

Moderate wait times – Soarin' Around The World, Spaceship Earth, Mission: Space

Lowest wait times – Journey Into Imagination With Figment, Living With The Land, The Seas With Nemo and Friends, Turtle Talk With Crush, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

N/A - Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (see below for more on this one specifically)

 

A couple of notes on the above – first, I’m not including any of the shows (The American Adventure, Awesome Planet, etc) as those generally have set schedules (which you can find at the park or on Disney’s official website) and mostly have little to no wait (essentially the amount of time that the show takes is how long you’ll wait if you just missed it).  Second, wait times are relative, not absolute. This means that the lowest wait times at the busiest time of year will probably still feel quite busy, while the highest wait times on the slowest day of the year won’t seem so bad. Context matters.  

 

Magic Kingdom - Park Strategy


 

 

We’re going to be looking at park strategies for all four of the parks at Walt Disney World.  These strategies will assume two things – one, that you’re not staying on property, and therefore can’t take advantage of early theme park entry.  And two, that you will NOT be purchasing Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL) for anything during your day.  These assumptions might not be true – in fact, I gather that at least one, if not both, will be false for the average person reading this. However, I wanted to write this from the perspective of a regular guest showing up and trying to accomplish what they want without any particular advantages.  If you are participating in either of the above, the strategy becomes a lot easier.  This should cover the basics either way.  Today we’ll be discussing the one and only Magic Kingdom. (Updated June 3, 2022)

 

Magic Kingdom attractions:

Highest wait times – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain

Moderate wait times – Pirates Of The Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, Tomorrowland Speedway, Mickey's Philharmagic,  Under The Sea: Journey Of The Little Mermaid

Lowest wait times – Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, Swiss Family Treehouse, The Magic Carpets Of Aladdin, Tom Sawyer Island, Country Bear Jamboree, The Hall Of Presidents, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Walt Disney’s Carousel Of Progress, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover

 

In some ways, Magic Kingdom is the easiest park to strategize around and in some ways it’s the hardest.  There are easily more attractions at this park then at any of the others, probably combined.  That leads to a more spread out crowd throughout the day, with more moderate wait times as opposed to some really busy attractions and some empty ones.  Our recommendation is to spend two days in Magic Kingdom.  If you choose not to (or are unable to do so for any reason), our STRONG recommendation is to purchase Genie+.  I am not a shill for Disney and I’m not trying to get you to part with your money, but if you only have one day, it is very difficult to make your way through most of these attractions, especially if you have little kids. 

 

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Park Strategy

 

 


 

We’re going to be looking at park strategies for all four of the parks at Walt Disney World.  These strategies will assume two things – one, that you’re not staying on property, and therefore can’t take advantage of early theme park entry.  And two, that you will NOT be purchasing Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL) for anything during your day.  These assumptions might not be true – in fact, I gather that at least one, if not both, will be false for the average person reading this. However, I wanted to write this from the perspective of a regular guest showing up and trying to accomplish what they want without any particular advantages.  If you are participating in either of the above, the strategy becomes a lot easier.  This should cover the basics either way.  Today we’ll be discussing Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS). (Updated June 3, 2022)

 

Hollywood Studios attractions:

Highest wait times - Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Slinky Dog Dash, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror,  Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

Moderate wait times – Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, Rock N Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Toy Story Mania

Lowest wait times – Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, Alien Swirling Saucers, Muppet*Vision 3D, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy


A quick note on the above - Runaway Railway can still fall into the higher wait time crowd, but in checking the data recently, I lowered it a tier.  The opposite is true for Tower of Terror - this attraction is currently undergoing a refurbishment that didn't cause the ride to be taken offline for months.  Instead, they are redoing one half of the ride while the other side operates - meaning, the wait times here are essentially double what they used to be.  This one should go back to being a moderate wait time once that refurbishment is complete.


Hollywood Studios is one of the hardest parks to strategize for.  In large part, this is due to the attraction lineup being very top heavy.  There are a lot of newer and very in demand attractions at this park, and currently not a lot of crowd eater type shows and attractions to disperse everyone.  Thankfully, character meet and greets are back, as well as Beauty & The Best: Live On Stage, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and For The First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-a-long. These things should at least help spread the crowds out so that they’re not waiting for one of the five or six big attractions at the park.

 

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Park Strategy

 


 

 

We’re going to be looking at park strategies for all four of the parks at Walt Disney World.  These strategies will assume two things – one, that you’re not staying on property, and therefore can’t take advantage of early theme park entry.  And two, that you will NOT be purchasing Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL) for anything during your day.  These assumptions might not be true – in fact, I gather that at least one, if not both, will be false for the average person reading this. However, I wanted to write this from the perspective of a regular guest showing up and trying to accomplish what they want without any particular advantages.  If you are participating in either of the above, the strategy becomes a lot easier.  This should cover the basics either way.  Today we’ll be discussing Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK). (Updated June 3, 2022)

 

Animal Kingdom attractions:

Highest wait times – Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey

Moderate wait times – Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR, Kali River Rapids

Lowest wait times – TriceraTop Spin, It’s Tough To Be A Bug

 

I’m leaving out any of the animal trails around the park, which are self guided walks around certain areas.  Similarly, I’m also leaving out Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which is an “edutainment” section devoted to animal care and conservation.  Finally, I’m ignoring the shows that have performances at set times (Festival Of The Lion King, Feathered Friends In Flight and soon the returning Finding Nemo: The Big Blue and Beyond).  If you arrive a little before show time, you should have no issues getting in to see a particular performance.  It’s Tough To Be A Bug, while a show, is listed on the official and unofficial wait time apps and the performances run one after the other; that line can back up on busy days but is usually one of the lowest at the park. That will be included here.

 

Thursday, June 2, 2022

How to Pace Yourself For a Long Day at the Parks

 


When our family does Walt Disney World, we like to "hit the ground running" (an expression I use a lot and makes my wife tired just thinking about it).  I consider us to be "park warriors", who can spend basically all day, every day at the parks for a week long vacation.  In general, this is the strategy I recommend - if you're taking a pool day, you're spending the same amount of money on your resort.  You might as well make the most of it.


Not all park days are created equally, however, and on our last trip we had a couple of particularly long, marathon-like days in the parks.  Part of this was due to the hours being extended during the Spring/Easter season, and part of it was trying to take advantage of both going early and staying late to beat the crowds.  This post will talk about both of these days (which cover around 17-18 hours from the time we woke up until we left the parks) and discuss the similarities and differences between them, how and when to take breaks and how these days fit in the larger vacation time we had.


Which Park is Best For Adults?