How Long Should We Stay?

Vacation length is determined by many factors. These factors can include vacation time available, budget, reason for visit, time of year and age of people in your party. I don’t believe there is the “perfect” time to visit WDW, but I do believe there is a perfect vacation length and time for each party.

Vacation Time Available & Budget

These two factors may not be one in the same. Disney does offer specials throughout the year and often times it is beneficial to stay longer in order to reap the most savings. If you have the vacation time available to you it is worth checking out all specials when deciding on your length of stay. In October we were originally planning on only staying 5 days. However, with the special it was cheaper to take advantage of their 6 night, 7 day free dining promotion. This meant extra days off of work and school, but we decided it was worth the trade. As with any WDW decision, planning is the key to success. If you can plan ahead and save up your vacation days it can save your budget in the long run.

Reason for Visit

Is it your first time? Are you going for a specific event? The reason for your visit will play a large role in determining your length of stay. If you have never been to Walt Disney World in Florida, I would suggest no shorter than 5 days to visit the parks. This also goes if you are traveling with young children. You are going to move at a slower pace. However, short trips to Disney can be just as fun. There is nothing quite like experiencing a whirlwind Disney trip. A park hopper ticket can be a great way to experience the World in a weekend. I would never suggest this to newbie’s as you will leave unfulfilled and frustrated. But for those of you that know your way around the parks it is a great experience. This year will be a great time to go for a short trip. With Limited Time Magic premiering this year, be sure to check out the schedule and plan accordingly. These special times of the year make a magical place even better.

Time of Year

Crowd levels are synonymous with certain times of the year (i.e. Spring Break, July & August, and Christmas). This will also play a part in your park touring. It will take you much longer to do the same amount in a park during Spring Break then in mid September or early December. Check out the crowd calendars and if you are touring during peak season be sure to set your expectations accordingly.

Age

I touched on their briefly before, the age of the people in your party greatly affects your touring speeds. Thus the younger and older your party is the longer you will need to adequately enjoy the parks. I remember vividly taking many long weekend trips throughout my teenage/college years. With all of my siblings able to make early mornings and late nights, we could see and do everything on our list in 4 days. Now, with children under the age of four, I always budget at least 5 days.

Obviously, there are lots of things to consider when you start planning for a trip. I highly suggest starting your planning process early and start getting a feel for how long you can afford to take and what will be the best fit for your family. If I had to tell you the “perfect” vacation length for me, right now it would be 6 nights/7 days, 6.5 of those days would be spent in the park, and half of a day would be spent at a pool, touring resorts or relaxing.

Animal Kingdom October 2012

Animal Kingdom October 2012

What is the “perfect” vacation length for you family?

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The World of FastPasses

It is highly probable that sometime in the near future this blog post will be a completely mute point because FastPasses are getting ready to change forever. If you have not heard, Disney is in the middle of testing brand new technology for ride “booking”.  It is called FastPass+, and DIS has a great over view of it here, http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/fastpass.htm. It sounds like the FastPass system will also stay as is, but it will definitely be affected by the Plus system.

However, there have already been changes when it comes to the FastPass enforcement. I will openly admit, we were “one of those people” who would not come back at the designated time of our FastPass. A couple of our party would traverse the parks at our designated times to pick up FastPasses throughout the day. This allowed the majority of our group to tour the park in a relatively thorough manner. We would then use our FastPass when we came to the ride, as long as it was after the time on our pass.

When we were preparing for our October trip I was researching and found out about the new enforcement of the times. I was saddened but I did not believe it would ultimately affect the way we tour the park. I was WRONG, way wrong! It was difficult to use the FastPasses effectively  First it is hard to get passes for the correct times, times when you aren’t seeing a show or having lunch/dinner with your coveted ADR. Second not only does someone have to traverse the park to get the FastPass but then the entire group has to trek across to the park to go on the ride. I know there are “ways” to do this correctly but it does not always work out perfectly. We had a particularly bad experience in the Magic Kingdom one day while we were there and we ended up giving up on the FastPasses by the middle of the day. Walking us and 3 kids back and forth across the park just wasn’t worth it.

We waited in the Pooh line, because we were tired of walking back and forth….and it is interactive so the kids were kept busy for the 25 minute wait.

I say all of this to get to the point that I am actually ready for the FastPass+ to be released. Originally I was not a fan and I even told me brother I wouldn’t use the service because it takes the fun out of touring the parks. But after using the FastPasses the way they were designed I realize that this is really a flawed system and makes the parks much harder to navigate. I will book my FastPass+ times 180 days out, just like I book my ADRs. And I will plan on which part of the park to be in based around those times. It does seem a little too well thought out (even for a spreadsheet maniac like myself). But if it saves me from walking back and forth from Frontierland to Tomorrowland to Fantasyland and back then I am in.

What are your thoughts on FastPasses? Do you use them now? Do they confuse you? Will you use the FastPass+?

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – Worth the $$

If you have been reading for a while you can probably tell that I LOVE going to Disney World between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I maintain that it is positively the best time of year to go. I highly suggest the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party to anyone going at this time. When we switched it up this year and went in October, I was excited to attend the special event Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). I was also very excited to give me full endorsement to my coworker who was going 2 weeks later. However, after attending I felt torn for a couple reasons.

Cons

  1. Trick or Treat Trail: I went into MNSSHP thinking we would ride very minimal rides. We were missing Trick or Treating in our hometown because we were in Disney World and I wanted Livi (3) to have the Trick or Treating experience. However, I soon found out that the trail was rather spread out and required Livi to stay in her stroller as we schlepped around the park trying to find the line and make our way through the many adults collecting candy.
  2.  Crowds: Maybe it was because it was so close to Halloween (10/28) that the crowds seemed very high. I always felt a more intimate feel to the Christmas party. The crowd level was very high, and it was mostly adults. Not really adults with kids, just adults. It was a much more “mature” crowd them is normally at the Magic Kingdom. I am not saying this is a bad thing, it was just not something I was expecting.
  3. Cost: The cost of this event is really the biggest factor for me. It was soo expensive. The Christmas party is also expensive, but I felt that MNSSHP just did not deliver all that it should have in order to make up for the extra cost of the tickets.

Pros

  1. MNSSHP Parade: This is probably the best and most unique parade I have seen at Disney World. From the Headless Horseman in the beginning to the many floats that are only to be seen in this parade, it was a real treat.

    Haunted Mansion Float

    Jack Sparrow on the Pirates of the Caribbean Float

  2. The Villains Dance Party: This is another great perk of the party. Seeing the Villains out and about in the parks is also a rare thing. Watching them on the stage in front of the castle is a great time. Just beware of the little ones; it could be a little scary.
  3. Shorter Wait Times: The wait times were a little shorter than normal. This was especially true in Fantasyland.

When I needed to text my coworker my opinion of the party I found it hard to recommend the extra dollars. If I was going without a child, I think I would love this event. Because my main complaints were the Trick or Treat trail being tailored to adults and the overall more adult feel of the party itself. As for the cost, I would use this as my “day off” and only go into the Magic Kingdom when my party tickets became valid, which is 4pm. We did Animal Kingdom before MNSSHP, which is a good alternative. But if I had it to do over again, I would have saved the money and gone to the Hoop Dee Doo for dinner instead.

Have you been to MNSSHP? Is it a must attend for you? Let me know your thoughts!

All Star Sports Review

We are back! I have so much fun stuff to blog about, I wasn’t even sure how to start. Sandy set me back, but we are up and running. Our trip was phenomenal: perfect weather, great company, great dining experiences and we got into the New Fantasyland! (more on that to come shortly).

I had read many negative reviews and some just “okay” reviews of the All Star Sports Resort. I am going to admit, I was a little nervous. It is been a good 8 years since I have stayed in a value resort. I have such high expectations of what a Disney resort should be that I was afraid this would tarnish it. I am happy to report, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Touchdown Building @ Disney’s All Star Sports

Check-in & Check-out

We arrived (after driving through the night) at about 10:30am on Saturday morning. Our check-in went flawlessly. We requested our rooms be contacted, and they were. The cast member that was helping us was “earning her ears”, however she was very knowledgeable and her manager was within arm’s reach to help with any questions she had. One of our rooms was even ready immediately, even thought check-in time is 3pm. By the time we had finished unloading tons of luggage, the other room was ready as well. This was great, because after driving all night we were so happy to be able to swim and relax before heading off to the park.

During check-in we opted for the easy check-out. This requires a credit card to be applied to your key to the world card (KTWC). We received a message on our room phone telling us our charges would be put through the next day and that we would receive a receipt via e-mail. This was very easy and saved us from having to hassle with check-out on our last day in the parks.

Rooms

Disney’s All Star Resort Room

We were located in the Touchdown buildings. As I had read, this is great building due to its proximity to the pools, main building and the bus stops. The boys utilized the football field multiple times to toss a ball around. In the negative reviews I had read that it can get very noisy at night because of people on the field late. Our rooms were located on the back side of the building, away from the field. We had no issues with this type of noise.

Touchdown Building & Football Field

My favorite part of the room was that it includes a mini-refrigerator. This allowed us to keep drinks & milk in the room. The room was always cleanly. The cleaning staff did a great job restocking and keeping everything neat. They left both my daughter and us great towel creation almost every day. This also meant that we had plenty of towels to go around.

One of our many towel creations.

I had only two minor issues regarding the rooms. The first is the size of the bathroom: it was actually a little difficult getting in and out. It was very small! The other issue was that sound carried very easily through the walls. I don’t think we had neighbors to the one side, but even above us we could hear feet and toilets flushing. These issues would not keep me from staying here. This is a VALUE resort, and our cost of the trip reflected this. The experience was still very uniquely Disney, the themeing was good, the pool was nice and it did not leave anything lacking.

Transportation

Even though we drove down, there were multiple times that we used the bus system. Again, I had heard a bunch of negative things about the bus system at the All Star Resorts. I had also heard that staying at the Sports resort is helpful in getting transportation. Most of our experiences were good ones. Typically, the bus came within about 10 minutes of us standing in line. However, on one day we did end up waiting over 20 minutes and then 2 buses came at once. Some of the time we filled up and went straight to the parks. Other’s we filled, and then went on to Movies and Music in order to collect more people. I could not find a pattern to this, and if I was at Movies and Music I may have had a very different experience. Twice we left people standing at these hotels because the buses were already full.

Food

We ate at the quick service dining option three times during this trip. Once for breakfast and twice for dinner, I was shocked to see the variety.  Everything from burgers, salads, and fried shrimp to lasagna, there was an option for everyone. We did not have one bad meal here. In fact these meals were better than most of our other quick service meals.  I love that the food is made fresh and not sitting in heating trays. But this comes with a wait, especially during busy meal times. If you are in a hurry and just want to grab something, be sure to look for a short line, or use your snack credit. We waited 15 minutes for dinner one night. However, the quality of food and diverse options made up for the slightly longer waits.

After reading the many reviews and then experiencing this resort on my own, I think this resort needs to be kept in perspective. This is a VALUE resort. The price of our trip was VERY, VERY low. We went to Wilderness Lodge one night for dinner, and this resort is amazing. However, the price would more than double what we paid. If you are looking for the Disney experience on a budget then the value resort is for you. Just be sure to keep in perspective the amount you paid per night when looking at the pros and cons.

 

Are We There Yet?

The mantra, “Are We There Yet?” “Are We There Yet?” keeps repeating itself in my head over and over. The kicker is we haven’t  even left yet! T-minus 4 hours until our Disney vacation starts.

I am going to try, key word try, to post at least once while we are in Disney. However, we are a from park opening to close type of group. We will see how much energy I have at the end of the day. In the mean time I want to tease you with some things we will be blogging about when we get back.

  • New Fantasy Land Opening! I am hoping to see enough to get a feel for the area. Chris will be at the DVC New Fantasyland preview on 11/4 and we will have much more insight then.
  • My opinion of Akershus Royal Hall verse Cinderella Royal Table.
  • My first experience at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.
  • All Star Sports Resort Review.
  • Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, is it worth the ticket?

Is there something obscure that is a must do on your list? If so, what is it? I would love to take some time to do something I haven’t thought of yet. Share your insight!

I will leave you with a few picture:

Olivia’s first and second pair of ears.

I have her 2nd pair of ears packed, but I can almost guarantee she will be picking out her 3rd pair next week.

My favorite family shots from the last two trips.

Wish us luck. And have a magical week!