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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

3/15/01

Q.

Cindy Writes:  Hello, I just wanted to give you a couple of notables that I discovered while on the phone with Disney dining reservations today. First is that Pluto is not at the 'Ohana character breakfast like you had stated on the website. I guess when they replaced Minnie they did away with the dog ;).

The characters there are only Mickey, Goofy, Chip & Dale. Second, the Polynesian Luau does not have shows on Sunday and Monday nights. While folks will find that out for themselves after they call, it might be a nice thing to add to your description to forewarn people.

Thanks and keep up the great work :)

A.

Thanks for the updates, Cindy. I'll make a note of them on the site.  (In fact, it's already done.)

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Q.

Sue Writes:  (Referring to a hotel review that she'd submitted to MousePlanet) I was anxious to send you my review because I wanted to pay you back.  I used your site extensively in planning our very 1st Disney family vacation and you and your contributors really helped me a lot. I promised myself that one of the first things that I would do when I returned was to review the hotel for you.

Only one complaint about the lack of character sightings at Magic Kingdom. Big let down for my 5 year old. I was disappointed as for this age bracket, the autograph book deal was the highlight. So I have some solutions to our problem - would love to discuss this on your site to help other young families find the characters. I know it might sound small in the scheme of things, but it was big for her. Other than that, our trip was beautiful! Thanks again.

A.

I completely understand the character issue. The park "Guidemaps" list character meet & greet locations, and you'll find that the character meals Exposition Hall on Main Street provide a big boost!

The key, I think, is to identify which characters your kids really want to meet...and plan accordingly.  

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Q.

Sue Writes:  We are going to WDW March 31-April 3 and taking our 4 year old and our 3 year old girls. We hope to get some time at MGM and Animal Kingdom, but are resigned to the fact that we may spend most of our time at MK. No Epcot this year!!

Do you have any suggestions on how to get a coveted Priority Seating for the Cinderella's castle breakfast? Of course it was all booked when I called, but do they have cancellations or a secondary market for the seating? In lieu of breakfast there, is lunch or dinner a character meal with just Cinderella?

A.

If you're "resigned to the fact that we may spend most of our time at MK" because of the girl's ages, don't be! You can enjoy any of the parks with kids of that age! At Epcot, you'll find the Kid Spots at each pavilion fun (a small project where the kids learn a little about the nation's culture) and there are attractions, of course, that they'll enjoy very much!

With regard to Cinderella's Royal Table, the restaurant does not have character meals at lunch and dinner...just the breakfast.

You might want to check out MousePlanet's Walt Disney World Restaurant Resource character meal page, which gives a lot of information about the various character meals.

The only way I know of to get reservations at Cinderella's Royal Table is to keep trying. There is no "secondary market," but cancellations do occur. The best advice, which won't really help you unfortunately, is the following (which is on the priority seating page of MousePlanet's WDW Restaurant Resource):

"If you want to have a character meal at one of the more popular venues (Cinderella's Royal Table, which offers a very few seats for the "Once Upon a Time" character breakfast, for example) you really do need to get on the phone five minutes before 7:00am eastern time and start calling (407) WDW-DINE over and over until you get a receptionist. In fact, you really should do that exactly 60 days prior to the date you want. Even if you do this, there is no guarantee that you'll get a priority seating, but it's your best bet. If you call any other day (within 60 days of the date you want) you may be able to snap up a cancellation, but your odds get worse as you get closer to the day."

For you, I'd suggest you keep calling...you never know when someone else may cancel!

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Q.

Kathleen Writes:  I am looking for clarification on the Hopper passes. With a Hopper pass am I able to use it to spend the morning in the Magic Kingdom one day and then return to the Magic Kingdom another? Or can I only use the pass once at each theme park?

Also, the only information that I can find about traveling with a disabled person is from 1996.  I admit that my internet skills are limited.  Has Disney done away with the wheelchairs and electric scooters?

My mom has emphysema. We are looking for anyway possible to conserve her energy. We are planning to stay on the park grounds. My dad and I are in this debate. He thinks that it would be better to drive my mother to the theme parks and use her handicap sticker to park. But, if I remember correctly from a visit quite a number of years ago and understand what I have read, he will still have to park quite a distance from the entrance. If this is the case using the bus would make more sense to me. Any thoughts on this?

A.

Park hopper passes can be used for the specified number of days at ANY of the major theme parks. For example, you can spend the morning on day one at Epcot, then the evening at the Magic Kingdom. The second day, you can start our at Animal Kingdom, then go the Studios at night. You can mix and match as you wish...again, as long as you really do have a "park hopper" pass.

Beware, though, because Disney is also selling non-park hopping multi-day passes! These permit you to visit ONE park on each of the days. In fact, some of them also specify that you can spend only ONE day in each park, sometimes with the option of letting "you choose" which park you spend the final day.

If you buy a true "park hopper" pass, though, you can come and go among the four parks as you please...which is really the most convenient way to enjoy WDW.

With regard to the access issue...

I hate to take sides in a family disagreement, but I completely agree with you (versus your Dad). I'd stay on-site, if at all possible, and take advantage of WDW transportation to get you from place to place. The parking lots are a great distance from the parks, and it would be quite a hike to get to the place in each park where the wheelchairs and scooters are rented (just inside the gate, but still a long distance to walk).

Wheelchairs and scooters are still available at all of the parks, but you're also welcome to bring your own, if you have one. If not, you may be able to borrow one (a wheelchair) from your resort hotel, so you can use it from the bus back to your room and about the resort, too. They are limited in number, though, so you may want to call and try to make those arrangements in advance.

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Q.

Lisa Writes:  I was wondering if you have any information on Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween in Disney World. We will be arriving in DW on 10/31 and wanted to go to this event but would like some info on it. Also, what do you think the crowds will be like at something like this?

A.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a special event held at the Magic Kingdom. It requires the purchase of a separate ticket, and those tickets do sell out...so you'll want to get yours as soon as you can. The party includes special decorations at the park, trick or treating, snacks, and so on. Of course, many attractions are open late, too.

However, the tickets are not available yet. Disney hasn't set the dates for the party...and they usually don't until three months or so before the event.

I'd suggest you start calling WDW information in July to request tickets. They may be able to tell you when the dates will be set, and prices and so on.

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Q.

Jennifer Writes:  Before I ask for more info, I'd just like to say I'm very impressed with your site, and in awe of the work that must go into maintaining such a comprehensive and informative site.

That said, here's my pitch.

My family and I will be returning to WDW for our 4th trip in April 2001, but the first trip with my then-1-year-old-son. We're going to be staying at the Wilderness Lodge Villas. One of the main reasons we're staying there is the kitchen. Although my son is eating table foods exclusively, his tastes run to simple, familiar fare.

Do you have any experience with the grocery stores in the area? Are they well-stocked? Are they close (we'll be taking a limo from Tiffany, and they said we can stop at one place on the way)?

I've also heard that you can send a package to yourself to the resort, just marking the label with the dates we'll be guests. Have you any experience with this?

I'd prefer to not have to pack another suitcase with just Zachary's food, and I'm worried about perishable items.

I'm sure you're very busy, but if you can provide any assistance, it would be greatly appreciated.

A.

Funny that you live in Shelby Township...so do my parents. :) I lived in Roseville and Clinton Township as I grew up, and only moved to Saginaw when I went to college a few years back.

Anyway, to your questions...

Regarding grocery shopping offsite, here's a quote from MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide page on offsite shopping:

"As far as groceries are concerned, I have several comments to make that I hope you'll consider:

  • "Only those rooms or suites with cooking facilities are really designed for making up your own meals. Of course, "cereal and milk and toast and Poptart" breakfasts can be handled in just about any room.

  • "Many Orlando area rooms include a refrigerator. At WDW itself, some rooms have them and some don't. It completely depends on the resort in which you are staying.

  • "If your room does NOT include a refrigerator, you can probably rent one from your hotel. Disney does this for a nominal fee per day.

  • "The Disney Village Marketplace has a store, called the Gourmet Pantry, that does sell some foodstuff. In addition, each resort has a store that has some limited selection of snacks and such. However, each of these Disney options tend to be very limited in selection and very high in price. If you're stuck, you might be willing to pay a lot for little...but with some planning, you can do much better.

  • "There is a Gooding's grocery store at the Crossroads shopping plaza on 535, just north of the village plaza hotels. If you're at the Disney Village Marketplace and drive up, passing the Hilton, BV Palace, etc....all the way to the exit, cross 535 and the Gooding's is on the left. Gooding's is an honest-to-goodness grocery store. The selection might not be as extensive as a Meijer's or Kroger's here in Michigan (or your own local supermarket at home), but is much better than any on-site stores. Gooding's really does cater to the tourist clientele, so beware of higher prices than normal....and typically crowded conditions (especially in the evenings) since every other WDW guest looking for hot dogs is at Gooding's, too.

  • "A couple of alternatives are the Publix Super Markets on 192. There's one in Kissimmee, East of WDW, and another to the West of WDW. You can decide which of them is more convenient. Frankly, if you're staying at the All Star Resorts or Coronado Springs -- you're probably closer to a Publix than Gooding's."

I've never sent a package ahead, personally, but I have known folks that have done so without problems. I'd suggest you call the Villas at Wilderness Lodge, (407) 824-3200, and ask them for their directions about how to handle it.

One last thing, I would also suggest that you read through my entire section, Walt Disney World with Kids.  You'll find a lot of helpful information there.

Another great resource is Adrienne Krock's Parenting in the Parks.  You'll find another perspective and some great information there as well.

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Q.

Tammy Writes:   We are a family of five that would like to go to Disney with a family of four.  We live in a small community in Kentucky of less than 4,000 so our income is not what it is in the rest of the country. We would like to take our kids to Disney before they get too much older.

How do I go about finding the best bargains on the trip? 

How does a lower income family make it to Disney even if they are going to share expenses with another low income family? We are not destitute but live from paycheck to paycheck with very little left over. How do I need to go about planning for this?

Q.

and Freddy Writes:  First of all, I really love your WDW trip planning guide.  The entire MousePlanet staff is doing a fantastic job at maintaining the site.  Keep up the good work!

Second of all, my family (consisting of 6 people) and I are planning a trip to the World between early and late Summer of 2002. we plan to stay for 4 nights and visit 3 of the 4 parks (we don't care for a disneyfied zoo).

Since we are on an EXTREMELY tight budget, I would like to know how I can set up an itinerary that allows us to enjoy the parks to the fullest and save the most possible amount of money. thank you.

A.

Before I answer the main question, I just have to comment on your "Disnefied Zoo" remark. :)

Animal Kingdom is truly a great theme park. I wouldn't call it a zoo any more than I'd call the Magic Kingdom a strip-mall parking lot carnival. If you visit the park, with an understanding that it is not all rides and thrills (although it has some of both), then you'll be very pleasantly surprised...

...and now, on to the money savings issue...

This is a question that really requires some thought. The key, of course, is to have a good idea about the costs of the trip -- and keep those costs to a minimum.

Ways to save money on a trip to WDW include:

  • Traveling during off-peak times of the year (September, October, and early December are good times).

  • You can save a considerable amount of travel money by driving your own vehicle to WDW.

  • Staying off-site. As much as I prefer staying on-site, there is no doubt that very nice accommodations can be had off-site for much less money. Make sure that any off-site hotel has transportation to the parks if you don't have a vehicle!

  • Check your accommodations prices several different ways. Ask a travel agent for prices, call the hotel yourself, and see if there are any AAA or other discounts that you may be eligible for.

  • In any case, don't forget about the very high room tax rates! You'll have 11% tacked on to your bill each night just to help pay the bills of the great state of Florida.

  • Carefully consider your plans and buy only the admission media that you need and that you'll use. Overbuying when the budget is tight doesn't make sense. You can compare and contrast the various types of Disney admission media on MousePlanet's Admission Media from A to Z page:

  • If you decide to visit other non-Disney attractions in the area, plan to spend $50/person/day on tickets there, too (Universal, Islands of Adventure, and Sea World for example).

  • Plan a strict budget for snacks and souvenirs and stick to it! You might even decide to spend absolutely no money on such things, that's fine, but in any case -- stick to the budget. (Disney is great at dangling bait in front of the un-prepared.)

  • Eat meals off-site and/or in the room. Disney certainly prices things at a premium and you can get good meals at much reduced prices in the restaurants on the strips just off property. Making sandwiches for lunch and eating donuts for breakfast in the room, obviously, save a ton of money, too.

  • If you decide to buy food and eat in your room, plan to buy your groceries at a Publix rather than a Goodings supermarket. Publix is a bit less expensive. Also, don't forget to arrange for a refrigerator if you're going to have perishables (or bring a good cooler with you!)

  • Consider buying a membership in the Disney Club, if you decide it will benefit you. There's a ton of information on MousePlanet's Disney Club page.

That's a bunch of thing to think about, but it should help you plan ahead.

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Q.

John Writes:  It is amazing how big your site has gotten. I came across your trip reports by mistake the year you started the site, while I was searching for some Disney info. I think I have read almost all the "Disney World Reports".

I assumed that we weren't going to do another Disney adventure for 3 or 4 years until my Father-in-law called and said he wanted to take us all on a 7-day Disney cruise. He turned 75 last year and isn't in the greatest health so he declared that he "doesn't want to take it with him" and chose to build some more lasting memories. I will now go back to your site and read all the Cruise Trip Reports that I skipped before. Thanks again for all your work !! Keep up the good work.

A.

Thanks for the kind note, John. I agree...it's amazing that the site has grown so much!

I started my part of MousePlanet back in the Summer 1996.  The WDW Trip Planning Guide was the first thing that I put together.  I started adding trip reports within just a few months of that time.  There's over 700 of them on MousePlanet now!  The Disneyland Trip Planning guide, Disney Vacation Club Trip Planning Guide, Magical Gardens of Disney, offsite hotel review, Disney restaurant review, and Disney maps, sections followed.

Since MousePlanet launched, it's becoming more and more difficult to find "my" stuff, but that's just because we're working hard to integrate the material we have to make it easier to find and more useful to our readers.

The Walt Disney World Restaurant Resource, which I added to the lineup just a few months ago, is a good example of that.  Fellow MousePlaneteers Kevin Yee and Jason Schultz started the section, but then I merged in my own WDW restaurant pages from the trip planning guide, added some pictures, meshed the WDW restaurant reviews that folks have been submitting, and started to add restaurant menus!

If anyone out there wants to see the whole line-up of Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planner, you can click the link below.

Click here to check out the rest of Brian's Archive!

Brian's Archive - Contents

Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback for the WDW Trip Planning Guide!  Feed free to send more questions or comments to brian@mouseplanet.com!

Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planner


Click here to see some awesome WDW pieces that have run on MousePlanet recently!

Click here to check out the rest of Brian's Archive, including all of the previously published "Notes From the World" pieces!

Brian's Archive - Contents

I've always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added the feedback form to the site several months ago, the number of questions has increased dramatically!  I do my best to answer each and every question personally, but I've noticed that a lot of the questions are asked again and again.  The question that one person asks might very well be the question that someone else is wondering about.  Thus this page!

So...I'll post reader email and feedback every once in a while, because the question someone else asks might be the same one you're thinking about yourself!

 

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