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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett



Bill writes:

Brian, I agreed with your response to the questions posed by Louise about the Tree of Life and the Kilamanjaro Safari animals, except for one thing. At the end of the Safari, when the poacher is captured, the little elephant is in a truck. I believe, even though you don't get a good look at him, he is not real. Now, I don't think you can call him "animatronic," but he is represented as an animal and he isn't real. Nit, i know :).

Marc adds:

Hi Brian, In today's feedback, you had a question if all animal at the Safari are real, which you answered with yes. However, don't forget "Little Red" in the back of the Truck just before the end of the ride, that one is an audio-animatronic.

Erik states:

Hi Brian! I just wanted to point out a error. Isn't 'Little Red', or whatever the kidnapped baby elephant's name is, an animatronic?

Paul chimes in:

OOPS! When you recently wrote in your mailbag column you mistakenly said all the animals on the safari are real... You forgot that the baby elephant in KS is an audio-animatronic, not a real animal...

and Ken writes:

Hi Brian, you wrote "On the other hand, ALL of the animals that you see on Kilamanjaro Safaris ARE indeed living, breathing animals."  Not quite I think - Isn't there an animatronic elephant (or two)? I know the little one in the back of the poachers' truck is AA, and I thought I remembered a vignette of "Big Red" having been felled by a poacher's bullet. That elephant would have been fake too. Not to bust your chops, but I didn't want someone thinking that the felled elephant (which may exist only in my imagination) and the one in the truck were like circus animals, made to perform those roles ("Okay, Jumbo. Play dead!") all day long.

BTW, I have to think someone would have to be either rather unsophisticated or giving Disney Imagineering a little too much credit (they usually don't get enough, but...) if they thought any of the roaming animals seen on KS were AA.

Disney's best AA creature can't hope to get near the beauty or majesty of the ones made by God, but I realize not everyone thinks this way. Though they usually stay in one place (that ingenious artificially-cooled rock), give the lions, for example, a good hard look and see the intelligence in their eyes (cause you're close enough to make eye contact -- an amazing experience), and there'll be no question you're NOT looking at AA lions. For Heaven's sake!

On the one hand writing for fellow enthusiasts is rewarding and satisfying, but the flip side is that some of them know a little more than we do about one particular aspect or another of the main subject. And they love to point it out.

I'm in the same boat writing about synthesizers, keyboards, and electronic musical equipment for Keyboard. Occasionally I'll make a harmless, thoughtless generalization and then the letters and emails start: "No, you're wrong!!!" Funny, isn't it?

I imagine others would have hipped you to the mistake and I confess acting on the impulse to say, "No, you're wrong!!" Humans are so silly. . . .


Thanks for the note, all. Obviously, I forgot about Little Red... although I'm quite certain there isn't any "felled" animatronic elephant.



And following up, Ken (the last guy listed above) wrote: Obviously. My point was that there's always someone ready to remind you that you forgot something, or said something wrong, or made an unfair generalization, or what have you. It's amusing that I fell victim to the same impulse that annoys the crap out of me in others.

BTW, spent a little time at the GF (sic) in Anaheim while I was in town for a convention. What a lovely place! What a shame people are staying away on droves.

I wonder if all the negative hype on our favorite site has got people thinking that ALL of the expansion associated with DCA is just junk unworthy of their time and dollars? Maybe one of the Anaheim MousePlaneteers could do a story on the hotels themselves (I hardly recognized the grounds at the Disneyland Hotel - I stayed there about 15 years ago and the pools and landscaping have been completely transformed) and all the work that's been done to the surrounding neighborhood (I cracked up the cabbie when I didn't know where I was until we drove past the part of DCA visible from Katella Avenue).

To Disney's great credit, the area around Disneyland is a much more pleasant place to be than the embarrassing, garish, run-down dump it used to be. I think they deserve a little cheese for that, and I haven't seen it coming from MP.

While I'm on the subject, IMHO I think MP as a whole has taken a little too much of a hard line approach of late. It seems that Disney can't get a break from MP criticism. I can't and wouldn't defend Eisner and Pressler's penny-pinching and dumbed-down "vision," nor would I disagree that things are not quite what they used to be. But the rest of the world isn't what it used to be, either. Each generation thinks things are not as good as during their own childhood.

During our trip to WDW last October, we experienced exactly one rude treatment from a bus driver who, in retrospect, may not have intended to be rude. Another bus driver who was a minute or two ahead of his schedule made an unscheduled, unmapped run from the TTC to the WL just for my wife and I, just so we wouldn't have to wait 15 minutes for the next bus. Totally above and beyond. At Cinderella's Royal Table, the hostess paid attention to the notes apparently placed in our PS by the attentive CM at CRO and gave us the table under the window overlooking Fantasyland. We viewed the fireworks from there and were the envy of every party in the place. Our waiter made pleasant conversation... where are you from? what brings you to WDW, etc. ? and he found out we were celebrating our fifth anniversary with the honeymoon we never had. When he brought the check, he gifted us with a pair of CRT champagne flutes (later we tried to buy another pair for a Disney-loving couple we know, and found that they're not in the shops at all - how extra special). We saw peeling paint and general run-down in a few places, but we showed up just 5 days into the 100 Years thing and the place was well and truly spruced up where it really counted. Decay on the Haunted Mansion in particular almost fits the theme, y'know?

I dunno. I think maybe people go there with the attitude that Disney owes them a perfect experience for the money it costs, and conduct themselves in a prima donna fashion. Inconsiderate or oblivious guests are the single biggest cause of magic drain, in my experience. When their experience fails to live up to their inflated expectations, they declare a Disney vacation a rip-off and announce to their fellow "fans" at MP that they'll be staying away for a while. I think that's the wrong attitude. We found that by playing ball with the Disney program, so to speak, and by treating those who served us with grace and respect (tip: If you say Hi and smile before they do, all sorts of good things can happen) they reciprocated in spades, and our experience was far more magical than I'd been led to expect. 

Sorry, not to spew. Didn't realize I felt so forcefully about it.



There are actually several great pieces on the Grand Californian on MousePlanet. I can't think of a single thing that has been written about it that has been the slightest bit negative. It is, as you pointed out, a lovely resort.

If you go to this MousePlanet page (which is one that I maintain), you'll see a link top and center to the photo tour that Al Lutz put together. There's also piece on the site by Lani Teshima and Sue Kruse that you may enjoy reading.



Alyssa asks: Hey Brian, I was just Wondering if the ABC Commissary is where you get to see the different sets of the ABC soaps.



The ABC Commissary at the Studios at WDW in Florida is just a counter service restaurant with a strong Art Deco style. It's not remarkable in any way (but it's not a bad place, either).

The Soap Opera Bistro at Disney's California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort in California might be what you're thinking of.



Patrick writes: Brian, My family and I are heading back to WDW from February 10 -16.  A couple questions regarding how things are going down at WDW:
  1. Any recent (2002) word on crowds - are they as slow as they usually are this time of year or even slower?
  2. Do you know if the "Tapestry of Dreams" parade runs from Mexico to England or just from Mexico to Japan? The Disney web site now shows it going the whole way around, but I am not sure if that is up to date.
  3. Are the "character cavalcades" to the resort hotels in place of early open mornings still going on? If so, do you know what characters actually come to the hotels, or does it change from day-to-day?

By the way, your "Notes from the World" column today could not have been more timely. Although I made reservations several months ago, we only decided over the weekend that we were really going to go in February. Nevertheless, I was still a little worried about how the "cutbacks" would affect the trip. Then, today's column had e-mails from a couple people who said the impact was minimal, which greatly relieved me. As with some of those people, we are getting a great rate for our stay (which is why we are staying at the concierge level for the whole trip), so I think (hope!) the trip will be well worth it. It is just nice to get some reassurance in that regard, which your column provided.

Thanks for your column (all the time, not just today).



I'm glad you've found the column helpful!  As for your questions,

1. Crowd levels so far are reported as being higher now than last year at this time. That was true during Christmas and the first part of January to date.

2. Tapestry of Dreams only runs to Japan.

3. The "Character Caravan" is on a three day schedule for each WDW resort hotels. Early Entry has still not been reinstated. In each case, a handful of characters show up -- without any specific pattern. There is no published schedule (as to which characters appear) to the best of my knowledge.

Thanks for the kind words, Patrick... and not just in this email, but all the time. :)



Julie writes: Hi Brian, My husband and I are going to Disney World March 6-10, 2002 as a company trip for the company we work for. We have really been weighing the pros and cons about taking our 4month old now, 6 month old then with us and you have totally helped us make up our mind!!!! We are bringing our little Gracie and can't wait to be there!!!!


Frankly, I'm glad you decided to do so. :)

I strongly recommend that you read through the WDW With Kids section of MousePlanet.  I'd especially read about "Traveling with an Infant" as that section covers lots of stuff that will make your trip go better!



Gregg asks: Hey Brian, big fan of the site. I am usually just checking for DIG updates but my wife, myself and 2 children ages 6 and 4 are tentatively planning a trip to WDW in December of this year. Is this a good time of year to go first of all? Second, on the Disney website trip-planner we were quoted a price of $4,214.02 for our trip including airfare from Los Angeles, 8 nights at the Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Ultimate Park Hopper tickets, the Dining Package, The Magical Choice Feature, the Unlimited Access to selected Theme Park Tours, The VIP fireworks viewing at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, VIP Parade viewing at Animal Kingdom and the Commemorative Trading Pin. Is this a good price?

Since this will be the first trip to WDW for all of us we just want to make sure we are getting the best deal and best hotel for our family based on price, location, etc. We are all Disneyland / California Adventure annual pass holders, so we know what to expect at theme parks. But being there for 8 nights will be a new experience for us. Also are the other attractions in the area Universal, Sea world, Kennedy space center ok for kids as well. We don't want to waste time if there is not much for the kids there. And is it easy to get a rental car for day trips to the other attractions? Help. Thanks.



Early December is generally a very good time to go. To find out why, read this MousePlanet page on the Year at a Glance.

It's hard to judge your pricing value. For one thing, I don't know the value of the airfare. Frankly, I think you'd be paying an awful lot for the extra features that really aren't worth anything. I'd suggest you price everything ala carte and see how the numbers compare. I think you can do much better that $4200.

As far as knowing "what to expect at theme parks" -- with all due respect, you don't really. :) WDW is such an incredible place... the scope and size are just something you can't understand until you see it. You'll know what I mean when you arrive. The Disneyland Resort is just a drop in the bucket compared to what WDW has to offer. ;)

Universal, Sea World, and the Space Center are all worthwhile day trips. However, your all-inclusive package probably includes Disney tickets for every day of the trip. That's another reason why ala carte purchasing might be better. You can buy a six or seven (or less) day pass for WDW then spend one or more days offsite.

Rental cars are available onsite from National Car Rental.



Anne asks: Brian, I reside in Australia and am planning a holiday to WDW in December 2002, are you able to tell me what is the latest day in this month where crowds have not yet swelled with the pre Christmas build up ? I have attempted to find school holiday times to assist in this but have had no luck. 

Any response would be greatly appreciated.



You can be reasonably safe until mid-month, but by then the build up starts to begin.

One way to check, and you can't really do this until closer to the Holidays, is to look for the dates of Mickeys' Very Merry Christmas Party. WDW schedules this special event during the slow times before the Holiday build-up, so when you see the last date of the party, you'll see WDW's own opinion on the end of the quiet early December days.



Becky asks: Dear Brian, I am planning to join the Disney Vacation Club and have been finding as many sites about it as I can. I was very pleased when I came across yours and found that you had included point charts for the different Disney resorts. What I wasn't pleased to find out about, was the considerable difference in points required between WDW hotels and the comparable Disneyland Paris ones.

As we live in England, using our points at Disneyland Paris is an important part of our holiday plans. Do you have any idea why the Paris hotels require more points when, presumably they are all part of the same company, and why their low season is also so different? According to DLP's own brochure November/early December is the best value time to go, whereas the point chart declares it as the most expensive? I don't understand!!! Can you shed some light on the subject, or do you know anyone who can?



DVC point charts depend, not on park crowds but on expected usage of DVC owners. Of course, one would expect that those two things would be pretty close... but that doesn't always happen. For example, in Florida throughout the year, the weekends (Friday and Saturday nights) require many more points just because there are so many DVC owners within a few hours drive that like to use their points then.



and in a follow-up, Becky writes: Dear Brian, Okay, so that sort of makes sense. But what about the difference in the number of points required for each night between the Grand Floridian and the Disneyland Hotel in DLP even in the low season. For a weeknight visit to the Grand Floridian it's 26 points and at weekends it's 45 which follows the trend as expected. Whereas the Disneyland Hotel needs 35 points week round. Why doesn't that reflect the facts that:
  1. Despite the Disneyland being the top hotel of DLP, as far as room size, amenities and service go, from what I've seen and read it's still not quite on a par with the Grand Floridian. In real money terms, the Grand Floridian is definitely more expensive, but the annual allocation of points per room at the Disneyland is over a thousand more.
  2. people are more likely to go away at weekends here in Europe too!

And the other thing that really does not bear any relation to the usual "more popular, more points", is the fact that the Hotel New York at DLP at any given time requires more points than the Disneyland. Under NO circumstances would it the more popular of the two, unless they were bringing business travelers into this whole DVC/timeshare thing.

So is DLP really so popular that they have to increase the points required to discourage the hordes? I doubt it - to most people DLP is place you go if you can't get to WDW. Or is it because it's not in the States? Do hotels and resorts in Europe require more points than their American equivalents, or is DLP unusual?

Sorry to keep bothering you, but I find this whole thing slightly annoying and very interesting.



Something that I don't think I was very clear on is that the DVC points are fixed only for the DVC resorts. The other resorts at WDW, DL, and DLP are contracted situations. That is, the resorts individually determine what value they place on a DVC reservation and the DVC sets the point values accordingly. The amount of points that are required to stay at a non-DVC resort are not in any way fixed. They can go up or down as the specific resort sees fit. In effect, each non-DVC resort is a free agent in this regard. Ten years from now, the number of points required to stay at the Disneyland Hotel at DLP might be double or triple the current rate. There is no way to tell for sure...

So the questions you're posing about the DLP resorts really are the result of the management at those resorts deciding what value they place on a stay at that particular resort. The DVC simply responds to that "quotation" by setting the appropriate number of points so they can make the necessary transfer payments to the resort when and if a DVC member stays there on a points basis.

Apparently the management at the Grand Floridian has decided that the amount of money that the DVC gives up for 26/45 points is appropriate value for a stay there. Likewise, the Disneyland Hotel at DLP has decided that 35 points "week round" is appropriate. I would suggest that there are much fewer DVC owners that live in Europe and that would skew the traffic at the hotel... thus the lack of need for a higher weekend rate. Likewise, for whatever reason, the Hotel New York has set another, different rate... again, I don't know why.



and finally, Becky writes: Thanks for taking the time to reply in such detail. Shame that the points aren't set at non DVC resorts - it means less chance of making plans. But at least we have more certainty with the DVC ones. I suppose it's being rather greedy to want to upgrade our accommodations at DLP when the moderate hotels are fine, but it would be nice if points permit.

It was actually the thought of staying somewhere like Old Key West when we do our occasional visits to WDW that initially attracted me to the DVC idea. The thought of spending a small fortune for two weeks in one hotel room with our young daughter was not attractive, so the extra space, better accommodations and more control over the amount of money being spent is what we have worked our calculations and made our decisions on.

Watching the price of packages to WDW rise steeply year after year is frightening, not to mention the affect of the exchange rate. I could see our accommodations dropping from Dixie Landings (it will always be that for me as well), to All Stars, and then probably Days Inn!!

Sorry to waffle on, but this whole DVC thing is rather exciting!!

Many thanks for your time.



Sean asks: Just got back from six days at WDW. It was wonderful. I was prepared to "attack the parks" commando-style with all the tricks I'd learned from your site. Fortunately there were no crowds and almost every attraction was "walk right in".

What made it really great was that I could try all the attractions without having to judge them in respect to the time waiting. With no line, every attraction was fun. However, if I had to wait for 15 minutes plus, I might have been very disappointed in many, many of the attractions.

In your "professional" opinion, why would anybody go to WDW at the height of the tourist season when balmy days in January beckon?



Thanks for your note.

There are three reasons why so many people do go to WDW during the height of the tourist season. First, for whatever reason, they may be unable to go when the crowds are less. For example, teachers may be unable to visit during the off season because they simply don't get vacation time that they can use during the school year. Second, they may be completely ignorant of the difference that the seasons bring to crowd levels. Third, some people just like the tourist season for various reasons. They may like the longer park hours... they may enjoy the holiday decorations... they may prefer the weather... Who knows?



Christopher writes:  Hello Brian, I have a 150 share in Boardwalk, and am thinking about buying a second share (so I have 300 total). Everyone recommends The Timeshare Store (as you have). But I was wondering if you were familiar with any of these:,, and I've heard people have horror stories with resales and find it ominous that no one ever recommends these. Any advice or insight you may have would be greatly appreciated.



I've not heard of any of those three timeshare resellers. They may be fine, but I don't have any personal experience with them... nor do I know of anyone that has used them (and had experiences either good or bad).


and in a follow-up, Christopher writes:  Thanks for the info.

I might just wait until The Timeshare Store finds something for me since they come recommended by so many people.

I read your conversation about DVC vs. Vistana and would add one point to comparison. I would rather buy a timeshare from a large company like Disney than some of these other fly by night companies (not even sure how to spell "Vistana"). I feel more confident that Disney will be AROUND for 40 years.


Thanks again, Chris. One comment... Vistana resort is really a well-managed facility. I, for one, do not have any such misgivings or lack of confidence in Vistana or any of the other area timeshares.



Daniel asks: Brian, I would really appreciate it if you could help me w/ this. My family and I are planning an 8-day vacation to Disney World. We don't want the packages because we don't want to pay for things we're not going to use (like water parks). However, when I looked at Disney World's website, there were no 8-day park hopper tickets. What should I do? Buy two 4-day ones, or what? Your help would be greatly appreciated.



You can buy length of stay passes (that cover each day of your trip) without buying an entire package deal. Those passes, called "Ultimate Hopper Passes" do cover the water parks, too, so that might not be what you want either.  In any case, you can read more about the various admission media options on MousePlanet's admission media page.



a MousePlanet reader asks: Does Florida have a hurricane season?  How does it affect WDW?  Also, how can I decide which package deal to go with since there are so many different options?


I'll answer the easier question first. Yes, there is a hurricane season that affects most of Florida. It covers the time from mid-August through early October. Of course, you're not likely to feel the effects of hurricane level winds that far inland, but you will -- if a hurricane hits the coast nearby -- feel the effects through higher than normal winds and lots and lots of rain.

Regarding the package deal questions... I don't have a specific list of what's included in the packages you cited. You should be able to get that information from Disney Travel. However, I would strongly suggest that you read through this page and especially note the section, "So, Do I Buy a Plan Deal or What?"... Personally, I would counsel against it because it's not likely that you'll really get the full value out of the package versus the cost.

I'll quote myself (from that page) here:

"The key to determining how valuable any Disney package is for you is to think through your intended usage of what you'll receive. If you'll use the flex features, and you still feel like you'll be able to take full advantage of the meal portion of the package, then you'll likely do well to use the package deal. If you won't use any of the "perks" then the overall value drops for you.

"I don't mean to be condescending as I state this's really pretty obvious, but the fact of the matter is -- if you won't use the extras, then they have absolutely no value to you and you really must eliminate them from the equation.

"Several years ago, when Disney offered the much less restrictive "Food 'N' Fun" packages, we thoroughly enjoyed the results even though we didn't take full advantage of the "fun" features. We used them somewhat, but we didn't use two of them each day. However, the "meal deal" was so fantastic (completely unlimited after purchasing the package) that we couldn't go wrong.

"I guess the bottom line is....buyer beware! Only you can know what you'll really use and what you won't. You can make a good decision after thinking that through."

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

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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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