Brian's Archive - Contents  Click to go back to MousePlanet main page
 Discussion Boards | Reviews | News | Trip Planning | Shop | Travel | Site Map
Brian's Basement
A Treasure Trove of Archived Stories
Google-
Look in: MousePlanet WWW

Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

3/18/02

I'll lead off today with some information on MouseTips:

PRESS RELEASE

MOUSE TIPS - The Unofficial Newsletter of Walt Disney World

Newsletter for Vacationers and "Disney Fanatics" Devoted Entirely to The Walt Disney World

There's a great newsletter available for Disney fanatics and the 16 million annual vacationers to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. With things always changing so rapidly at Disney World, Mouse Tips - The Unofficial Newsletter of Walt Disney World keeps you on the cutting edge. We've been providing hundreds of reviews and insider tips to our readers for more than three years.

Mouse Tips was started to provide vacationers and "Disney Junkies" with the most up-to-date and unbiased information on the Walt Disney World Resort. The editors of Mouse Tips are veterans of 1000's of hours at Walt Disney World and continue to travel there several times a year to research and review the resort. Mouse Tips tells you what the guidebooks do not.

Mouse Tips is an independent publication and is in no way associated with the Walt Disney Co. or any of its subsidiaries. Therefore, Mouse Tips is able to provide its readers with critical appraisals and uncensored evaluations. Mouse Tips also contains no advertising, just the facts. Mouse Tips has been quoted as a Walt Disney World expert in dozens publications like the Wall Street Journal, Best Fares Magazine, BottomLine, and USA Today just to name a few.

Each issue of Mouse Tips is packed with articles on upcoming events and activities, reviews and previews of new and coming attractions, critiques of restaurants, hotels, and rides, where the best values can be found, activities to skip and those not to miss, dozens of insider tips, and much, much more. Mouse Tips is a resource no vacationer or Disney fanatic should be without.

A one year subscription to Mouse Tips (4 quarterly issues) is available for $12.95. For individuals who would like to receive only the most current issue for their upcoming trip, the cost is only $4.00. To order Mouse Tips, send a check or money order for $12.95 to: Mouse Tips, P.O. Box 383, Columbus, OH 43216.

In a recent email to me, Don Sullivan wrote:

"...We are willing to offer visitors to your website a special discount. They can subscribe for $10.75 for the first year. Just tell them to mention your website."

So subscribe to MouseTips!  I'm sure you'll enjoy it.


and now, on to the email... 

Q.

Maggie writes: Hello, I just read the story of your son's adoption and have tears running down my face. You are very special people. All the best to you and your precious family.

A.

Thank you so much, Maggie. We're so glad that Michael's back with us... it's been over a year now. :)

Q.

Jack asks: Hello Brian, My wife and myself are taking our Grandchildren, boys ages 14 and 16, to World Disney World for their first time on April 22nd for five days and we will be staying at Wilderness Lodge. I have read some reviews about this resort and some of them make mention that certain floors namely the upper ones are better because less noise and also if you ask for say a courtyard view or a lake view you might catch views of firework shows from you balcony. When is it a good idea to ask for such requests, before you arrive or at check-in time? We have already tried to book a pontoon cruise for firework watching and have been told all cruises have been booked for that week. I would greatly appreciate any advice, thanks.

A.

Jack,

I'd suggest that you go to this page and go down to the section about the "room controller" and read up!

You should definitely make your requests known in advance -- and again when you check in!

-

Q.

On a similar topic, Kim writes: Hi Brian, My husband and I feel your website is VERY HELPFUL (actually my husband visits all the time!!) We are planning a trip to Disneyworld the beginning of May to the Caribbean Beach Resort and I have a question (we just booked it on Sunday and your update today was great!).

I read through most of the reviews for the Caribbean Beach resort and found that most people suggested to stay either in Jamaica, Martinique, or Trinidad North. I did not realize you could call and request certain locations, etc., and my question is should we call now and request a certain area and also call 5 days in advance or just wait and call 5 days in advance to the room controller? Has the entire resort been refurbished? If not, can you tell me what areas to avoid? I'm most concerned about getting a non-smoking, decent room that's in one of those areas.

Thank you so much for your time and the wonderful website.

A.

Kim,

I'd suggest you call ASAP to make the request... then call back five days before your arrival to ask the room controller again. In that case, you'll just be reinforcing what you've already asked for.

I don't know which areas of the resort have been refurbished, but you can ask about that when you call with your other requests. Just tell the front desk (or central reservations) cast member what you want to request: non-smoking (and tell them it's for medical reasons if you or your husband have allergies or asthma and they'll work extra hard on that one), Jamaica (or where ever you decide), near a bus stop, in a recently refurbished room, etc., etc. Then, when you call back, ask the room controller for the same shopping list.

Remember, though, you're NEVER guaranteed that your requests will be met.

-

Q.

Heather writes: We have quite an age range in our group (from 29-60). What are some things that us youngsters might not think about that someone, somewhat conservative (and not going on Tower of Terror no matter how much we bribe her) 60-year old Mom might want to do? She has *never* been to WDW and has not been to DL in a loooooong time!

I was reading with interest about the Sunrise Safari in Sue Holland's concierge report. Do you know if they even offer that to the general resort public and who I could talk to see? That is something that my mom would absolutely die for, and I would do just about anything to make that happen for her! She is a huge animal nut and that tour sounds just perfect for her!

Thanks and thanks! I cannot wait to go! My future husband just rolls his eyes and says maybe we should register with DVC and just have people contribute to our vacations since that's where we will likely spend most of them!

A.

Heather,

When you said, "My future husband just rolls his eyes and says maybe we should register with DVC and just have people contribute to our vacations since that's where we will likely spend most of them!," I realized just how wise your fiancé is. :)

Regarding the senior members of your group... it's hard to say exactly what they'll enjoy. The main thing I would emphasize is that you should allow for a lot of time to just soak up the atmosphere... Enjoy the details in the parks... stop to enjoy the gardens... take time to browse the shops in World Showcase... stroll the walking tours at Animal Kingdom and enjoy the animals. Other than that, I'm sure you can pick out specific interests (history, horticulture, a specific country or two at Epcot) that would be worth some extra time.

According to Sue, the Sunrise Safari is only available to concierge guests.

-

Q.

Teresa asks: You are such a great resource for information! Perhaps you can help me. We will be visiting Disneyworld in March, and my two girls (5 and 2) are fanatics about the princesses. I didn't get a reservation for the Royal Table for breakfast, though I hear I can call the day before and see if I can wing it off a cancellation. Any recommendations for getting in? Or, if I don't, where else can we meet the princesses?

A.

Teresa,

You can still try for breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table. It never hurts to call and ask. :)

There are other character meeting areas scattered throughout the park, too, that you may want to visit. I've met up with Belle and Cinderella at the Exposition Hall (next to Tony's Town Square Cafe in the square when you first enter the park), Ariel can be met at Ariel's Grotto in Fantasyland, and you can see Belle (if not interact with her) at the Fairytale Garden (also in Fantasyland). Various characters can be met at the Toontown Hall of Fame, also.

If there's a specific character that you'd like to meet, feel free to ask a cast member. There is a schedule of sorts, so they might be able to give you a location and a rough time when the various characters can be found.

-

Q.

Kendra writes: Great site! I'm going to DL in March and I enjoyed all of your tips.  I'm sure you don't realize it, but there is a mistake in your packing section that really should be corrected. You suggested that travelers take aspirin for the heat produced by sunburn. I'm an ER RN, and I strongly suggest Tylenol for pain as well as some aloe gel for skin irritation. Advising people to take aspirin is dangerous especially if they mistakenly give it to a child. I hope you don't mind the 2 cents I added! I really got a lot from your website!

A.

Thanks for the note, Kendra! I'll make that change in the site ASAP.

-

Q.

Carol asks: Dear Brian, We will be using up some old four and five day WDW passes from an earlier trip (1993). I realize we can't use them for AK since they only say the other 3 parks. Do you anticipate us having any problems? They say they never expire. Will we have any problems using our tickets to obtain Fastpass tickets?

A.

Carol,

You will have no problems at all entering the parks with your older tickets. As you pointed out, you won't be able to visit Animal Kingdom on the old passes, but you can enjoy the other parks without problems.

Fastpass will require some extra effort on your part. The new passes at WDW all have magnetic strips on them. Those passes are actually inserted into the Fastpass machines to "order" any Fastpasses that you want to use. The older passes are a different shape and do not have magnetic strips on them. The solution will be for you to go to the Fastpass cast member that is at each attractions Fastpass distribution area. They will need to see your passes, then they will give you Fastpasses accordingly. You won't be able to use the automatic machines, but you'll get to use Fastpass.

-

Q.

Becky asks: Dear Brian, My husband and I are going to WDW on vacation - no kids! I am looking for some recommendations on restaurants. We will be staying at the Port Orleans resort and are looking for places with ambiance and good food. At least one night we want to really treat ourselves, maybe to something romantic. Do you have any suggestions?

A.

Becky,

I'd suggest you read through MousePlanet's WDW Restaurant Resource. There you'll find descriptions of all of WDW's most popular restaurants so you can decide for yourself what sounds good.

Some of the most highly regarded restaurants at WDW, and where you can enjoy an adult dinner, include Victoria and Albert's and Citricos (at the Grand Floridian), California Grill (at the Contemporary), Flying Fish Cafe and Spoodles (at the Boardwalk), Yachtsman's Steakhouse (at the Yacht Club Resort), Jiko (at Animal Kingdom Lodge), Cinderella's Royal Table and Tony's Town Square Cafe (at the Magic Kingdom), Rose & Crown, Chefs de France, Bistro de Paris, Marrakesh, Teppanyaki Dining Rooms, Alfredo di Roma, and San Angel Inn (at Epcot), the Hollywood Brown Derby and Mama Melrose's (at the Studios). Those would make up my personal short list... so you can pare it down from there. :)

-

Q.

Fung writes: I will go to WDW on July, after search your site, I want some extra information about WDW dining.
  1. I want to stay 7 night in there, do you think it is worth to spent about $500 per day for join the Grand Plan? (2 adult and 1 child), we have not intent to play water sport and golf.
  2. Is it necessary wear a formal suit to dining in some resort restaurant, such as Victoria & Albert's?

A.

I really don't think that most WDW guests would benefit from paying for the Grand Plan or other package deals. Since you've already decided that you wouldn't take advantage of the sports options in the plan, you would really do better to buy your room and meals ala carte.

Victoria and Albert's is the only restaurant on site where a jacket is required for gentlemen.

-

Q.

Steven writes: Hi Brian, Great site you have, my family and I have got loads of great information.

I have a couple of questions I hope you can help me with. My wife and I and our two sons (ages 9 & 5) are traveling to WDW on April 15, 2002 and staying to the 20th. We have reservations at the Wilderness Lodge. We all have been looking forward to this trip and want to make it as great as possible. How is the Wilderness Lodge for kids of the age group we're bringing? Do you know of any "best" areas to stay in the Lodge? (main building or one of the wings).

We have a character breakfast at Chef Mickey's on the 16th at 7:30 AM, do you think it would be easier to drive or take the water shuttle to the Contemporary that early in the morning? Do you know what the crowd trends are for that time of the year (2 weeks after Easter)? I am also interested in the Fantasmic dinner package. With the recent cut backs do they still run Fantasmic! every night? and do you know how days before you can make priority seating for this event?

Thanks for all your help, keep up the great work

A.

Steven,

I think you and your family will enjoy Wilderness Lodge very much. We stayed there with our two boys (although they were only one and four at the time) and Allan, our oldest, just asked me today (coincidentally) when we were going back. :)

Wilderness Lodge is all in one building, so there is no distinction between a main building and the wings of the resort. It's all connected. All of the rooms are very nice, but be aware that the lobby and the main service areas for guests are located on the 2nd floor -- not the 1st floor... so if you ask for a 1st floor room, trying to avoid the elevators and stairs, you'll be in for a bit of a surprise.

The officially recognized routing from Wilderness Lodge to the Contemporary Resort (the one that any Disney Cast Member would recommend) would be to take a bus from Wilderness Lodge to the Ticket and Transportation Center and the resort monorail from there to the Contemporary Resort. Personally, I would drive to the Contemporary for an early Breakfast at Chef Mickey's.

Crowds will be moderate a couple of weeks after Easter, but heavier than early Fall or just after the Christmas holidays.

Fantasmic! is still running nightly. All of the details on the Fantasmic! Dining Experience can be read on this page.

-

Q.

A MousePlanet reader writes: Your site is wonderful. I have a couple of questions I haven't been able to find answers to anywhere. Can you help?

In the parks, do the fast-food restaurants pack the food for take-out -- such that we could carry it elsewhere to eat for example, we may want to get food at Pinocchio's Village Haus and take it to Ariel's Grotto to eat?

I read somewhere that food is allowed to be brought into Fantasmic!  What about the other shows, such as Beauty and Beast at MGM, Living with Land and American Adventure Show at Epcot, Tarzan Rocks and Festival of Lion King at Animal Kingdom. Also, can you eat while waiting in the queue lines?

A.

The fast food establishments can provide food in carry-out form. Usually, that's what you'll get... although plastic trays are common too, you can ask for cardboard and paper instead.

You aren't actually allowed to take food into the shows and into "in door" portions of attraction queues. Frankly, it's not enforced very well, but you also shouldn't be surprised to hear that a Disney cast member asked you to refrain (if the line for an attraction has a large outdoor area, the no-eating rule is even more rarely enforced in those areas).

(Note:  In my original answer to this reader via email, I answered that I didn't know what the policy was.  As I was preparing this email for "Notes," though, I remembered several cases over the years when my own family was asked to not take food into show queues.  Then, when I mentioned this gaffe to my wife, Barb reminded me that some queues have trash receptacles part way through them so that visitors can snack or drink while they stand in the first part of the line, but can discard their cups, napkins, and so on before getting to the ride.  The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad queue, for example, usually has such a trash receptacle just at the doorway leading into the covered (building) portion of the queue.  Usually it's manned by a cast member, posted there to remind folks to tidy up.  In fact, you're not permitted to progress in the queue without discarding the trash first.  I guess being 38 means I'm getting more forgetful.)

-

Q.

Stephane writes: What about Nine Dragons? Have you been there personally? My wife wants to have some Chinese while we're down there, and the reviews online seem to be good... But IF you've been, I'd like to have the opinion from THE MAN himself. ;)

A.

Stephane,

I've only eaten at Nine Dragons one time personally. The food was good, typical Americanized-Chinese, but pretty expensive for what you get. The food wasn't bad, the service wasn't bad, and the restaurant is beautiful... but the fact that we've only been there the one time may give an indication about my opinion.

It's just too expensive for something that I can get at my local Chinese restaurant here in Michigan.

Signed, THE MAN.  ;)

-

Q.

Kathy writes: Hi Brian, Love the site. We are planning on staying at WDW over the Martin Luther King holiday next January. First, the end of January is supposed to be very slow, but will the long weekend have much of an impact on crowds? I've called several times to book rooms at Port Orleans and kept getting different answers about the French Quarter being open in 2003. I finally did book 2 rooms there, but am a little worried about whether it really will be reopened. Do you know? Would you be concerned? We picked this resort because we enjoyed the old "Dixie Landings" except that our room was so far from the food court, etc. If my memory is correct, the French Quarter portion looked not as big. Any thoughts about which would be better? Also, do you know of any way to get discounted rooms at Universal besides AAA? I haven't seen any, but we'll be there a couple of days too.

A.

Kathy, The long weekend will draw some locals to the parks, but you won't see a big increase over Martin Luther King weekend.

There's no telling on Port Orleans right now. The whole WDW resort complex appears to be over-capacitized (although I personally think that's a temporary condition) and now that they've made the decision to close the French Quarter down, I think occupancy rates will have to be very high again before they re-open that part of Port Orleans. I personally think it will be reopened in the Summer, but I don't know if the resort would be shut down again during the quieter times of the year or not.

You're right, of course, that the French Quarter is smaller than Riverside, but both have buildings that are close to the main service areas, so if you make the proper requests, you may find a good solution to the walking problem.

I don't know of any savings for Universal other than AAA. Sorry.

-

Q.

Leann writes: Hi, We are planning on visiting WDW the last week of September 2002, and it will be our first!! We have reservations for the All-Star Movie Resort. My questions are:
  1. How crowded is the last week of September?
  2. Is September normally a rain filled month since it IS hurricane season there?
  3. Any advice for parents with a 3 year old in tow?

I have just recently found MousePlanet and I read it everyday and will continue until our trip is here. Thanks for your time.

A.

Leann,

The answers to all of your questions on September can be found on this page.  Just scroll down to the section covering September.

I'd also suggest that you read through the WDW With Kids section because it's filled with information that you'll find helpful as you plan a trip with a 3-year-old.

-

Q.

Jason writes: Brian, I was checking out your recent mailbox page and noticed all the talk about DVC.

People, don't realize that the DVC club is nothing more than a fancy time share. For what they are paying for DVC "points" you could easily get a timeshare week in the Orlando area. Possible 2-3 weeks if you buy at the correct place.

Timesharing has gotten a bad rap of lately, but a lot of the places are getting better. With the economy the way it is, good deals are all around. The resort we own at, right now is selling floating weeks for $8000. Yes, that's right you OWN the week, can use it anytime you'd like and after the $8000 price all you pay is a maintenance fee.

A lot of people think that with DVC you can also use your "points" in other member resorts. That's true, but we can exchange our week at our timeshare at a number of other resorts, too.

Sure, you don't get to stay right on the Disney Property, but you're also paying a lot less, and gaining a lot more than being "force fed" Disney 24/7. Namely, cheaper food and drink {things cost A LOT less outside of Disney} Knowledge of the Orlando area {many other parks to visit} and ability to exchange your week to visit places ALL around the world. All this, for much less than what Disney will charge you.

I'd love to write an more in-depth article for you. I can even get some prices, and phone numbers and such for some good deals in the Orlando area. But, please do mention there are alternatives to DVC on the website.

 

A.

Jason,

In MousePlanet's DVC Trip Planning Guide there is quite a bit of discussion about the alternatives:

I welcome your suggestion about providing more information, though. If you write something up, I'll happily post it as a guest column piece. :)

-

Q.

Lisa writes: Hi Brian, Thank you so much for this wonderful web site! Just wanted to pass along some information. When I went to AAA to make my reservations the AAA agent was quoted a price from the WDW Travel Company. When I made a point of asking about the special discount code that is supposed to be in effect if you check-in 4/21- 6/22 I was able to get another $200 dollars off my package. I asked my AAA agent why she had not asked about the code and she said that they get faxes when discount codes all of the time but that they just figured that they would automatically get the lowest price. I'm glad I asked and she said she would make it a point to ask from now on. Your web site is how I found out about the code in the first place. Please encourage your readers to be pro-active when making their reservations. Thanks.

A.

Excellent point, Lisa. Thanks! I'll be sure to share it with everyone soon.

-

Q.

Referring to a previous "Notes From the World" reader question, Neil writes: This might help with the baobab trivia. 

Frank asked: Hi, We were recently at Animal Kingdom. I have a fascination with baobabs and have a number of questions. I hope you can help.

  1. We saw one live baobab at the Mombassa Marketplace. Are there other live baobabs at the park, (perhaps on the savannah which we didn't visit). Did you grow the one at Mombassa from seed? Nursery grown? Collected? How old?
  2. We saw 2 large fake baobabs on the Pangani Forest Trail. Are there others of these?
  3. Is the Tree of Life (which was just great) supposed to be modeled after baobabs? I didn't have my binoculars but it looked like the tree of life had simple or pinnately compound leaves instead of palmately compound leaves? Just artistic license? or based on something other than a baobab?

The only live baobab tree is at the Mombassa Marketplace. All the other baobabs are artificial with a touch of Disney magic to make them look authentic.

A.

Neil,

Is the baobab the "upside down" tree? If so, are the baobab's on the safari all artificial then?

Q.

Following up, Neil writes: From the training material I still have when I worked there, it is the upside down tree, and all of the safari ones are artificial.

Here's some more information in case you get more questions. The termite hill close to the road is artificial. The mud on the safari road through the hippo and rhino are is concrete designed to look like mud. There is also a fence that you can not see blocking the cheetahs from all of the animals. Supposedly, the rocks for the lions are designed to have heat pour out of them when in the winter and cold air flow out of them in the summer.

Talk about Disney magic.  :)

Great website.

A.

Thanks, Neil!

-

In a previous "Notes From the World" Stephane asked:

Hi, I wanted to know about something I've heard that wasn't covered in your "method of payment" section (in MousePlanet's WDW Restaurant Review).

I've heard that if you're staying in one of the Disney resorts, you can basically charge anything and everything to your Disney room.

Is this true? Can I buy souvenirs from the shops in WDW's Magic Kingdom and charge them to my room? Can I even go to McDonald's in Downtown Disney and charge THAT to my room?? (Not that I think I'll be going to the restaurant that I have right down the street from me when I could go to one of 169 other restaurants!! )… To what extent is this possible?

and I responded:

When you check-in to your room at a Disney resort you can, indeed, set up a credit card to allow you to use your Disney ID to make charges. That works at any Disney-owned restaurant and store on site. It does not work at the non-Disney places (like the Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood, many of the Downtown Disney shops, and McDonalds.)

The kicker, of course, is that you can only do that by giving Disney your credit card number to set it up in the first place. Then any of the IDs you get for your room can be set up with "charging privileges." That can be very handy if your group is going to split up... but is something you'll have to consider carefully, too. For example, you probably don't want to allow a young child such power over your credit card account. :)

The reason why I don't mention "charging privileges" in the WDW Restaurant Resource is that it really is just an extension of a credit card purchase.

and so, to completely cover this issue, here's some feedback from MousePlanet Readers...

Q.

Mark shares this information: Here is another slant on it.

I "charge" my room and leave my charging privileges on my MasterCard branded debit card. I find that by leaving this card as my "charging" information I save myself the hassle of having to add each charge into my checkbook. I have a single charge when I check in to cover the balance of my room fee, and then one (or two depending on what level resort I stay at) charges to record, rather than the dozens if I used my debit card itself.

Why do I say it depends on the level resort I stay at? Each has its own maximum room charge level before they charge your card ($500 @ Value - $1000 @ Moderate - and $1500 @ Deluxe) I check each night with the front desk (alright, in my case, my daughter checks and reports to me) and if I find myself coming close, I ask them to put the charge through and then that opens up the full amount for me again. Remember, though, using a debit card you must have the money in the account to start with.

A.

Excellent points, Mark. I'll be sure to share them with the readers ASAP.

Q.

Jim writes: Brian, Just an FYI. Stephane had asked about what could or couldn't be charged to your Disney resort room, and you mentioned that non-Disney restaurants and stores could not. I know for a fact that Planet Hollywood does let you charge to room as I have the bill from my February trip sitting here in front of me. I also believe we've charged Rainforest cafe (at Animal Kingdom) to room on previous trips. I was under the impression you can use this privilege at any restaurant where WDW handles the priority seating reservations.

A.

Thanks Jim, I didn't realize that charging was extended to those venues.

Q.

and finally, Doug points out: Brian, Just a follow-up on your answer to Stephane about room charging privileges. We went down to WDW the day after Thanksgiving 2001 and stayed at the Disney Institute for a week. My wife and I had room charging privileges on our resort cards and I used mine at the Rainforest Cafe, no questions asked. We also used it at several of the shops around Downtown Disney.

We had to be careful because the resort put a limit on the amount we could "charge" using the resort cards, so don't expect to have unlimited charging privileges.

A.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Doug. I'll share them in the column soon.

-

Q.

Randy asks: Brian, I have recently started reading MousePlanet fairly regularly as my wife and I are planning a trip to WDW with our 2 kids this summer. Our first day in the park (the day we check in to our resort, planning on the Caribbean Beach Resort) will be our anniversary. I would like to surprise her with some sort of Disney Magic to help celebrate that day. Do you know of anything Disney or the cast members normally do when notified of an anniversary? Any suggestions at all would be appreciated.

A.

Randy,

There's nothing "typical" that will be done on an anniversary, however, if you contact CBR you can arrange for just about anything to be done for you. You should definitely let the cast members know that this is an Anniversary trip, though, because you never know what MAY happen. :)

-

Q.

Dana shares this information: Hi Brian, I love all the information available on your site. I use it religiously every time I make a trip to WDW or DL. I was looking at your Trip Planning article from 2/25 and saw that another reader from Washington State (what a great area) had questions about WDW. Since I too am from Washington I thought I might share my experiences with our 1st trip to WDW in 2000 for my daughter's 10 birthday.

I found that weather-wise it was much nicer to go in late April/early May. For those of us who have a hard time adjusting to humidity it was great (little to none) and the temp was a great mid 80's. I also found that in the 6 days we were there was no rain (how nice).

I would also suggest some time in a tanning bed (not too much). Since we live in an area where the only thing tan this time of year is smoked salmon, it is worth the little extra to have a slight bit of coloring before journeying to the Land of Sunshine.

Anyway keep up the great work. FYI my family is again planning a trip to WDW in late April for my daughter's 12th b-day, and I will again be using your pages as bench-marks for how our trip should go.

A.

Thanks for the great information, Dana!

-

Q.

Clint writes: My family just got back from a week in Orlando - and we can confirm that the crowds are back. 

But I am writing to point out a particular problem we had with Coronado Springs - We needed a few extra pillows, and Housekeeping was generally unavailable. The first time we tried to call them, (pressing the Housekeeping button) the phone continued to ring for at least 5 minutes - no menu system, no voice mail, no operator. We gave up and went about our day. The second time we tried to call, we got the voice menu, but once we worked through the system we were treated to 20 minutes of 'Disney Magic' (odd collection of Disney music) and no-one answered. Again, we had other things to do so we gave up. The Third time was a repeat of the second, but we didn't have as much time so we gave it 5 minutes.

The next day, we resorted to leaving a paper note on a pillow and by mid-afternoon we finally got the pillows. They were clearly having problems - a room two doors down got a visit from a 'manager' who was giving the sooth-down routine to another guest - promising that "it won't happen again". My daughter happened to be walking by at the time.

Over the last 8 years we have stayed at a range of Disney Hotels, from "moderate" to "premium" - The first time was at the Grand Floridian and was a total treat. Since then we've stayed at The Beach Club twice, The Polynesian Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort twice, and another time at the Grand Floridian and this last time at Coronado Springs. Making allowances for accommodation grade - we have seen a significant decline in the quality and timeliness of service.

The second Grand Floridian stay found us in a room with a dirty carpet, no detergent in ANY of the vending machines in the laundry facilities (I walked to at least 6 different buildings looking for a stocked machine), inappropriate maid service (someone knocked on our door at midnight asking if we wanted turn-down service - my little girls took some time getting back to sleep), slow, indifferent service at the snack bar and lots of trash laying around the facility.

We've filled out our share of customer comment forms - of course they were *after* the fact - yet upon return we see only further declines. The "Disney Magic" at the resorts is simply no longer worth the price. The next time we want "premium" we will stay at the Hyatt. The next time we want to save a few dollars we'll trade in Coronado Springs for a Holiday Inn.

We are sadly disillusioned.

A.

I'm sorry you had problems. Certainly, the things that you experienced were extremely unusual and far from the norm.  I'd strongly suggest that you write a letter to
WDW Guest Communications
Post Office Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830

or email them at wdw.guest.communications@disney.com.

-

Q.

Melissa asks: Brian, Just found your website today and have spent the last hour reading over past questions in hopes of finding an answer to my question. Unfortunately, I have found nothing about this in past information and maybe there is no answer right now to my question, but here goes:

July always tends to be a busy month at Disney World. Has Disney made any comments concerning reinstating the Early Entry days and expanding the park hours back to normal if park attendance is high?

Thanks for all the great information I have learned just from reading through your site.

A.

Melissa,

Disney has made no such commitment. Most of us "Disney-watchers" think that it's very likely that, with large crowds, WDW will reinstate Early Entry. However, Disney hasn't said anything on the matter.

A few years back, Early Entry was a seasonal perk for WDW resort guests only. It's only been in the last few years that Early Entry has been opened up to day guests, too. I would suspect that -- if it is reinstated -- Early Entry will go back to being an exclusive perk for WDW resort guests, but that's just my own speculation.

We'll just have to wait and see....

-

Q.

Fran Writes: Just found your site today. Love it! We are planning our 3rd trip to WDW in June. Staying 8 nights, 9 days at the CBR. I know this is a busy time, but I work at a middle school and my kids are both in school. this time of year is just our best time to go.

I would like to request a certain area at CBR, will they be receptive of my request? This will be our last trip with our kids as kids (teens). We go approximately every 5 years.

I want to make this trip as special as possible.

Do you think they will extend operating hours for summer (June 12-20)?  Since we will be there over Father's day; Does WDW do anything special for Father's day? I heard they do for Mother's Day.

I would like to take my husband for a special meal (he is not fancy, burger and fries man) I thought of Sci-Fi Dine-In; Do you have any other suggestions.

Thank you for a wonderful, informative site.

A.

Fran,

CBR will definitely be receptive to your requests. They'll never guarantee that they'll be met, but they'll do their best for you.

I'd suggest that you go to this page and go down to the section about the "room controller" and read up!

I don't know if WDW will extend operating hours in the Summer for sure, but I suspect very strongly that they will. Their revenue depends, to a strong degree, on how much time guests stay in the parks buying things and eating meals... so I really do believe that the parks will have extended hours as crowd levels merit.

I've never heard of WDW doing anything special for Father's Day. Hmmmm.... maybe they do and I've just missed it, though.

Regarding a meal suggestion, it's hard for me to say since I don't know what interests your husband has. I'd suggest you read through MousePlanet's WDW Restaurant Resource and check out the options... then pick one you think your husband will enjoy:

Hey, have you all noticed that that's two brand new MousePlanet readers in a row!  We're obviously still growing! :)

-

Q.

Nick writes: Hello, I'm a veteran WDW visitor and am planning another visit when I came across your comments about 2-way radios and In Touch Family Communications. 

Being a DoD civilian employee, I stayed at Shades of Green the last time I visited WDW. I thought that 2-way radios would be pretty good in going to the parks with my daughter and niece. I ordered ahead of time and they were waiting for us at the check-in desk when we arrived. The radios worked well and the girls had a blast using them. At the end of our stay, we re-packed them in the original box and left them at the front desk to be picked up. No fuss or bother.

They worked well for us and we had no problem with the company. This vacation was about 1 1/2 years ago.  Sorry it's not more timely. 

You have a great site with something for everyone!!!

A.

Thanks for the note, Nick. I'll share your experience with other MousePlanet readers in an upcoming column.

-

Q.

Rob writes: Brian, Firstly I really enjoy your web page. I have been doing my "Disney Homework" since I booked my trip and I find MousePlanet the most informed and comprehensive web page about Disney parks. Keep up the good work.

I have two questions for you. First my wife has a hopper pass from 1999 with a couple of unused days on it. Can someone other than her use the ticket to gain entry to the parks? My second question is about my wife's birthday. We are going to be heading to Orlando in April and staying for a week. Here birthday falls on a day where are planning to be in Epcot. What can I do to make her birthday special? I know at night she wants to hit Pleasure Island for some adult fun. We will be traveling with her extended family (adults and kids) and I want to find something fun other than a character dinner (we have already booked one for our first day at MK). Any tips you may have will be greatly appreciated. Again, great job!

A.

Rob,

Officially, only the original user of any pass can use up the remaining value on it.

For your wife's birthday, I would suggest that you stop in at guest relations at whatever park you visit that day and ask for a birthday pin. Your wife may (there's no guarantee) get some special treatment through the day if she wears it.

There's some more suggestions on this page.

-

-

We'll wrap up today with some questions on the Disney Vacation Club...

Q.

Craig asks: Brian, what do you see as the benefits of joining the vacation club. I know you are not a salesman for them.  I am looking at joining and need an unbiased opinion.  Any feedback from others would be appreciated.

A.

Craig,

I'd suggest you look over the pages in MousePlanet's DVC Trip Planning Guide. There you'll find pages that show both sides of the DVC / not-DVC debate.

-

Q.

Julie asks: Dear Brian, I found your website and thought I would email you. You seem to have a lot of good information. Maybe you can help me. My husband and I had purchased into this (Disney Vacation) club three years ago and it has been wonderful for us and our family. The only problem is this year, my husband and I are stationed in Okinawa, Japan, with the United States Marine Corps, and are unable to use our points before they expire at the end of June. We would like to offer them to another member, either for an exchange when we need points in 2003, or for a small fee.

The Disney Vacation Club customer service, of course were no help, and we did not know where to go to find this information. When we purchased this vacation plan, our selling agent stated people in the club did this all the time.

I am sorry to have taken up your time but any information would be helpful.

A.

Julie,

There is a site out in the ether at http://www.disboards.com/ that has a board for member trading of points. I can't comment -- either good or bad -- on the board and how it works as I've never used it, but it's one place to start.

-

Q.

Bill asks: Hi Brian, in today's update, you mentioned that:

"Construction of the new Beach Club Villas is almost complete. Sales of timeshare ownership in the new resort is expected to begin in the next few weeks.  Guests that would like to stay at the new resort can do so beginning in September."

We are not members of the DVC, but will be going to WDW the last week in September. What do you think the odds are that 1) some of the units will be available for general lodging and 2) (and most importantly :) ) since this is the first month of availability that some introductory specials may be offered?

Look forward to your response. Thanks!

A.

Bill,

The odds of units being available to rent are very, very close to 100%. The odds on special discounts, well, I think you'd have to check with central reservations on that.

Q.

Jon writes: Brian, you have a terrific site, and it makes great reading for anyone interested in DVC. I'd like to toss in my two cents on the financial analysis debate.

For what it's worth, I think the analyses that look at opportunity cost are beside the point. In the first place you'll never get agreement on what a likely alternative return on your cash is going to be; the 10% that seemed reasonable a year or two ago is now a fantasy, and in fact is higher than historical returns in equity markets. Moreover you'd have to discount those returns by more than the expected inflation rate to risk-adjust for their volatility.

But my real point is that I think the right way to do this is to figure out the real cost per point (and for most properties the number comes in under $8, sometimes under $7, after adjusting for inflation), and compare that cost with the "value in use" or "value in exchange" of each point. In other words, if you know you're going to stay at WDW in deluxe accommodations a lot over the next forty years (and if you aren't you shouldn't be wasting your time thinking about any of this), than compare the cost of doing that with cash to the cost of doing it with points. If you look at the charts you'll generally find that weekend stays "breakeven" (i.e. the cash cost and point cost, figured at $8/point, are similar), the weekday stays are a very good deal (saving you as much as 50% or more), and a blended average over the course of a week is still a pretty good deal (saving you as much as 30% or more). This enables you to calculate your return on investment, which I believe is the real relevant number.

For example, if it takes 350 points to stay in a 2 bedroom at VWL for a week during a high season, your "cost" for those points is $8 x 350 = $2800. the "value" of that stay is 7 days x $600 / night (including tax) = $4200. Your pretax return on investment in this case is 50%, because you've saved $1400 and that's 50% of the $2800 you've invested. That's pretty darn good by anybody's standards. Moreover it's not subject to tremendous volatility. The only assumptions, and they're pretty straight forward ones, are the rate of inflation on room prices and DVC dues.

"Value in exchange" is a trickier proposition, and can be looked at two ways. First, you can go through similar analyses comparing your point cost to the value of whatever you're exchanging your points for (e.g. a Disney resort or cruise, or another time share somewhere else). Every time I've done this the implied "return" is pretty meager, or sometimes negative. but this just affirms what everybody knows: far and away the best use of your points is to stay at a DVC property.

The other way to calculate a "value in exchange" is to simply sell your points. This analysis is even easier, since you can calculate your implied return by simply subtracting your point cost from your rental proceeds. This will give you a quick cut at your pre-tax return.

For example pricing of points on rent/trade boards is fairly stable, and you can be pretty sure of getting $10 more or less (I know, I know, some times they get sold for far less, if they're about to expire or are in some other way impaired, and sometimes they get sold for far more, especially at places like ebay, but $10 isn't a bad average number). If you do sell at $10, and your cost is $8, your implied return is 25% ($10-$8=$2, then divide $2 into your cost of $8). Again, not too shabby. even after rushing to pay taxes on your gain, it's still better than you're likely to see anywhere else, even if Warren Buffet lives down the block from you and shares tips over a Slurpee at the local 7-11.

Bear in mind the key issue: all stock returns are highly volatile. these numbers are much less so; in this analysis volatility is only driven by inflation rates. Obviously you can play with the numbers and come up with different results, but I think the approach here is the right one: calculating your return on investment and then deciding if it meets your requirements (called a "hurdle rate").

In point of fact most people buy into DVC for reasons that are only tangentially financial (e.g. it's a "forced savings plan" for vacations, it gives them a "piece of the magic"), but that doesn't mean they should get ripped off. If the return on investment is positive at all, then I think they're doing ok, because they're doing better than if they bought rooms year by year. in fact the numbers suggest they're substantially better off than that; properly managed, an investment in points should yield double digit returns in cost savings to vacationers, with the only real risk being the demise of Disney itself. 

A.

Jon,

Thanks for the note. Unfortunately, when the accounting types start talking shop, I get lost. Suffice to say, my wife and I joined because we love staying onsite and just figured that we'd do very, very well against continuously rising room rates for the next 40+ years.

(Note: when I sat down to format Jon's note for this piece, I spent more time going through it.  It's really an excellent analysis, although it doesn't consider the maintenance fee.)

Q.

I'll close with one last email... one that I received courtesy of Mike Scopa.  enjoy!

Take a peek!

Mike Scopa thought you should check this out! It's got Disney characters and magical memories, along with some great interactive surprises. You can also get a sneak peek at some big things to come in the Walt Disney World(R) Theme Parks. You'll need the Magic Password below to get in.

Go to the Secret Disney Site

The Magic Password: WALT

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!

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More

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!

 

Go to: Top | Section Contents | MousePlanet Main Page

Copyright © MousePlanet® Inc. | Legal Information & Privacy Policy | About/Contact MousePlanet | Link to us

MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at www.disney.com. This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.