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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

7/8/02

As has become our custom, we'll review some reader responses to recent Notes From the World material before we move on to cover some new letters...

Vincent shares this recent update:

Hi Brian, Wanted to let you know about my recent trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and WDW. I was there from 6/27 through 6/30.

The rooms are no bigger than the rooms at the value and moderate resorts. (If they are, I couldn't tell) The decor is nice, but decor isn't customer service. There were two trays left in the hallway from room service that I noticed sat there for about 14 hours before being removed. The front desk people were a bit rude, the food was fine, but overpriced. I used to live in NYC, and have traveled around the world, so that comparison is not solely based on the other Disney Resorts.

On my first day, my friend and I went to The Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch. I showed up and gave my confirmation number for my priority seating reservation, and the woman at the check in desk couldn't find me, and then proceeded to act as if I wasn't in the system anywhere and that I should have to wait. Then she found me, and didn't apologize at all. Lunch was fine. Service was quick. You have to request the apple butter.

The theme parks look fine. Not sure why some readers thought it looked messy. One thing I didn't like at all was the new children's section in Animal Kingdom. The entire park has a wonderful earthy feel, which blends nicely from one section to the next. And then you get to the Primeval Whirl and such. It looks like Paradise Pier at DCA. I became heart broken. I am now wondering if the suits at Disney care about anything Walt did, dreamed or wanted. I think they are more interested in anything cheap, quick and ugly. Very depressing.

I don't think I'm going to go back to WDW for a very long time. Although I was happy to be there with a good friend, and we had a great time, it was a great time mostly due to my companionship, and not the magic.

And I replied:

I'm sorry you didn't have a better time. :( Maybe your next trip things will go better.

Jim shares this note:

Hi, Brian. Thanks so much for all the information you provide. I was astonished to find that you don't get paid for this! (I certainly didn't think it was a fulltime job, but I assumed you got something). Anyway, that makes me all the more thankful for your help. I feel like I should send something... but I won't.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to stop reading your site soon, though - if I don't I'm afraid I'll book another WDW trip, and after an April/May trip that just isn't in the budget!

Anyway, I wanted to offer my opinion to Gary, who asked for advice which courtyard rooms to request at the Wilderness Lodge. We stayed there in April/May in a Woods View room, and loved it (as everyone seems to). We stayed in the 'left' wing (as you view it from the front) and would personally recommend this wing as it is a) closer to the boat dock to the Magic Kingdom and b) closer to Roaring Forks snack shop. We were at the far end of the hall, which was nice as it was quiet, and as Brian said it is relatively compact so even the farthest room isn't that far from the lobby.

And I've never heard of the 'flag family' - can you explain what that is?

And Gary, be sure to eat at Whispering Canyon, its very good and lots of fun - I wish we had been able to fit in more than one meal there during our stay.

Thanks for the note back, Jim. I'll share it soon.

Actually, I do get paid... just not in money. The kind words that so many folks have sent my way over the years, as well as the enjoyment I get out of this very-time-consuming-hobby, make it worthwhile.

Regarding not reading the site... just remember, if enough people did that, we wouldn't be able to pay our server bills... and I'd get my hobby time back after all. ;)

(Editor's note:  This next paragraph wasn't in my email response to Jim, but I just realized that I didn't answer his question about the Wilderness Lodge Flag Family.  Hopefully, he'll see this if he's still reading MousePlanet ;)  Jim, the "Flag Family" is a family that is staying at the resort (you can sign up anytime, but since only one family can perform the honors each day, availability is very limited) that has the privilege of raising the flag that flies over the roof of the Lodge that morning.

Joanne Forshaw wrote about it in her 1998 trip report:

"We were flag family today! We met the cm in the lobby at 7:15am, he took us up in the lift then up a couple of flights of stairs onto the roof. Wow the view is amazing, you can see the Magic Kingdom, Cindy's castle, space mountain, Epcot, the Grand Floridian. I would highly recommend doing this. We each raised two flags & had our pictures taken, I also took a video. We got a certificate, a small photo frame ( which is a bit too small to put a decent photo in!), and a voucher for free breakfast at Roaring Forks. The cm wrote on the voucher how many people the breakfast was for, but there was no price limit, we had about $10 worth each."

Note that breakfast vouchers, certificates, and photo frames may or may not be provided as the policy on that has changed several times.)

Lori shares these experiences from her recent trip:

Hi, Brian. We went to WDW last month, and overall, it was a great trip! However, I wanted to mention something to you which took me by complete surprise. We took advantage of an E-ride night and decided to ride Splash Mountain. I have a child who was not tall enough to ride. We were going to do the child swap, but the CM would not let my child into the queue. She told me that I would have to wait at the playground to the right of the entrance to the line. I was told that my child could not go in the line if he did not meet the height requirements.

I was extremely upset with that! This is contrary to what I have read and, if I am not mistaken, what you have on your WDW With kids page.

What is the deal with this? Could you find out if the kid swap procedure has changed? Needless to say, my older child rode with my sister while I waited with my younger child at the playground. After waiting thirty minutes for them to go through, I was too mad to go wait MY turn in the line.

Also, one morning we had PS for Cinderella's Royal Table at 9:00. The park was not scheduled to open until 9, so we asked the CM if we could go on through so we could make the reservation time.

We were told that the park was opening early at 8:50, and we had to wait until that time to go through the gate. I protested, saying that we would not have enough time to move through the line, clear the gate, and make it to the castle on time for our reservation. The CM said that the castle knew what time the gates would open, and we would still have our reservation. Well, we arrived at 8:59 and we practically ran down Main Street. We ended up having to wait about twenty minutes before we were finally seated.

I know this sounds very negative, but we did have a good time. These two incidents just threw us off. I wonder if other readers have had similar experiences. Thanks for letting me share!

And I wrote back:

Lori,

I think you caught me on that one. I'll update the page to reflect how the swap is actually handled on Splash Mountain.

However, just to show that I'm not a complete dolt, keep in mind the note that I share at the bottom of the page, "ALWAYS let the cast members at the entrance and loading areas of the attraction know that you're using a "baby swap". The CMs can help you make things go smoothly. They are also up-to-date on how the "baby swap" is to be done."

I'm sorry that those incidents detracted from your trip... and especially that I was partially responsible for the baby swap problem. I'll try to do better next time. :)

(Editor's Note: As I was preparing this one for publication, I noticed Lori's comment, "After waiting thirty minutes for them to go through, I was too mad to go wait MY turn in the line."  Lori, if you see this, I hope you realized that you would NOT have had to wait through the entire queue, but would have walked in the exit and immediately gotten on the next available boat.  In fact, your older son child could have joined you!)

Allison shares this information:

Hi Brian! This is in response to this letter that Nancy wrote regarding E-night transportation:

"Nancy writes: Hi Brian, I have been using your site to help me plan our WDW trip next month. The site is great!

"We will be staying at the Wilderness Lodge and plan on doing an E-ticket night. I understand that the boat may not be running at closing after that event. My question is, should we drive to the park or will there be a bus to get us back to the resort?"

I would suggest not driving to the park.

My husband and I drove to the Magic Kingdom and when we left E-Ride night, we realized that no trams were running. The area was dark and desolate and we had to make the long trek to our car. Not only that, there is a fence surrounding the lot and unless you want to scale it, you need to walk the tram route and book it at least another half mile or so (depending where you parked). My suggestions:

  1. Can't hurt to ask Wilderness Lodge guest relations and/or valet if they have a car available to help you out (the Beach Club has done this for us several times when they aren't too busy...those guys love a good tip!).
  2. Walk over to the Contemporary and grab a taxi. You can get almost anywhere on property for less than $10 a carload.
  3. Go to the Magic Kingdom very late in the evening (you might get lucky and grab a front parking spot).
  4. And of course, since you are staying on Disney property, I don't see why you can't park at the Contemporary Might be a slight charge, but it seems to be worth it for piece of mind.

And I replied:

Thanks for the note, Allison!

A couple of additional comments of my own.  First, I would personally NEVER pay for a taxi to go from one place to another on property if I was staying on site.  By asking politely, I KNOW that the nearest available WDW cast member will help me to get from where I am to where I'm going without having to pay for it out of my personal pocket.  Second, keep in mind that parking at all of the monorail resorts is becoming more restricted.

Elmer shares this opinion from his recent visit:

Brian, About the security search at the gates to the parks. Frankly, this is about as effective as the airport search of the 83 year old lady confined to a wheelchair. There is no in depth search of the bags, a quick glance into the bag, a polite thank you and away you go. At night they use flashlights, which are useless as well. I am sure it is more of a PR thing, WILL YOU BE SAFE AT WDW!! Like the President says "Keep your eyes and ears open" that is the best defense.

Also, they announce that if you do not have any bags to searched just go to the center entrance (at the Magic Kingdom), well I wanted to get a picture of the Railroad Station from the walk up approach and had to go to the center. While there I saw only one security guard and he was being more or less over run with guests some of whom were carrying bags right around him. No a serious search going on here.

And I answered:

Thanks again, Elmer! I'll share your note ASAP.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled email...

-

Q.

Mike asks: Brian, My fiancé and I are planning our Disney Honeymoon in August, and your site has been very helpful. One question. I am trying to make Priority Seating arrangements for some dinners around the nighttime entertainment, specifically Magic Kingdom fireworks and Epcot Illuminations. I already have Priority Seating at the California Grill for 8:30 and was thinking about a table at the Rose and Crown for 7:30. Do these times sound right to you? Thanks for the help.

A.

Mike,

Since IllumiNations runs EVERY night at 9:00pm without fail (OK, except for really, really bad weather), your timing for Rose & Crown seems about right. You may have to wait for a waterside table, but a slight delay would just help with the timing anyway.

It's harder to say about Fantasy in the Sky. I don't know when (or if) the Magic Kingdom fireworks display will even be running on the date that you've scheduled your priority seating. Your best bests are on Friday and Saturday nights... but until closer to the time, it's hard to say.

As Yoda says, "always hard to see is the future." ;)

-

Q.

Todd asks: Hi Brian, Does every member of our party need an annual pass to use these special features or will just one allow ALL to enter these areas? Thanks for all the good and up-to-date info on your site.

A.

Todd,

Officially, only AP holders are permitted to enter the AP holder's lounge areas.

-

Q.

Joe writes: Brian, During past Disney visits, we have stayed off-site, driven to Contemporary in the morning for breakfast, and then walked to the Magic Kingdom to spend the day. We have never had a problem with this (even on the days we've skipped the breakfast and just parked at Contemporary and spent the day at the Magic Kingdom), but I have heard rumors of cars being towed after a certain period of time. What do you know? We've used the same technique at Yacht and Beach (using the International Gateway) for evening visits to Epcot and Illuminations. Its a great way to avoid the cattle stampede at closing time, but I'd hate to come back to a vacant parking place.

A.

Joe,

The best answer, if you'd still like to use that strategy, is to valet park your car. In that case, you'll be able to leave your car at the resort all day long without fear of being towed. Also, if you wish, you can switch and go to another resort later in the day and be valet-parked there, too, without additional charge (as long as you have your receipt).

Since guests that are staying on-site have parking passes which protect them from being towed, I've often parked at those resorts in the evening to enjoy the resorts and, sometimes, to walk over to the parks. If that's no longer permitted for onsite guests (I'm checking into that issue), I'll have to either go the valet parking way also or else stop using that strategy myself.

-

Q.

Shon writes:  Hi Brian, First, let me say that your updates and reports, as well as your WDW Trip Planning Guide are EXCELLENT. I am planning my first trip to WDW in September and have found everything I need (and more) to help plan this trip. I am a bit spoiled since I am an Annual Pass holder at Disneyland and visit regularly. I know that park/Resort so well, that I don't want to be lost at WDW. Your guides are helping ease those fears.

Second, I have already booked all of my reservations, shows, etc. and after reading up on the Resort I will be staying at (All Star Movie), I notice from your review/guide & the accompanying map that they have laundry facilities. Of course this is mentioned nowhere on the official Disney site (at least that I can find) so I'm wondering, how does one use the facilities? Do they have detergent, etc.?

Finally, since this is my first trip to WDW and I will be there for 9 full days (including one side day at Universal / IOA) My itinerary is VERY full. I am also planning a trip report, and would love to share it on my return. Do I just send it to you or is there some special thing to do?

Once again, great work (everybody) on the site and keep up the great work.

A.

Shon,

Thanks so much for the kind words about the site and my column. :)

Anyone can use the laundry facilities at ASMoR. Detergent and other supplies are available, but can be pricey. Since you're flying, though, I would recommend you buy supplies rather than bring your own. You'll also have to pay for the use of the machines, of course.

and...

Q.

Bekki asks

I've been following the site for a few years now (it's usually the first place I go after checking my e-mail). We recently got back from a Disneyland trip and I wanted to know how to submit a trip report. I couldn't find anything on the website that directly explains this.

A.

Bekki,

If you go to MousePlanet's Disney Trip Report Archive, and look in the left-hand margin, you'll find instructions for writing and sending-in trip reports.

(Editor's Note: Thanks to all of you that have responded to my request for more trip reports!  My backlog is still thin (so keep sending them in!!!!), but at least I'm out of immediate danger of running... gasp... out of new ones to add.)

-

Q.

and Shon asks another question: Brian, One of the big things I want to do on my trip in early September of this year is to see Fantasmic. I'm a huge fan of the Disneyland version and I want to see how they compare. I've also heard fabulous reviews from others.

I have heard a lot about the Fantasmic Dinner Package, where you get a meal before the show and then reserved seating. I've read many of the trip reports on the site and some have done the package while others don't. I must admit that I would love to have reserved seating for the show, but I'm not especially in need of a dinner before, since I will be traveling alone on this trip.

My question is this: From your experience do you recommend the dinner package or not, and why?

A.

Shon,

When we visited with two little boys, the dinner package was great because it helped us avoid a long wait in the amphitheater. If you're visiting during a less busy time, though, and you'll be alone, I don't think the dinner package is really that worthwhile just for the purpose of getting a reserved seat for Fantasmic.

There's more information on the dining package on this page.

-

Q.

Jackie writes: My husband and I are going to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon with just $700 spending money. The trip is already paid for, whew! 

My question is this, what are the best Disney souvenirs available at Disney World. We don't have lots of loot and want to buy smart.

BTW We have a lovely ceramic Groom Mickey and Bride Minnie in ceramics we got off the internet. We had them as our wedding cake topper.

I'd appreciate any ideas, I'm 48 and John is 49. Thanks for any help.

A.

Jackie,

Wow, there's just so much stuff that is available at WDW I can even begin to answer your question. There are literally hundreds of shops where you may find something you'd like to buy.

I'd suggest you set some money aside for souvenirs and just keep your eyes open during the trip. When you find what you want, pick it up!

I have a few additional comments on souvenir buying on this page.

-

Q.

Bob writes: Dear Brian, Great site. I found your page after our first trip in '98. It made our second trip in 2000 a lot easier to plan. I recommend your site to anyone I know who tells me they are planning a trip to Walt Disney World.

My wife, 2 teenage sons and my mom are taking a 8 day trip to the World in December. Mom has arthritis in her knees and can not walk distances anymore. She is fine for short walks and standing in line but I want to use a wheelchair to get her from attraction to attraction (not to use for special privileges).

We will be flying down from Ohio and I don't want to rent a wheelchair and take it on the plane. Question: Are wheelchairs (not motorized) plentiful for rent at each of the parks? I realize that they are first-come, first serve basis but I have no knowledge of the availability of the chairs. We usually get to the parks when they open so I would guess that there wouldn't be too much trouble getting one. My main concern is getting one later in the day, say after park-hopping. Any advise will be appreciated. Thanks for your help :)

A.

Bob,

I don't think you'll have a problem with wheelchair availability. The powered scooters are much more limited and do go fast, but regular wheelchairs are usually in good supply.

-

Q.

Carol writes: Hi Brian, I am busily trying to plan my families 1st Disney World vacation and am having some difficulty. I am a teacher and need to travel during school vacations. I know it is busy everywhere and I try to plan early. My problem is we will be at Disney from in February and I have been trying to find room rates. I can not find any information anywhere for 2003. We hope to stay at the French Quarter is there any way to find out rates? Should we just wait and see what happens? I don't want to not be able to get reservations. I also tried the Swan/Dolphin that said they have a teacher's rate, but they can't book it yet. I thought it was supposed to be $129, but they quoted me $192.50. Thank You in advance for any information you can give me.

A.

Carol,

You shouldn't expect to see 2003 room rates until very late in 2002. However, although the room rates do go up from year to year, you shouldn't see a big increase from 2002. Even better news, since you're planning to visit in February, when crowd levels are way down, you'll very likely find excellent deals on room rates for that week.

-

Q.

A MousePlanet reader asks:  Brian... any comments on Mickey's backyard barbeque???? we're planning a trip and can't find much info on it. Also, can you use a "wish" to pay for this meal? thanks for your help!

A.

I don't know much about the barbeque either, but what I know is listed here.

So, readers, here's an assignment... comments on the Barbeque please?  :)

-

Q.

John writes: Dear Brian My wife and I spent three days of our honeymoon at Walt Disney World (it should have been more). Our stay at Port Orleans Riverside was a pleasant one. This resort is a bit bigger than we were used to, but we still loved it. We managed to hit the four major parks through park hopping, and use of the Fastpass. We found you have to plan your usage of the Fastpass to get the most out of it. At first we disliked Fastpass, because we felt trapped, but as time went on we learned how to manage our time better, and Fastpass worked great. I do not know what it is, but we absolutely love Disney, and cannot imagine staying off property ever again. What are some other good themed resorts at Disney World? Oh, and thanks for all the info over the past year, you helped plan our trip.

P.S. I forgot to add to my note, that a while overhearing a conversation between two cast members, I learned that Disney has a new park in the works and is presently being worked out on paper. Have you heard anything about that? Also, I found out that many visitors were questioning the closing of The Time Keeper and the their disappointment it was closed; the CM's said they have were disappointed as well and should direct the visitors to City Hall to express their disappointment. They also said they expected the Carousel Of Progress to open again soon.

A.

John,

All of the themed resorts at WDW are worth visiting! I guess the priorities would depend on your own preferences, of course. My own top themes list would include Wilderness Lodge, Port Orleans (both halves), the Boardwalk, and Animal Kingdom Lodge.

There are several rumors flying around about a new park. Until Disney actually announces something, though, nothing is ever cast in concrete (and even then, everything is subject to change).

Thanks for the other update info.  I understand that the Carousel has been running for several weeks now.

-

Q.

Dan writes: Hi, Brian just wanted to say that the site is the best. Found it back in February and read it almost every day. See, back in 6/00 my sister wanted me to go to Disney world in 12/00. To tell you the truth, I did not went to go because I was not a Disney fan but she did get me to go. When we got to WDW we went to the Magic Kingdom I walked down Main Street USA and I was hooked for life.  In September, I'll be going on my 3rd trip to WDW. My question is, in mid-September how are the days?  Being from upstate New York we do not get many nice days. And how much does it rain in mid-September?

A.

Dan,

My WDW Trip Planning Guide, here on MousePlanet, has several pages that address the issue of "when to go to WDW." The first one that I'd suggest you look over is this one. But the one that directly answers your questions about a September trip would be on the following page.

September can be very hot, and it can also be very rainy... especially if you have the misfortune of visiting when a tropical storm or hurricane hits Central Florida. However, in general, it's a pretty good time to visit as weather is usually pretty nice and crowd levels are below average.

-

Q.

Mark asks: Brian, I'm planning my families third trip to WDW in July of 2003, and we are including 6 other family members who will be making their first trip! I'm leaning toward renting a home off site for all of us (10) and as we didn't stay in a Disney themed resort on our first 2 trips, I'm wondering if we should try to stay on property. Cost is definitely an issue so I was wondering if you could give me some input. I don't know if 2 previous trips qualifies me as an official guide for the family but I have been nominated none the less and figured its not to early to start some pre planning! Thank you for your web site.

A.

Mark,

Since you've stated that "cost is definitely an issue," I would plan on renting that off-site home. There are some incredible deals on offsite rental homes that Disney just can't touch.

-

Q.

Lee writes: Hi there Brian, I would like to compliment you on the wonderful job you have been doing on the Walt Disney World Update.

I thought you might find this news interesting. I have just gotten a Priority Seating Assignment for Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, and I was able to get it without a credit card deposit! The reservations agent asked me the normal questions (resort we are staying at, arrival date, etc.) but there was no mention of a credit card. I asked the agent if he would need a credit card deposit, and he told me it wasn't necessary.

I'm not sure if this reflects a policy change or if this agent was not on the ball, but it might be worth looking into.

Take care and have a wonderful summer! I'll be sure to send in some more reviews once I arrive at Disney this July.

A.

Thanks for the kind note and the information, Lee!

-

Q.

Debbie asks: Hi! I love your site. I've been to Disney over a dozen times since I was a kid and I am planning my next trip for late July.

This will be my son's 3rd trip to Disney and I want to make it special for him. He turns 5 just before we leave home.

Can I still go to city hall for a birthday sticker? Please let me know what you can about birthdays at Disney. In all my years I've never been to Disney near my birthday so I'm not sure If there is some special "magic" for those having a birthday on or near the day at Disney. Thanks so much for your help

A.

Debbie,

As far as I know, the birthday stickers are still available. There are a few more tips on this page.

One other thing that may be very cool for a five-year-old, would be to sign him up for the Pirates Adventure Cruise. There's more information here.

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!

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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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