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

7/22/02

-

Some restaurant news that's been batting around the net for awhile, but which has just been confirmed by the WDW-DINE folks...

There is a new "Princess Storybook Breakfast" at the Akershus restaurant in Epcot's Norway pavilion. The new breakfast debuts on July 28th and will run until late October. Priority seatings are being taken now. If public response is good, I expect that this trial run will be made more permanant.

One other note, as of June 10th, the Yacht Club Galley is now once again open for all three meals of the day.

Now, 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...

Sharon writes: Brian, I must say I was quite offended when I read your 7/15 column. I had sent a rebuttal to some remarks Julie had made in your 6/17 column, because I felt that the comments she had made simply were not true. She insinuated in her 7/15 response that because she is a seasoned WDW goer that she is better equipped to recognize trash and disrepair, than I, an obvious rookie. In your response, you state that some people are just compelled to defend Disney for some odd reason. I defended WDW because I disagreed with Julie and simply wanted to present to your other readers an alternative view. I was at WDW at approximately the same time and did not see the same things she saw. I feel your response to my view was rather condescending, although you supported hers wholeheartedly. Since you were not at WDW in May to ascertain which of us gave a more accurate picture, I feel your best position should have been middle ground. I have always enjoyed your site since we began planning our first trip to WDW a couple of years ago, but this experience has left me with little desire to revisit your site.

And I responded,

Sharon, I'm sorry that my remarks upset you. I certainly didn't intend to slight you or your opinions. You're absolutely right that I wasn't at WDW in May.

I will certainly be publishing your follow-up note, because I think it's important to make the points that you have made.

Dave writes: Hi Brian, after reading your update of July 15th, I wanted to add one comment to your response to a "rather terse mouseplanet reader". Boardwalk Villas are indeed sold out. The only properties at present with real estate still for sale are: Vero Beach, Hilton Head, and the newly opened Beach Club Villas. We stayed once at Vero Beach (never again, the story is too long for this note). We have never been to Hilton Head, though we would like to try it sometime. We recently bought into the Beach Club Villas, and are looking forward to staying there this August. We stayed at the regular Beach Club two years ago and absolutely loved it. I believe they started selling the Beach Club Villas back in February or March, and last I heard they may sell out within a year, maybe sooner. Hope this helps your readers.

Thanks Dave. I'm thinking about staying at the Beach Club Villas sometime in 2003. We'll have to see.

Bill writes: Hi Brian. Just saw todays notes... it appears that the new "Get Happy with ABC" is in the "doug pavillion" (At least for a little while). Here's some descriptions of it. Keep up the Great work.

4 July 2002: Get Happy...With ABC!
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Guests to the Disney-MGM Studios will get a first look at the exciting new fall lineup of shows on ABC in "Get Happy...With ABC!" a new show presented for a limited time in the theme park's ABC-TV Theater.

From July 1-Oct. 5, 2002, the 25-minute show introduces Walt Disney World guests to the new ABC shows and the stars who will light up television screens every night this fall.

ABC stars featured in the interactive presentation include Ben Affleck, James Bulliard, Jim Belushi, Jennifer Garner, Bonnie Hunt, Jimmy Kimmel, George Lopez, John Madden, John Ritter, Diane Sawyer, Michael Vartin and even the dino-stars of "Dinotopia." Throughout the show, the stars offer an exclusive preview of the new ABC schedule, featuring comedies, dramas, reality-based series, sports, news and late-night programming. The attraction will also introduce guests to programs that will be offered as part of the new "ABC Happy Hour" programming block.

"The addition of the 'Get Happy...With ABC!' live theatrical event at the Disney-MGM Studios is part of an unprecedented effort by the entire Walt Disney Company to help introduce our new fall schedule to viewers, and we couldn't be more excited," said Susan Lyne, president of ABC Entertainment. "This inventive, 25-minute attraction will give park guests an entertaining look at what they can expect from ABC this fall. We hope they like what they see."

"Get Happy...With ABC!" performances will occur daily at the ABC-TV Theater at Disney-MGM Studios through Oct. 5.

Disney-MGM Studios immerses guests in the glamour of show business 365 days a year with thrilling attractions, live stage shows and interactive film, television, radio and animation production facilities. The theme park is the centerpiece of the Walt Disney World 100 Years of Magic celebration - a yearlong salute to the company's founder, Walt Disney, during the anniversary year of his 100th birthday.

Mike writes: Brian - The replacement (albeit temporary) is a show named "Get Happy...With ABC!". It's apparently about 25 minutes long and the shill for the fall ABC TV linup. I guess the only real reason to attend is that they throw out free t-shirts and footballs to the audience. <grin The show opened toward the beginning of July, and I believe is scheduled to run through early October. I have not read any first-hand descriptions, however.

And the last comment on the same topic was sent in by Mark: Currently there is a "commercial" for ABC's new fall line-up in that building. Just got back ... look for a new TR in the next few days. (We surprised Iris this time with a little help from another CBR CM. She did not know we were coming!)

Richard writes: Hi Brian, A few things:

To the person who asked about buying into DVC at the sold-out Boardwalk, you could have informed them that resales for the Boardwalk are available at various companies such as The Timeshare Store (from which I purchased my resale). I'm sure you know this.

In all of my many trips staying at the Wilderness Lodge, I have NEVER seen the boats stop running before the park closes. They ALWAYS run until after the park closes, even in thunderstorms. I have never seen a CM with a PDA at the Wilderness Lodge bus area. Buses have always, to my knowledge, run every twenty minutes (not 15). Buses leaving the lodge going to the various parks have always, in my experience, stopped at several of the monorail resorts. Nothing appears to have changed in this regard.

I also have NOT noticed that the parks are more dirty than before, but I do see more things that could use a fresh coat of paint. Aside from the obvious things, such as the Carousel of Progress and Timekeeper not being open all the time and the less frequent shows, the only thing I have noticed that has diminished the "experience" is that many of the food carts now open late and close early. Otherwise the experience is pretty much the same as it has always been.

Thanks for writing, Richard. I used the Timeshare Store for my recent DVC add-on. Thanks for the reminder.

I've never experienced the Wilderness Lodge boat shut down that some folks have reported either.

John writes: Brian, Regarding the reader who was so shocked to get a call from WDW after sending a letter of complaint. This is EXACTLY the sort of reaction that WDW hopes its guests will have. They want people to be so surprised that WDW takes its guest complaints/communications "seriously" that they will not notice that the comments made don't actually address any points.

WDW and Disneyland have both streamlined their complaint process to make it impossible to actually lodge a complaint and have it taken seriously, short of having a lawyer get involved. By NOT responding in writing, WDW avoids making any sort of written statement that could be used against it. If WDW responded, for instance, that they are taking steps to improve the appearance of the park, that written statement could be held against the company if an overly litigious guest or shareholder were to decide to take action. Moreover, a written statement that didn't actually address a guests concerns would stand out like a sore thumb.

By changing the bulk of communications to verbal/face-to-face communications, Parks & Resorts does something rather nefarious. Let's say, for instance, you don't like the way a particular cast member acts, so you decide to go to Guest Relations to complain. Instead of having you fill out a form with a written description of your complaint, the host/ess says to you, "Gosh, I'm sorry you're unhappy, I'll be glad to take the complaint for you. What is your name?" Right there, people are less inclined to answer; they're being asked to engage in interpersonal communication of a negative nature, and it's not human nature to complain directly to someone. It's uncomfortable. Especially at Disney. So, they head off complaints right there.

If you decide to follow-up in writing, they send a form letter that says, "Please call us" (if you didn't give a phone number) so we can talk to you in person. Then they can offer a canned speech telling you things that may not be true -- like there has been very little negative response to the cancellation of early entry. Hard to get into a meaningful conversation about it on the phone with a cast member who's being paid to toe the company line.

I remember when I was a kid I wrote to Disneyland regularly about things both good and bad that I experienced in the parks. They always responded in writing and didn't try to give me the run-around; one time, I even got a call from a VERY senior executive himself, who was worried about comments I made about the park being dirty. Those days are over. Disney wants your money, but they don't want your input, it seems.

<sigh>

Too bad the parks are still such fun places. Makes it kinda hard to boycott them! :-)

John,

I think you've hit the nail on the head. When I went to complain on a couple of different matters at the Studios and at the Magic Kingdom on my last trip, the Guest Relations folks wanted me to verbally explain the problem so they could "pass it on." Not until I insisted on a written complaint was a complaint form even produced. Even then, the cast member insisted in filling out the form based on my input.

Jeff writes: Brian, Good morning to you. I just finished your Monday report and have a couple of comments regarding some of the readers questions/comments.

As you know my family and I visited WDW the first week of June 2002. For the record we experienced very very little of the gay day crowds and all of us agreed that it was a non-issue. Thank you so much for letting us know when they would be in each park. There was a little spill-over but nothing too bad.

Anyway here are some comments that I have. The Carousel of Progress was going to start running on Sunday June 9th 2002. We missed it by one day but it was going to be open. That is a family favorite since we first started to visit WDW in 1976. Obviously we were very sad. It was supposed to run for the rest of the summer. Timekeeper was also supposed to open at the same time. As far as the Ebay auction goes, Disney has official auctions all the time listed on Ebay. They sell tons of items from watches to actual theme park memorabilia. For example right now they are auctioning off an original Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean boat. To see this auction click on this link. Click here for the home page of all Disney Ebay auctions.

As your reader mentioned he won one of the Experiences auctions that let you do things that we can only dream about. Most of them are unbelievable.......with an unbelievable price tag to match. :)

During our June 2002 visit my family enjoyed both the Keys to the Kingdom Tour and the Steam engine magic tour as well. Both were excellent and well worth the extra cost.

The afternoon siesta (rests) worked out great. The weather was extremely hot and the humidity was very high making conditions very tough. However none of us really felt that tired since we took a mid-day rest. This was the first time we had ever done this on a visit to WDW. This was my 11th visit so to change an old dog this late in the game was pretty amazing. Anyway thanks for the tip.

Brian you have an incredible web site and I enjoy your articles on a weekly basis. I would say that along with a couple of the Disney books your web site is a MUST SEE. Anyway I just wanted to drop a note and thank you for your excellent work. I do appreciate it.

Oh one final note. The Disney Club was an absolute Zero for us once we got to WDW. They wouldn't accept them at ANY restaurant or any merchandise shop except a few at Downtown Disney. I think this royally stinks. With the old FREE Magic Kingdom Club card you could get 10% most anywhere including restaurants or shops. I will take this up with the Disney Club folks.

Thanks for your great note, Jeff. I'll share it in an upcoming Notes piece.

My experience with Disney Club mirrors yours. It just isn't what it was cracked up to be. :(

Damian sent me this copy of a letter he penned to WDW's Guest Communications:

Dear Sirs:

I recently returned from my seventh trip to WDW with my family of eight. Since we were staying for 10 days this trip, we decided that we would skip the deluxe and moderate resorts that we normally stay at and try the All Stars Resorts. We stayed at the Movies resort from May 30th through June 8th. We did have a good time but this latest trip does rank as our least enjoyable trip for a number of reasons:

  • Early Entry - We were VERY disappointed by the loss of the Early Entry mornings. We used to plan our days around this on-site perk, getting up early, hitting the park and then coming back to the hotel to cool off before heading back to the park for the rest of the evening. Make no mistake, without the Early Entry perk for on-site guests, we will seriously consider staying at an off-site resort for our next trip. We complained about this to a number of cast members and always got the some response, "I miss the early hours as well and we have heard this complaint a lot."
  • Character Caravan - This is NOT an acceptable substitute for the loss of Early Entry. It is not well organized and the lack of characters and the lack of time to get to them before they leave, was totally unacceptable. I still believe that if I want to see the characters, I can make time during my day to see them at the parks where it is much more organized and enjoyable.
  • Lack of Open Park Hours - We picked this time of year to visit our favorite vacation spot because of the kid's school schedule and the longer hours that are usually kept by the parks. We normally travel in early December or early May. We also expanded our stay from 7 days to 10 days in order to allow for the crowds and for us to spend one day at Islands of Adventure. We were disappointed the entire time during our visit that the parks were not opened early even with the large crowds waiting at the turnstiles. When we did visit Universal, they did open their park 40 minutes early because of the crowds at the gates.
  • Upkeep of the Disney Property - I have heard that June is a great time to visit because WDW spends the winter and spring refurbishing everything in parks and everything is fresh and new. I did not find this to be the case at all. There were numerous rides that were showing a lot of wear and tear. Some of these items were Splash Mountain logs, non-working figures inside Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean boats, Small World ceiling and non-working figures, Barnstromer's lack of paint, Buzz Lightyear spaceships and laser guns, lack of the vehicles at Living Seas, non-working cast microphone at Great Movie Ride, non-working headphones at Sounds Dangerous, figures in fountain at Muppets 3D not working, lack of seating at Playhouse Disney, some show effects not working/turned off at Catastrophe Canyon, a general lack of paint on railings and buildings around the parks and burned out, missing light bulbs at many, many locations.
  • Attractions/Food Service Not Fully Open - We were very frustrated that while we were paying close to $50 for a full day of entertainment at the parks, numerous attractions and show were close entirely, working on reduced hours or only partially running. Some of these were, Tiki Room not open after 6 PM, only one side of Primeval Whirl running (with an hour standby wait, 30 minutes in the fast pass line), stream trains not running till park close, Timekeeper and Carousel of Progress not opened at all. If you don't have a replacement in mind for these attractions, then why are they closed? I understand that the parks must change to stay fresh, but closing an attraction and not opening a new one is not a fresh change. I was also frustrated that at some times during the day it is nearly impossible to grab a quick bite to eat. Counter service and carts that are opened late and close early, made us bring more snacks into the parks.
  • Carnival Rides and Atmosphere - We were disappointed with Disney's new philosophy for new rides and themes. The Flying Carpets in Adventureland were viewed as a take off on the Dumbo ride and we will only be riding this when there is no line. In Animal Kingdom, the new Hester and Chester area is terrible. I felt ripped off in this area. I don't pay $50 per day per person to see a roadside carnival. We did try TriceraTop Spin and found it to be Dumbo as a dinosaur and the sound system is terrible. There appeared to be three speakers mounted on the queue structure that are turned up full blast. It was hard to hear yourself talk in the queue and on the ride it is worse. The first time we went around, the sound blasted me because we were at the roofline. I then spent the rest of the ride making sure that we were above the roofline in time to miss the speakers and save my eardrums. While Primeval Whirl is a fun ride, I really did find it lacking in theme. The cardboard cutouts on this ride give it a very cheap look and feel. This is a good ride and could have been made much more enjoyable by better theming.
  • Speakers at WDW Turned Up - There seems to be a general feeling at Disney that one way to satisfy the guest is to turn up the volume on the rides. I lost count of the number of the times that we were blown out of our seats by music that was too loud on different rides.
  • Mad Hatter at Grand Floridian - We had the pleasure to take part in the Mary Poppins Breakfast at the Grand Floridian on Thursday, June 6th. We were excited to see the Mad Hatter was appearing. We were severely disappointed. Every other time we have seen the Mad Hatter, he livens up the place with his smile and his antics. This Mad Hatter had no personality, none. He came to the table said hello, asked for the autograph books and then gathered the kids for a picture. He then left. I watched him do the same at several other tables as well. This cast member needs to be either better trained or put behind the scenes.

There were a few things that we did enjoy on our recent visit as well:

  • Figment - We are extremely happy that you have decided to bring Figment back to the parks. He is one of our favorite characters and it was great to get him back. Thank you. We are saddened that Dream Finder did not meet this happy fate as well. Also, on the ride, why was the skunk smell chosen? Couldn't you have made Figment look like a skunk and then put out the small of a rose? It would have still fit with the song and been more pleasant for the guest.
  • Cast Members - Most cast members are still very helpful and make our visit more enjoyable. Unfortunately, this seems to be the cast members that have been at the company for some time. Did something change with the new cast member classes?
  • Water Fountains - I know that with the recent drought conditions in the Southeast, you had to turn several of these off. It was nice that they were back on and our family enjoyed the time spent playing in these. The Fountain of Nations behind Spaceship Earth is the best fountain that I have seen anywhere. The timing of the music and the different programs that it runs are incredible. This is money well spent for this fountain.
  • Monorail and Steam Train Cast Members - These cast members seem to be your most caring cast members. I do not remember running into one rude or unhappy employee at either transportation location. I watched one train engineer slow down the train, so that a guest could take a picture. That shows caring and needs to be rewarded.
  • The Garden Grill - This is one of our favorites year after year. The food here is excellent and the cast members are all excellent as well. I was not happy with the desert change from our last visit but the rest of the food and service more then makes up for that.
  • The Neverland Club - I put five of my kids in this for four hours one night. One of them had been before and chosen at the last minute to go again. They did enjoy their time spent here and it was a nice way for us to go spend sometime not worrying about height requirements. The oldest child that attended here was disappointed that they did not bring over animals anymore.

I can not stress the importance of Early Entry to you. This perk has been the most important part of each and every one of our trips. I have a feeling that Disney will be bringing this perk back as a cost item, much like E-Ride night. This will disappoint me greatly. I do enjoy taking my family to WDW and would like to continue to do so, but Disney has to keep up their end of the bargain and make sure that the parks are in excellent condition and that the value is there as well. After visiting Islands of Adventure, it appears that Universal is making strides towards competing with Disney. As a Disney shareholder, I can see that Disney still has the upper hand and needs to keep it that way but numerous things need to change. I would appreciate not getting a "canned" response to this letter, in short, I would like to know that I have been heard. Thank you.

Thanks for sending me the copy, Damian. Hopefully, more such notes will get to WDW and the folks there will realize that the lack of scathing comments did not really equate to happy customers.

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

Q.

A MousePlanet reader asks: Thanks you for your immediate response. A million years ago, I stayed at a place then called Dutch Inn. We got on the bus last and in four or five minutes we were in the center of all the Disney world activities. Coming out, the bus stopped at our hotel first. We got all of our tickets at the hotel. We are hoping for a similar situation but didn't know where to start.

A.

Sorry, but I'm not that familiar with WDW back a million years ago. :)

Maybe you stayed at one of the village resort hotels that are now known as the Downtown Disney resorts. They are on WDW property, and have buses to the parks, but they are not operated by the Walt Disney Company. Perhaps one of those resorts used to be known as the "Dutch Inn?"

This page has more information about them.

-

Q.

Rosie writes: Hi Brian. I am writing a trip report right now, but I have a question. I am afraid it will be too long. I am giving a lot of detail for our five day adventure (including all the pre-trip details). What is too long for a trip report? I am averaging about 1-2 pages per day at WDW.

Thanks for all your good advice. I love the site.

A.

Rosie,

Trip reports should be exactly the right length to capture everything you want to say... no more, no less. :) In other words, don't worry about it. It's YOUR report, so just cover everything that you want to capture and remember, and don't be concerned about anything else.

I'll be looking forward to seeing that report after you've sent it in.

(Editor's note: Rosie has since sent in that report, and it can be found in MousePlanet's Disney Trip Report Archive.)

-

Q.

Pat writes: Brian, First off, thanks for providing this wonderful site. I find your site, Mousesavers, and Deb's site to have information so far superior to anything in Birnbaums and other guide books that I'm pretty much able to plan a trip completely while sitting at my desk.

My wife and I are cheapskates. We're going for the fifth time in three years this September and I believe our cost for airfare and hotel for a six night stay is about $462, staying at the Best Western LBV. Considering we were happy last year with Hojo's Eastgate (we're pretty much at the hotel to sleep), BWLBV is actually an upgrade for us. When you're working under a $1,200 budget, such pricing allows for a pile of extras. Anyway, thanks a million for the free resource.

I'd like to give back. I wanted to purchase length-of-stay passes. According to your site, this is not allowed at DD resorts. I emailed the hotel (Reservations@orlandoresorthotel.com) and they tell me I CAN get these passes. I was also interested in whether we received free parking at the parks, we don't. Almost seems like contridictory information.

Just thought that either:

  1. You can use this information to update your site.

or

  1. You can do me yet another wonderful service and tell me they're wrong.

Either way, I've pasted the exchange below. I really hope it's useful!

91 Days 15 Hrs 9 Mins 28 Secs to go...

Pat,

If you are a guest of our hotel, and you drive to the parks, you would have to pay the parking fee. You would be better off to take our complimentary transportation, then you won't have to worry about the fee, and where you parked your car! We have a Disney gift shop in
the lobby of the hotel, and you can purchase the length of stay passes.

If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Kim

A.

Thanks for the note, Pat. Unfortunately, I'll have to take the information you've provided and update my site. :( Parking is NOT free for Downtown Disney resort guests, but the length of stay passes are, indeed, available to them.

-

Q.

Mary asks several questions: Brian, thanks for your hard work. The Mouseplanet website is an excellent reference!

My family and I (me, DH, DS(8), DD(6)) are joining my sister and my parents in WDW 7/6 - 7/12. We are staying in the Boardwalk Villas and I hope to file a trip report after our visit. A couple of questions --

  1. I've read about a WDW visitor arranging to have a basket of goodies waiting for her children upon check-in (or arrival in room). Have you heard of this service?
  2. My sister made the reservation (so its in her name). My family of 4 will arrive first. Will there be any problem with us checking in? (My sister says all names are on her receipt)
  3. My father is 78 and has been mildly affected by a stroke (but is not handicapped; is still able to walk without assistance). What accomodations could we request without overstating his physical condition and possibly taking advantage of the disabled guest policies?

Thanks again.

A.

Mary,

Thanks for the kind compliment. I'll be looking forward to that trip report, :)

I know that it is possible to arrange for things to be left in a room at check-in. However, I've never personally done it. I'd suggest you call the resort and ask how it can be arranged. I'm sure it's not an infrequent question at WDW.

There shouldn't be any problems with check-in. I'd suggest, though, that your sister call the reservations office and put your name on the reservation, though. That will simplify things.

With regard to your father's condition, I would suggest that you think about what accomodations you need and simply ask for them. For his own sake, you may not want to "overstate" the situation, but you really do have to be honest with him, yourself, and the Disney folks. If he needs help getting around, a wheelchair should be in your plans. In any case, whatever help he will need is available, just ask.

You may want to read through this page to get an idea of what assistance is available at WDW.

-

Q.

Barb writes: Coming the first week in May 2003. What is the opertating
time schedules for public- and -resort guest monorails? Beginning and ending times? What are the times that the Resort buses run? Am interested in the Port Orleans schedules to and from the 3 major theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and MGM. Is there a variance between theme parks times, and if so, please give transportation schedules to and from of beginning and ending times.

Thanks!

A.

Barb,

In any case, WDW transportation (including the resort buses) runs, in general, about one hour before each park opens and continue to run about an hour and a half after each park closes. Here's a page that discusses the park opening hours.

Also, you mentioned the "three major parks," in your note, but there are actually four major parks now that Animal Kingdom has opened.

-

Q.

Kim asks: Hi Brian! Thank you for the work you and the mouseplanet team put into the website. It's the best resource for those of us who enjoy vacationing in WDW!!

My question...We will be staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge for 2 nights in mid-July, and this is our first time in a WDW resort. With our Animal Kingdom Lodge parking pass, will we be able to park and visit other WDW resorts? In particular , we'd like to park at Port Orleans Riverside, view the grounds and check out the resort, then take the boat down the river to Downtown Disney for dinner. Thank you for any advice!!!!

A.

Kim,

The WDW resorts always reserve the right to limit access to their properties to visitors that are staying offsite. However, on-site guests are supposed to be able to visit any of the on-site resorts without limitation. In reality, though, the monorail resorts (the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and worst of all the Polynesian) and some of the other deluxe resorts (the Boardwalk is notable) do attempt to limit even on-site guests. I've had more than one word-joust with an over-zealous gate guard about that issue.

However, to get to your question, visiting Port Orleans will be pretty painless. There is plenty of parking, and not so many folks try to stop in there as they do at the deluxe resorts as the restaurants and other facilities just aren't as compelling.

I'm sure you'll have absolutely no problem visiting Port Orleans with your Wilderness Lodge car pass in the window, taking the Sassagoula Riverboat down to Downtown Disney, and returning.

-

Q.

Ken asks a bunch of questions: Brian, Thanks for a truly awesome web site! If only I could somehow print it all out at once! I've printed big chunks out but still have lots to go (just can't quite seem to retain as much when I am looking at the screen!). As a fellow engineer (NASA one at that) I love all the detail you have in the site (my wife perhaps still isn't sure all the info is really needed but that is what makes us a good team! Thanks also for your unashamed Christian witness (probably one of the few Disney web sites with that claim!). Congrats on your adoption by the way!!!!!!!!!!!!

We are planning our first trip to WDW for this December. Since we home school our kids rearranging school won't be much of a problem for us (although we are getting ready to put our kids (13, 10, 7) into formal school settings after this year so this is the year to go). I say THE year because our plan right now is that we are only going to make the pilgrimage once but the more I read and study, the more I am thinking I may have to do this more often!

Since we are thinking of only one trip we are trying to be as "complete" as possible in our trip planning (yeah, good luck!).

I really appreciate the info on your web site but either have missed the following or would like your opinion on the following questions (in true NASA bulletized format!). :-)

  1. How long should we plan for to make sure we do it well without killing ourselves? Many people seem to recommend a day off in the middle of the trip. I was thinking perhaps 6 park days, 1 day off and then the MVMCP (but how to fit that in to the days). Maybe that is overkill (on time and budget).
  2. What days of the week should we go in December? In other words are there some things that only happen on weekends in December making it advantageous to span a weekend? Logic would seem to indicate that locals would come in the park over the weekends making those good travel days but if there are only things that happen on weekends, that would negate that plan.
  3. While we have camped some, I believe my wife's limit on "camping" for a WDW vacation will be the FW cabins (which seem like a good bet for a family of 5 like ours). They look like they are pretty good. Any words on advice on them?
  4. How would kids do with the late hours of MVMCP? Do we do that in between two full days (probably not!).
  5. If we do the parks 6 days it looks like the only way to do it is to buy an AP or 6 day hopper plus but I can't see the use of the plus that time of year (not sure I want to do water parks in December - depends I guess). Is there a better ticket for us?
  6. It doesn't appear you use packages, right? Even the kind that give you 2 "wishes" a day. I guess they don't pay for themselves?
  7. Can you really swim in pools in December? I guess it depends on the weather!

Thanks a bunch for how you can help out. Your site is great and has been a tremendous help already!!!! Looking forward to our trip (beats thinking about program milestones!).

A.

Thanks for the kind note, Ken. I'll do my best to help out...

You might want to plan on looking over our WDW Trip Planning Guide's sitemap, and look over the list of pages, you'll find lots of great planning information. It might be easier to scan that page than to "drill down" through the site the hard way.

Regarding your first question, I discuss the issue of how long you need to fully enjoy WDW on this page.

The "which days of the week" question is answered at length on this page (and you might want to look over the pages that follow it, too, as they add more detail to the daily planning issue.

The Fort Wilderness Cabins "Fast Facts" page includes a link to a photo tour of the campgrounds.

I think your idea of NOT pushing too hard on the days that straddle your attendance at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a good idea. My family, for example, plans to make sure the boys have a very good nap on the day that we attend the party in December. The next day, we're planning a slower start just to make sure we all recover from the late night.

On the admission media issue... The cross over point where annual passes become a better value versus the park hoppers is seven days. If you're not planning on visiting the water parks, I think the six day park hopper would be your best value. However, if you're even remotely thinking of a return trip within twelve months of the first, I'd suggest that you seriously consider buying those APs!

Ken, my take on the Disney package deals is on this page (read the bottom four paragraphs especially). Basically, the packages CAN be a good deal IF you do take advantage of all they offer. If not, you'll end up paying a premium for unused perks. Only you can decide what features you'll use from any package deal. My best advice is to shop well. :)

Finally, on using pools in December, the weather may or may not cooperate, but the pools are heated, so if you have a nice day, you very well may want to jump in and use the pool as a break from the parks.

Q.

Following up, Ken writes: Brian, thanks so much for the quick reply and the graciousness of your reply. I'm sorry that so many of my questions can be answered with your already thorough and helpful web site. There is so much good stuff in there that I'm having trouble organizing it all in my head (even with the nice site map and search engine). I've seen so much but can't remember always how to get it back. I am now in the process of printing out anything that I want to remember (killing lots of trees in the process; makes me wonder if kids who grow up on internet will retain more from looking at a screen than I do, I tend to have to print things out).

Anyway, thanks again. I hope I am not wearing out my welcome here but I'd like just a tad more clarification on a couple points (if you could indulge me).

  1. My question on days of the week had more to do with what things are operating (in general) in December and what things are weekend only in December. I realize that your site says that time of year isn't that big a driver but I thought I saw something on your web site somewhere that basically said things like "Spectromagic is only on weekends in December" and "Cirque du Soliel is closed until 12/15". Maybe I'm just imagining that? Again, I realize that Disney is not going to announce anything until just a few months before we get there but I want to make sure I plan which parts of the week to be there during reduced ops. So did I see something on your site about what things are anticipated to be open when in December (ie. fireworks, etc.)?
  2. The admission media question had to do with resort breaks for annual pass members in addition to the fact that it looked like the only 6 hopper park ticket one can get has the plus in there that I wasn't sure we would have time to use. Like you said - shop well!!!! :-) Do you have an annual pass? I assume you do.
  3. Sounds like you are planning a December trip (wondering if that is for the RADP activity). I'm not trying to be too nosy but I was wondering when you are planning going and for how long? Again, I'm not trying to be nosy and certainly would not be wanting to intrude on your time there but you have so much experience, I sure wouldn't mind following your example of when you are going!
  4. I thought I saw a picture of you and your family in Williamsburg but can't find the spot right now. Where is the photo? Anyway, I hope you had a great time!!! We live about 20 minutes south of Williamsburg. Along with lots of other things, we enjoy going to Busch Gardens and Water Country (and have annual passes). I think my folks would prefer we had annual passes to Colonial Williamsburg instead. I haven't gotten to King's Dominion yet so hope to do that soon. Again, hope you had a great time (hope it wasn't too hot and humid but if you are used to Disney this probably seemed OK!).

Thanks again Brian!!!

PS Hope the adoption has gone well. LOTS of our friends have adopted and my sister works as a social worker for a Christian adoption agency in Oregon (long story how she ended up out there!).

A.

Ken,

December is an odd month. Early in the month is one of the slowest times of the year, but WDW does have a bunch of special holiday events going on. Here's a couple of pages that give a "year at a glance" and one that actually lists the already announced special events during the Holidays.

As December rolls on, though, the crowds build up very quickly to a crecendo. Christmas week itself is the busiest week of the year at WDW.

Never guess which week I'll be there this year... ;)

My family will arrive around the 19th and we'll be departing on the 31st. Frankly, I wouldn't be doing this time AT ALL, but this is a family reunion trip and we couldn't get everyone together earlier in the month due to schedule conflicts.

There's no way to actually predict what "regular" entertainment will be running during December. I do think it's a very safe bet that the daytime parades will continue to run each and every day. Spectromagic will likely run only on some Friday and Saturday nights. IllumiNations will run nightly (as it always does), and I suspect that Fantasmic will, likewise, be running full blast (although I've heard rumors about a soon-to-be-scheduled maintenance shutdown of Fantasmic).

My family and I always use annual passes. APs are actually good for 12 months from first use (not one calendar year). What we usually do is go in October and buy APs. We return in the Spring and in September of the following year. That way, we get three trips on one set of tickets. Then we take a Spring off, then repeat the cycle. This year will be a bit funky because of the scheduled Christmastime trip, but our philosphy will remain the same.

The photo of Michael and Allan showed up in the June 17th Notes from the World piece. I think we'll probably return to Williamsburg and visit the DC area in another couple of years. :)

The adoption of Allan was seemless. The one for Michael was a bit more exciting. I shared the whole thing on MousePlanet on this page.

-

Q.

Michael asks: Brian, Thanks for the great information on WDW. It is amazing how quickly things change at the Resort and it is nice to have one place to go for updates.

My question: You mentioned in one of the earlier updates about a possible Nightmare Before Christmas overlay to the Haunted Mansion, like they did in California last year. Have you heard anything else about this?

(My wife and I went to the Haunted Mansion holiday merchandise event at Disneyland last October and it was *very* cool.) It would be great to see something like this in Florida.

Thanks!

A.

No, I haven't. I was told earlier, though, that a decision on budget wouldn't be made until Fall.

-

Q.

Gayle writes: Wow, I'm finally going to WDW in early July... hot, hot, hot, but were from Houston and used to the heat and humidity. I'm taking my daughter (6) and two sons (13 & 15). My husband has never wanted to go and in planning family vacations all these years, WDW never made it as far as an option. Anyway, I decided to take the children on my own. My daughter is absolutely over the moon about going and her enthusiasm is contagious, she's telling everyone she's going to WDW and this is her FIRST trip, so I guess we'll be going back and we haven't even arrived yet! (she vows Dad will go someday!) We'll be at the Polynesian and won't be renting a car. We're not leaving the property as this is a purely Disney holiday.

Your site has been an enormous help. I am admittedly a bit overwhelmed with all the options and wanting to be able to "do" everything... I have vowed to follow my daughters lead, as well as the boys and just make sure we have a great time without stressing everyone out with a "be here , do that". I do have a couple of priority seatings booked (including breakfast with Cinderella at the castle for my daughter and I can't tell you who's more excited!)

I feel I am truly entering a whole new world.

I do have a question for you! What is a "Guest of Honor" badge? How do you get one??

Again, thanks for all you do...the site is phenomenal!

A.

Thanks for the kind note!

The Guest of Honor badges were sold especially during the 25th Anniversary Celebration back five or six years ago. They are still available in some places at WDW, although I'd be hard pressed to give you an exact location. What they are is name badges that look very similar to the cast member's name tags, however, you can get them personalized with your own name. They do say, "Guest of Honor," on them, though, so they can be distiguished from a CM's pin.

I'd suggest you ask at guest relations in any of the parks and ask where they may be sold.

-

Q.

Kevin asks: Brian, Keep up the good work on the site. I visit it daily for my WDW "escape".

This is a rather odd question, but here goes. When we visit in September, my wife decided she wants to go horseback riding at the resort.

I weigh 240 pounds. Is there a weight limit to ride a horse? I wouldn't want to break it's back :)

A.

Kevin,

I am not aware of any limits on the trail riding at Fort Wilderness Campground. I'll post your note in a future Notes From the World, though, and maybe we'll find out differently.

-

Q.

Mary Kay writes: Hi. my husband and I are going to WDW at the end of September with our soon to be 4 year old boy/girl twins. We are at an impasse as to where to stay.

I have narrowed the choices to Holiday Inn Family suites, Contemporary, Polynesian, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge. Found rates of $100-$174 per might on Mousesavers.

The reasons for my choices are mainly on-site child care services and ease of transportation (no rental car).

My questions would be: Are any of these more suited for toddler families and lack of transportation? (We want the LEAST stress possible considering what we're dealing with!!!) Is it worth paying more for the Polynesian? Is the Contemporary too sterile to get the full Disney experience? Are Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge too remote? Should we bother with offsite options (even with Kidsuites) in order to get the full Disney experience?

FYI, I have been to Disney a few times as has my husband before 1998. We love it and can't wait to share with the kiddos. LOVE LOVE LOVE YOUR SITE!!!!!! Any help you can give is greatly appreciated!

A.

Mary Kay,

It sounds like you're already sold on a monorail resort. My personal preference among the three is the Polynesian because it's got a more exotic flavor than the other two. The Polynesian also has the well-known Neverland Club where you could drop off your kids for a night of fun while you and your husband go out for dinner. The other resorts have similar clubs, but the Neverland Club has one of the best "cool factors" due to it's themeing.

I personally would put the offsite idea off the table, if I were you. However, I don't have any phobias about staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, or even a moderate resort and using the buses, either. It would save a ton of money to do that, and as long as you're willing to be patient and realize that everything will take time when you have kids in tow, you should do just fine!

I would also strongly suggest that you read through our WDW Trip Planning Guide's WDW With Kids section where you'll find information on all of the issues around taking kids on a trip to Walt Disney World. There's information there on how kids react to the various attractions, what the age and height restrictions are, and lots of helpful information on how to adjust your daily plans to accommodate the younger ones.

-

Q.

Tom asks: Hi Brian, Just want to say first of all thanks for all the information on your site and the way it keeps me up-to-date with WDW stuff when I'm not there :). At 18 I now feel qualified to write my own trip report so expect that towards the end of August!

I'll be crossing the pond to Orlando on July 25 for three weeks and was just wondering exactly which rides at WDW (and, for that matter, Universal and Sea World if you know) have single-rider lines? They sound really useful for beating the queues so I'm hoping there's more than just the Test Track one I've read about.

A.

Tom,

To the best of my knowledge, only Test Track currently has a single rider line. I don't know the status at Sea World and Universal/IOA.

-

Q.

Amanda asks: Brian,My family and I are planning to go to disneyworld in late August and we have a lot of left over passes from when we have been before. We have some very passes from the eighties were they actually stamp the date on the card when they are used. Can we still use these? We also have hopper passes with either one or two days left on them from a few years ago. Is there any way that we can find out how many days are left on each of these? Thanks so much.

A.

Amanda,

Yes, you can still use the old passes... but only for those parks that were originally included. For example, if the only parks open at the time you bought those old passes were the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, you can't use those them to enter Animal Kingdom or the Studios.

Your more recent park hopper passes may still be good, too, but the only way to find out exactly how many days are left on them is to go to guest relations at one of the parks or Downtown Disney. You may be able to find out at guest relations at the resorts too, as some resorts have that capability and some do not.

One thing you might want to consider is to take the old admission media and turn it in for credit towards new media. The guest relations folks will help you with that task, too. In effect, you'll get the pro-rated portion of remaining value credited towards the purchase of your new media. You'll have to decide at the time if it makes more sense financially to do that, or just to use the old tickets up.

-

Q.

Ray asks: Brian: Your column has been a great help for my family of seven as we plan our fist trip to DW. I have a question: Are we the only people who have "flipped out" over the MK being open from 9:00am to 6:00pm from August 25 through August 29?

I have already sent a scathing e-mail and await a reply. Is this time frame normal for the heat of summer? With the park not open late, it certainly will change our touring plans. I'm hoping you'll have a few suggestions and will also alert fellow visitors of these limited hours.

A.

Ray,

Summer hours were announced for the Magic Kingdom as being 9:00am to 10:00pm, so it's not as bad as you thought.

Frankly, if the crowds do get as big as I suspect they will, I think you'll see one of two things happen. Either the park will be open even later (more like the 11:00pm - 1:00am closing time that is more typical for summer), or else the Disney folks will schedule more E-Ride nights so you can pay extra to stay in the park late (you'll not that there are no Eride nights scheduled for the days you mentioned, though).

Q.

Ray wrote back: Thank you for the quick reply.

I just got off the phone (before e-mailing you) with a CM making reservations for lunch at Cinderella's Table. She confirmed the hours as being 9:00am to 6:00pm from 8/25 -29. On the 30th she said 9:30pm. She agreed that she could never remember August hours being so short but, "That's what the computer says". You've got 7 people in NJ hoping and praying your info is right!! Thanks again.

A.

Ray,

I did some further checking. It looks like the park schedules do, indeed, drop off for that last week in August. I suspect that the crowds are expected to have already fallen by then as families deal with the new school year starting up.

Sorry for the earlier misinformation.

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.