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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

8/12/02

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Regarding the recently-announced temporary closing of Caribbean Beach Resort...

Matt writes: Dear Brian, I live in Orlando and my brothers, who live in New York, come down to visit me every October. During their ten day vacation they always stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort. However, it looks like this year they will have to stay somewhere else.

This morning, Tuesday, 8/6 I heard on my local ABC affiliate that the Caribbean Beach Resort will be CLOSED, starting September 8, and reopen sometime in December. I didn't hear why this is being done, except some reference to "remodeling" and the construction of a restaurant. I can't imagine why they'd need to close the whole sprawling resort for remodeling, for this is routinely done one building at a time. I also don't understand why they'd need another eatery, for it already has a food court and formal restaurant. All I can imagine is that the beancounters have been told to cut costs even further.

I'd love to know why, many months ago, my brothers were able to reserve a room during October. Why didn't CRO know about this? I am furious!

Another MousePlanet reader wrote: Caribbean Beach Resort will be closing on September 8 for rehab of the OPR food court, restaurant and souvenir areas. Guests with reservations will be called as their arrival time draws near. They will be moved to other moderates ... POFQ, POR, CSR. Caribbean Beach Resort is expected to be open by the Christmas Holiday ... target date seems to be early December.

and I answered: Isn't completely closing a resort a drastic thing to do to rehab the food court? Is this a veiled way to reduce capacity like closing the French Quarter last year?

We might just have seen the last of the WDW built, if that's the case...

But, as you might expect, MousePlanet and it's sources started digging into this one. Here's another note on the Caribbean Beach Resort closing that gives some tremendous insight about what happened:

A reliable MousePlanet source writes: ...this is a case of Disney doing something right for a change.

Caribbean Beach Resort has just finished phase one of a major rehab in which every guest room was totally re-done. Disney has spent major money at this resort already - more than it took to build it two decades ago. Upgrading the food court and restaurant was always planned as the next phase. However, there were logistical problems that held up the start of that phase. First of all, it would leave Caribbean Beach Resort without any place to get food since the kitchens are all tied in. You cannot do anything major without closing THE kitchen, leaving everything, including room service, out of business.

Facilities came up with a number of ideas, with the most promising - if that can be the way to describe it - to set up a food court in a tent in the parking lot. However, upon listening to cast members concerns that disgruntled guests would take their displeasure out on them, management agreed and on Sunday morning, made the decision to close the resort for almost 4 months, during what is mostly a slower period.

Disney is now making a major investment in rehabbing the entire Center Towne, including the gift shops, arcade, etc in addition to the planned food court/restaurant upgrade. The decision was made on two very Disney-like principles, something that has been lacking lately. One - so as not to present a less than acceptable guest experience, and two - taking into account the impact on the Caribbean Beach Resort Cast Member's.

Additional logistics. No Cast Members will be out of work during the upgrade. All Front Desk, Ops, and Bell Services Cast Members will bid on deployment at other resorts in order of seniority. Housekeeping, custodial and food service may have to spend the time in other areas of the property (such as a park) since they are not specifically limited to a resort as are the other grades.

In addition, this might bring about the opening of Pop Century if occupancy demand warrants. Unlike in years past, guests are now booking only three of four weeks in advance only. Pop Century can be opened in 2 weeks if necessary. (At least the first section.)

The decision was made on Sunday, and all of the logistics have not yet been finalized ... the other resorts were not officially notified until yesterday. The bids will be made in mid-August.

Hope that clears some facts up.

Wow! Maybe this is signaling a return to the Walt Disney Company that we all know and love?

Jason shared this note: Dear Brian, Our first trip to WDW ever was scheduled from in early September this year, just in time for the Mouse to close Caribbean Beach Resort. AAAAAH! I called Reservations, using my Disney Club phone number and was put in touch with the "team" handling the closure and rearrangement of reservations. The short version is that we went from a water view at Caribbean Beach Resort for a package rate of $109.89/night (2 adults, 1 child), to a wood view at Wilderness Lodge with no change in price. But we had to ask.

Below are my personal suggestions for handling the call to save your vacation. I posted this to another site's board, but it's my original content, so you have permission to reproduce all or part. I just want the word to go out ASAP to other vacationers:


To any fellow pin geeks planning to stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort between 9/8/02 and Christmas, listen up!

The Orlando Sentinel and MousePlanet have reported that Caribbean Beach Resort is shutting down after Labor Day for an "extended restaurant rehab." This is true since I just got off the phone with WDW reservations and changed my vacation plans. If you have reservations for Caribbean Beach Resort this Fall, the following are my personal suggestions for coping and saving your vacation.

  • Act Fast. Call Now. Guest Relations has a "team" of Cast Members working the problem of moving all their reservations around the WDW resort, so they will surely contact you. But if you are going to ask for an upgrade or other goodies, if would be better to call now, when their options are more flexible.
  • Have your info. You will need your reservation number, but the confirmation sheet also lists all your preferences, bed types, smoking preferences, etc. You want to make sure everything transfers over. ALSO, you will need to write down your NEW confirmation number, especially if you are sending any payment balances soon. You'll need the new confirmation number to properly credit your account.
  • Ask for goodies. Left to their own devices, the Guest Relations Cast Member simply tried to to a lateral transfer for us from a moderate resort to a moderate resort. AT OUR REQUEST, the Cast Member looked into an upgrade and we got a wood view at Wilderness Lodge, but we had to ask first. Disney has a full range of goodies to placate unhappy campers with, so think about what the key purpose of your trip really is and then ask. The worst they can say is, "no."
  • Don't Talk to Just Any Cast Member. Guest Relations has dedicated a "team" of people to handle the Caribbean Beach Resort closure. Whatever phone number you use (general, Disney Club, whatever) to get to a human, ask to be transferred to the Guest Relations people handling Caribbean Beach Resort. I assume, but don't know for a fact, that these people have more authority to be creative that the regular Cast Member.
  • Be Patient. My Cast Member was literally reading the fine print of the memo he *just got this morning*. These fine men and women didn't shut down the resort. They're just damage control. And honey attracts more flies than vinegar. Politely but firmly, indicate your displeasure (I used the word "perturbed") but once your view is clear, let the Cast Member do what he or she can to keep the Magic flowing. Being personally gentle on the poor schlub can only earn you bonus points.
  • Have your Birnbaum's Handy. This is our first trip to WDW, so it was immeasurably useful to have hotel reviews and a detailed resort map as I discussed options with Guest Relations. If you have a resort guide, put it within arm's reach before you call.

(optional: for husbands only)

  • Call Your Wife. Your life partner whom you honor and obey might want to know what's going on before you radically rearrange the family vacation. Put your heads together and quickly plan a strategy BEFORE you call Guest Relations so you have a better chance of coming away from this setback in a stronger position than you began. Besides, no one likes surprises of this magnitude.

As always, these are only my viewpoints. I don't work for the Mouse and this isn't official advice. I just want everyone who has reservations to get the best chance to save their plans and enjoy themselves. Good luck, all, and see you at the 'World.

Thanks Jason. ...I'm going to include your note in it's entirety, as it clearly will be of tremendous help to some of my readers.

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...

Paul Writes: Brian, First off great web site, thanks for all of the help. I wanted to send you a quick note regarding Jeannie's question about a length of stay pass from the 8/5/02 update. My family and I stayed at Coronado Springs for one night in September 2001 and were able to buy a length of stay pass for the parks. It was great as we checked in by 10:00a.m. so we were able to hit the parks right away. We also left WDW late the next day and were able to jump around from park to park seeing our favorite attractions. Not to mention that we were able to get into to Disney Quest after having our dinner at Downtown Disney. So yes, you can get length of stay passes even for a one-night stay and if you use it properly, it is well worth the money.

Thanks again for the great info.

Thanks Paul! It's been a long time since I've used an LOS pass (it was way back in 1993, in fact), so I appreciate the feedback.

Mark writes: Hi Brian, Just skimmed today's column and have a few thoughts:

"I hope that the news about Annual Passes going to a calendar year setup is just a bad rumor. Personally, it would put a big crimp into my trip planning habits."

This is just my own opinion, but I don't see it happening since as a business move it would severely limit AP sales as a year-end draws near. Perhaps the change the writer was hearing about was the one concerning renewals, which now start from the day you old AP expires, rather than from their first use... as was the case in the past. This has been in effect for about 2 years now.

"There's a "Hidden Mickey" in the ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion at WDW. It's a plate with two saucers that's been there for years. However, it's not an official one. The Imagineers come in to check out the ride, they move the plates. As soon as they're gone, the cast members move them back."

There is also a hidden Mickey in the crypt at the end of the graveyard... you have to look over your shoulder when you get to the fat lady singing. There is also the only Hidden Donald... check out the chair by the endless hallway.

Thanks for the reassurance on the APs, Mark. I hadn't thought of the renewal as being the issue that was identified. I hope you're right.

Alan wrote: Hi Brian, Love the site! A few comments on the 8/5 Notes From The World.

One correspondent asked about hot air balloon rides over Disney property. This rang a bell, so I checked: a Google search for Balloon Rides Orlando Florida turned up several off-site companies that offer early morning rides in the area. Very early.

Maybe something for folks to do, that are disappointed about the lack of Early Entry. It seems that whether or not the balloons go over Disney is largely determined by the wind. The site "theotherorlando" has some pretty good general info.

Another reader was concerned that no one ticket media fit her ideally. What she really needed was a 2-day, or 1-day, Park Hopper. It seems to me she could either: buy 2 one-day tickets, and use each for maybe 4 hours that day; or, go ahead and buy the 4-day Hopper and try to use the extra days in the future.

She could even conceivably -- and this is entirely her choice -- give the unused days away to a friend or relative, or donate to one of the groups which take seriously ill kids to WDW.

She may say, "But I'm not really getting my money's worth."

And I'm saying, "Is that really so bad?" I realize that it's an obsession with practically everyone, myself included, to get bargains on everything. But giving money freely can be a good thing too.

Let's say she "overpays" Disney a bit. Then Disney can take the money and build new attractions, or hire more employees, or Imagineer some more Magic for us. Not such a bad thing. I'd like to see folks get less obsessed with watching every cent.

'Course, easy for me to say -- I hardly have any cents to give away.

And now a nit-pick about the site, in the spirit of Al Lutz. (I feel bad to say anything negative because of all the work you folks do, but I figure you maybe want feedback): What happened to the blue background in the trip reports? That was one of my favorite things about the way you presented them. Are they coming back?

Okay, sorry -- great site!

Alan,

Thanks for the comments.

However, I must take exception to the idea of giving away your passes. It is very clear that WDW admission media is not transferable. To avoid any problems, I would just suggest that any unused days be used up on a subsequent trip.

Regarding the trip report archive formating, I think you've seen the last of the blue background. I've transitioned from one web page development tool to another, and the new tool (which allows me to produce "cleaner" pages that are easier for MousePlanet's technical folks to maintain) doesn't support the fancier backgrounds that I used to use. On the positive side, readers that want to print out those reports will use a bit less ink than before. ;)

In a follow-up Alan writes: Hi Brian, Column is still great, but I wish that Disney wouldn't give you so much meat to comment on!!!

Since the quarterly report to stockholders indicates a 17% attendance decrease that Disney attributes to the economy and to threat of terrorism, but not to cutbacks in services, I was wondering if you had seen any attendance figures for Universal or Seaworld, or Busch Gardens. I personally suspect that attendance there is also off but not by as high an amount as at Disney.

I naively hope that Disney will realize that attendance is down for two additional reasons. For occasional visitors, word-of-mouth is that it may be better to wait until the parks are open for longer hours with more perks (i.e., early opening) rather than spend the significant amount it takes to bring the family to Disney. (I call this the more bang-for-your buck syndrome). For the die-hard annual passport or regular visitor category, now seems like a good time to take a year or two off from visiting. These are the guests who are more sensitized to how cutbacks affect their level of enjoyment. There are other places we could go that we may have been missing because we had such a good time at Disney (note the use of the word "we" as my wife and I are potential members of this group).

Sure, in the current environment, cutbacks may be justified. But when it starts to drive people away, as I think it has, then Disney needs to rethink there policy. Unfortunately, the head bean counters seem to feel that no matter what they do people will come. Maybe the public will prove them wrong this time.

No matter what, there is no justification at all for uncleaned bathrooms or peeling paint. I have heard many executives talk about preserving the corporate culture established by Walt and Roy. The party line is that this is a very important part of the Disney legacy. Well, Walt is often quoted as saying he wanted a clean park that families could come to.

We will take our annual vacation in August this year (to attend the Disneyana convention) and we will see how it goes.

I am also hoping that maybe the deteriorating theme park performance may result in a management change.

Aren't I the hopeless optimistic?

I wholeheartedly agree. :)

Actually, I don't wish for the removal of anyone in Disney's management... only that those folks in charge would realize that the parks have been so successful for so long because of the unique things that were done there... the consistently high level of service, the new attractions every couple of years, and so on.

We will see if the folks in charge will "learn from the past," or not...

Regarding the discussion on the "haves" and "have nots" that I had with Tim last week, Stephan writes: In response to perks for pay… I partially agree with you. People who have the cash to spend should be able to reap extra perks. As you say, this not socialism. However, I don’t think it should be at the expense of other’s good time. I see no problem with a “special area” where people willing to pay can have extra nice views, or better meals. I mean heck, that’s what the more expensive restaurants are there for. That’s why at places like the Grand Prix you have special booths for those with the cash.

However, that being said, I think this new trend that I believe Six Flags has started of having a “premium pass” that allows you to skip right through lines is going a little far. I think FastPass is a brilliant idea to begin with, This allows those that are FANS and those willing to go early to essentially register for the ride to go on at a later time. It’s the kind of situation where if people don’t like you skipping ahead of the line, well they should have been there earlier! After all, if you had gone in line when you obtained the fast pass, chances are you’d be ahead of them in line anyway!

But when you pay for this pass, you’re getting a pass that says “Hello, I’m going ahead of you on every ride! Bye bye” and I think that could be very frustrating for people. Esepcially when Disney is already not cheap and some people spend pretty much their life savings taking their family to this place… I sure hope that on THIS particular aspect, Disney does not follow suit. It’s not even a jealousy thing, to be honest, when I go next, I’ll be going with my parents DVC, “in style” and we’ll go all the way as far as what Disney has to offer… but I can understand how certain things should be left alone as-is for all around fairness.

Well, we'll have to agree to disagree. Personally, I wish Fastpass had never been invented. It's completely changed how I visit the parks... and frankly, I liked the old way. However, I still see no problems with Disney offering any special perk at some special price. I will not be happy if they degrade my current level of service at the same price I'm paying, but if an upscale price range is offered with more amenities, I don't mind. I guess I see this as a kind of theme park concierge. I can pay for the uplevel service or not.

Jason writes, regarding Sam's comments from a week ago about the official WDW spin that "early entry was unpopular with guest and the character caravan was something requested by the guests": Brian, I just wanted to let you know that Sam is not twisting words. Marketing material in our planning video for the 100 years celebration it states that the Early Entry feature was not popular, so it was replaced with the Character Caravan. I thought the same thing as you did up until reading this.

Jason,

If Early Entry was really so unpopular, why was the park with Early Entry always so much busier by mid-morning than the other parks at WDW? If people didn't want to use Early Entry, wouldn't all of the parks have about the same attendance levels?

A MousePlanet reader shared this note: The official WDW ticket upgrade policy is as follows:

  • Length Of Stay (also Unlimited Park Hopper) once you check out, that ticket is dead. End of story.
  • Standard Multi-Day Passes -- ONLY GUEST RELATIONS can handle this. (1) To receive full value for your tickets, the upgrade must be performed within 7 days of First Use. There is really no exception to this rule. (2) If it's anytime after your 7th day, the cast member will be able to give you the remaining value of the ticket. You can use this value to purchase new tickets. Note -- Usually on the plus pass, once the theme park days are used, the plus days carry NO VALUE!

Annual Pass -- Years ago, there was a ticket that was good for a calendar year. I have heard nothing concerning a change in the time frame of annual passes.

Don't forget when someone complains about ticket prices, WDW is the only theme park in Orlando who DID NOT raise ticket prices this year. The last increase was in January 2001.

Thanks for the info!

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

Q.

Greg writes: Hey Brian, Have enjoyed your site very much! Keep up the good work!

My family and I are planning a trip to WDW in early December, staying offsite. You mention that one can park all day at a resort if using valet parking. My question: should I just tell the guard at the gate that we plan on going to a park and just want to use valet parking? If I have to pay $7 for parking in any case, I'd much rather park at the Polynesian, instead of hassling with the large parking lot. Also, I have noticed on previous trips that at park closing time, the Cast Members ask for proof that you are staying onsite before letting you board the hotel monorails. Does valet parking issue a pass/receipt to show that your vehicle is at the hotel, so that we will be allowed to board the hotel monorail?

Thank you for your time.

A.

Greg,

If I were you, I'd consider two options. First, I could go ahead and plan a breakfast or shopping trip at one of those hotels so I could honestly tell the guard what I was doing, pay for valet parking, do what I planned, and then head off to the park of my choice. Second, I could go ahead and tell the guard that I was going to valet parking. If asked, I would admit that I was going to the park, but only if asked. If I was told by the guard that I couldn't park -- even in valet parking -- without specific plans to have a meal or shop at that resort, I'd have to be prepared to leave and either try another resort or else go back to the main lot.

I've never been asked for proof that I was staying at a specific resort before getting on the resort monorail, but in any case the valet parking stub would certainly be sufficient proof.

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Q.

Heather writes: We are going to WDW in September and I am sooooo excited! It is my 4th trip, my (future) husband's 3rd, my brother Will's 2nd and my brother Dave and Mom's 1st! My mom can't wait to see Animal Kingdom (she loves zoos and animals and especially elephants!) and my brother Dave can't wait to take the train tour. Have you ever done any of the tours? Are they worth the price?

We did the family magic tour on our last trip and had such a blast! The adults outnumbered the kids, but the tour guide, Julie (I still remember her name!), made us all participate - and we loved it. The kids thought it was great to see the grownups acting like such kids, so they had even more fun. It was just fantastic!

Anyway, I have been reading your site since before my second trip to WDW in 1999, and I print all the trip reports off to read on my way home from work (so much better to *be* in WDW in my head than just on the bus!). I am constantly telling people to check out the site! In fact, reading your site has wet my appetite to go to Tokyo and Paris and check them out! Disney really ought to hire you!

Well... back to planning my wedding. August 3. Soon. Way too soon.

A.

LOL It would be nice if they would hire me, but I doubt they ever will. :)

(Editor's Note: Another one of those 'some-timers' events... as I was re-reading my response to Heather, I realized that I missed her question about the behind the scenes tours. So, finally provide an answer, yes, I have taken several Disney tours over the years. Most recently (at WDW), my wife and I took the "Behind the Magic" tour that takes you behind the scenes at the Magic Kingdom (including a visit into the Utilidor) and the "Gardens of the World" tour that goes through the gardens of World Showcase. I've not yet taken the Steam Trains or the Animal Kingdom tours, but they both look good too. And to answer Heather's original question, YES, they are definately worth the cost!)

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Q.

Marlene asks: I have been looking for discount information for teachers for Walt Disney World.

A.

Marlene,

I'm not aware of any special discounts specifically for teachers.

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Q.

Julie asks: What is the best age to take a child to Disney World? We want to be able to ride ALL the rides. What are the height restrictions?

A.

Julie,

Personally, I don't think there is a bad age to take kids! I only have a five and a two year old, and both have been to WDW several times each already. Allan, in fact, first visited when he was only 3 1/2 weeks old!

In MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide 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.

I'd also suggest that you go to this page, and look over the section that is headed, "Planning Your Day." The ideas there apply to everyone, but they're especially helpful for families -- like yours -- with young children. The basic premise is to take your days in the parks in chunks of time. Don't go into the parks like "Disney commandos" from morning to night!!!! I'll let you read those pages for the details. It really does make sense. :)

Finally, other specific pages that you may find helpful include:

One page has all of the age and height restrictions that you asked about. Another describes the "fear factors" that kids may deal with on some attractions.

And finally, this page, that explains how to use the "baby swap" that allows adults and older kids to ride attractions by taking turns while the rest of the party stays with the younger ones (and only the first group needs to wait through the queue!).

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Q.

Steve writes to ask: Brian, thanks for all the great info on your web site. My wife and I are quickly becoming "Disney nuts" and have found your site to be the best there is. I do have one question for you that I haven't been able to find an answer to anywhere.

For our next trip, we plan on staying at the Boardwalk Villas for 5 nights and the All-Stars for two (we'll be at the All-Stars the first and last nights of vacation). Will Disney arrange to have our luggage transported from the All-Stars to the Boardwalk and then back to the All-Stars at the end of the trip or do we need to have the luggage moved ourselves? We're debating on whether to rent a car or use Tiffany Town Car for this trip, and if we have to move our own luggage, the rental car would definitely be worth the extra $$. Thanks!

A.

Steve,

The short answer to your question is yes, Disney's bell services folks will help you out so that you don't need personal transportation from one resort to the other to move your belongings back and forth.

However, be aware that you'll have to lug your own stuff to the bell services folks at the All Star Resorts as bell services there does NOT offer drop and and pick up directly to your room.

If you can avoid a switch of resorts, I'd strongly suggest it. It's just such a pain to have to deal with that move in the middle of the trip, I'd recommend against it. At the least, I'd try to switch up the reservations to set yourself up for only a single move rather than the two.

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Q.

Neil writes: Brian, My youngest daughter, 3 years old, has seizures. She is on a strict diet, called a "ketogenic diet." One which requires that we weigh all her food on a scale to 0.1 gram accuracy. We will need to prepare all her meals and bring them with us to the parks. It is difficult for her to be around when others are feasting. Excessive heat has been a trigger for her seizures. I have four older children, too ages 5 to 13.

We are new DVC members and are planning our next trip, dates uncertain. We will be staying in a DVC two-bedroom. We'd like to plan a trip that allows all our kids, the 3 year old included, to have a great time.

Does Disney World provide assistance and recommendations to guests with such issues? Would there be a place in the parks to heat her meals? Would they be willing to keep her food refrigerated in the park while we tour?

Also, we were thinking about a trip in early June next year, but is that the traditional "gay week?"

A.

Neil,

I'm going to copy a few other MousePlanet staffers as they may have additional information to add to what I say.

First, to answer your specific question, there is a baby care center and first aid center in each of the parks that would be very happy to provide the help you need to store and reheat any specially prepared meals. Just make the baby care center the first stop of your day at the parks and make those arrangements. It won't be difficult at all. There's a page that gives more information on the baby care centers (including pictures of the facilities).

You'll also enjoy the kitchen facilities in the two-bedroom vacation homes at the DVC resorts for meal preparation. It won't be too much removed from being at home (except for that scale that you'll have to bring along).

An alternative that you may want to consider is to actually have the WDW restaurants help you out. By planning ahead, special arrangements can be made at any WDW restaurant. You'll find the various restaurant chefs amazingly helpful, but you'll have to call ahead (at least 24 hours) and make those arrangements.

I'd recommend that you read Lani Teshima's article on vegetarian dining as it covers some of the same issues. I know that your situation is one of medical necessity, rather than a personal food preference, but the ways to handle a special diet are covered in that piece pretty well.

(Editor's Note: I missed Neil's question about the annual "Gay Day" event... Neil, if you're out there, that special event is held during the first weekend of June, and participants are likely to be at WDW for the two weeks straddling that weekend.)

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Q.

Mashelle writes: Brian, I belive that trip packages are the way to go. My sister brother in law and I are going to WDW this august. We paid $4,573 for a five night stay at Port Orleans with air fare and a shuttle to WDW from the air port and back again. We also have a three night disney cruise. I will be doing a trip report when i get back.

A.

Mashelle,

If you're going to take advantage of all of the add-ons that the package offer, I would agree. However, for just accommodations, airfare, and park admission the economics clearly show that an ala carte approach is much better financially.

I'll be looking forward to that report! :)

Q.

Shon writes: Brian, I just got done reading your notes from 7/22. As always I find yet another bit of information to file away for my upcoming trip in September.

My question has to do with park hours and E-Ride Nights. I have gotten the official schedule of park hours for September from the Disney Website (and might I add that some of them are very short - that sucks) but I have seen nothing posted yet about E-Ride night schedules. I know that most schedules are out approximately 2 months early. Have you seen the September Schedule for E-Ride nights?

Thanks again for all the information you have on the site, and look forward to a very long trip report after I get back.

A.

Shon,

I've actually been hearing rumors that there may not be any E-Ride nights for late August and September. We'll have to see how things go through mid-August, I'm afraid, before we can really expect WDW to schedule more E-Ride nights.

And about that trip report... I will.

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Q.

Matt asks: Brian, My wife and I own DVC points and often stay at Old Key West Resort. In the past we've liked to frequent the now closed Bonfamille's at Port Orleans French Quarter for dinner. They had pretty decent cajun food and some good drink specials. Now that this restaurant is closed and the resort went through a semi-lengthy shut-down and re-furb, what happened to the actual physical space where Bonfamille's used to be? Did they expand the adjacent lounge? Just curious. Thanks.

A.

Matt,

The last time I was there was before the most recent refurbishment of the resort (while it was closed for several months). As of that time, though, the space that used to be Bonfamille's still existed, but was used only for special group events and so on (like Ariel's at the Beach Club). I don't know if that has changed with the recent work.

(Editor's Note: I even called Port Orleans French Quarter to ask, but the operator didn't know the answer to my question, I assume she was actually at a central switchboard and not at Port Orleans at all. When I was connected to guest relations at the French Quarter, the cast member that took my call didn't understand my question either. She waved me off with the comment, "oh, that restaurant (Bonfamilles) closed long before I started working here." So, can anyone out there answer the question?)

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Q.

Darleen asks: We are planning a trip for late October and I need to know the difference in hook-ups at the campground. We have a pop-up & need only water & electricity.

A.

Darleen,

This page has that information. All of the sites at the campground have a paved drive, a picnic table, grill, electricity, and city water.

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Q.

Ray updates us with the following information on park hours in late August: Two follow up points to my previous e-mails.

The executive offices of WDW called me on Saturday. Bottom line - Disney has received a number of complaints on the hours as well as the fact that the August hours were officially posted so late in June. They admit that the late posting of hours is a mistake and they are working on posting operating hours much sooner.

I rearranged some of my priority seatings today. Spoke with one of the sweetest Cast Members. She indicated that Cast Members have received a memo that the MK is closing at 6:00 pm from 8/25 though 8/29 for some "major refurbishing." She said that there was no indication that any additional attraction closings, but she was pretty sure there is no chance of extra hours being added or any e-nights. In fact, she noted that there is at least one week in September with the same scenario.

Thanks for your time.

A.

Thanks for the update, Ray.

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Q.

Wendy writes: Hi Brian ! I am wondering what the crowd levels might be like in late September. We went in mid June and NEVER AGAIN ! Wow, I had been to Disney before but not in June. Even though I had read about all the Disney Guides, checked several sites (including this) but I was not prepared for the (wow) crowds. I never realized how many people live in this world. It also opened up and poured every day we were there. I had several blisters, but thank God my kids didn't. We stayed at the Ft. Wilderness Cabins and found them absolutely perfect. Lots of room to stretch out. In September we are staying at the All Star Music. I've stayed at the Movies and found it just as good as the Cabins, but of course less room to move about. However, there are good things about the All Stars, mainly the value.

But my question was about the crowd level. Thanks for the great site you provide and all the answers you give to the many many many questions asked . I am sure that some one else has asked the same question I did. Thanks for answering!!

A.

Wendy,

You'll find crowd levels in late September to be much lower than in June. You'll also find that the weather is a bit less severe, too. I'd suggest you read through the information on this page, as it has that kind of information about all different times of the year.

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Q.

Kevin writes: Brian, I have great news. I just found out my wife is pregant and my baby will have its first trip to Disney World before it is even born. Lucky duck. Anyway we are going the third week of September, which will make my wife 2 months pregnant.

Do you have any tips to make the trop comfortable for both of us? She has accepted that she won't be able to ride Space Mountain or Big Thunder but she is still set on riding Splash Mountain (her favorite ride). The doctor seemed to think it was OK so we'll do it.

Wanted to pick your brain of infinite Disney wisdom. :)

A.

Kevin,

Congratulations! That is great news... but we can't really count time at WDW for an unborn child. The little one will just have to wait until after the birthday to start counting. ;)

At two months, I don't really think there would be any problems at all as long as your wife isn't dealing with a lot of morning sickness and such. If so, you're going to have a long trip (as is she, of course).

I'm glad you're planning to follow the doctor's advice (and Disney's warnings) about attractions. No sense in taking unnessary risks!

If you've read my column (or my WDW Trip Planning Guide) for any length of time you probably know that I'm a strong proponent of the daily afternoon breaks. If not, I'd suggest that you go to this page, and look over the section that is headed, "Planning Your Day." The ideas there apply to everyone, but they're especially helpful if anyone in your party has a need for rest... and I would suspect that an expecting mother would qualify for that. The basic premise is to take your days in the parks in chunks of time and take a mid-day break.

Adrienne Krock's column, Parenting in the Parks, is almost completely focused on Disneyland... but much of what she shares can be applied to Walt Disney World as well. When I forwarded Kevin's note to her, Adrienne responded with the following additional information:

My primary concern is how your wife will be feeling at 2 months. If she's going to be two months pregnant then, she's barely pregnant now, right? Based on my three pregnancies, I found that the 2-month mark is when my progesterone poisoning was starting to get bad. (also known as morning sickness but really, 4 pm was the worst time of day for me and for many other women so that whole "morning" idea is just silly,) In fact, I had forgotten this with my younger son and was just starting to think his pregnancy might be easier when, bam! It hit me.

I took a trip around this time of year with my first pregnancy and the biggest challenge for me was the heat and the "sickness." I'm going to strongly support Brian's Take A Break plan. Your wife should try to drink lots of water to stay hydrated and you should be prepared that you may end up taking the trip slower than you might otherwise expect.

As Brian mentioned, I did write an article about visiting Disneyland when pregnant. It can apply to Walt Disney World, too. I see that your wife plans to ride Splash Mountain. I will warn you before you read my article: I'm a strong supporter of not riding and "forbidden" rides when pregnant and my article does detail some of the medical complications that can result from ignoring those warnings. I see you have discussed this with your doctor and, obviously, you and your wife have to make the choice that is best for you. But I wanted to alert you to that before you read the article.

Have a great time!

Adrienne Krock

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Q.

Rob writes: Brian, I am hoping you can help me out. I will be traveling to WDW for for seven night in May on 2003, then another 6 or seven night in February of 2004. I think that the Annual Pass would be the best bet for me, since I have two young kids, 4 and 2, who want to do the theme parks, and have no need for all the extras with the Ultimate Hopper pass that comes with a package. We have always stayed at the Contemporary Tower for the convenience of the place, plus my four-year old insists on the hotel now having a monorail run through it (I guess it's not WDW to him without this special feature).

On my previous seven trips, I have always used the Resort Magic Package, and have been happy. But on both of these upcoming trips, a different set of grandparents will be coming along for the fun. Would my Annual Pass perks help them out on the cost? I guess my question really is: How much better of a deal is the Annual Pass (i.e. how much do I save on room rates?) vs. a park hopper admission for the length of stay? I have looked at Mousesavers.com and found excellent information, but not knowing what the Annual Pass room rate is makes it difficult for me to decide what to do for others in the party. I have talked to a representative from Disney Travel Co. who leads me to believe that the Annual Pass is not the way to go. (I think she just wants to sell the package since they make more money off of it). She also mentioned that Disney is looking at changing the Annual Pass to a calendar year, rather than one year from first use.

A second question I have is this: On our trip in May, both of my children will get to celebrate their birthdays at WDW (on the 7th and 10th). My daughter will be turning three, which means she will need a park admission at that point. Will I need to buy her admission for a couple days, or will, as you've mentioned before, Disney upgrade her?

Thanks for any help, pointers, tips, etc. you gave me on this. Like I mentioned before, I have been to WDW many times, but this is the first time the schedule is such that the Annual Pass looks like a valid option for me. I love your column, and enjoy reliving so many of my Disney experiences through it.

A.

Rob,

Regarding the value of the admission media alone, you'll note that the cross-over point (where the Annual Pass is less costly per day than the Ultimate Park Hopper) is just about seven days. For that reason alone, I think the Annual Pass is the way to go since you don't plan to use the extra perks anyway.

You'll very likely get very good Annual Pass room rates in February, as that is one of the prime times of the year for Annual Pass discounts. However, in May you're not as likely to get an awesome discount (although you very well may get something).

Disney's policy on kids that go from a child's ticket to an adult ticket (i.e. that go from 9 to 10) can get a free upgrade to their existing ticket. Since your three-year-old is going from not needing a ticket, I wouldn't say that giving you a free ticket for her would be an "upgrade." Rather, it would be a free ticket! I'll have to check into that issue, and I'll let you know what I find out as soon as I can.

Later...

Rob,

A follow-up to your question about your daughter's birthday (from 2 to 3), I've checked with guest relations. It was a split decision by the jury. :)

  1. The conservative answer is that you really should plan on buying tickets to cover those days after the birthday. The thought there is that "Disney doesn't penalize kids for growing up" means that children's passes can be upgraded to adult passes... not that kids can forever go to WDW for free (because when would any of us need to buy tickets in that case? ;)
  2. The alternative thought was that your daughter came to WDW at the age of two, so she's free for the duration.

I leave it to you to decide what you should do. It's certainly a perplexing issue, isn't it? :)

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Q.

Stephen writes: Hi Brian, do you know if Nestle has resigned their agreement to continue to sponsor the Land pavillion at Epcot? I noticed their coming up quickly on their 10 years of doing so, and most sponsors seem to either re-new or dump their contract. Thanks, and keep up the great work.

A.

Stephen,

Yep, those are the two options they have. :)

I don't know the status of the Nestle contract, though.

Q.

George asks: Brian, thanks for the great web site!

Our family booked a WDW trip (our first!), leaving San Diego, CA in mid-August, for 7 days 6 nights.

We booked a room (me, the wife and our 11 year old girl) for the Caribbean Beach Resort. After doing research on your site, we are having second thoughts on the Caribbean.

We are concerned about travel (the bus) from the Carib to MK. We hear that it is going to be very crowded and hot!

Should we select a different resort, such as the Contemporary or Polynesian to be on the Monorail line to the park? We will not be renting a car, would like to stay on property for the complete WDW experience.

Not sure when (or if) we will travel back to WDW, so we want to make this trip as special and comfortable as possible. We don't have an unlimited budget, but would be able to 'step up' from the Carib if another resort would work best for us.

What would you suggest?

Thanks in advance for your help.

A.

George,

You've defined the issue well. I don't know how tight your budget really is, but the upgrade from Carribean Beach Resort to any of the monorail resorts is a big leap (both in price, and amenities). If you can swing it, I'd say go for the upgrade... but if upgrading would make you severely pull back on other parts of the budget, I'd stick with the moderate and deal with the buses (personally, I don't have a problem with the buses... I ride them all the time!)

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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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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