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Brian Bennett

Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

8/19/02

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This week I present (in the immortal words of Monty Python's Flying Circus) "something completely different."

Below, I've posed a trip planning scenario. Your assignment is to read through the situation, then either answer the questions I've posed, provide suggestions, or put together an entire trip itinerary if you'd like.

In the September 9th edition of Notes From the World, I'll reiterate the scenario and then share both my thoughts and the responses that were sent in. I will also capture the information in a new page of the Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide so folks can refer to it later.

If the response is good, I'll come up with another scenario for next month and we'll do it again.

Here's the scenario:

23 year old "Kevin" and 23 year old "Melissa" are getting married on the first Saturday in March next year. They would like to have their honeymoon at Walt Disney World. Kevin is an enlisted man in the U. S. Army. He has never been to Walt Disney World, but really wants to visit because his family had a great trip when he was in basic training last year. Melissa has just finished college with a business degree. She has been to Walt Disney World once, with her family, about five years ago. They would like to arrive in Orlando on Sunday, flying in via commercial airline early afternoon. They need to leave Orlando the following Sunday. Kevin has budgeted $3500 for the trip, but as newlyweds, they really would like to whittle that down as much as possible. Questions:

  • Where should Kevin and Melissa stay? They would like to stay on-site. A romantic resort is preferred. They were planning on spending a couple of hundred dollars a night, but anything they can save can pay for setting up their new household.
  • What do you suggest about ground transportation? Is a rental car necessary or is a shuttle service preferred? What company do you recommend in either case?
  • What do you suggest Kevin and Melissa do for admission media?
  • Melissa would like to see Universal Studios. What do you suggest on how to get there or even whether or not that is a good idea?
  • Do you have any suggestions about attractions, restaurants, or activities that Kevin and Melissa should consider?
  • What other ideas do you have about how to make this honeymoon a special trip?

I've already gotten this question from Sean: Brian, You didn't say where Kevin and Melissa would be flying from and if they are flying back to the same location. To me, this affects the planningespecially since I live in California and it is not a quick flight.

Sean,

For purposes of our discussion, assume that Kevin and Melissa are flying commercial airlines to and from Michigan before returning to the West coast after the honeymoon.

Let the trip planning begin! You can send me any feedback at brian@mouseplanet. com.

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...

Michelle writes: Hi Brian! I just read your most recent reader feedback column and I have a few comments regarding luggage service at the All Star Resorts. You said in your column "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."

My husband and I have stayed at the All Stars a total of 4 times (Movies 3 times, Music 1 time) and found that yes, luggage services will pick up and deliver your luggage directly to your room.

During our second stay at All Stars we spent one night at Music (January 2001) and then switched over to Movies. On the morning of check out at Music we called luggage services and arranged for them to pick up our luggage for the switch to Movies. The Cast Member on the phone informed me that I didn't even have to be in the room for the pick up. So we just left the luggage by the door, along with a tip, and walked over to Movies to check in before heading out to the parks for the day.

Later that afternoon we called Movies from the parks, received our room assignment and was told that our luggage would be waiting in the room for us. And indeed it was! We have had similar experiences regarding luggage service during all of our stays at the All Stars, our most recent being December 2001. Perhaps policies have changed since then??

and Carol writes: Unless things have changed in the last year, All-Stars Bell Services does pick up and deliver your luggage. We have always arrived at All-Stars, left our luggage with Bell Services and it was in our room when we came back later that night.

If you call them the night before, and leave your luggage by the door as you leave, they will pick up your luggage while you are out.

Thank you both! Clearly you've had more experience at the All Star Resorts than I have. I should have done a bit more research before I answered that question.

Michelle (a different one this time) shares this information about the CBR shutdown: Thanks for such an informative site!!! I just thought I'd fill you in on my experience with the Caribbean Beach closing. I called WDW with another question and inadvertently found out the resort was closing. We booked our stay at CB with AAA and Disney told me to call there. AAA said WDW offered 4 options: transfer to Port Orleans for no charge; go to Animal Kingdom or Wilderness Lodge for only $10 a night more OR Polynesian or Savannah View Animal Kingdom for only $20 a night more. I don't think that's such a bad deal. In fact, I'm thrilled to be staying at Polynesian for almost the same cost as Caribbean Beach. I just thought I'd pass along some of the options I heard.

Thanks Michelle!

James writes: Hello Brian, I'm an avid reader and really appreciate all you do for us Disneyfied folks.

I thought I'd forward this message I sent to guest communications. The goal of the letter was to demonstrate to the powers that be how the elimination of Early Entry could have a significant negative impact on WDW's bottom line in the years to come.

Dear Sirs,

About a year ago my wife, 4 year old boy and I booked a 7 night stay at the Grand Floridian for 9/18-9/26 2002 with a 3 day cruise on the DCL Wonder to immediately follow. We did so with the not unreasonable expectation that we would be able to take advantage of the Early Entry benefit offered to WDW resort guests. This was a very important factor in our choice to spend an exhorbitant amount of money to stay, shop and dine "on property".

It now appears that the Early Entry program has been terminated for good in favor of some kind of character meet and greet. We personally have no need, want or desire to experience such character encounters and are very upset that we will not get to enter the parks early as expected.

This trip was to be a combination 10th wedding anniversary / honeymoon-we-never-had celebration. I have to say that to experience a huge disapointment like this even before we embark is not putting us in the right frame of mind to enjoy a trip that we've budgeted over $11,000 for.

Please consider this email a complaint to be registered with whomever determines which guest programs are maintained/terminated and the resultant satisfaction levels associated with such changes.

As a result of the Early Entry program's termination, I expect to make significant changes to my future Walt Disney World vacation spending plans. These changes will eliminate much of my "on site" lodging, shopping and dining. Such changes could potentially cost the Walt Disney Company tens of thousands of dollars in future revenue.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

Two days later I received a phone call from Mr. Thomas Haas (sic) from the "Disney Executive Department".

Mr Haas apologized profusley and told me that my letter had indeed been forwarded to the group responsible for such decisions. He also made mention that the Early Entry program was not very popular in their surveys and that "the numbers don't lie". I was was quick to counter that while casual WDW guests may not have had much feeling one way or another the knowledgeable repeat customers, who are so important to the World's profitability, my have a lessened incentive to stay, shop and dine on property. Additionally, I informed Mr Haas that as a new Disney shareholder (due to the great stock price) I don't want the most valuable of Disney customers to have any reason not to spend every dime they budgeted in on-property parks, hotels and restaraunts. I stressed to Thomas that great care should be taken to avoid saving thousands of dollars now at a cost of tens of thousands later.

Mr Haas stated that he appreciated the feedback and would pass the information along. I then reminded him that while numbers don't lie they often don't tell the whole truth. He agreed.

Keep up the great work and keep an eye out for a GFRS/DCL trip report in early October.

Thanks, James. Hopefully the Disney folks will start to listen. I'll be looking forward to that trip report, too. :)

Another MousePlanet reader writes: Hi Brian,

First, I want to say that I have become an avid reader of your notes from the world. You, your contributors and readers keep up the great work!

In response to Alan's follow-up in your 8/12 column:

"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."

Some startling attendance figures are given in this recent Newsweek article:

Although, as with every news article you must read between the lines...

True.

Remember when the national debate on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was going on? Ross Perot said that there would be a "giant sucking sound" from all the jobs that would head to Mexico... Looks like Mr. Perot's giant sucking sound might actually be from former WDW visitors heading North on I-4 from WDW to Universal and Sea World.

Kathleen asks: Brian, I heard that as of this past weekend there will be no more religious service at Luau Cove. Do you have any idea why? My parents are church goers and this made it easier on them not to have to leave property to go to church.

Thanks, and keep up the good work, its a great site.

On the same issue, Bob writes: Brian, This makes no sense at all. Why would WDW send people outside of WDW? Now, instead of spending money at the Polynesian's shops and restaurants, people will spend their money at Denny's and Wal-Mart (or whatever).

I can only assume that there is some cost in hosting the Mass at Luau Cove that can be eliminated. Also, it's very possible that the number of people that were taking advantage of the Luau Cove Mass may have dropped significantly in the last twenty years or so. That being the case, there just might not have been the demand to continue it.

Personally, I don't have a problem with going offsite for church. I've been doing that myself anyway, since I'm Baptist and WDW didn't have a service onsite that catered to me. I've found that Bible Baptist Church, way to the East along 192, is a great place for me and my family.

For you, though, I certainly see the cutback as being a pain.

Dana writes: Brian, George had a question about how using the Disney Bus System would affect their stay while at the Caribbean Beach Resort. My daughter and I stayed at the CBR in the middle of June (by the way, I was in such a blissful state that I never noticed that it was crowded, of course we were mostly there as early as possible). We drove from Kentucky to Florida and once I parked at the CBR, I NEVER moved my car until we left on our departure day. We went to the Magic Kingdom five times while we were there (once just to ride the monorail on our arrival day, twice in the early mornings, and twice in the early evenings). Every time we were waiting for a bus, the Magic Kingdom buses were practically on top of each other there were so many!!

We really only waiting more than 10 minutes on a bus twice our entire stay (once was going to downtown disney and the other going to MGM). I just wanted to reassure George that the CBR is in a nicely central location and we didn't seem to be on any bus a lot longer than others. We loved the CBR and our room was perfect (Martinique building), as close as possible to a bus stop, the main pool and the food court. I would love to go back.

But I would agree with you in that if you can swing it, move up to a monorail resort. My heart almost gave out once I found out that you can actually WALK to the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary Resort, that's definitely where I'll stay next as the Magic Kingdom is my favorite park!!

Just my humble opinion!! Love your site and can't wait each for each Monday when you post your notes.

Thanks for your note, Dana. I can't agree with you more! :)

Jamie writes: Brian first and foremost I would like to thanks you for the web site I love it. I've learned much and hope to be able to use some tips on my next trip. I also have great plans about sending in a trip report also.

Second I would like to comment on the quote below from one of your readers.

"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."

I do believe that this reader is a little wrong on the time frame for the Ultimate Park Hopper pass.

The pass is good from the minute you check-in till the end of the day you check-out

I've used this pass in the past and never had it stop when I check-out.

on the same topic, Chris writes: Unless something has changed since May 2000 this is not true. You can use the pass for the entire day of check out.

For example: My wife and I had a shuttle coming to get us at 5:00pm to take us back to the airport. We checked out of the hotel at about 11am had the Bell Desk hold our luggage and went to the parks until about 4:00pm. We then returned to the hotel, picked up our luggage and met the shuttle (yes - we had asked before doing this).

Thanks for a great site!

and finally, Jennifer adds: Hey, Brian--love the site! I don't know what we would have done without the many tips we have picked up on your site. We leave in 45 days (and counting!)

I have to take issue though with a tip a reader shared in the 8/12 Notes From the World...

According to our travel agent -- a Disney Specialist -- this is totally incorrect. Length of Stay passes expire at midnight the day you check out. She told us that she always checks out, stores her luggage with her resort, and spends the entire day in the park, which is what we plan to do.

Thanks again! --Jennifer

P.S. Thank you for not being ashamed to be counted as a Christian! I enjoyed your article on the boycott.

Doh, doh, doh...

I meant to comment on that statement before publication. You all caught that I'd forgotten to do so. I'm sure that the reader that sent that information was referring to the pass being unusable for future use, not for the balance of that stay. However, you are all quite correct. LOS passes are good for the entire day of checkin and the entire day of checkout.

On another topic, I got several notes on the issue of teacher perks at Walt Disney World...

Kevin writes: Hi Brian, Love your updates. I am a big Disney Fan and have been many times from Massachusetts. I am writing to you about your notes from 8/12/02. In it Marlene asked about special Discounts for Teachers. My mother is a Teacher in Massachusetts. Unless things have change, or if it is just specific to Massachusetts teachers, she gets into Epcot for free. So this could definitely save some money if you plan Epcot as one day and do not park hop. I do believe this is for every teacher. Only thing she had to do was show proof of her being a teacher and she was let in. I would still Call Disney just to make sure since they are changing everything day by day. Hope this helps.

Kevin,

There is no free entrance to Epcot for teachers. Although that may have been true at one time (and I faintly remember that back when Epcot had the old teacher center in the Communicore it may have been), it isn't any longer. Just to be sure, I called WDW and asked... and was able to confirm that I'm correct on that one.

Donald writes: Hi Brian, Marlene asked if there are any teachers discounts available at WDW. About two years ago either the Swan or the Dolphin started offering discounted rates for teachers. She should check it out and see if the rates are still offered. I believe they were still being offered about 6 months ago.

Wendy adds: Today in your mouseplanet article you told Marlene there was not teacher discounts at WDW - well there are!! Swan and Dolphin hotels offer great rates to teachers - I think this year the nightly rate for a standard room is $129 + tax. Last year they advertised it and made a mistake and I got to stay for $99 + tax for 4 nights!! We had a great stay at a wonderful resort - they may not be Disney owned but we didn't miss out on anything and the location is awesome.

Deborah shared this information: Brian, I am writing in regards to a question you had on today's notes from the world. (I'm on vacation in Florida and am sending you this message from my parent's computer so you don't have to respond.) There are special discounts for teachers listed on Affordable Disney's website and I also think they discuss them on mousesavers.com. Thought you may want to pass this along to the reader who wrote in about that.

Thanks for the note, Deborah. I checked both sites and, as you say, they both "mention" teacher discounts... but neither provide any specifics. (Other than MouseSavers giving information on the Swan/Dolphin room discount.)

If anyone knows anything more, please let me know!

On the issue of having an upscale, priviledged park pass, Lori writes: While I realize this may be considered beating a dead horse, I had to write you about this. In response to Stephan's comments against a "premium pass" type of set-up at Disneyland, you wrote:

"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."

But don't you see that offering a pass at an extra cost that would enable people to skip to the front of every line does exactly what you said would make you unhappy? By offering a select number of people the opportunity to avoid all lines, Disney would then downgrade the level of service experienced by the rest of the guests who could not afford to pay for this extra "perk." Instead of it being a first-come, first-serve system that's fair to everyone (anyone can use FastPass and can arrive at the park whenever they feel like it to start obtaining them), it would become a case of the haves going on any ride they chose and the have-nots required to choose which rides they wanted to experience in a limited amount of time, since all of the wait times would likely increase due to people with premium passes repeatedly riding.

I really don't see how a premium pass designed to give folks a Go TO The Head of the Class Card could be a positive thing, and I don't think it's comparable to, say, paying extra for the dessert buffet and Fantasmic viewing at the Art Gallery. People are able to view Fantasmic from wherever they choose, and they can stake out some great spots with a little patience, but a premium pass would be patently unfair. Frankly, I would feel ripped-off and bitter if I saw those with premium passes flying to the front of every line while I worked the FastPass system and patiently waited in the ever-increasing standby line.

Lori,

You make your case very well. :)

I guess my assumption was that very few people would actually opt to pay for such a premium pass, and that their effect on me personally would be minimal.

Certainly if a sizable portion of park visitors opted to buy the upscale pass, it would be detrimental to the typical visitor.

Martin shares this tip: For those interested in hidden mickeys, if you ask at guest relations they will give you a handout that lists many of the hidden Mickeys in all four parks. They are all over the place.

Thanks Martin. I'll share that in the column ASAP.

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

Q.

A while back, I was asked by a reader what to do about admission media for a two year old that actually was turning three during the trip. It's a good question. Here's the dilemma...

A few weeks ago, I quoted a MousePlanet reader as saying, "Disney doesn't charge kids for growing up. " However, that statement was made in reference to a nine-year-old continuing to use their admission media until it's used up, even after they turn ten. In that case, money was appropriately paid for admission media. No upgrade fee was required when that nine-year-old turned ten.

However, a two-year-old doesn't need admission media at all, since children two and under get into the parks for free. Effectively, then, not requiring admission media to be purchased means that the child is getting into the park for free when they should have had to pay at least a child's admission. If the concept that "Disney doesn't charge kids for growing up" was applied here, it would mean, by extension, that none of us would ever need to buy tickets. ;)

So, what should a parent do?I asked a couple of cast members and, ironically, got two different answers. Here they are:

Cast Member #1: The parents shouldn't say anything about the birthday and just say that their child is two.

Cast Member #2: The correct answer -- the parent should buy the child a ticket. But is anyone at the park entrance going to ask for proof of age during the trip? Probably not. Another way to look at it is, "since the child started at age 2, they are age two for a trip. " If you think about it, that matches up with the policy of a nine year old, perhaps having an annual pass, not needing an adult pass (even after their birthday) until the next time they purchase admission media. Disney doesn't charge them for "growing up" until the next time a ticket is purchased.

A.

Personally, I would never lie about the age of my child. However, if I purchased admission media for my nine-year-old, I would not have any qualms in using that admission media until it was used up.

There is still a bit of a dillema, though. What if I buy a multi-day pass for my nine-year-old, and that "child" doesn't return for many years -- at the age of twenty-something, let's say. Certainly, the idea of an adult using that children's admission is far-fetched. In that case, it would be best, I think, to take the admission media to Guest Relations to apply the value remaining on those passes to new adult media.

So, I hereby leave the issue to those folks that are better educated in moral ethics than I.

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Debbie writes: Hi Brian, My family and I just got back from our latest Disney trip and it was great! I saw how alot of people on your web site have been disappointed with their Disney trip and I wanted to share our magic highlights with everyone. We (my husband, 2 sons, & myself) stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort just a couple of weeks ago.

We had the room I requested from the room controller, Jamaica #45 waterfront. The room was very clean and housekeeping was great. They even made animals out of our wash cloths for extra magic!

We had two character breakfasts during our visit. First, Chef Mickey where we celebrated our sons 5th birthday. Our waitress brought him a birthday button and a signed placemat. Mickey and gang did the napkin twirl around him. Very special! Second was Pooh later in the week at Tony's Town Square (temporary location during the Crystal Palace rehab). The waitress brought our son a birthday card signed by all the Pooh characters and had the restaurant sing him happy birthday. My son was thrilled! We also walked right into Biergarten while at Epcot one night- no priority seating! The kids loved the show- we even danced the chicken dance on the dance floor!! Food was great at all restaurants we ate at- both fast food and sit down! Service was wonderful and friendly.

A tip about early entry- schedule a breakfast! We went into the parks early and finished breakfast in time to walk around when the park was getting ready to open. Some might say that this is a expensive way to get in early, but breakfast is the cheapest meal and you get so much, you can skip lunch or have a light and cheap snack.

Anyway, we used fast passes on the major rides. We also did all the light line rides and enjoyed the VERY CLEAN enviroment. I saw no need to complain about lack of magic on this trip. The Frontierland Band even sang Happy Birthday to my son after seeing his birthday button. We even did both the water parks for the first time!

We also watched Tampa Bay practice at Wide World Of Sports FOR FREE!!!! No charge to get into the complex or watch the practice. My husband was thrilled! We saw plenty of characters at the Studios, Magic Kingdom, & Animal Kingdom. Epcot had alot of great live entertainment. All in all-- A GREAT TRIP!! I just wanted to share this with you to let you know that people can still enjoy disney, even with all the changes and adjustments.

Thanks so much for the note, Debbie! I'll share it in my Notes From the World as soon as I can get it in!

Q.

Patricia writes: Brian - It's been a long time since I've sent you a note, but I'm trying to find your personal page that describes your Christian views and how they pertain to Disney... Do you know what I'm talking about? I wanted to share it with a friend. My family is going to Walt Disney World in December/January - after a 6 year hiatus... we live in Littleton CO and go to Disneyland every year. Hope to hear from you soon. PS: don't you live in Cleveland? I'm originally from Conneaut/Ashtabula.

A.

Patricia,

I think this is the page you're referring to.

I actually live in mid-Michigan. I was born and grew up in the Detroit area... but Cleveland is close. ;)

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Q.

Jon asks: I have just purchased a DVC resale and I am really excited about it. I was reading over the info at Deb's site and I came across a perk for DVC owners that might have changed. Deb's site says that DVC owners get free valet parking. Do you know if that is still true or was that there when valet was free to anyone? Just curious. Thanks again, you and your staff are great!

A.

Jon,

DVC owners still get free valet parking when they're staying at the same resort that they are parking at. In other words, when I stay at OKWR I can NOT get free valet parking at the Boardwalk... but when I stay at the Boardwalk (even with OKWR points), I DO get free valet parking.

Q.

and in a follow-up question, Jon asks: Ok, let me get this straight. You get free valet at your resort when you stay there, but you can't transfer that when you visit another resort like you can if you pay the regular fee? You know what I mean right? When you pay for valet for the day you have unlimited use for the day at any other resort. That doesn't apply for the DVC members? Just your resort for the stay. Just want to get that straight.

A.

Yes, you are correct.

So to clarify...

If I'm staying at the Boardwalk (that is, I'm actually being accommodated in a room using my DVC points at that resort), and I'm a DVC member (regardless of which resort is my home resort), then I get free valet parking at the Boardwalk for the duration of my stay. In that same scenario, if I drive over to the Villas at Wilderness Lodge or the Beach Club villas -- even though I'm a DVC member staying at the Boardwalk -- I can not transfer that free valet parking there. I must pay for valet parking at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge or the Beach Club villas in that case.

The free valet parking for DVC members is only for members using points for their stay and only for the resort at which they are currently staying (again, regardless of which resort is their home resort).

Q.

on the same topic, John writes: Hi Brian, In July 29th's column, Laurie asked,

"I thought I read somewhere that DVC members don't pay for valet. But if we do pay do you still tip the guy?"

and You responded:

"DVC members that are actually staying at the Boardwalk do, indeed, receive free valet parking (the same is true at Wilderness Lodge for DVC members staying there, and I would presume that the pattern holds true at the Beach Club Villas, too). All DVC members staying elsewhere have to pay the regular valet fees of $6. 00 per vehicle per day."

But really, DVC Members can valet park for free at any DVC resort that offers it, whether you are staying there or not. Just show them your DVC Membership Card. We did this on July 4th at the BCV, even though we weren't staying there.

A.

John,

You got away with it by showing your DVC membership card, but the official policy is that free valet parking is provided only to those DVC members that are staying at that particular resort.

I suspect that the valet staff don't want to ask potentially embarassing questions, so they just assume that anyone that flashes a DVC membership card is following the guidelines.

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Q.

Patricia writes: Brian, I have a question, if and when you have time...

Our trips to Disneyland always baffle friends when I tell them how much it costs - I am sometimes known as The Clearance Queen and shop 'til I drop for the lowest price. The only time we've ever stayed at a "Disney" property was 6 years ago - at the All Star Sports. The boys were only 7 & 8 then.

I'm considering "splurging" to a Moderate level. We'll be visiting my sisters in Tampa most of the time, but I plan to buy 5 day passes. We'll check in January 1, 2003 - and out on the 4th.

Of the Moderate hotels, do you have a favorite? Would you suggest a particular building? I'm thinking in terms of the best pool, since we won't be visiting any of the water parks. Do you think it's "worth it" - for the money - to stay at a moderate instead of value?

Love your site and column - I read Mouseplanet almost everyday to keep up...

A.

Patricia,

Honestly, I do think that the extra money is worth it for the moderates versus the value resorts. I wouldn't cut back on the length of a trip to upgrade accommodations, but if I could swing the upgrade -- all other things being equal, I would. I just think that the ambiance at the moderates is a very worthwhile upgrade.

Now, you asked a very specific question... which is my favorite moderate. You didn't give me any wiggle room to just let you pick based on your preferences (which I normally would have done), so here's my own favorite list:

    1. Port Orleans Riverside Resort
    2. Port Orleans French Quarter Resort
    3. Coronado Springs Resort
    4. Carribean Beach Resort

The only reason I can state is that I like the themeing best on the "old South" resorts. All four are very nice, though, and I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to stay at any one of them right now, if another theme is more to your liking.

I'd suggest that you go to this page where you can find a link to MousePlanet's "Fast Facts" pages for all of the Walt Disney World resorts. Those pages include a discussion of about room locations for each resort.

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Q.

Laura writes: First of all I love your site. Its fantastic. I'm a travel agent, and College of Disney Knowledge Graduate (specialist course for travel agents) - you have much more information on your site than I learned from that course and from a dozen trips to Disney!

We're planning a September trip to Disney with our two year old daughter (her third trip) and I had a question about character breakfasts / dinners. The prices quoted are always for adults and children 3-9, is there a charge for a two year old? Are they given their own meal? Thanks again for a wonderful site.

A.

Laura,

Thanks for the kind words about MousePlanet! I'm glad you're finding the site helpful.

Two year olds (and under) are, indeed, free at character meals. They still can eat, of course, and are provided with their own plate at the pre-plated meals. At the buffets, parents can go through the line and make selections for them without additional cost.

Q.

David writes: I have been reading Mouseplanet now for about a year and a half and I must say it is the most informative and 'honest' site on the Web. I am a Disney 'holic' and sometimes can overdefend the company when I hear and read things such as the individual that spent one day in the Magic Kingdom on the 4th of July and wondered why it was crowded and the characters didn't flock to them.

I, however, have had the advantage of visiting Walt Disney World over 15 times in the past 12 years so I am a veteran of how to plan. Although my family sometimes thinks I overplan (we do book prioritiy seating for every meal but cancel some of them) we are never disappointed because we miss something special-- or a good meal.

I have heard the same comments from others at work (where I plan many of my co-workers trips for them). I too learn something new every year-- many times on this site-- as I especially like the features on hidden treasures.

I am a DVC member, a WDCC collector, a Disney Club member and belong to a local collectors club in suburban Chicago-- and the parks can be overwhelming on a first trip.

Of course I know they would never do this, but Disney should enlist the assistance of sites such as MousePlanet when people make reservations as it would ensure they had as much fun as possible. It would surely help with repeat customers-- especially those who save for trips for years and then are lost in the World, missing most show times, and special events. I am a (former) free lance writer for collector's magazines and would love to contribute restaurant reviews after this trip. how would I go about doing this?

Keep up the outstanding work.

P.S. I rarely see positive things (or anything) about Old Key West -- but of all the DIsney DVC resorts I find it to be the best run, most relaxing of them all. If you get back into the resort around Turtle Crawl, you have your own pool, usually a golf course view and at night can see the fireworks from Downtown Disney Pleasure Island. Olivia's is outstanding with excellent food and a south Florida atmosphere. 2 years ago my wife's cousin's from Ireland met us there and the resort typified what Florida was supposed to be to them. The workers there always seem extra pleasant and in fact many have been there quite a while. Your readers that are looking to relax from the hustle of the parks should check out this resort when rentals are available.

A.

David,

Thanks so much for your note. MousePlanet now has an online review system, so feel free to provide us with as many reviews as you have time to write!

We're really excited about the review system. It's much less labor-intensive to process reviews than the old process that we finally had to abandon last Fall because of the work load.

By the way, I completely agree about Old Key West Resort. I think it's just fabulous!

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Q.

Mike writes: Dear Brian, Just read your July 29 column and, as usual, found it informative and helpful.

We are planning a trip to Walt Disney World in the first two weeks of December (which seems like a great time to go), and would really appreciate your advice on a couple of subjects.

First, do you have a personal preference between the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Wilderness Lodge? I've read the comparisons on Mouseplanet and elsewhere, and the two resorts seem to be fairly comparable in price and theming. Is there any one factor that makes one better than the other (for instance, are the transportation problems at WL sufficient to give the nod to Animal Kingdom Lodge)? Or should our decision simply be a function of which theme we find more interesting?

Second, we are inclined to book a standard room and hope for an upgrade. Do you have a sense for what chances we have for getting an upgrade at a "slow" time of year? And, can we do anything to improve those odds by, for instance, booking through Disney Club rather than the Central Reservations Office?

If it's your opinion that (i) we have little or no chance of getting an upgrade or (ii) the courtyard or savannah rooms are far superior to the standard rooms, then we may just elect to pay the extra $30 a night for the better rooms.

Third, since we will be travelling with another couple and together will have three pre-schoolers and a nine-month old (we'll have to pack extra patience), we plan to use the in-room babysitting service at least once. I would be surprised if it were otherwise, but do you find that the Disney babysitters are well-trained and do a good job of keeping the kids entertained? Thanks in advance for your advice, as well as for your great column.

A.

Mike,

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit pricier than Wilderness Lodge. I also feel that it is a little notch above Wilderness Lodge in terms of restaurant, amenities, and so on.

However, Both resorts really are fabulous! Personally, I would rather stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge over Wilderness Lodge -- but just because I've stayed at Wilderness Lodge before. If I was choosing between the two and I'd never been to either, I'd flip a coin. They're both really that good.

There's no way to judge if or when an upgrade may be available. You can always ask, but as long as plenty of accommodations are available of the type that you booked, you're most likely to get exactly what you paid for regardless of the time of year. The exception would be at the resorts with conference centers (neither of the Lodges are in that category, by the way) where high occupancy rates can occur just because of some business group that comes through. The best shot at an upgrade, in my opinion, is to visit Walt Disney World for some special occasion... a honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday... and loudly proclaim that fact. Otherwise, I wouldn't bet on it.

Unfortuately, I've never used in-room babysitters on any of my trips. I've always had family members to leave our boys with... or else just hauled the boys with us. Sorry, but I can't help on that one.

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Q.

Dan writes: Brian, I've been looking at your Walt Disney World planning guide on MousePlanet over the last few days, and I must say that I am in awe. The information that you have put together is so complete, well organized, and laced just plain common sense.

One aspect that I like is your advice to avoid the "commando mentality". I've looked at other sites and some guide books, most of which encourage this kind of attitude. You hit the nail on the head when you suggest taking one moment of your vacation at a time.

In September my family and I will be travelling from Ontario, Canada, to Walt Disney World. As a resuslt, one section of your guide that interested me was the "Road trip stops and shops". One book that I have used and will be using is Dave Hunter's, "Along I-75". If you haven't heard about it, I strongly suggest looking for it. As the title implies it is chock full of interesting and useful information for the drive.

Thanks once again for all the information, I've got to get back to it now, theres just so much!!!

A.

Thanks for your note Dan,

I've seen Mr. Hunters book in local bookstores and browsed through it, but I've not yet run out of my own ideas to make me want to buy it. :) I also scour AAA guidebooks for ideas, so AAA (or CAA for you) members may want to get those books and plan accordingly, too.

-

Q.

Bob asks: Brian, I've written you a few times before about my upcoming trip to Walt Disney World in January with my nephew (9 years old, his first time). You have always given me great advice so I thought I'd ask for your opinion on my recent quandary.

We're arriving on Thursday morning January 9th and leaving Sunday evening January 12th. I've recently discovered that's the weekend of the Walt Disney World marathon. I've paid for both the plane tickets and the resort reservations so there's no way to change the date without spending more money.

Have I just shot myself in the foot? Just how busy is Walt Disney World at that time? What is the equivalent (Christmas, Summer, Easter)? When do the Marathon people start to arrive? Basically what can I do to make the most of this trip?

A.

Bob,

You'll find that the parks are a bit busier than usual for January (which still means that it won't be bad) and that transportation disruptions (i.e. buses may drop off at different locations than normal, etc.) will occur.

I don't remember where you're staying, but the All Star Resorts tend to be very busy that weekend (the other resorts are busier than the other weekends in January, but not to the extent that the All Stars are... it seems that many marathoners stay at there because they're just seeking convienient accommodations and not looking for amenities that are focused on a traditional Walt Disney World vacation.

In short, be prepared for more people than you might have expected for January, but don't fear that your trip will be ruined because of high crowd levels.

-

Q.

Curt asks: Hi Brian, Great column!

My wife and I (no kids) have been to Disneyland multiple times, but are heading to Walt Disney World in early September for the first time (!) We are staying at the All Star Movie Resort and we were wondering if you had any information regarding shuttle services to Universal. Do such options exist from the Disney property? We asked our travel agent and she suggested taking a cab. Is Universal very far away? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance from wayyyy up in Western Canada!

A.

Curt,

Unfortunately, your travel agent is giving you pretty sound advice. You may want to call Mears, as I've heard that they will shuttle you from Walt Disney World to the Universal parks. I don't know what schedule they run or what they cost, however.

Another idea would be to rent a car for a couple of days mid-trip. There is a National Rental Car location on site at Walt Disney World, so it would be easy to pick up and drop off a car. Depending on the actual cost of a taxi or shuttle, that just might make sense.

Just to get oriented, you might want to look through the maps that are listed in MousePlanet's Disney Maps section. There are several that show the location of Universal, Sea World, and other non-Disney attractions... as well as a good orientation map of all of central Florida that may prove helpful.

Universal is about a twelve mile drive from the All Star Resorts.

-

Q.

Steph writes: I am looking to buy a fozzie bear. Someone bought one in the Magic Kingdom about 3 years ago. Can you help?

A.

Steph,

I don't know for sure, but you may find one in the Muppet Shop at the Disney/MGM Studios.

-

Q.

Michael asks: Hey Brian, I have heard some rumors of Walt Disney World possibly thinking about a new park either a Disneysea or an all-villian park. I was hoping you could comment on the valadity of these rumors and if they do happen to be true,when might they start development.

A.

Michael,

Mission: Space is due to open in the Spring of 2003.

As far as the rumors you cited about other parks, I can only say that those rumors have been bouncing around for several years now. Personally, with the huge success of Tokyo Disneyland's Disneysea, I personally think that a Florida version of that park is the most likely new park to be added to Walt Disney World. However, I also think that an addition to Animal Kingdom is a likely expansion.

We'll just have to wait and see whatever is officially announced. Until then (and even after, for that matter) everything is subject to change.

-

Q.

Jan writes: You have a great site!!!

When I was a single mom of one son I took him to Walt Disney World and have such special memories. Now I've remarried and have a huge blended family I want to share some of the magic with them. We are going next summer. We have 5 of our children going ranging in age from 10 to 21 (2 of them adults) so we are staying in the Doubletree Guest Suites.

Should we take their complimentary bus or drive to the Parks? Also, any particular suggestions on restaurants - they are past the cutesy stage so character breakfasts probably wouldn't impress them (although they would still impress me!) Any tips you can give me on traveling with such a large party would be really appreciated.

A.

Jan,

My suggestion on the bus at the Doubletree is this (and this assumes that you'll have a vehicle available to you): I would take the bus for the first day or so, and gauge how things go. If the service is acceptable, keep going with it. If not, switch. :)

Now, if the reason you're asking this question is because you are trying to decide whether or not you should arrange for a rental car or save the money by relying on the bus transportation, I'd suggest that you consider exactly what you would use that rental for. If you have plans to visit offsite attractions, then it would be worth it to have a rental. However, my own personal opinion is that Walt Disney World transportation is fine to get from the resorts to the various attractions within Walt Disney World's borders.

There are also times that it is just easier to use a personal (or rental) vehicle, but I'll leave you to read this page, and look over the sections at the very bottom that are headed, "General On-Site Transportation Issues," and "Walt Disney World Transportation Guide Charts." You'll get a good idea of what's involved in moving between the widely-spaced-out Walt Disney World facilities from those pages. (Although the bus routes for the Downtown Disney resorts is not given on those pages.)

Regarding restaurants, I don't have any specific suggestions. There aren't any restaurants that are particularly good or bad for larger groups. I would suggest that you consider making priority seating arrangements for as many meals as you can, even if you make them the same day (by calling in the morning to set them up). Walk ups to restaurants are not generally a problem, but the larger your group size, the more time you spend waiting for a larger table (or for the restaurant staff to put a couple tables together for you).

Q.

Sara writes: Dear Brian, first, let me take a moment to thank you and the other staffers at MousePlanet for all the hard work you put in each day to provide us with up-to-date information on Disney. I have been a rabid reader of Al Lutz's DIG for almost two years now, but I have recently started reading your column and all the information you provide for those traveling to the Magic Kingdom. Keep up the hard work; it is greatly appreciated!

Now to my question, and forgive me if you have covered this before. My Husband and I are traveling to Walt Disney World in late August for a very quick trip. We are staying at Port Orleans French Quarter, and will be traveling to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at Boma (with Priority Seating of course).

Because our reservations are for a late evening dinner (when everyone will be leaving the theme parks for the resorts) and recent letters you have posted indicated that the wait time for the buses can be quite long, I wanted to drive our rental car from one resort to the other.

Do you think that self-parking our car at another resort will pose a problem? Should we drive to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and valet park? This is my husband's first time to Walt Disney World (I've been going every two years since 1980), and I want to try and keep the experience as painless as possible. If my trip goes well, I'd like to find the time and submit a trip report for your archives. I know that I always learn a great deal from how others have handled the planning and execution of these trips. Also, some of them are just plain entertaining to read!

A.

Sara,

Thanks for your kind note. However, since you've asked me a question you're now completely obligated to write and send me that trip report. ;)

Anyway, you won't have any problem at all driving over to and parking at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner. There are two reasons why I say that. First, you'll be staying on-site, so you'll have a Walt Disney World resort parking pass. Second, Animal Kingdom Lodge is not a monorail resort, so the likelihood is that you won't be given any problems.

Just tell the guard at the resort gate that you're coming in for dinner, park at the self-parking area (there is plenty of room, and the walk into the resort is not far (It's pretty similar to Wilderness Lodge, if you've ever driven over there). If you'd rather use valet parking, that's fine... but that won't be at all necessary.

I've found that guards at the Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian (in that order) are the most difficult about coming into the resort to visit. Not surprisingly, I suppose those resorts have the biggest problem with folks trying to come in just to park and go over to the Magic Kingdom.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback for the Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide!  Feed free to send more questions or comments to brian@mouseplanet.com!

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Brian's Archive - Contents

I've always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added the feedback form to the site several months ago, the number of questions has increased dramatically!  I do my best to answer each and every question personally, but I've noticed that a lot of the questions are asked again and again.  The question that one person asks might very well be the question that someone else is wondering about.  Thus this page!

So...I'll post reader email and feedback every once in a while, because the question someone else asks might be the same one you're thinking about yourself!

 

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