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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

8/27/02

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This just came in this week:

Disney's US Properties Plan Low-key 9/11 Observances

(Amusement Business) -- Every domestic division of the Walt Disney Co. will observe Sept. 11 in its own way. "Company-wide, it's a huge effort," said one executive. The American Broadcasting Co. will have a special day of programming, and a jet fly-over will take place over Anaheim Stadium where Disney's Anaheim Angels play. The Disney Stores and the ESPN Zones will each have their own agendas as well. In the theme parks, various events will take place during the day to show "respect for the fallen, their families, and the thousands who have helped in the wake of the tragedy." Leslie Goodman, senior VP of strategic communications for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, said as of Aug. 13, no non-domestic Disney parks had informed her of any decision to observe the occasion. The events at the US parks are low-key and are not being promoted or advertised. "People usually come to a Disney park to escape reality. But we felt it appropriate to observe the occasion in a somber way. We want to provide an opportunity for our guests who happen to be here on Sept. 11, to show their respect," she said. Goodman said the observances would also be for the thousands of Disney employees "who have rallied to help those in need" since the tragic events. Each Disney employee will receive a special pin and certificate that day in recognition of their efforts. At press time, here are the confirmed activities:

  • All flags will be raised in the morning and will then be lowered to half-mast before the parks are open to the public.
  • At night, an enhanced flag retreat ceremony will take place on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.
  • A moment of silence will be observed park-wide, followed by patriotic music. If a national moment of silence is called for, the parks will observe it if the park is open for business at that time. If not, the parks will each have its own moment at another time during the day.
  • Show schedules at all parks will be adjusted so that all shows are silent during the moment of silence. Rides and attractions will also be dark for those few minutes.
  • The Voices of Liberty and Vybe, two musical groups at Epcot at Walt Disney World, will present a day-long program of patriotic music at the American Adventure pavilion.

Here's a rerun from last week...

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?

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...

Jim writes: Brian, In your August 19 column, Mike (who is going to WDW in December) asked if there was any major reason to pick Animal Kingdom Lodge over Wilderness Lodge. Your answer was that they are pretty much the same in theming. But there is one HUGE reason I’d pick Animal Kingdom Lodge over Wilderness Lodge and that is the animals. Yes, both lodges are beautifully detailed, both have comparable rooms (on the smallish side for deluxe resorts). But being totally immersed in the African theme at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is truly amazing. It’s the one resort where we actually spent time in our room, totally entertained by the animals. It’s wonderful to wake up each morning and look out your balcony to see what animals are visible. Ditto for the end of each day when animals often come in close to the lodge. The “Savannah” is even bathed in a special lighting at night, so as long as the animals are out (which is from early morning until late at night), you can see them. Overall, I personally think Animal Kingdom Lodge is the most beautiful and detailed resort on property, and does the best at transporting you to a different world. And, yes, it does pay to spend the extra for a Savannah view room. Although you can see animals from many public locations throughout the resort, including the lobby, it really is exciting to wake up with and go to bed with (so to speak) the animals. After staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge this past January, I really could not imagine another trip to WDW without spending a least a few nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Another thought – why not do both? Although some people cringe at the thought of changing resorts mid-vacation, this is something I’ve never minded doing at WDW as long as it’s on a trip when I have a vehicle, and we are staying enough nights where a change of theme mid-vacation is exciting, and not a chore (i.e. at least 6-7 nights). In fact, with so many resorts now on property, for those of us who only visit every couple of years, we’d never be able to experience them all without resort hopping.

Jim,

Your right, of course, about the African theme and animals making Animal Kingdom Lodge something very special.

Regarding the idea of moving from one resort to another mid-trip, I certainly don't think it's a problem for an adult group, but for a family with small kids, I'd still recommend staying put. "Transition Day," without the ability to have naps for the little ones, is a baaaad thing. ;)

Glenn asks: Brian, I can't thank you enough for your quick personal email feedback and the information you provide to your readers. My question is actually in response to the comment Debbie had in your 8/19 notes...

"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."

While I know you should mention special occasions when calling in on priority seatings, I am curious what Debbie's approach was for getting the royal treatment for her son on two occasions. We will run into the same situation when our daughter turns four during our upcoming trip.

Glenn,

I think that Debbie simply stopped in at City Hall to get a birthday sticker. Cast Members respond to those stickers like it's a golden ticket or something. :)

Paul writes: Brian, You wrote about DVC valet parking privileges and you were insistent that "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)." This is absolutely not true. It is incorrect. I suspect you will get a lot of email correcting you, but here is the source. As a DVC member you can review the issues of Vacation Magic online at the members' web site.

The Fall 2001 issue of the DVC newsletter Vacation Magic which announced the change in WDW resort valet parking charges clearly says that DVC members will NOT BE CHARGED FOR VALET PARKING at Boardwalk Villas or the Villas at Wilderness Lodge"REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY ARE STAYING." (I suspect the same holds for the Beach Club Villas now, too, though I cannot find a reference to back that up.)

Paul,

You're absolutely correct. I double checked your research.

Thanks for catching it!

On the same topic, Sandy writes: Hi Brian, In your column on 8/19/02 a question by Jon & John was raised about DVC members paying for valet services. Here is (a portion of) the official response I received from Member Services:

"Disney Vacation Club Members will not be charged for valet parking at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and Disney's Beach Club Villas regardless of where they are staying.

"Disney Vacation Club Members must show their DVC Member card or Walt Disney World Resort ID indicating that they are a "DVC Member" when leaving their vehicle to be parked in order to receive this service at no charge at either Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge or Disney's Beach Club Villas.

"Members will be charged for this service at any other valet parking operation at the Walt Disney World Resort. Whether or not you are charged to valet park, gratuities are still appropriate."

I hope that clears up the questions. In summary, a DVC member will receive valet parking for free at all DVC Resorts regardless of where they are staying but are charged at the remaining WDW resorts.

Thanks, Sandy.

A MousePlanet reader writes: Upon reading your web site, I came across a bit about the Luau Cove Sunday services being canceled indefinitely. I can't see why Disney would do this. This was one of the most beautiful of church services that I've ever been to outside of my own parish. To discontinue it means Disney has no respect for the religiously observant who often can't travel outside the property (myself, being Catholic, included). I won't know what to do if I ever do plan to visit Disney and need to fulfill my religious obligations while on vacation.

I don't know if I go so far as to say that Disney has "no respect for the religiously observant." I know you went on to say, "...who often can't travel outside the property," but it's not really Disney's responsibility to provide religious services for their guests.

I think it's been wonderful that Disney has allowed the services to be held at Luau Cove all these years, but unlike the reductions of service that have recently been implemented that infringe on the value I get for the money I've spent, I don't personally see the elimination of the service at the Polynesian as being a cutback.

There are still many, many local churches in the Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee areas that are very happy to receive guests. Perhaps a web search for churches of your faith followed by a quick call to one of them for directions would resolve your problem.

In any case, what would you do to "fulfill your religious obligations while on vacation" when you go somewhere other than Walt Disney World? You can handle things the same way, if you choose to, when you visit Central Florida.

I shared Kathleen's note last week on the Luau Cove services being discontinued:

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.

I had written her with this response, "No, I don't know why. Still, there are churches in the area that anyone can attend if they so choose."

Kathleen wrote back this week with this additional information: Brian, Thank you for answering me. My mother spoke to the Catholic Church, and they told her that for the Comfort & Safety of those attending the religious services they discontinued them at the Luau Cove. I have not heard back from Disney yet.

Keep up the Good Work!

Thanks for the note back, Kathleen.

Hmmmmm... I wonder how the "comfort and safety of those attending the religious services" could possibly have been at risk... especially since I know of no injuries or fatalities of guests that have gone to the services over the years.

In any case, I still feel strongly that anyone that wants to get to church during their trip can make it happen. It just takes a little checking, a phone call or two, and the desire to see it through.

Shawn writes: Brian,

I was just reading your latest column. Regarding the cancellation of church services at Disney's Polynesian Resort, it is my understanding that discontinuing the weekly service was the idea of the priest / church that put it on.

Lower attendance was, most likely, the key factor in the decision. Disney was only providing a location for the gathering. It wasn't really a cost issue at all.

I hope that helps.

It does indeed. Thanks so much, Shawn!

Tim writes: I just read your column on 8/19, and have to respond! Concerning the Premium Fastpass idea, it was nice to see someone agreeing with me about extra-special privileges causing disgust for the average park visitor. Seeing people whizzing by on their way to a 3rd or 4th ride on Splash Mountain for example, would cause a lot of anger and frustration to those in line. As you know, whenever you "create" a special benefit such as this, there is bound to be abuse of the system.

One question I had about Epcot: What if anything is being done with the "millennium Village" building these days? also the Odyssey? I didn't get over to the England side of world showcase this last trip and was curious... By the way, I finally made it on to Test Track, and I loved it! (Last two trips had lightning and it was shut down when we were in Epcot).

Concerning moderate resorts, we stayed at "Riverside" a few years back and the bus stops were wonderful. They were around the back, not just at the front lobby entrance. I don't think the smaller Port Orleans had this benefit, so for that reason alone, Riverside has a slight edge.

Tim,

Thanks for your note! I agree that any new system will have drawbacks. In any case, until and unless Disney announces some new thing I think we're just getting paranoid over nothing. Let's just all hope that Disney moves forward to put fantastic new attractions in the parks and that the resulting excitement raises crowd levels to the point that something just has to be done. Then we can conjecture about it again. :)

Regarding the Millennium Village and Odyssey Center, both are used for special events now. They can be rented for groups, and they are also used for some of the special events that Disney sponsors itself (such as the Flower and Garden Festival and so on).

Thanks for your input about Test Track and Port Orleans Riverside. I agree with both of your observations!

Suzanne writes: Brian, Hi! Thought you might want to know. Steph had asked how she could go about getting a Fozzie Bear (great taste, by the way). There are two ways she can contact them.

WDW Merchandising can be sent an email at wdw.mail.order@disney.com to request an item sold in the parks. They respond Monday through Friday, and ship for a small fee. They can be reached by phone as well at 407-363-6200.

Also, a little known fact. If you're ever on the fence on purchasing an item while at WDW, buy it. Items can be returned to the nearest Disney store when you present a receipt (just not the artwork, please ;-P ).

Thought you might want to share this with the readers!

PS I never thought I'd get so many responses to my trip report. Wow!

Thanks for the help, Suzanne!

I'm glad you're getting a lot of feedback about your trip report, too. That's part of what makes it so fun to write them. :)

Carli writes: Brian, you responded to a question from a person wanting to know the best way to get from the All Star Resorts to Universal. You told her that her travel agent had given her sound advice by recommending a taxi. (To your credit, you did also mention Mears.) I would not recommend taking a cab. Cabs cost more than $30 each way (I was quoted about $36), not including tip. Mears, which picks up every hour on the half hour, costs around $12 a person--so even a family of 4 would save money taking Mears over a cab. Renting a car for the day is even cheaper.

Thanks Carli!

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

Q.

Lisa Writes: Brian, We are planning a trip to WDW with a Disney Cruise (in '04) with 3 kids.

My question is this... have you heard how the meal packages work? I see they are approximately 50 or so. They are supposed to cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Are they restricted? Has anyone tried these meal packages? Are they worth it? OR am I just crazy for thinking about them?

Be kind...

A.

Lisa,

Be Kind? I'm always kind! (OK, except when I get a bit sarcastic...)

Anyway, I'm not sure exactly what meal package you're referring to. There is a meal package that provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner credits. You pay approximately $50.00 per day (for every day of your trip) per person up front (which is why I think this is the plan you might be referring to) and you receive a credit of $55.00 towards your meals. Anything you spend beyond that $55.00 is charged back to you, though. The only way you can make a deal like that work is if you plan to eat at the most expensive restaurants two or three times a day every day of your trip.

Personally, I don't see the benefit as my family spends much less than that amount per day per person.

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Q.

Chris writes: Brian, first let me say your site is a great source of information.

I am planning to go to Disney in early September. I will be staying at a house with my brother-in-law and his family about 15 minutes from the parks. My question is, on Friday night, September 6th, will the Magic Kingdom be closing early to accommodate the Nights of Joy?

I am assuming it is, which means I will have to plan to do EPCOT on that, our last night there. Also, if you know, I think the Nights of Joy are also at Universal Studios that same weekend. Does that park closes early to accommodate as well?

A.

Chris,

I'm not familiar with any Night of Joy plans at Universal Studios, so you're on your own there. You're right, though, that the Magic Kingdom will be closed during the evening of the 6th and 7th of September for Night of Joy. You should expect to see the park close at 6:00p.m. both of those nights and reopen at 7:00p.m. for the hard ticketed event (special events in the parks that require separately purchased tickets are called "hard ticket events.")

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Q.

Debbie asks: What do you think the chances are of someone getting E-Ride night tickets if they check in only the day before it's scheduled?

A.

Debbie,

It's not likely that you'll have any problems. E-Ride nights seldom sell out.

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Q.

Glenn writes: Brian, First off I just wanted to let you know what a great service you all provide at MousePlanet. While I've checked a couple other Disney sites yours is the only one I check daily! Between you, Birnbaum's and Disney With Kids books you have helped me plan our trip more than I ever would have realized. Now my question, which I forgot to ask from last time I emailed you.

A while back I recall a discussion about those busy times of year when the park gets pretty full, like when we will be there at Christmas, however, I don't recall what the answer was. We are planning on taking your touring advice with an afternoon break. The question is what kind of problem might we encounter trying to return back to a full park between 4-5:00p.m.?

A.

Glenn,

Since you'll be staying on site, you won't have problems being readmitted. Offsite park visitors may experience that, unfortunately, but not onsite guests.

Q.

Following up, Glenn writes: Brian, This is my second email to you with some inquiries on our upcoming trip to Disney World in December. You were so helpful in the past I thought I'd try your expertise again. Before I ask my questions, I should mention that I sent an email to Disney just to put in my opinion on Early Entry vs. Character Caravan. I received the standard answer that it had gone away and then all the information on Character Caravan, so that was not a good way to log a complaint/preference I suppose.

Now my inquiries...

  1. We are staying at the All Star Movies and renting a refrigerator to keep my father's insulin cold. Since we're spending the money, we'd like to do some quick and inexpensive breakfasts in our room while we get ready. I know the resort has a "general store", what should we expect? We have thought about packing dry cereal, pop tarts, etc. Do they sell milk?
  2. When we booked our rooms, for $10 a day I upgraded into a "preferred reservation", which supposedly puts us closer to the front of the resort with a shorter walk to transportation buses. Now that I have read of several people calling Disney 4 days prior to arrival, and preferencing room locations, I wonder if I should have saved the money. Any thoughts?
  3. With package delivery from the parks to the resorts gone, what service is available to avoid shopping at the end of the day or carrying purchases with us?
  4. Can you tell me more about a value package that you can purchase for meals in the Animal Kingdom?
  5. We are contemplating purchasing Talkabout radios for when our group splits up. We do have cell phones and minutes and roaming costs aren't an issue since I work for a major cellular carrier. Do you have any suggestions on if the walkie talkie option is worth it?
  6. Finally, I have heard Disney has programs on the different parks from time to time but can't seem to find any info on their web site. We have the vacation video, also A Day at Disneyland, and the sing along Disneyland Fun, but would like to expose our 3 1/2 year old to Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney Studios as well.

Thanks for all your help! I will promise a trip report in early 2003!

A.

Well, Glenn, since you're built up my ego so much, I'll do my best to answer your questions. :)

The resort stores do sell milk and other staples, but be aware that the prices will be much higher than you're used to spending at home. Still, for the convenience of being able to buy it right at the resort, it's the thing to do (it will save significant time and really, with gas and so on added, it's not that expensive).

Regarding the issue of paying for preferred rooms, all I can say is that you are now guaranteed to have a room that the resort considers "best," whereas other guests that simply ask may or may not get something that meets those needs. Is the $10.00 worth it? I guess it depends on how important is is to you to get a room that is close to the main building.

Package delivery to the resorts from the parks is NOT gone. What is gone is the extra service that used to be provided at the deluxe resorts in which those packages would be delivered right to the guests room. Now all such packages must be picked up at the front desk (or other designated location) of the resort.

The value package that you asked about, called the "Meal Plus Program," is currently on a trial run. It costs $10.99 for adults and $5.99 for kids (not including tax) and the coupons you buy can only be used at that park (Animal Kingdom) and only on the day that the coupon is purchased. With each purchase, you receive three coupons. One is good for a counter service entree (or kid's meal) and beverage, the second for one snack (popcorn, ice cream, etc.), and the third for one bottled beverage in addition to the beverage that you get with your meal. (I don't know exactly when the trial will start and whether or not the trial has been sufficiently successful that it would be continued at Animal Kingdom or even expanded to the other parks.)

Regarding the rental of two-way radios... I personally think that cell phones are much superior. If you have no roaming or other fees, I think it's a no-brainer... use your phones!

I'm not sure what you meant by "special programs on the parks." There are occasional shows run on the Disney Channel (not so often now as there were a few years ago, though), and ABC (which is owned by Disney) has specials every now and then. Other than going to their web sites and doing a search, though, I don't know what else to suggest. (I would have suggested the trip planning video, but you already have it.)

Q.

And finally, Glenn dropped this note: Thanks for the quick response and the great information. The programs I referred to were exactly what you mentioned, basically Disney videos that shows the attractions. I emailed Disney and they suggested I call programming for more info. Perhaps I will.

Any idea if the new Princess breakfast will become a permanent fixture? I guess it's hard to speculate.

Secondly, when making priority seatings, I would imagine I need to call 120 days in advance from that date, and would not be able to do all my priority seatings for that week in one call. Is that correct?

A.

Glenn,

On the new Princess Breakfast, you're right... it's hard to speculate. However, speculate I will! With the long term, ongoing, and traditional success of the breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table, and the quick acceptance of the Ankershus breakfast as an alternative, I think it will be around for a long time. Of course, that's just my opinion...

Regarding the 120 day rule, you're right. What I would suggest is that you start calling right at the 120 mark for any specific meals that you know is a hot commodity (such as the character breakfasts at Cinderella's Royal Table and Crystal Palace/Tony's Town Square Cafe). Then, after you've done your best to nail down the hot ones, call in all of the others in one final call 120 days from the LAST date you need. "Regular" meals are not hard to get priority seatings for, so that will work fine in 99.9% of the cases.

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Q.

Tifany writes: Brian, I have submitted trip reports for your web site (I still owe you one from our April trip) and I wanted to ask a question in reference to DVC. We currently own a timeshare (two actually) and we can trade into Disney DVC (it will be easier for us because we don't need anything larger than a 1 bedroom). My question is, is there a particular time when the DVC resorts seem less crowded? i.e. Value Season times?

I also wanted to let you know that I have been reading your site and all of the posting about the cleanliness or lack there of cleanliness at Disney; well let me tell you in April the park looked great considering they had three weekends of Grad Nites.

I just returned from a major amusement park in Atlanta and I have a new found respect for Disney. The said amusement park will not receive my money anymore; the trash around the park was awful, the wait times were no less than 2 hours, and the prices are ridiculous. Lunch for two people (hamburger, fries, and drink) was $22.75 - I could have had lunch at Prime Time for $3 more. The filth at that park reminded me of a landfill; it was extremely dirty and very, very disgusting!

My husband commented that the whole time we were at Disney, you never had to worry about going into the rest room and coming out with something sticky or toilet paper attached to your foot.

A.

Tifany,

I'm so glad that your most recent trip went well!

I wish, since you put such a lofty statement in the subject line of this email ("Question for the wise one"), that I had a truly amazing answer for your question. However, it's really safe to say that the onsite DVC resorts (and Vero Beach, too, for that matter) really have the same occupancy patterns that the rest of WDW has. Christmas week, the two weeks straddling Easter Sunday, and mid-Summer are the high peaks. The lows are in October, early December, and mid-January through February.

Q.

Carol asks: Dear Brian, I want to start by saying I love your site! My family and I will be taking our 4th trip to Disney in a few weeks and I have found your site extremely informative and helpful.

As I am now in the process of finalizing my plans and compiling a tentative schedule for our week I have come up with a few questions I'm hoping you can help with. Here they are:

  1. First of all, since we are staying offsite we will be driving to the parks. We have done this in the past and found it to be very convenient. My question is, if we pay to park at one park and then decide to move to another would we have to pay to park again? I know we can use the Disney transportation to go from park to park, but if I could just move our car along with us it would be easier. If we can't then I have to figure out where best to leave it to begin with.
  2. My second question is also about parking. One of the days we plan to start at the Magic Kingdom then have dinner at the Contemporary and return to the Magic Kingdom. Since the only thing I HATE about the Disney experience is getting to the ticket and transportation center after the fireworks, would it be possible to park at the Contemporary when we go for dinner and leave the car there when we return to the park?
  3. Finally, a ticketing question. We have 5-day hopper plus passes. If we visit a water park using a plus option on a day that we do not visit a theme park, will we be using a day from our ticket or are the options separate from the days?

Thanks for your help!

A.

I'll do my best to answer your questions, Carol...

First off, yes, you can park at one of the parks and then move to another without paying again. Just show your receipt at the gate of the new park. In fact, you can park at all of the parks, having paid just once, on any given day if you want (although I can't see that any sane person really would want to do that).

The only way you can legally park at the Contemporary and leave your car during the day (since you're staying offsite) is to valet park your car there. The fee is the same as you would pay at the main park parking lot, so it would be the best thing for you to do, since you're eating there at the resort.

Finally, yes, the plus options and the park days are completely separate. In fact, the idea you've described is the best way to get the most value out of your pass! By breaking up your major park and water park days, you can stretch the number of days you enjoy the resort without additional cost.

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Q.

Jeff writes: Is there an area of your site that gives suggestions for couples planning a romantic trip to WDW? my girlfriend and I have never been to WDW but will be there for two nights/three days in December. Which hotels are best for romance? Which parks are best for couples? Thanks!!!

PS I LOVE your site!

A.

Jeff,

No, there isn't a page on that topic. But there should be!

Give me a couple of days, and I'll whip something up and send you the URL of the new page. I'll cover romantic hotels, restaurants, and activities.

I followed up with this note: Jeff, I've put together the page I said I would do. I hope you find the information helpful.

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Q.

Debbee writes: Brian, I just wanted to drop you a line with some bits of information I've picked up.

First - Disney Information is saying there will be no E Ride nights from August 24th through at least October 31st. While I know Disney likes to change it's mind, at least we know what they're thinking right now.

Second - Another unofficial Disney site is saying that Disney is tinkering with FP and that right now you are able to get FP 45 minutes after you get your first one. They don't know how long this will last, since I'll be there in 3 weeks I'll let you know what's going on at that time.

Thanks for the great job you do.

A.

Thanks!

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Q.

Suzy asks: Brian, we are going to Disney World next week. My three kids went there with their dad in June and have one unused day left on a 5-day Park Hopper pass. Is there anywhere that you can buy park hopper passes with one or two days left on them?

I don't want to buy a one day/one park pass.

A.

Suzy,

WDW admission media is not transferable, so no, there is no where you can legally buy (nor can you legally use) admission media that was used by someone else. You can, however, buy admission media and use a portion of it, then use the balance on another trip (as you are already well aware).

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Q.

Steve writes: Help!!! I had wanted to go to Crystal Palace for the Character Breakfast but as you know they are closed. So to appease my two year old daughter and see Pooh we opted for Tony's. I have yet to see any reviews on this as a character meal and Disney.com hasn't updated their site yet. I guess my questions are these:

  1. Have you heard anything on Tony's Character Breakfast?
  2. How does the pre-plated meal work? Is the food portion set or is it an all-you-can-eat type thing?

I'm sooo confused.

A.

Steve,

The pre-plated character meals are still all you can eat, they just are served on plates rather than having a buffet to go up to.

You're right, though, there hasn't been much word on the Tony's breakfast. It's only a temporary thing (until the Crystal Palace rehab is complete), so I'll rely on you to tell us how things are. :)

Rest easy, though. I'm sure you'll thoroughly enjoy the meal and the time with the characters.

-

Q.

Jeanette asks: I believe I'd read on your site that you did not have to have the pass in your possession, or even own it yet, in order to get the discount when booking your accommodations. I'd thought that it was okay to book as a annual pass holder, as long as you were able to present proof of this when checking in. However, when I called the Disney reservation line, they told me that I did have to be a annual pass holder at the time of reserving. Do you have any tips on how we can get around this? We wish to book now for a trip in 2/03 and wish to have the pass be valid for as long as possible thereafter, in case we have the opportunity to return.

We definitely appreciate any help you may lend.

A.

Jeanette,

If you go to your local Disney store and buy your annual pass, you'll be provided with vouchers that can be traded in at one of the WDW parks for the actual annual pass. The clock starts ticking from first use, not from purchase of that voucher.

Then, with your vouchers in hand you should be able to get the Central Reservations Office to give you your AP rates.

-

Q.

Laurie shares this experience: Hi Brian, I really think your site is great. It's helping me plan which park we'll be going to on what day.

My family of four went two years ago. At the time, my daughter was two and my son was six. My husband had a business trip and decided to take us at the last minute! I was by myself in the parks for two days and then he joined us for several more days. We had such a great time, we are going back this year. My two year old barely remembers it so I'm anxious to get her back there.

On the last trip, I was nervous about being by myself, but the kids and I just had a blast! It was no problem, there is truly something to do for every age.

I agree with your idea that one should be prepared to go with the flow, especially with little ones. My children just had to stop and play on some of those fantastic playgrounds they have, at the time I briefly thought, "I've spent all this money and you want to play on playground equipment?" But then I thought, "Hey, let them do what they want." They had a great time because of it, and I think I did too.

I did not notice the warnings about how terrifying Snow White could be until after we got home, it scared the you know what out of them, but other than that, things were pretty peachy!

Okay, I'll get to why I'm writing. I just wanted to comment on two things. First: We stayed off site and are planning to do so again. We are staying at Holiday Inn Family Suites. On the last trip, my husband's travel agent accidentally booked us at Holiday Inn Kidsuites. Not the same thing. After two nights there, we decided to move because Kidsuites has uh, seen it's day (kinda nasty).

We saw Family Suites right down the way and got a better rate and a much better deal. I have to say it's a great place. It's very close to the parks, and the rooms are incredible! We are the kind of family that really needs more than one room, FamilySuites also has what they call Kidsuites that are three rooms. You get a living room, a themed room for the kids complete with bunk beds, Nintendo and a VCR, and a private bedroom for Mom and Dad, with workstation capability. The couch in the living area also sleeps two. All the suite rooms have TV and VCRs. This hotel was brand new two years ago and was in excellent condition. Breakfast is free every morning, plus the kids eat free the entire time. The place also has two huge pools in separate courtyards, one with kids, one for adults only. I think for the price ( this time it's 129.00 a night) you just can't beat it. In my opinion, unless I could afford the Polynesian, or the Grand Floridian, it really is a better deal for us. They also run shuttles back and forth to the parks so you don't have to drive and park if you don't want to. So I just wanted your readers to be aware of that.

Now, having said that I'm staying off site again, the change in perks really doesn't affect me. I considered staying at a Disney resort, but with early entry suspended, that really settled it for me. My second point is this: I didn't get any of that stuff last time and still had a great time. I know I haven't been THIS year. But I suspect it'll be great.

I live near Six Flags Over Texas. I just took my kids last week. At one point, in the hot August Sun (and yes I was at Disney in August as well.) I thought to myself, "Six Flags sucks, Disney would never be like this." Last year I was at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and that place is really bad. Six Flags Over Texas is actually a great place for thrills, I just rode a great new coaster that is unlike anything I've ever ridden, but Disney just smokes them when it comes to every other aspect!

In terms of service, I was amazed at how nice and friendly the staff was. My son's five dollar balloon deflated on the first day, and at least three people stopped to make sure I had a pass to get another one! That does not happen at other theme parks. At Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, they barely even seem to notice if you're on the ride correctly! I don't want to bag too much on Six Flags, we still had a GREAT time, and it is the theme park of my childhood, but the differences are hard to ignore! The detail in the landscaping and the architecture at Disney is just so much better! And Six flags Over Texas is an enormously popular park! It just doesn't compare to the Disney experience.

Another thing, Six Flags used to have some really unique shops and stuff like that, and now it's all Warner Brother's merchandise and there's really not too much that is out of the ordinary. As commercial and corporate as Disney is, at least they still have some fun and different types of shops and restaurants if you're willing to do a little research!

The change in park hours at WDW did take me by surprise, but I'm staying over a weekend , so I'll get to hang out later a couple of nights. I do think they should listen to what people have to say. Hopefully, they'll bring back the early entry Days again. However, I think people should remember, the standard at Disney is way higher than anywhere else. And the people working at Disney are human too. I also think they keep Universal on their toes and vice versa!

This time, I am going to try to plan where we eat a little better and stuff like that, but if we get there and decide to do something completely different than what was originally planned, so be it!

Thanks for the great web site!

A.

Laurie,

Thanks for the great note. It's always good to have a reality check. However, one other thing that sets Walt Disney World apart from amusement parks is the very high cost of a vacation there. When you include the cost of travel (vs. just going to a regional amusement park), accommodations (especially onsite), and park admission... the vacation is MUCH more expensive than a trip to a regional amusement park.

That's why so many people are upset with Disney. The total value of the vacation (I define value as "benefit divided by cost"... as cost goes up, value goes down unless the benefit goes up too) just has to be at least as good as it used to be, but at Walt Disney World that's not the case.

-

Q.

Vicki writes: Hi Brian! First off I would like to tell you that your site and column are the BEST! My husband, myself and our 9 year old twins are planning our first trip to "The World" for October of this year. We are SO excited (to say the least) and your site has so much wonderful information!!! THANK YOU!!!!

Here's my question - we are staying off site (a friend's parents have given us their timeshare for the week - are they nice or what?) and I was wondering if you had to be staying onsite to be able to put your kids in the Neverland Club? I only want to do it for one night so the hubby & I can go to Pleasure Island, if you know the answer, could you please advise?

Thanks (again) for all the wonderful information - I wish I could give you a 100% raise, but, 100% of 0 is 0, right? So, none the less, you have my and many others undying gratitude! Keep up the great work!!!

A.

Vicki,

Although some of the kid's clubs at Walt Disney World DO have a WDW-guest-only policy, that is not currently the case at the Neverland Club. You must have reservations in advance, though, so if you decide to consider one of the other kids clubs that you ask about the policy first.

Thanks for the raise, too. ;)

Q.

Allan writes: Brian, and the survey says...

The wife and I were all set to spend five days in one of the concierge suites on the monorail line during October but we recently canceled our reservation. The reason is very simple and the numbers here don't lie. We had budgeted well over three thousand dollars for the five days plus extras for special tours and souvenirs. The main reason we decided to cancel is the park hours. I'd like to spend the time seeing WDW on my schedule, not theirs. That would only be like a vacation, not a real vacation.

Checking in early and having to rush off to the parks is not a vacation. Having to forget about an afternoon by the pool and seeing one of the parks instead is not a vacation. Making early dinner reservations at one of the restaurants at Epcot because it also closes early is not a vacation. Being herded to certain parks with everyone else because they're open later is not a vacation.

Someone at work gave me a WDW guide where visiting the park is laid out like a military operation. I keep meeting folks who come back from WDW exhausted from trying to see everything. Needing a vacation after having a vacation is not a vacation. Shorter hours have to make this problem worse.

I understand that smaller crowds should mean shorter hours. That's business. But even spending large sums of money at a WDW resort gives no chance of time recapture on the shorter hours through early opening or extended ticket nights. I don't mind spending the money if it was worth it, but it no longer seems like it is. I plan to write to Mr. Haas and tell him I have three thousand survey points that says waving to a few actors dressed as Disney characters in the lobby of my resort is not an acceptable substitute for extending the hours for resort guests.

And what's with the fireworks over the castle just once a week? These guys never thought of having a shorter show Wednesday night? I think a serious dope slap is in order.

Instead of concierge service (on site) we're going to be staying at the Courtyard Lake Buena Vista for three nights, spend a couple of days in WDW and then seeing what else is in South Florida, like Universal Studios. That's next year. This year we're going to Rhode Island in the fall instead.

While I don't plan to go to WDW in the Fall I have become kind of addicted to all the Disney sites; especially MousePlanet. Its really interesting to read all the opinions and trip reports. The recent series from Tokyo Disney is tremendous.

I have gotten in the habit of periodically clicking on the Amazon honor box and sending a few dollars of support. Its fast, very easy, very secure and very anonymous. I encourage everyone to do it at least once.

A.

Allan,

Thanks for help us out with the Amazon Honor Box! The income we get from that goes directly to our server and other expenses, so we really appreciate it!

(Note: I purposely put Allan's email at the bottom of today's column to put it close to the Honor Box, just below, in case any one would be willing to help us out a bit.)

As far as your other comments... I can certainly understand why you've decided to stay off site for your next trip. Maybe in the future Disney's service will improve to the point that they'll be drawing people in rather than repelling them.

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

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Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planner


Click here to see some awesome WDW pieces that have run on MousePlanet recently!

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