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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

10/21/02

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After the wonderful success (at least in my opinion) of the Military Honeymoon scenario, when I invited readers to provide input on a Walt Disney World trip planning scenario, I offer this new one...

As before, 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 an upcoming edition of Notes From the World, I'll reiterate the scenario and then share both my thoughts and the responses that were sent in, capturing the information in a new page of MousePlanet's Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide so folks can refer to it later.

Here's the scenario:

Two sets of single parents are planning separate trips to Walt Disney World. "Samantha" is mother of eleven-year-old "Katie" and nine year old "Jennifer." "Brian" is six-year-old "Allan" and three-year-old "Michael's" dad. (hmmmmm... more on that later...)

Treat these two trips as separate ones. I just wanted to get a mix of kids and ages.

Questions:

  • Where should Samantha and Brian make plans to stay with their respective families? Neither family is flush with money, so they can't really afford a week in a suite at the Grand, but make your best suggestions for accommodations and justify your thoughts.
  • What suggestions do you have about how to attack the parks? Their kids are different ages and different sexes. How do does that affect what should be planned?
  • Do you have any specific thoughts about attractions, restaurants, or activities that Samantha and Brian should consider?
  • What else would you suggest to make their trip very special for Samantha and her girls? What other ideas would you share with Brian to make his trip with his boys a blockbuster?

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...

Mark writes: Here's a mixed bag... You've probably heard already, but the Disney Club will be going away. New/renewal memberships will no longer be taken as of 12/12/02, and the club will be terminated 12/31/03. In its place will be a Disney-cobranded VISA card to be issued by Bank One. Cardholders will be able to earn points toward discounts with every purchase. I'm going to miss the old DC. There will be a new restriction at one of my favorite out-of-park fireworks-watching locations. The catwalk at the top of the Contemporary Resort will be restricted to California Grill patrons only. Non-diners will be able to watch from a viewing area at outside the North end of the Concourse. Again, kind of stinks.

Comment on your scenario: I hope that you included yourself, Allan, and Michael either as a hypothetical to illustrate the scenario or because you have an opportunity to go but Barbara has a conflict. I'd hate to hear that there was trouble in paradise.

Finally, a couple comments on your latest Notes from the World: Tifany asked about the top prize for the Millionaire attraction. According to Jennifer and Dave over at PassPorter, it's still a trip to NYC, and you get a choice of Broadway shows to see. They may have changed it to be a taping of the syndicated show, but I'm not sure. Check Jennifer's trip report over at PassPorter.com for details of Dave's million-point win. Shelley said that her family "went to DisneyQuest four times and it didn't cost any extra or use up a plus feature". How the heck did she do that? What was their admission media? I'd love to get in there free, if I could.

Yes, I'd heard about the demise of the Disney Club. Personally, I hope it just dies and Disney renews the old Magic Kingdom Club. The goodwill that the old Magic Kingdom Club generated is probably missed greatly at WDW and Disneyland nowadays.

Thanks for the concern. No, Barb and I are doing just fine... but there is a possibility that she might ditch us boys for a few days of business during our upcoming Spring trip. Things aren't finalized yet, but if so, I'll have the boys to myself for a few days. That's what inspired the scenario in the first place. Samantha and her girls were tossed in for balance, but they're completely fictional. :)

Thanks for the comments on Tifany and Shelley's notes. I'll share them and we'll see if we get a response from Shelley. I should have thought to ask myself. :(

Dave shared this response to Tifany's question from last week: Brian,

Tifany writes, "Brian, I have been trying to contact Disney / MGM Studios Guest Relations, and have emailed several people and still haven't received the answer to the question I have. I know that you have cast members that read your site & I was hoping someone could answer the following question. Do you know what the 1,000,000 point prize is now for Who Wants to be a Millionaire Play It? "

We were at WDW three weeks ago - the 1,000,000 point prize was a trip for two to NYC. No one got close, but one guy won the polo shirt. I was so close - #2 on the board three times. Oh, well.

By the way, thanks for all the work our site - it made planning the vacation easy. Expect a trip report in the near future!

Thanks Dave! That's a tremendous help.

Janis writes: Hi Brian! Just love this site!!! In response to a letter from Monica about Disney Dollars at the DD Lego store, we were able to use them there this past June. I, too, was not sure my nephew would be able to use them, but the CM said "Sure, no problem!" Just thought this might help some other readers. Unfortunately I didn't try to use them anywhere else, so I don't know the other stores policies.

Thanks for the note. Looks like I'll have to dig into this one a bit more...

Bob writes: Regarding the reader writing about 4:00p.m. Fantasmic reservations. If his seating is at 4:00p.m., It takes 10-15 minutes for a seat, 30-45 minutes for dinner, walk to the amphitheater (which could be another 10-20 minutes if eating at Mama Melrose's and the park is crowded) then he would be arriving just 10-20 minutes before the show. In viewing Fantasmic both in February & May, the amphitheater was full 20-30 minutes before the show (including the reserved area), so I'd say 4:00p.m. is a good time for dinner. Remember that the reason for the program is to bring people into MGM sit down restaurants during their slow times. Wait until you visit in the Summer & you eat at 4:00p.m., but it isn't dark enough for the show until 8:00-8:30p.m.

Thanks for the help, Bob.

James shares this opinion: Hello again! Just a note before all you readers besiege Disney with emails about show closings. My cast member daughter informed me the reason behind the Hunchback show closing was due to the stage being a temporary structure. Its permit is expiring meaning a massive upgrade or replacement. The show is being archived and might reappear someplace else in another theater. She is also a sometime participant in the new Magic Kingdom park opening show. The characters board the train in ToonTown and ride it to the front of the park. My last visit there also noted more street performers on Main Street. So take heart as the tide seems to be turning with more character and streetmosphere opportunities!

Thanks James. The increased characters is great and welcome news.

However, I don't mind if Disney is bombarded by emails and letters from folks that want more entertainment in the parks. Even with what's been recently added, the amount of entertainment is still drastically reduced from a couple of years ago.

Dave shares this note: Hi Brian, great reading your notes, as always. I have additional suggestions for Cindy, who wrote concerning staying at the Grand Floridian. Afternoon tea is great if you have the time, and the live music in the evening, alternating between a pianist and the orchestra, is also a nice way to unwind. Just a couple pennies worth of thoughts. Keep up the good work.

Great ideas Dave, thanks!

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

Q.

Alan writes: Brian, now that Disney has resumed an Early Entry program, you can bet that the park that opens early will be more crowded. If the new program works like the old program, it is still a good idea to consider taking advantage of the early opening, especially at the Magic Kingdom. I say this because several of the Magic Kingdom rides that are "slow loaders" like Dumbo or the Carousel are open early. You can save significant time by entering early if your plans include these rides.

I am not sure how the early entry program will affect a park like EPCOT because there are fewer attractions with long waits there. Certainly, going to Test Track early is worth the effort for me, and I'd probably be able to get a second or third ride in by using Fastpass.

Same is true at MGM. The longest lines there are usually at Tower and Rockin Roller. You could knock off some of the rides with longer lines early; it really does make a difference if you are trying to do as many of the rides as possible.

Not sure how the program will work at Animal Kingdom, as I am not sure when the animals are released from their night pens. As with any other animal park or zoo, you want to try to catch the animals before they settle in for the day. Early morning is usually best as many animals will explore their turf before they lie down and relax. You may even get to see a lion awake - a rare treat. I generally don't have a problem getting on the other attractions.

As to traveling from one park to another, I do it all the time. I always rent a car so that I can do that without having to rely on Disney transportation. We find it significantly faster to drive yourself from one park to the other for all parks except the Magic Kingdom. For the Magic Kingdom, we park at the Wilderness (OK as we usually stay there) and take the boat. Admittedly, if you are not staying at the Wilderness or a monorail hotel, it is a little time consuming to change parks to/from the Magic Kingdom.

Use of a car does make it easier to play the crowds. It is something to consdier when you are thinking about whether to rent or not.

I personally hope that as many guests as possible take advantage of early entry program so that Disney recognizes the value of input from their guests. I am concerned that they will stop listening to the vocal few (many?), if people don't take advantage of this program. My wife and I will and will make sure that the cast knows how much we appreciate the early opening.

A.

Thanks for your note, Alan. You certainly make several excellent points that folks will want to consider as they plan their days in the parks!

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Q.

A MousePlanet reader writes: Hi Brian, just got back from our first trip to WDW. Loved it! Before we went, I e-mailed you regarding transportation to Universal. I thought I'd share our experience with you and your readers.

We stayed at the All-Star Sports resort and took a Mears bus to Universal twice. You must call 24 hours in advance in order to make a reservation. Cost is $6.00 each way. We found the service to be second to none. Great drivers full of information and prompt service. When you are ready to leave the park, you call Mears' 800 number and make a reservation a couple of hours before you intend to leave, although we just walked on one once.

The only thing I must caution your readers to is the fact that many other companies also offer shuttle service to Universal. One guy in particular, he had a plain white van with no company name on it, came around asking who was going to Universal, and to follow him. Someone said something about Mears and he stopped short of saying he was from Mears, but said that he was the back-up van. Luckily a CM from the hotel stopped the people from following him! He tried this on both our trips to Universal. Another company (Yellow Cab, I believe) tried the same thing. Please, please, if the bus does not say Mears on it: DO NOT GO WITH ANYONE ELSE! This seems to be a legitimate problem, at least at All-Star Sports anyways.

Thanks again for your help Brian and keep up the great work!

A.

Thanks so much for the note. Did anyone explain what the Yellow Cab and "white van" folks were doing that was a problem? I suspect that their fares were more in line with taxis ($$$) versus the relatively low fare that Mears was offering. Can you confirm that?

Q.

The follow-up was: I think the biggest problem was that they were being dishonest and indicating that they were working for Mears, when in fact they were just trying to get fares. One couple had a prepaid Mears voucher and once the "white van" guy found out, he dropped them like a hot potato! I'm assuming their rates are like you mentioned, closer to a taxi's fare.

Thanks again Brian, keep up the great work!

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Q.

Brian writes: Mr. Bennett, I am 16, and might be traveling to Disneyland, from Sacramento this January. I'm not sure how you select trip reports, or who can write them. Is it all possible, if I go, that I could write a trip report for Mouse Planet?

Thank you for reading. I look forward to your response.

A.

Brian,

Go to the main page of MousePlanet's Disney Trip Report Archive, there you'll find (in the left hand margin) all the information you need to write and post a trip report to me.

EVERYONE is welcome to send me a report. I'd love to have yours when it's ready.

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Q.

David asks: Dear Brian, I enjoyed your account of the Innovation Tour and was impressed by your knowledge of the history of backstage Disney World. I was wondering if you knew when Disney World first started doing tours of the utilidors and other hidden parts of the park?

Thanks for your help.

A.

Sorry, David, but you have me stumped on that one. I know that tours have been available for over 14 years now, but that's the extent of my back stage knowledge.

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Q.

Lynne writes: Brian, first of all I want to let you know how much I enjoy your website. I read it every day and even though I feel I know a lot about Disney (I've been nine times), I always learn something new! We're planning our next trip for November/December.

My questions/comment is about priority seating for Cinderella's Royal Table. What's the deal with trying to get priority seating there? I got through at 7:02 (two minutes after the phone lines opened) and found that it was already booked for the day. How can that be? How can an entire morning sell out in two minutes? Are there that many operators? It takes longer than two minutes for them to complete a priority seating...

A.

Lynne,

First off, there are, as you suggested, a ton of operators on duty taking reservations at any given time. It's not at all unlikely that the majority of them are handling priority seatings for Cinderella's Royal Table. Also, I'm sure that a portion of those available seatings are taken in advance by guests that are staying at the deluxe resorts in a concierge area (when the concierge would be able to provide those priority seatings without problems). Finally, I suspect that some more of those available priority seatings are held in reserve "just in case."

All I can suggest is that you keep on trying. :)

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Q.

On much the same topic, Terry writes: Hello, I have tried for the three mornings in a row to try and book a Cinderella Breakfast. Each morning I have been told that they have no room. I call at 7:00 a.m. and by 7:02 a.m. I am told they have no room. In fact, today, Oct. 4th I was asked "what do you want to book" I said: "Cinderalla's Breakfast" she then said okay , asked me for how many people , I told her how many, then I was told - "I'm sorry that has been filled already". Why wasn't I told that before asking how many people. And that was at 7:01 a.m. How can it book that fast? Do they just pick and choose reservations. I would like to know how to get a breakfast there between November 30 through December 6th. I was there 4 years ago, and there was no problem booking, Why Now???????

I AM ALSO A DISNEY CLUB MEMBER. AND THAT APPEARS NOT TO HELP EITHER.

AWAITING A PROMPT RESPONSE.

[ Editor's Note: The All Caps were Terry's. ]

A.

Terry,

I'm sure that there are a ton of operators on duty taking reservations at any given time, but at 7:00a.m. I also suspect that the majority of them are handling priority seatings for Cinderella's Royal Table.

Of course, there are seatings available for differing group sizes. Perhaps your group size is such that only a handful of tables are available? In any case, the reservationist wouldn't know that until they know your group size.

Another issue is that you're already pretty close to your November/December window. I wouldn't be surprised at all that all available tables are indeed booked for those dates already.

All I can suggest is that you keep on trying and hope for a cancellation. :)

One alternative would be to book the new princess breakfast at the Akershus restaurant at Epcot.

Finally, your comment about being a Disney Club member isn't a surprise. The Disney Club has never been a help in securing "hard to get" reservations. The only thing that really seems to help is staying in a concierge room at one of the deluxe resorts, and having the concierge make those arrangements.

Finally, you stated, "Awaiting a Prompt Response." Since I answer email free of charge, I'm sure you'll agree that a response within 26 hours is sufficiently prompt. :)

Q.

Following up, Terry wrote: Thank you very much. I did try again this morning and first asked if there was still openings at the breakfast and the girl did ask for how many people. This time I had told only 4 people, and I was still shot down. I asked if she could tell me how many I can book, and she was not able to do so. Also, you cannot book the breakfast until 60 days before your arrival.

Thank you for getting back to me.

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Q.

Barbara writes: Hi... My daughter and her fiance will be staying at your Vero resort in a couple of weeks. I would like to treat them to a nice dinner at one of the restaurants available as a birthday gift. How can we facilitate this? I would like to be able to send her fiance a gift certificate in his birthday card this week. Can you help?? Thank you!

A.

Barbara,

I'm sorry to be responding so late to your question. I've been on a personal vacation and only just returned.

You should know, though, that MousePlanet is NOT part of the Walt Disney Company. In your email you stated that your daughter will be staying at "your Vero resort," indicating that MousePlanet somehow owns Disney's Vero Beach Resort. That is not the case.

My suggestion would be for you to go to your local Disney store and buy some "Disney Dollars" which your daughter can use (like a gift certificate) on her trip.

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Q.

Michael writes: Hey Brian! I've written you a couple of times. I've also promised you a trip report, which has already been started. Got a question for you, and I'm really hoping to hear back from you before Friday, cause we're leaving on Saturday.

My 7 year old girl broke her arm today in two places. Clean break, it'll will heal fine. I'm wondering if you know about ride restrictions concerning casts. Obviously the water rides might be out (we're hoping for a water proof cast), but I was wondering about Big Thunder, Space Mountain, TOT. I'm pretty sure the RNRC is out, which breaks my heart because that is all she has been talking about. Of course we'll ask the doctor tomorrow and get his opinion, but I was just wondering if Disney had any official policy for this kind of a situation.

As always, thanks for reading my e-mail and the wonderful site. Keep up the great work.

A.

Michael,

I'm not aware of any policy that would prohibit a guest with a cast from riding any attractions. I think your doctor's advice would be the most important consideration.

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Q.

Louise asks: So concerning the returned early opening schedule - I understand that when this was in effect prior to 9/11/2001 only certain areas and or rides were operating during that first hour. Is this the case now (well, I mean tomorrow)and can you tell me what those rides are in the 4 major parks? Thanks for the planning help.

A.

Louise,

Yes, you are correct. Only a sub-set of park attractions will be open during Extra Magic Hour each day -- NOT the whole park.

I don't have a complete list, but I do know that at the Magic Kingdom, for example, several Tomorrowland and Fantasyland attractions are included.

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Q.

Jill asks: Please tell how to reach Jutta Levasseur, Egg Artist in German Village.

A.

Jill,

I don't know how to reach specific people within Epcot. You may want to try calling WDW's merchandising at (407) 363-6200 and asking if there's a way to be connected to the Germany Pavilion shops. That might work...

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Q.

Shirley asks: I am curious to know if WDW accepts Discover Card. Someone told me that there was a time they only accepted VISA. I would be using it for shopping and dining mostly.

Please advise.

A.

Shirley,

I don't know that WDW ever limited credit card use to only Visa. Right now, I know that they accept American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Diners Club, and The Disney Credit Card.

American Express used to be the "official" credit card of WDW, but that didn't make them at all exclusive.

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Q.

Carol asks: I will be at WDW for 4 days in November 3-6, and it is my second visit. I went last year with 13 other people, stayed for 10 days and I am hooked!! But now I will have one day for each park this time. Do you have any ideas? Epcot in a day....MGM in a day...etc. I already planned the "Fantasmic Dining Experience" for Monday, and can't wait. It will be Brown Derby.....but I digress. How to do right by each park...two people...in one day??

A.

Carol,

I honestly don't think you can "do right by each park" in a single day. :) If you look over this page, on the topic of how much time to plan for your trip, you'll see that I think it takes at least 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 days for each park.

I would suggest you read this page on what to do when you have limited time.

The bottom line is that you'll really have to think through each park and decide exactly what you want to do so you know, when you hit the gate, exactly what your game plan for the day is going to be. Frankly, that kind of detailed planning goes against the grain of my own personal vacation preferences... but it's the only way to squeeze things into such a short time frame.

You might be well served by buying a copy of Bob Sehlinger's "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World," and using his park touring plans.

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Q.

Jeff shares this: Hey Brian, Like everybody that submits, I want to start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoy your site every day. I didn't discover it until AFTER our last trip to WDW in 1999, but I plan on diving in deep before our next trip in June 2003.

Back in 1999, we took our 3 1/2 year old son to WDW for the first time. We were afraid that he wouldn't "remember" much about the trip, but to this day he reminds ME of things that we saw and did there. We're all looking VERY forward to our trip in June of next year when we'll be spending a week at the Contemporary Resort.

One of the things that my wife and I were concerned with during our trip was becoming lost parents. During the preparation phase of our trip, while we were buying film, something I saw leaped off the shelf at me. A disposable, instant-develop camera. What a PERFECT idea came to me! We took one along, and each morning before we left for the days adventure we snapped off two pictures of our son and each of us kept one in our posession during that day. That way, should the worst happen and we get separated, we'd have a picture of him in that days outfit. The camera that we used (and I won't mention brand names) produced small, 2-inch by 3-inch pictures; easily small enough to fit in a mans wallet or just slip into a pocket. Thankfully, we never needed to use them, but what better resource could a Cast Member have when dealing with an emotional parent than a picture less than 24 hours old?

I've not seen this tip come up in any of the articles that I've read, but it may very well be hidden deep somewhere in your "family resources" section. In any event, I thought I'd pass it along. We've made sure to tell all of our friends what we did, and they agree that it's an easy way to get a little piece of mind.

A.

Tremendous suggestion Jeff! Thanks!

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Q.

Teri writes: Brian, re: Disney Transportation, you might want to visit OurLaughingPlace.com for their wonderful Transportation Wizard or Twiz feature. They spent a great deal of time and effort riding buses, monorails, boats, etc. throughout WDW, got the timing, and entered it into a database. You can search the database for the routes between resorts and/or and parks, and compare the times. OLP is a very pleasant and positive site, and they have done a good job with this.

A.

Thanks Teri. It appears to be a very interesting site. I'll have to check it out more thoroughly. :)

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Q.

Carl writes: I've never been to the Grand Floridian or WDW, your your photos remind me of the Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego. I'll bet a dollar that at least some of the architecture for the Grand Floridian was inspired by the Hotel Del.

A.

I wouldn't take that bet. I'm sure you're quite right. :)

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Q.

Jeneen asks: I just found your web site and it is helping me a great deal plan my Disney Vacation. I was just wondering if you knew the number to call and get tickets to the Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party? We are not going until net October but I just wanted all the numbers ready, thanks!

A.

Jeneen,

You can go to this page for information on the party (for 2002).

You can make reservations, once WDW starts taking them, by calling the regular reservation number at (407) WDW-DINE.

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

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Brian's Archive - Contents

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

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

 

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