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WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett



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...

On the issue of off-season travel to WDW, Shannon writes: Hi Brian, I wanted to respond to Mary's question about the un-Disney-like stuff going on during January / February. We were there in 2001 and while there was some refurbishment going on at that time it did not take away from the experience itself. The most unappealing thing we saw was scaffolding up at Boardwalk because they were sprucing up the exterior of the building. We had such a pleasant experience going at the end of January that we are planning our next trip during the same "week" in 2003. The reduced hours were manageable for us because the crowds are lower so you don't have try so hard to do as much. I think the longest line we probably waited in was about 10 minutes or so and that would have been for ALL the attractions. Mary does need to be prepared for extreme weather changes though. The day we arrived, I was wearing shorts, the next morning it was down to the 30's. Also, she should be prepared for large school groups from other countries. We stayed at AS-Movies (which we will never do again during January) and alot of the resort was filled with school groups from Brazil here on Winter vacations.

I hope this helps her.

Thanks so much for the input, Shannon.

John writes: If Kathleen, who made a reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge for a savannah room but now finds she hs a standard room, did indeed request and book a "view" room back in September, it will show on the reservation confirmation she was mailed by WDW. The room type is clearly noted on the confirmation sheet (usually yellow). All she needs to do is fax that to reservations for proof that she has a savannah view room. However, if she finds that the reservation was only for a standard, the lesson here is to ALWAYS read the confirmation sheet when it arrives and to call the central reservations office if there is any discrepancy or you have any questions.

Hope that will help her!

Thanks for the excellent suggestions, John.

Greg shares this background information on Disney Vacation Club plans: Just a quick note to add a little info about the new Disney Vacation Club resort. You reported that it is being constructed on the property of the old (and now defunct) Disney Institute. My wife and I just bought into the DVC a couple weeks ago, during our last visit to The World, and at that time we heard a little more about that project.

It will be called Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, modeled on the fabled vacation area in upstate New York (supposedly with Victorian-era architecture ... perhaps a more modest version of the Grand Floridian?) The pool will not have the usual Disney slides, but offer "bubbling springs" (?).

Some of the Institute property will remain -- notably, the spa -- and it will probably have a boat dock and easy access to the Disney Marketplace. (When we visited the Marketplace, we could see where trees had been cleared and earth moving equipment was in place across the water.)

Other tidbits: There are hints the DVC may take part in the proposed "Eagle Pines" resort, near the golf course of that name. And other web denizens are hearing loud rumors of some possible reworking of the "wings" at the Contemporary, which would give the DVC its very first monorail resort. (If, in fact, that comes to pass.)

Thanks Greg. I was aware that the resort would be renamed when it was completed. I just was unaware that the whole place was to be shut down during the conversion. :) Still, it sounds like it will be a nice addition to the DVC chain.

Editor's Note: There were official announcements about both DVC resorts (Saratoga Springs and Eagle Pines) that MousePlanet readers may wish to read over.

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


Ken asks several questions: Brian, I hope all is well with you up there. Hope it isn't too cold!!!!!

One last email from me before we go to the Mouse House! With Soccer Season in full swing I haven't been doing as much WDW planning as I was. So I got back into MousePlanet to get my head back in the game! I especially enjoyed reading the Disney Commando cautions. My family already loves you (and doesn't know it) for putting those out there. Thanks for the perspective check!

I'll try to keep my questions brief this time!

1) We are starting to do our packing. I tried to download your packing list from your packing tips page but it never downloading (it just hung things up). Not sure what is up. Could you please check that link so I can download the Word document so we can begin packing? Thanks!

2) In your latest email responses on the site you told Amie (going the Sunday before Thanksgiving and leaving Thanksgiving day),

"You'll miss the worst of the crowds since you'll be leaving on Thanksgiving Day, but the whole week is significantly more busy than the weeks immediately before and after that week. If you could go on your trip a couple of weeks earlier or later, you'd do much better."

I thought cool since we are not going until 12/4. Then you told Lisa (who is going 11/30 to 12/6),

"You'll find that the whole weekend, and in fact for a full week or so after Thanksgiving, that crowd levels will be significantly higher than the few weeks before and after that holiday. That will be true for Sunday, too."

I then didn't think things were so cool!

What do you think we will find from 12/4 to 12/13?

Thanks Brian. Turns out we will actually be driving to Sebring (from VA) 12/2-12/3. My aunt (who is a retired missionary) will be honored for her work the evening of 12/3. Since we do not check in until 12/4, 12/3 is the one day we could actually be in FL to attend this function. Cool how God does things like that sometimes!

Take care!

PS I guess it is difficult to know how to pack that time of year. Some days in the 70's, some days in the 50's and 60's (or at least that is what I find from your most excellent web site!). I guess I'll plan on jeans but bring shorts in case it gets particularly warm?



I've attached the Word Document packing list. Based on your comments, I'm going to take that old list and reformat it into regular web pages.

Ken, since you're going to be there in early December... and not arriving until the 4th, I think you'll be fine. You'll probably find that the first few days of your trip are busier than the later parts, and weekends are always a bit busier than weekdays during the off season, but I think you'll really enjoy that time of year overall.

Regarding the packing... yes, I think you should plan on it being warm, but be prepared for a cool off (especially in the evenings). You'll want to gauge this after you get down there, but you may want to wear shorts in the morning, but plan on changing into long pants (and maybe even a sweater) in the evenings.

Have a great trip!



Gary asks: Hey Brian, Gary from Colorado here and I'll be heading back to WDW for Christmas. I read about the Christmas party event that ends on the 20th on this and other sites. My questions is, what happens on the days between the end of the special event up and through Christmas? Why don't they show the very merry Christmas parade on Christmas Eve or Christmas? Will it snow at all on Main St? Any special fireworks? I'll be arriving the 22nd and will be really bummed if they do not have anything special going on in the Magic Kingdom. I can't seem to find out any information on those days.



The reason why Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party doesn't run during Christmas week itself, is simply because it's a limited, hard ticket event. That is, the number of people that can attend is limited... and it ties up the park for the whole evening.

Instead, the park will be open late all week. That's far better for most people that are visiting during that very, very, very busy time of the year.

The decorations will still be up, of course, but you shouldn't plan on seeing the "snow" falling.



Anne writes regarding MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide: Would like to see dates on some of the articles--not sure which year articles are talking about, and with all the changes at DisneyWorld, some of the information may no longer be relevant. Thanks for your efforts!



The intent is for the information to be up to date all the time. If you're finding information that you think is incorrect or out-of-date, I'd love for you to tell me.

I know that admission media prices and hotel prices are accurate as of the present time. The only major problem I have on the site is the events schedule, which is only through the end of 2002 right now.



Kelly writes: Hi Brian, sorry to bug you once again but I had a few quick questions that I hope you can answer. I am a member of the Disney Club and yesterday received a letter saying that they are disbanding after next year. I was planning to renew my membership in January when my current membership expires but they aren't even taking any more renewalls after Dec 12th. Was wondering if you had heard anything about this and if so do you know if they plan a new club or are just plain doing away with the discounts.

I have saved quite a bit of money this year on hotels, meals and purchases both on our Disney World and Disneyland trips. I would sure hate to hear that they are doing away with any type of club but would not be surprised what with all the other cutbacks.

Any info you have would be great but I understand if you don't know any more than I do. I know I could call the club but I have a feeling I will get some canned answer and you guys always seem to have the dirt behind the real story.

And gee now I have forgotten my other question so it makes it easy on you.

Thanks in advance for any response and I appreciate your time and as usual love the site and still check it out everyday for the latest gossip eventhough I have no more Disney trips planned till next Nov 03.




You're very right that the Disney Club is going away at the end of 2003 and that new memberships are being accepted only through the end of this year. I've heard that Disney is going to have it's own credit card that operates like a airline milage credit card... the more you spend on it, the more value you accumulate that you can spend at Disney Stores, parks, etc. I don't have any details... and frankly, since this new program is not a membership club, I'm not planning on doing much research into it myself.

You might want to consider getting an Annual Pass if you don't already have one. AP holders get some pretty good perks, including some incredible accommodations discounts.

When you think of the other question, drop me another line. :)



Lynne writes about getting group photos taken at WDW: Brian, we are going to be going to Disney World in a couple of weeks with my parents and my sister's family. All of my parent's grandchildren will be there. We we wondering if there was any place other than the photographers with the characters or the ones walking on the streets, that we can get a professional photograph done of all the grandchildren?




There are two options. First, you can hire a Disney photographer to actually handle a shoot for you if you'd like. I don't have any pricing information, and I suspect that prices are high, but you can call your WDW resort and ask guest relations for more information.

The second option is to go over to the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot. There you can get pictures taken on a "green screen" and have any of a number of different backgrounds applied. It may be the best option for a really nice group picture at a decent price.



Shelly asks: Hello, are there any E-Ride nights scheduled for November 23-29, 2002? I can't seem to find any info at the Disney site.

Your site has been most helpful to us. We are planning a trip for Thanksgiving, and we are worried and intimidated by the thoughtof huge crowds, but you have plenty of tips. Thank you and keep up the great work.



Unfortunately, no, there are no E-Ride nights scheduled right now at all. Perhaps as we get closer to your trip dates some will be added... but as of now, you're out of luck.



Justin writes on the Fantasyland Photo Tour I recently produced: Hi Brian, Great article as always. I did find one nit picky detail that you might want to correct. Within "it's a small" world, the photo labeled Northern Europe is really the White Room. I think renaming it as Finale would work quite well. As for order with the current photos, they would be Arabia, Africa, Latin America, Polynesia and Finale. I wish had some show pictures to share, but alas I do not.

I love the pictures of Mickey on "Dumbo the Flying Elephants". That was one lucky boy. I have not ever seen this, but imagine it would be quite awesome.

On a related note, but across the country at Disneyland, have you ever seen the Disneyland Band when they ride King Arthur's Carousel. Apparently they do this every morning, although not as of late, at least until it is rebuilt. They climb on board the outside row and play as the ride is in motion. It is quite the experience.


Thanks for the great note, Justin. Is your photo order based on the Florida attraction? or Disneyland's? I'm not sure that they're the same, so if you're going of the West coast version, I'll leave the order until I can confirm in in a couple months when I go back down. :)

My wife and I were very surprised to see Mickey out and about the park that morning, too. I don't know how often that kind of thing happens, but you're very right... that little boy was very fortunate. I hope HIS parents got some good pictures!

No, I've never seen the Disneyland Band riding the carousel. That would be fun to see.


Following up, Justin wrote: Hi Brian, quick reply!

The order is for the Florida version, but I almost positive it is the same for the original. The sets in the original are vastly different than the Magic Kingdom's. I have probably ridden Florida's abut 100+ times, while I have only been to DL twice and rode iasw three times.

My cousin calls iasw the scariest Disney ride ever. I on the other hand think it is absolutely incredible and just do not understand how so many Guests miss the simple yet powerful statement that this show makes. I am sure that you are aware of it, as you are BIG fan of Disney just like I am, but I still must explain.

Walt and his Imagineering team understood immediately what UNICEF wanted and delivered in abundance a simple premise that our children and all of the children of the world are truly equal. It is only when they are pushed into the political rhetoric of the adult world that we separate. Even THE song, which so many people despise, is just as simple as the kids it represents.

My family made its first trip to WDW in 1975, I was nine and already a huge fan of Walt and his company. I had spent several years studying an old map of Disneyland and spent countless hours trying to figure out the park was created. Somehow this show was lost to me, probably because my map was from the 50's. When we first experienced 'it's a small world' the whole family was in awe. I immediately recognized its importance and this could not have been more true but in the White Room. Here were all of the children from different parts of the world, but now on common ground. I still tear up every time I ride thru. Walt's message was simple, we can never forget that our children are the future.

After that trip, I found the LP of this show and of course of listened to it over and over again. From it I discovered I was right about the finale. As Winston Hibler explains that "All boundaries have been removed. Our hosts on this tour were simply children of the world. Who share the common bonds of friendship, imagination, purity and understanding."

Please indulge me for a moment longer, but I really need to tell you this story of an experience I had on this ride. It was at the Disneyana Convention of 2000 and I needed get away from my friends for a while so off to the Magic Kingdom and iasw was on the list of things to do, as my friends are in the group that do not get it. Well onto the story.

I boarded the boat in the last row and noticed sitting in the two front rows was a family of six. They consisted of mom and dad, two older kids a boy and a girl and two younger ones, no older than seven and also a boy and a girl. I have reason to believe the two younger ones were fraternal twins. Both were wearing ball caps and I could see that neither had hair and had to assume have been (hopefully) recovering from some illness. The seven of us were the only ones in the boat.

The boat was dispatched from the load and was heading into the show. As we cleared the tower, this family embraced in a group hug and each tossed a shiny penny into the fountains located along the port side of our boat. They remained in this embrace throughout the entire ride. It took all of my strength to make it through that cruise as I continually thought about what the kids and family must have been going through in their lives. My only hope in that trip was that these two kids would have good health so they may realize their future and that the Happiest Cruise that ever Sailed would be an inspiration on that journey.

Thanks for taking the time to read my story and I hope it may be inspiration for you as it has for me.


Thanks, Justin, for your reply... and the tremendous story about your own personal attachment to It's a Small World.



Mike also chimes in about that Fantasyland Photo Tour: Brian, thanks for the great photos of WDW Fantasyland. Having not been there since I was 7 (I'm 32 now) and more familiar with Disneyland, it was great to see how different the land is in Florida. I would point out, though, I don't think that attractions and queues are covered in Florida as much for the sun as for the frequent downpours. It's equally sunny in Anaheim, but there's far less rain, especially during peak summer season, in Anahaim than in Florida.

Thanks again for your Tomorrowland next :-)


Good point about the rain, Mike. I still think that the sun is more intense in Florida than in Anaheim, though. :)

Tomorrowland, huh? I'll see what I can do (although there are already some photo tours done and ready to be published... so it will be a while before I get the Tomorrowland one done, even if I could finish it in the next week, which I really can't.)



Jennifer asks: Do you have any more recent reviews of Disney's Contemporary Resort? We are considering staying at the Contemporary Resort's North Garden Wing through Shades of Green rates in May 2003. The reviews on your page seem to be decent of these rooms, but I have heard from someone who stayed there approximately three years ago that the wing rooms were in need of major renovation. Example: Carpets were in bad shape, rooms smelled musty, water marks on ceilings. Any ideas?



MousePlanet now maintains a bulletin-board-based review system for resort and restaurant reviews. Hopefully you'll find some help there, though. I did notice, though, that there are five reviews in the system.



Curtis asks: Brian, I am an Executive Director at The Fountains at Lake Pointe Woods, Lake Pointe Woods is a retirement community in Sarasota, Florida. My residents wanted to recreate the floating gardens that were at the Flower Show last year. We know that there was a handout but we did not pick one up. Would you happen to have a copy or the instructions, my residents would like to make them. Thank you very much. I am also an annual Florida premium Disney World pass holder.



The directions you're looking for can be found on this MousePlanet page.

Hope your residents enjoy the project!



Tina asks: I am trying to find out how much it would cost to stay in Fort Wilderness. We have our own travel trailer and wanted to know the cost per night. I was unable to find this information on this site.



The MousePlanet WDW Resorts from A to Z page provides a great overview of the ammenities and services offered at the various WDW resorts (including Fort Wilderness), as well as "rack rate" prices. I'd suggest you start there.



Van writes: Dear Brian, I am leading a group of 9th Grade students from Greenville, Texas to a Youth Education Seminar at WDW from March 15 - 20, 2003. This will be the fourth group of students that I have led to WDW, and the tips and information that I have learned from your column has been very helpful to me in the past. My question concerns the WDW Transportation System busses. We will be staying at the All Star Movie Resort, and one of our Seminars begins at 7:15 at the Magic Kingdom. I was wondering if the WDW Transportation System busses would be running that early?



I called the resort, and they said that the regular bus transportation is not usually available to the park that early. When I explained your situation, the recommendation that I was given is that you contact the folks that you booked the trip through and ask them about transportation arrangements.



Douglas share this note: We just got back from WDW on Sat. Your web site was a great help in planning our trip. When we started planning we had no idea what things like Fastpass, and priority seating even were. Our trip was great and we were able to navigate the parks and restaurants with ease thanks to your help.

The only disappointment we had was in Happy Limousine. I would not recommend them to anyone. They wouldn't do our grocery stop even though we had faxed our list prior to our trip and left us stranded without diapers for our 1 year old!!! Our complaints fell on deaf ears. Our return driver was all over the road too- very scary. Thanks again!


Thanks so much for your kind note, Douglas.

I'm sorry that you had problems with your shuttle service provider, but I'm glad that everything else went well.



Chris asks about Vistana Resort: Brian, hello and greetings from Yuma, Arizona. My fiancee and I are getting married this weekend and are honeymooning in Florida and staying at the Vistana Resort. We have 5 day park hopper passes and will be there in late November. We are frequent visitors to Disneyland as it is only a 4 hour drive, but this time we wanted something different. My questions to you are, can you tell me anything about the Vistana Resort and how busy do you think the parks will be pre-Thanksgiving? I really appreciate you taking time to answer my questions. Thank you again and we love the website!




Unfortunately, I've never stayed at Vistana myself. I've just looked, and unfortunately MousePlanet doesn't have any very recent reviews of the resort, either. However, if you go to this page in our old resort review archives, and look at the Lake Buena Vista area, you'll see three or four that might be helpful to you.

By all accounts, the resort is a very nice one.

Since you're leaving the area a few days before Thanksgiving, I don't think you'll have any crowd problems. You might see a bump in crowd levels towards the end of your trip, as the holiday gets closer, but you should still have medium to light levels, I would think.

Enjoy your honeymoon!



Keith shares this note, after reading the recently re-published Norway Photo Tour: Brian, I just read your Norway piece on MousePlanet, and a few comments. First, thanks for pointing out the Viking with Mickey Mouse ears. I'd heard about that for years, but somehow could never spot him. When I saw your photos of the mural, I made a point of looking for him, even before I realized that was your intent with the last photo. I got a chuckle form seeing him.

As to the ride, it is indeed entirely too short, but it could have been a lot shorter still. It was originally intended to be much faster--in fact, it was to be EPCOT's first "thrill ride." But it didn't quite work out that way. I worked "Test and Adjust" there a couple of weeks before the ride opened to the public, and caught several tidbits about the ride from the contractors. It seems that it was originally intended to be larger, longer, and faster. The show building was scaled down by as much as a third. The ride's speed was also toned-down considerably, due to some troublesome engineering issues. Even as of the time I was there, the entire ride system was an absolute mess. I was told that boats coming down the ramp into the North Sea travelled too fast couldn't make the sharp turn at the end (did any of the engineers remember their high school physics?) and would jump the flume. The ride control systems were seemingly hopeless as well. I don't know how they ever got it working in time. When Eisner came for a preview, they had to operate everything--every stop, every gate, etc--manually. It seems to be functional now, and I've not heard of any mishaps, but to this day, I don't think it works as smoothly as was intended.

To their credit, I think the engineers probably did the best they could with the scaled-down ride. Due to the mechanics of the ride, the smaller space means that everything must work much more precisely. For example, the ride cannot allow more than one boat at a time in a given show scene. This is harder to control than it might seem. Since the boats are free-floating through most of the ride, and their speed is influenced by a number of variables, it is difficult to precisely regulate their speed. If the show scenes were larger, obviously this would offer more margin for error.

I see that you're also a fan of Kringla Bakeri's "Rice Cream." With so many enticing choices, it's hard for me to choose there, but I often opt for my favorite--the Rice Cream--as well. I've since discovered a good substitute for when I get a craving between my entirely to few visits to the Bakeri. I take Kozy Shak brand rice pudding (don't let the goofy name fool you, it's awesome!) and top it with strawberry preserves (stir the preserves with a fork first, to make them easier to spread atop the rice pudding). I haven't had Rice Cream recently enough to make a suitable comparison, but from what I can recall of it, "my" version is very close. Give it a try sometime, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.


Thanks for the great background, Keith.

I'll try that rice cream recipe sometime. :)

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

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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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