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MousePlanet Mailbag for December 5, 2003

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish all of them, the following may be of interest to other readers.

Feedback for Brian Bennett

The regular "Notes from the World" question-and-answer column now appears each Thursday, as part of the new MousePlanet Mailbag feature. Enjoy! -- Brian

Danny R. writes:

Not sure if this question is too simple for you. Having read your excellent Web site, all the questions seem very sophisticated - my problem is that I live in the U.K., am planning a trip to WDW in Florida in May 2003 but cannot seem to find any objective advice over here as to where the best place to stay is. We will be over for 14 days and the basic two options appear to be - stay in an All-Star Resort Hotel for the full 14 days or stay at Lake Buena Vista (Holiday Inn Family Suites) just outside and get a 10-day pass using the other days to see other sites or rest? If we stay at either do we need to hire a car or is public transport sufficient? We will be bringing our 4-year-old daughter. I'd appreciate any help/suggestions - apologies if this is too basic a question for you!

Danny, I can't tell from your note if you've yet had a chance to read through MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide. There you can find all kinds of information on planning a trip to Walt Disney World. There's information there on the resort hotels (including room rates), parks (including admission media), and all other aspects of planning a trip down to see the Mouse.

You may want to read through those pages to get more background.

Basically, though, you've come across the age-old "on-site versus off-site" accommodations issue. My personal preference is to stay on-site and use Disney's transportation. You wouldn't even need to rent (hire) a car in that case, so long as you planned to spend the whole 14 days at Walt Disney World. If you choose to go off-site to Universal Studios or Sea World, you could rent a car just for the day and still save a lot of money.

When you stay off-site, you may be fortunate enough to find a resort that offers some kind of shuttle service. I don't know if the Holiday Inn Family Suites does so. If they do, you need to ascertain what the shuttle schedule is. For the Disney resorts, the shuttles run continuously. You may have a 15- or 20-minute wait if you just missed one, but that would be about the worst-case scenario. Many off-site resorts, though, run shuttles much less frequently. Even with the lesser convenience of staying off-site, the reduced cost may be worthwhile. It's really up to you to judge the differences and decide what would be the best solution to meet your needs.

Scott wrote to share a bit of good luck, and to ask for some advice:

Help! I've got what is not an unattractive dilemma. We (myself, wife, 6-year-old daughter and 19-month-old son) are heading up to WDW this weekend.

We originally had reservations at Port Orleans Riverside, but I called this morning to double-check if there were any available Florida-resident deals on Deluxe Resorts. Lo and behold, they had both Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge available for only $60 total more for both nights! As they did not have any Savannah rooms available (not even at full rate), and we are planning to spend one of the two days at the Magic Kingdom, I opted for an upgrade to the Wilderness Lodge. Please tell me I made the right choice (and if I didn't, please lie and say I did).

But the point of my correspondence is not to seek a pat on the back for my luck and/or lodging choice; it is regarding a more practical matter - room selection. I am booking a standard room, and even after reviewing the info page, I am unsure as to what room request to make. We want to be close to the bus, marina and pool, if possible. Also, what is the policy on upgrades? Can I ask for one at check-in? Do they ever provide them free-of-charge? (typical American; always looking for something for nothing).

As always, thank you for your expertise and patience.

Scott,

I don't have to lie. I think you did well to get into Wilderness Lodge at that price! The Lodge is a very nice resort, I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay very much.

I would suggest you look at my "fast facts" page on the Lodge. You'll notice, under the heading, "Preferred Room Locations," all of my suggestions for making those room requests. Note, too, that the first floor is on ground level (actually one level below the lobby), so beware about asking for a first floor room.

You can always ask for an upgrade. It can't hurt... but don't be disappointed if an upgrade is simply not available.

Pat E. says:

First off, I'm a great fan of your site. Along with Pete Werner and Deb Wills, I probably spend more time with you folks in the months leading up to an Orlando trip than I do in Orlando after the planning is done. I greatly appreciate the resources and data offered. While I'm a 20-year, 25-trip vet of WDW, the knowledge I've gained in the two years since I've discovered Internet sources have made me a lean, mean, budgetary machine. My wife and I got out of our last trip, seven days/six nights, for about $1150.

Three years ago, staying at lousy motels and eating food bought at Wal-Mart, that figure was over $2000. And I thank you!

In trying to give back, I'm writing my trip report for our last venture, which took place in late September. As a graduate of the Penn State School of Journalism and as a current employee of a publishing house, I was embarrassed this morning to find my current draft is 15 pages and almost 10,000 characters long. And I've still got two days about which to write.

My question would be do you have a size limit on these things? As a reader, I liked them long and in-depth, so I could begin to visualize what the writer saw, thus helping me choose where to put my time and money. But darn is this thing long. I find the normal rules of my life -- get to the point -- just don't apply when I'm in Dis-mode. Your guidance at this point would be helpful.

Pat

Pat -- No, there are no such rules. Write what you think you need to to document your vacation in whatever way you want. I just appreciate your willingness to share it with me after you've finished it.

Kelly S. wonders about time share presentations.

My family is headed to Orlando in a week and I'm curious if you could recommend any resorts to do the timeshare spiels to get free or reduced tickets. I have heard horror stories, but I don't believe that all the resorts can be so awful in terms of them holding you captive all day instead of just a couple hours. If you have the time to reply, I would appreciate any info you have on where to go to so we don't waste a whole day listening to a sales pitch for something we don't really want to buy. I'm hoping that the fact we will have two little ones with us would help get us out the door quicker. Thanks in advance!

Kelly

Kelly -- My wife and I attended a timeshare presentation one time, back in October 2000. We had received a solicitation by phone for free accommodations if we attended a presentation at Westgate Lakes Resort. We ended up upgrading our accommodations (as we had extended family with us that trip and needed extra room), so we did pay some money.

Anyway, you can read my story about the presentation. Just scroll about halfway to Wednesday, October 25 and you can read the whole thing. Kevin Yee also included the story in his recent column, "Got Any Time to Share?"

We were originally told the presentation would take about 90 minutes. We were held captive for almost three hours. Still, it was worth it for the price break we got on the accommodations (which were very nice, I must say).

We left our son with the grand parents during the presentation, so I'm not sure if having kids along will help or hinder your desire to get out quickly.

Glenn asks:

We'll be at Walt Disney World the week of Christmas and was wanting your expertise on do's and don'ts on ordering for Carly, our soon-to-be 4-year-old. I had read somewhere about the suggestion of just asking for an extra plate and sharing with our daughter. Are the children's portions pretty substantial or are they kid-sized? Also, it seems to me I had also read that even though it's not on the menu, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be ordered at any time. Any kid's food tips would be appreciated from you or the other MousePlanet faithful.

Glenn -- It's funny that you should ask, because I've just been rereading my own most recent trip reports in preparation for my own upcoming trip. The one thing that struck me is that I mentioned several times that we over-ordered food for the boys.

I would strongly suggest that you just get the extra plate. Our boys just couldn't do a kid's meal justice between the two of them.

Joe wanted more information about the "Rehitchin' Ceremony" at the Contemporary Resort:

My name is Joe and I have a question about getting rehitched at Epcot, where basically your waiter renews your vows Goofy-style in the Garden Grill at Epcot. Have you ever heard of it? I read about it on the Intercot boards and when I called Priority Service reservations, she said she never heard about it. I said I saw it on a "unofficial" Disney site, and she said, "Well, there's your problem," and repeated that she never heard of it. I would really like to do this, so I was just curious if I got a uninformed cast member, or if the program is no longer available.

Joe -- The "rehitchin' ceremony" is a very informal, fun, and free little gimmick that is available over at the Garden Grill. Basically, your server and any available characters (and other servers) take on the task of helping you and your significant other renew your vows. How well it all goes and how funny it turns out depends a lot on the server and the supporting cast, as well as the reaction of the guests (you and your loved one). Whether or not you get a certificate and cake seems to vary, too. Sometimes the ceremony is done and it's just for fun with no giveaways, so if you just decide to have fun, anything you get as a gift can just be a fun addition.

Unfortunately, as you have experienced, many of Disney's reservationists are not even aware, so if you'd like to do it, just ask your reservationist to make a note of it on your priority seating. If they say they don't know what you're talking about, just ask them to humor you and put on the note that you'd like a "rehitchin' ceremony."

You may want to stop over at the Garden Grill sometime before your priority seating (even a day or more before) and confirm in person that the note is there. As an alternative, you might be able to take care of it right when you show up for your table.

Unfortunately, when the reservations folks aren't well-trained about these special little things, they're not able to do as good a job as they might otherwise.

Joe wrote back a few days later with an update:

Thank you so much for the info. I called back and the next cast member was much better. He said he never heard of it but instead of just brushing me off, he actually took the time to ask someone else about it and it sounds like it's going to happen and be a lot of fun. I still can't stop thinking about the first cast member's negative comment when I mentioned I saw it on a "unofficial site". Web sites like yours and Intercot make me more excited about going to Disney than the Disney Web site ever has.

A quick question from Judith B, in Lafayette, CO:

Can I upgrade my seven-day Park Hopper Pass to an Annual Pass at the Guest Services in Downtown Disney, or do I have to go to one of parks?

Judith -- You can take care of that upgrade at Downtown Disney also.

Anton writes with a positive review of Happy Limo:

In your most recent Q & A, Douglas wrote, "The only disappointment we had was in Happy Limousine. I would not recommend them to anyone." I just wanted to offer another experience. We used Happy Limo earlier this month for our trip, and the experience was wonderful. The person who took my order on the phone was very warm and pleasant. We were offered a grocery stop when we arrived but didn't need it. Although we only paid for a sedan (Cadillac Deville) on the return trip to the airport, we were given a free upgrade to a super-stretch limo! As we were staying at the All-Stars, we found this form of transport hilarious (I mean, we'd only paid $50 a night for the room). We watched Harry Potter on the flatscreen TV on the way back to the airport and thought this was the perfect way to end our trip. So I would recommend Happy Limo. I guess it's like everything else about Walt Disney World vacations, be it a resort or a restaurant... with so many people taking trips, some will have bad experiences (as I'm sure Douglas did), so you have to look at more than one opinion.

Keep up the good work...

I'm glad you had a better experience, Anton. As you pointed out, not every experience is going to be perfect. Unfortunately for Douglas, he had the bad one this time around.

Finally, Anne asks:

As with most of your readers, I'm addicted to MousePlanet. Our trip is November 30, 2002 through December 4. We're closing in fast and I check MousePlanet everyday. You'll be seeing my trip report early 2003!

We'll be staying at the Fort Wilderness cabins during this time and I understand that they show Disney movies at the Camp Sing-A-Long with Chip and Dale. What are the chances that Treasure Planet would be shown, do you think? Its release date is November 27.

Anne -- The movies shown at the campfire program are generally the older ones. I called Fort Wilderness today and confirmed that the likelihood of every showing a first-run film at the campfire is pretty much nil.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Do you have specific questions about an upcoming trip to Disneyland, Walt Disney World or another park, or do you need help with your trip planning? While you can contact one of the columnists, we encourage you to join our special MousePlanet community on our MousePad discussion board. There, you will find like-minded Disney park fans who can try to help answer your questions.

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We welcome your questions and comments, but keep in mind that all questions submitted to MousePlanet become property of this Web site. Letters of interest to the readership may be published, and may include your full name unless you specifically request that your last name not be published. They may be edited for length or style and in consideration of a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site as well.

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