My Disney Top 5 -Walt Disney World Absolutes

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. I hope you are all doing well out there. To quote Alice Cooper - and I can't believe I'm saying those words on MousePlanet, "School's out for summer!" That's right, as of the day I'm writing this article, school is indeed out for summer. Today was my last day at work for a while and, as anyone would imagine, I'm quite beside myself happy right now. I won't be lying around all summer long. I've got some work lined up, as most of us do on our break. This summer I have a Disney trip to look forward to! I haven't been able to utter that sentence since summer of 2018! Fall of 2019, my boys and I escaped for a quick weekend down there before the world shut down a few months later. But this summer…I'm in countdown mode until we're finally back in August!

At this point, I'm making sure I have the right dining reservations, the right park reservations, plane tickets, comfortable sneakers, functioning magic bands (I'm not giving up my magic band yet!) and all of those little odds and ends that I'll need when we're storming the parks for a week. As I've just gone through the final planning stages for this trip, I started to think about the things I think that are most important to me when I'm headed to Walt Disney World. What are the things that I must do? What's non-negotiable? As with any Disney fan, I have some things that are just not up for discussion. What are they? Let's check out my Top 5 Walt Disney World Absolutes.

5 - No Dining Plan

Here's the thing with the Disney Dining Plan. In our lives, the way we choose to eat and travel, it's just not necessary. Years ago when the Dining Plan was a newer thing, we booked a 10-day trip at Port Orleans Riverside. Yes. 10 days! If you haven't taken a 10-day trip to Disney, trust me, it's that much more magical. With 10 days, you can truly relax, slow down and really experience the place. It was fantastic. We also got lucky because they were offering a free dining plan with every vacation package. So we weren't going to turn down free food for 10 days, that's for sure. We couldn't deny the savings. But what we soon came to realize is that we simply don't want to book our Disney trips around dining reservations. And despite the fact that it was all free, we didn't like the idea that we had to stick to it and get the most out of it…all the time. We kind of felt like the trip was revolving around food and dining.


I can eat at one of our favorite places, the San Angel Inn, with or without the Disney Dining Plan. Image by Donald Fink.

When we're down at Disney we certainly have restaurants that are special to us like breakfast at the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom, or the San Angel Inn in Mexico at Epcot. We have had some truly amazing meals down there. My wife's 40th birthday at the California Grill was one of the best meals I've ever had anywhere. My 50th birthday dinner at the old Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge for 24 people was extraordinary. However, my dinner at the pool at the Yacht Club that one night, which was a last minute decision to cancel dinner plans and hang at the resort, was just as magical if not more. The pizza at the Caribbean Beach pool while watching Lilo and Stitch on the inflatable screen with my sons was one of my best Disney memories of all and that was also a night that we canceled plans. My point is, I don't want to be tied down to dinner reservations all the time. We didn't pay for the Dining Plan on that trip, so we could cancel whatever we wanted. We didn't though. We felt like we were getting it for free so let's take advantage. In the end, we all agreed that we would never pay for the plan and make our whole trip so scheduled around food. That, and it was really upsetting how many wasted carrot cakes were in our little Riverside fridge at the end of the week! It just seems like too much food for us and too much scheduling as well.

4 - Magic Kingdom on Day One

This upcoming Wednesday August 17th we will spend the first morning of our trip at the same place we spend every first morning of every trip, the Magic Kingdom. To all of us, this is a no-brainer and it's non-negotiable. We adore Epcot and Animal Kingdom and, since the addition of Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land, have started to love the Studios. But the Magic Kingdom is the heart of Walt Disney World. I love how it feels like that much more of a journey getting up to that corner of the property. I know exactly when I can get that first glimpse of Cinderella Castle and Space Mountain from the resort buses and the anticipation builds once we get closer and closer. Once I'm there, I feel like I've actually returned. It happens as soon as I enter Town Square.


A panoramic view of Town Square, Main Street, and the Castle as seen from the upper level of the Main Street Train Station. Photo by Donald Fink.

I can remember my wife on one trip looking over at me as we walked through the square, and she said, "You are so happy right now…aren't you?" Yes, of course I was. It was the first park we went to on our first trip there as a family and it's been the first one we've gone to on every trip I've ever taken. It's an absolute. We haven't arrived at Walt Disney World until I'm in the Magic Kingdom and therefore, that's where we've always started out, and we always will.

3 - No Car

This is an easy one for me. I'm not driving down there. Not going to happen. It's not that I hate to drive. I'm a Deadhead and a skier. Tomorrow, I'm about to drive two hours back and forth to see a show by one of the members of the Grateful Dead and then Saturday, I'm probably going to drive another three and a half hours in a different direction to see the rest of them do another show. I love to drive. As a skier living on an island, I have to drive a least two to three hours or more to get to some good mountains. No problem. Load up the car and let's go. But once I'm on Disney property, something different happens to me. I reject everything that makes me feel like I'm at home. I remember when the Deluxe resorts used to leave a USA Today at your door in the morning. No thanks. No reminders of the outside world please. One time at the Yacht Club, my daughter had heard that there was a good coffee shop over in either the Swan or the Dolphin. She wasn't too enchanted with Disney's coffee at the time, so I agreed to take a walk over with her and check it out. As soon as we got to the lobby, there was a TV near the coffee shop playing CNN. No. No. Absolutely not. Get me back to the Yacht Club where the TV in the lobby plays classic Disney shorts please.


Boat, monorail or my car...not really a choice as far as I'm concerned. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

I feel the same way about driving on Disney property. It might be more convenient and easier to get to some places, but I still don't want to get behind the wheel and drive anywhere. It pops my Disney bubble. And before you say it, I actually have driven while at Disney once. My cousin who lives nearby came to Animal Kingdom Lodge to stay and hang with us for a few days while we were on one of our Riverside vacations. We left a park and went back with him to check out the grounds and the animals and his room. We were all curious to see the place. Once we there, our kids wanted to swim, but we had no suits. My cousin offered me the keys to his car, so I could run back and get bathing suits. Yes, it was convenient. I was there and back in no time and I know I couldn't do that on Disney transportation. That said, it still felt wrong to me and I hated it. I drive every day of my life here in New York. When I'm there, I'm trying to escape. As long as there's a fleet of Disney boats, buses and monorails, I'm not driving.

2 - Park Hoppers

I've had people tell me I'm crazy to simply rely on Disney transportation all the time, but here on MousePlanet and in conversations with friends. I always offer the argument above. I've had the same debates over Park Hopping. I can't tell you how many times I've had the argument thrown at me, "You're wasting your money buying Park Hoppers." "Park Hopping is a Disney scam to get more money out of you, you don't need them." To each his own. Me? I've park hopped since day one and I always will.


Start the day off at Disney's Animal Kingdom in the morning. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


With a Park Hopper, you can end your day over at Epcot, which is even more beautiful at night. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

As much as I adore the Walt Disney World parks, I thoroughly enjoy leaving them behind for a while in the middle of the day and heading back to our amazing resort. Knowing that our options are open for the afternoon and evening is all part of the joy of being able to park hop. As a rule, we are almost always at a park before it opens that day. Most people are not. That gives us some quality time in the park of our choice that morning. Then, when the temps are up and the crowds are at their peak, we leave and go back to our resort for some pool or AC time. Then we could sit there, poolside with a drink in our hands, and decide where we are going that evening. Sometimes we'll have a dinner reservation booked, and we'll have a plan, but other times we'll make a group decision and go where we want. Walt Disney World trips are so scheduled nowadays, we'll always add on the park hoppers just to relieve us of some of that and keep our options open.

1 - Staying On Disney Property

No, Disney hotels and resorts aren't cheap. Yes, I imagine you can find a chain hotel outside of the gates that is cheaper. Without sounding too brash here…I don't really care. I've heard the argument before, "I'm just going there to sleep. I'm in the parks all day. Why should I stay on property to sleep?" I have never even considered the fact that I'm just going to my hotel to sleep. This Saturday night, after driving 3-4 hours and then reveling in another 3 hours of Grateful Dead music, yeah…I'm going to just need a place to sleep before i drive home the next day. But at Disney, the resorts are totally a part of the whole experience. I need to be in the bubble. I didn't even like going into the lobby of the Swan or Dolphin to get a cup of coffee with my daughter because of that one TV with CNN. I'm not leaving the gates, passing the Walgreens and the Targets and the Exxon stations on my way to my hotel. Bubble popped. I'm not happy.


The lazy river at Stormalong Bay in the evening, just one of many reasons to stay at one of the magnificent Disney resorts. Photo by Donald Fink.

Disney's resorts are beautifully themed and immaculately kept. There's great food options, some truly remarkable pool complexes, free transportation back and forth to all the parks, boats, monorails, horse and buggy rides, bike rentals, fishing, boat rentals, bonfires, movie nights, awesome gift shops, tennis, gyms, food courts and so much more and it's all wrapped up in that special Disney magic that you just can't find anywhere else. I've stayed plenty of places. I've been in some truly stunning resorts in the Caribbean, some spectacular ski resorts, classy inner city hotels, quaint bed and breakfasts and everything in between. Still, there's nothing quite like staying at a Disney resort, on their property, engulfed in the atmosphere and safely tucked away in the bubble. This is the top non-negotiable, absolute on my list.

Now listen, these are my things. If you're thrilled staying at a chain hotel off property and having the time of your life in the parks all day, just to go back and crash into your pillow at some Holiday Inn or a Courtyard by Marriott, then more power to you. I've had friends get the Disney Dining Plan that comes with two, count 'em…two sit down meals each day, and they love it. My way isn't your way. These 5 things are the things that I have suggested over the years to friends, family and readers as to what I personally think make for the best Walt Disney World experience for me. You might absolutely agree that staying on property is the way to go, but only if you bring your car or rent one. Once again, whatever makes you have the best and most magical experience at Disney is what's right for you. But these are my absolute, must-have, non-negotiable things on my list for living my best life when I'm in one of my favorite places anywhere in the world. In less than two months, I'll be living that dream, staying on property, going to the Magic Kingdom first on a Disney bus without a Dining Plan with a Park Hopper ticket on my magic band and I'll be grinning from ear to ear and I can't wait!

That's all for this time. As always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below to share your thoughts on this list. Stay safe and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.

 

Comments

  1. By carolinakid

    My take:
    1. Agree... but only if we’re doing the parks during the visit. You get a lot more for much cheaper in the Sea World area if you’re not doing parks...when we do only resorts and Disney Springs we stay in a 2 bed/2 bath Marriott property for less than half of what it would cost in a standard deluxe room for 8 nights.

    2.Disagree... no need for us the way we tour now. Not worth the inflated price.

    3. Agree...IF we’re staying on site.

    4. Disagree...we start with our least favorite (Animal Kingdom) and save the best (Magic Kingdom) for last.

    5. Agree... too much food and wasted time for us guys.


    Great column. We agree with 3/5!

  2. By danyoung

    This upcoming Wednesday August 17th...

    Getting a little overanxious, aren't we?

  3. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    Getting a little overanxious, aren't we?

    I think Chris just wanted to be clear he wasn't talking about the next time August 17th is on a Wednesday in 2033! (Maybe he already has a trip planned for then too! )

  4. By Dave1313

    On a more serious note:

    5) Agree. I've not ever done the DDP, but don't see any particular attraction to it. If I can get into a restaurant, I'm willing to pay for it out of pocket. I don't always do sit down meals (maybe sometimes as often as one a day, but certainly not always, especially because I enjoy doing "meals" by walking around and sampling the food booths at Epcot during F&W and F&G festivals - that can count as at least one of lunch or dinner and sometimes both!)

    4) Disagree, at least when it's a trip that's just me. Though I also don't always start in the morning, which may have something to do with it (I often quickly stop in a park in the evening if I fly in the afternoon).

    If it's a family trip where the others have not been as often as I have, I possibly agree, and would certainly prioritize it if it made them feel like they would enjoy the trip that way (but I would not suggest it to alter anything they might want to plan).

    For myself, I've certainly violated this first day rule. On my last trip (Oct 2021), I sort of followed this, but not for long. I poked my head in MK just long enough to see the new fireworks show. I did not venture that far into the park either (didn't make it too far into Town Square, I watched from between the Station and the Flag Pole). But that was because I was on a specific personal mission to also rush over to Epcot via Monorail to try to catch Harmonious on the same evening (which I did successfully pull off). I wouldn't try to rush for something like that with others with me though. After that quick "visit" to MK, I don't think I went back to MK until my last day.

    3) We are going to agree to disagree on the car.

    I will use monorail/boat/skyliner while there, but have heard too many "we had to wait xyz minutes for a bus for our resort" stories to want to regularly wait in yet another line for a bus. (and as you suggest, there are certain routes that are way faster with a car, especially if we are not talking about MK on one end of the trip (since I will admit TTC lessens the advantage there).

    I do agree on the lobby Televisions to some extent though. I may not be a total bubble person (aside from my like of having a car, I may seek out news on the web in the mornings or at night before sleeping, though I should probably try not too), but I see the point there.

    Then again, since they added the parking fees for Disney resorts, I'm more likely to be off site, so I don't expect those TVs to be on Disney related content, even though most of them do feature Disney prominently in the lobby in some way, of course.

    2) I agree, at least for what a park hopper used to get us in terms of flexibility before COVID. Not so sure anymore (though I dd get the hopper and use it in some way at least twice in my trip last October).

    With park reservations and not being able to hop before 2 PM, it's less of a benefit since there are so many additional hoops to jump through to take advantage of the hopper. I have not read this anywhere myself yet, but a friend at work mentioned to me yesterday he had heard Disney is now considering requiring reservations for park hopping as well as the park reservation. It's to the point where it's not even fun anymore in my mind.

    Back to the hopper dynamics, while I've never really been a "back to the resort" type of visitor (I'm not a pool person either, which probably has a lot to do with that), I used the hopper to widen my options for getting ADRs sometimes. I don't plan my trips 6 months in advance, so never had a full trips worth of wants ready to go at 6:30 AM (or whenever it is) to try to plan out a whole trip. I therefore understand it will be hard to get popular restaurants.

    I was willing to pay for a hopper or AP for the flexibility of not having to worry about which park I was visiting vs which park a restaurant was in. Visiting DAK in the morning, but have a chance for a seat at LeCellier, Skipper Canteen, or Brown Derby for lunch, no problem! Worked for me. Oh, wait, the reservation is before 2 PM, so that can't work now. Just makes it another complication. It's now too much like planning for getting all the ducks in a row for a complex task at work. (and if what my friend heard ends up being true, it's now even worse.... a) can I get a reservation, b) is it for past 2 PM, c) do I already have a hopping reservation or can I change my MDE to obtain one?)

    1) Disagree, at least it it's just me. For a family trip, I'd stay wherever they like. My mom really liked the Poly, and if she and the others want to do it again someday or even try one of the other Deluxe resorts, I certainly won't try to convince them against it. I do agree they are great, and love most of them I've been to, it's just not a requirement for me (and the parking fee add-on of 2018 pushed me away on principle).

    I had migrated to the partner hotels over near Disney Springs prior to COVID, post parking fee implementation. I'd stayed at a fair number of the on-site locations for at least a part of my trip in the past. My last trip I did try Dolphin for the first time, so I guess that probably counts as on-site (except for the hotel lobby playing news on the TV! ). That trip was the last week before Genie started, so there was no benefit in terms of signing up for that when I was there like there used to be with FP+ (which is what made me migrate to D Springs locations back then).

    My absolute: I must feel like I am having fun and enjoyed my vacation when it's over. The changes Disney seems to be keeping with reservations/hopping limitations has made that way too much like work and killed a lot of it for me. Unfortunately to the point where I'm not in a huge rush to go back. I am glad I went for my trip in October 2021, but it demonstrated how much the limitations put a damper on things for me.

    I understood the need for limitations when we were either still in COVID (pre-vaccine) and/or still trying to get back to normal once we had the vaccines. But now it seems like it's either just a control point for Disney and/or their inability to hire enough staff to run the parks the way they used to. (though the amount of people that are going to the parks seems like they can hire enough to claim it's functional with really big crowds, but still want to attempt to finesse the staffing levels). If they really can't hire enough people with the current state of things, that may be a long term problem. I really feel it's more driven by the control and data gathering effort now though. Or the average number of people who used to think working for Disney Parks was a good job for them have decided otherwise in the last 2 years for some reason.

    Sorry for the bit of negativity. I will be very interested to read your post trip article or trip report/comments to see how you feel after your first visit since the COVID shutdown.

  5. By maxbuffmelvin71

    5. Agree. I haven't done the DDP since 2010 when it was reasonably priced. We average one dinner table service and one dinner character dining per week-long trip. The rest of the dinners are counter-service. We have groceries delivered for breakfast and lunch items.

    4. Mixed. MK is our first morning/full day park since it is our favorite park. MK is not necessarily our first park on a visit. Typically, we take the first early flight to Orlando and we will get to the WDW late morning. Then we go to DHS for a few hours and then check in to the resort. Since we are fatigued from lack of sleep, we would rather save MK for the next day after a good night of sleep.

    3. Disagree. I agree with most of you on the Disney bubble such as avoiding the news but I always rent a car. Having a car is so convenient to commute from the airport, travel to EPCOT, AK, and DHS, and travel to resorts for dining. Disney buses are such a hassle although the bus from AKL to MK was tolerable.

    2. Agree. I can spend a full day at MK but EPCOT, DHS, and AK are half-day parks for us.

    1. Agree. I love almost all the WDW resorts.

  6. By wdwchuck

    5. We did the Disney Dining Plan once and I think we got it for free but we have never done it again. Way too restrictive much like WDW has gone to more and more nowadays.
    4. We usually go to Magic Kingdom first, but it is not a hard a fast rule. We try to make our first day a Monday or Tuesday under the delusion that the crowds might be less. But it has not been that way for a while. (Except during the first year of the pandemic. That was awesome, just like the WDW of old, except temperature checks and masks.)
    3. For many years we relied on Disney Buses and we have the scars to prove it. Many horror stories about the Disney bus system. Then we moved to Florida and we are able to drive there and it is night and day. We love that freedom and the only glitch in the system is the Ticket and Transportation Center going to Magic Kingdom and our solution to that is having breakfast or lunch at one of the Magic Kingdom resort restaurants. We park the car go in and eat and then walk over to Magic Kingdom or take the boat. We do the same thing for Epcot sometimes too. Park at a Crescent Lake resort, eat breakfast or lunch at the Beach Club or a restaurant along the BoardWalk and then walk in the back door to Epcot.
    2. We hate the new park hopper system and won't use it. We also hate the park reservation system. Bunch of freaking control freaks at Disney. We miss the old freedoms we had that made it more fun.
    1. We were all about the bubble. The bubble was it. We really enjoyed the great deals we used to get on Moderates which were just as much a part of the bubble as anything. We will miss the bubble most of all. But there is more to life than the bubble.
    We also miss Chris commenting on people's comments.

  7. By cbarry

    Yes...Chuck...well called out! I have been a little absent from commenting on all of your wonderful and insightful comments. I apologize. Spring is typically a super crazy time for me in my "other working life." This spring seemed to turn that up to 11 (I hope a few of you get that reference!) Couple that with my daughter graduating college and us spending a week up there with her attending events and then planning and throwing a big bash here at home for her and I have been noticeably absent from my comments.
    Know this...you dedicated readers and commenters mean the world to me. It's always been the most important thing to me, connecting with MousePlanet's awesome audience. You guys are the best and, as always, I deeply appreciate you reading and taking the time to move the discussions forward.

    Chris

  8. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by carolinakid View Post
    My take:
    1. Agree... but only if we’re doing the parks during the visit. You get a lot more for much cheaper in the Sea World area if you’re not doing parks...when we do only resorts and Disney Springs we stay in a 2 bed/2 bath Marriott property for less than half of what it would cost in a standard deluxe room for 8 nights.

    2.Disagree... no need for us the way we tour now. Not worth the inflated price.

    3. Agree...IF we’re staying on site.

    4. Disagree...we start with our least favorite (Animal Kingdom) and save the best (Magic Kingdom) for last.

    5. Agree... too much food and wasted time for us guys.


    Great column. We agree with 3/5!

    I like Number 4 - start with your least favorite and build up the excitement level...

    As far as your number 1 response, I don't imagine I'll ever not do the parks.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  9. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    Getting a little overanxious, aren't we?

    Yes. Completely and wholeheartedly overanxious! It's been two years...getting dangerously close to 3!

  10. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1313 View Post
    I think Chris just wanted to be clear he wasn't talking about the next time August 17th is on a Wednesday in 2033! (Maybe he already has a trip planned for then too! )

    That's right Dave...in my mind I have that August 2023 trip all planned out!

  11. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1313 View Post
    On a more serious note:

    5) Agree. I've not ever done the DDP, but don't see any particular attraction to it. If I can get into a restaurant, I'm willing to pay for it out of pocket. I don't always do sit down meals (maybe sometimes as often as one a day, but certainly not always, especially because I enjoy doing "meals" by walking around and sampling the food booths at Epcot during F&W and F&G festivals - that can count as at least one of lunch or dinner and sometimes both!)

    4) Disagree, at least when it's a trip that's just me. Though I also don't always start in the morning, which may have something to do with it (I often quickly stop in a park in the evening if I fly in the afternoon).

    If it's a family trip where the others have not been as often as I have, I possibly agree, and would certainly prioritize it if it made them feel like they would enjoy the trip that way (but I would not suggest it to alter anything they might want to plan).

    For myself, I've certainly violated this first day rule. On my last trip (Oct 2021), I sort of followed this, but not for long. I poked my head in MK just long enough to see the new fireworks show. I did not venture that far into the park either (didn't make it too far into Town Square, I watched from between the Station and the Flag Pole). But that was because I was on a specific personal mission to also rush over to Epcot via Monorail to try to catch Harmonious on the same evening (which I did successfully pull off). I wouldn't try to rush for something like that with others with me though. After that quick "visit" to MK, I don't think I went back to MK until my last day.

    3) We are going to agree to disagree on the car.

    I will use monorail/boat/skyliner while there, but have heard too many "we had to wait xyz minutes for a bus for our resort" stories to want to regularly wait in yet another line for a bus. (and as you suggest, there are certain routes that are way faster with a car, especially if we are not talking about MK on one end of the trip (since I will admit TTC lessens the advantage there).

    I do agree on the lobby Televisions to some extent though. I may not be a total bubble person (aside from my like of having a car, I may seek out news on the web in the mornings or at night before sleeping, though I should probably try not too), but I see the point there.

    Then again, since they added the parking fees for Disney resorts, I'm more likely to be off site, so I don't expect those TVs to be on Disney related content, even though most of them do feature Disney prominently in the lobby in some way, of course.

    2) I agree, at least for what a park hopper used to get us in terms of flexibility before COVID. Not so sure anymore (though I dd get the hopper and use it in some way at least twice in my trip last October).

    With park reservations and not being able to hop before 2 PM, it's less of a benefit since there are so many additional hoops to jump through to take advantage of the hopper. I have not read this anywhere myself yet, but a friend at work mentioned to me yesterday he had heard Disney is now considering requiring reservations for park hopping as well as the park reservation. It's to the point where it's not even fun anymore in my mind.

    Back to the hopper dynamics, while I've never really been a "back to the resort" type of visitor (I'm not a pool person either, which probably has a lot to do with that), I used the hopper to widen my options for getting ADRs sometimes. I don't plan my trips 6 months in advance, so never had a full trips worth of wants ready to go at 6:30 AM (or whenever it is) to try to plan out a whole trip. I therefore understand it will be hard to get popular restaurants.

    I was willing to pay for a hopper or AP for the flexibility of not having to worry about which park I was visiting vs which park a restaurant was in. Visiting DAK in the morning, but have a chance for a seat at LeCellier, Skipper Canteen, or Brown Derby for lunch, no problem! Worked for me. Oh, wait, the reservation is before 2 PM, so that can't work now. Just makes it another complication. It's now too much like planning for getting all the ducks in a row for a complex task at work. (and if what my friend heard ends up being true, it's now even worse.... a) can I get a reservation, b) is it for past 2 PM, c) do I already have a hopping reservation or can I change my MDE to obtain one?)

    1) Disagree, at least it it's just me. For a family trip, I'd stay wherever they like. My mom really liked the Poly, and if she and the others want to do it again someday or even try one of the other Deluxe resorts, I certainly won't try to convince them against it. I do agree they are great, and love most of them I've been to, it's just not a requirement for me (and the parking fee add-on of 2018 pushed me away on principle).

    I had migrated to the partner hotels over near Disney Springs prior to COVID, post parking fee implementation. I'd stayed at a fair number of the on-site locations for at least a part of my trip in the past. My last trip I did try Dolphin for the first time, so I guess that probably counts as on-site (except for the hotel lobby playing news on the TV! ). That trip was the last week before Genie started, so there was no benefit in terms of signing up for that when I was there like there used to be with FP+ (which is what made me migrate to D Springs locations back then).

    My absolute: I must feel like I am having fun and enjoyed my vacation when it's over. The changes Disney seems to be keeping with reservations/hopping limitations has made that way too much like work and killed a lot of it for me. Unfortunately to the point where I'm not in a huge rush to go back. I am glad I went for my trip in October 2021, but it demonstrated how much the limitations put a damper on things for me.

    I understood the need for limitations when we were either still in COVID (pre-vaccine) and/or still trying to get back to normal once we had the vaccines. But now it seems like it's either just a control point for Disney and/or their inability to hire enough staff to run the parks the way they used to. (though the amount of people that are going to the parks seems like they can hire enough to claim it's functional with really big crowds, but still want to attempt to finesse the staffing levels). If they really can't hire enough people with the current state of things, that may be a long term problem. I really feel it's more driven by the control and data gathering effort now though. Or the average number of people who used to think working for Disney Parks was a good job for them have decided otherwise in the last 2 years for some reason.

    Sorry for the bit of negativity. I will be very interested to read your post trip article or trip report/comments to see how you feel after your first visit since the COVID shutdown.

    Hey Dave. I love the idea of poking your head in to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks and then hopping a monorail to check out Harmonius in the same evening. Ambitious and I'm glad you pulled it off!

    Lots of insight here in your comments and yeas, I imagine I'll have a post trip article ready to go when I get back. We'll see how I feel about all of these new differences.

  12. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by maxbuffmelvin71 View Post
    5. Agree. I haven't done the DDP since 2010 when it was reasonably priced. We average one dinner table service and one dinner character dining per week-long trip. The rest of the dinners are counter-service. We have groceries delivered for breakfast and lunch items.

    4. Mixed. MK is our first morning/full day park since it is our favorite park. MK is not necessarily our first park on a visit. Typically, we take the first early flight to Orlando and we will get to the WDW late morning. Then we go to DHS for a few hours and then check in to the resort. Since we are fatigued from lack of sleep, we would rather save MK for the next day after a good night of sleep.

    3. Disagree. I agree with most of you on the Disney bubble such as avoiding the news but I always rent a car. Having a car is so convenient to commute from the airport, travel to EPCOT, AK, and DHS, and travel to resorts for dining. Disney buses are such a hassle although the bus from AKL to MK was tolerable.

    2. Agree. I can spend a full day at MK but EPCOT, DHS, and AK are half-day parks for us.

    1. Agree. I love almost all the WDW resorts.

    Hey Max,

    We do tend to eat a lot of counter food as well. My sons, despite being 19 are just not big eaters so the sit down meals are often not a bargain for them. We haven't gotten breakfast food delivered but we do always pack cereal boxes and granola bars in our suitcases. Always have. We have considered the delivery option for this trip though.

  13. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by wdwchuck View Post
    5. We did the Disney Dining Plan once and I think we got it for free but we have never done it again. Way too restrictive much like WDW has gone to more and more nowadays.
    4. We usually go to Magic Kingdom first, but it is not a hard a fast rule. We try to make our first day a Monday or Tuesday under the delusion that the crowds might be less. But it has not been that way for a while. (Except during the first year of the pandemic. That was awesome, just like the WDW of old, except temperature checks and masks.)
    3. For many years we relied on Disney Buses and we have the scars to prove it. Many horror stories about the Disney bus system. Then we moved to Florida and we are able to drive there and it is night and day. We love that freedom and the only glitch in the system is the Ticket and Transportation Center going to Magic Kingdom and our solution to that is having breakfast or lunch at one of the Magic Kingdom resort restaurants. We park the car go in and eat and then walk over to Magic Kingdom or take the boat. We do the same thing for Epcot sometimes too. Park at a Crescent Lake resort, eat breakfast or lunch at the Beach Club or a restaurant along the BoardWalk and then walk in the back door to Epcot.
    2. We hate the new park hopper system and won't use it. We also hate the park reservation system. Bunch of freaking control freaks at Disney. We miss the old freedoms we had that made it more fun.
    1. We were all about the bubble. The bubble was it. We really enjoyed the great deals we used to get on Moderates which were just as much a part of the bubble as anything. We will miss the bubble most of all. But there is more to life than the bubble.
    We also miss Chris commenting on people's comments.

    Hey Chuck,

    A few comments:
    I've had this discussion so many times here on MP over the years. Aside from a few long waits, I have really found the Disney buses to be efficient and to some extent, a part of the experience. Maybe I've been lucky. I also have been staying at Deluxe resorts for quite some time now. There's definitely a difference between catching the Magic Kingdom bus from the Yacht Club and catching the Magic Kingdom bus from Riverside. So many more people, so many more rooms, so many stops within the resort. So, maybe I've been spoiled? We'll see on this trip to the French Quarter.

    Despite it being an absolute on my list, we have been debating the whole Park Hopper thing for the first time ever on this trip. I have park tickets that I purchased from AAA that are not park hoppers because I bought them last summer before park hopping came back. We then canceled a trip due to COVD concerns and our tickets were reserved for this summer instead, but they are still just base tickets. I'm not so sure given the reservation system that we'll hop as much? But we are definitely afternoon break people. We head back around 1 o'clock to swim and cool off. I like the idea of then heading to a different park in the evening and keeping our options open. So, my question is, what is it you hate so much about park hopping right now?

  14. By wdwchuck

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    Hey Chuck,

    A few comments:
    I've had this discussion so many times here on MP over the years. Aside from a few long waits, I have really found the Disney buses to be efficient and to some extent, a part of the experience. Maybe I've been lucky. I also have been staying at Deluxe resorts for quite some time now. There's definitely a difference between catching the Magic Kingdom bus from the Yacht Club and catching the Magic Kingdom bus from Riverside. So many more people, so many more rooms, so many stops within the resort. So, maybe I've been spoiled? We'll see on this trip to the French Quarter.

    Despite it being an absolute on my list, we have been debating the whole Park Hopper thing for the first time ever on this trip. I have park tickets that I purchased from AAA that are not park hoppers because I bought them last summer before park hopping came back. We then canceled a trip due to COVD concerns and our tickets were reserved for this summer instead, but they are still just base tickets. I'm not so sure given the reservation system that we'll hop as much? But we are definitely afternoon break people. We head back around 1 o'clock to swim and cool off. I like the idea of then heading to a different park in the evening and keeping our options open. So, my question is, what is it you hate so much about park hopping right now?

    Thanks for responding Chris!! I absolutely agree the bus experience is different at a Deluxe than at a Moderate and certainly way different than a Value. Except maybe at the Animal Kingdom. That was never really a good experience. They really need to do some sort of magnetic train or something into the park. As far as the park hopper, we don't like the after 2 pm thing and we are still hung up on the park reservation system. We hate it. We have so many great memories of using our considerable experience to beat the crowds and move around to where they weren't. That is just one aspect. It's ok though, we have been watching attendance and we know that Disney does not miss our moderate money. The parks are full and will probably stay full. For what you are using it for I would think the park hopper would be fine. I don't even know how much they charge now compared to what they used to charge. Thanks again for responding. Love your writing/topics/ideas.

  15. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    Hey Dave. I love the idea of poking your head in to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks and then hopping a monorail to check out Harmonius in the same evening. Ambitious and I'm glad you pulled it off!

    Lots of insight here in your comments and yeas, I imagine I'll have a post trip article ready to go when I get back. We'll see how I feel about all of these new differences.

    Thanks for the response, Chris, and congrats on your daughter's graduation!

    Obviously the MK fireworks viewing was not optimal, since I knew I would not see the projections at all from near the Flag Pole, but it let me succeed in my quest in some manner. Being much farther into the MK would have erased my advantage of being one of the first of the many people headed for the monorail with the same idea. Hopefully someday I will check out the MK show with a better view near Casey's Corner or somewhere else near or within the hub.

    Once in Epcot, I even had a few minutes to grab a burger at Regal Eagle Smokehouse in the America Pavilion before the show(my first time there, I thought it was very good - though I would like to go again someday when I'm not trying to rush eating to see the show). I was pushing my luck for sure, but I made my way out of there and had a decent view from between the America Gardens Theater and the Torii Gate in front of the Japan Pavilion. That was a decent enough view considering when I arrived: (I'd certainly consider watching from back there again - as can be seen in this pic, I had a decent clear view of 3 of the 4 "taco barges" and the center "Stargate". )

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