Trip Reportsby Brian Bennett, contributing writer
Forward - an Introduction to My Own Addiction
The first Disney trip report that I ever read was a report by Mike Scopa that I downloaded from the America OnLine travel library in late 1994. The report was a detailed description of the Scopa family's trip to WDW in the summer of that year. As soon as I was done reading it, I was hooked.
I picked my own brain and documented my own trips and the things I'd learned from my own experiences. Then, in 1995 I actually wrote a report as the trip unfolded. I took a laptop with me and spent some time in the evenings documenting what had happened that day. (I've repeated that process for my own reports ever since.)
In July 1996, I started a Disney trip planning website. Besides including my own reports, I asked for permission from the authors of several other reports and added them to the offering. Since then, the number of reports has expanded greatly. In 1997, I added an information summary for each report to make it easier to sort through the reports that are available. For over ten years now (in 2000 my site became part of MousePlanet), we've gathered over a thousand trip reports and just keep adding more as they become available.
Obviously, the amount of work that it takes to "clean up" and format these reports into web documents is huge. When I couldn't take it anymore, back in 2003 or so, Alex Stroup took over the Disney Trip Report Archive. The number of reports added to this site just continued to grow and now MousePlanet has taken the necessary step of making this a self-submitting archive. The entire archive is now stored on MousePad, MousePlanet's message board. Separate forums have been created for Walt Disney World (including the cruise line and DVC), Disneyland, and a combined forum for Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong.Though change can be hard, there are plenty of advantages in this new system! Discussions can take place between readers and the author without posting your email address publicly (and comments can still be sent to you privately by email if you set up your MousePad profile to allow it). Plus, the archive itself will be to search through and find reports that will be useful to each user. And, of course, you'll no longer have to wait weeks or months between submitting your report and seeing it available for everybody to read.
Why Should Anyone Read About Other People's Trips?
I have found that reading trip reports to be the most entertaining and informative way of researching an upcoming trip to a Disney destination and keeping up-to-date on the many changes and additions to the "vacation kingdoms." One of the best features of any given trip report is that it brings a unique point of view to bear on the issue. It's great to see how the makeup of the family or party affects trip plans and goals. Also, since the Disney parks are so full of details, trip reports point out new ways of touring the parks, draw attention to out-of-the-way details, and provide fresh insight to old favorites.
Another reason for reading trip reports is that many of the "golden oldies" can be a fun way to reminisce about Disneyland and WDW as they developed into the tremendous vacation kingdoms they have become today.
Why do People Write Reports About Their Vacations?
There are several great reasons for writing a trip report: First, a trip report is a wonderful way of documenting a family vacation. Re-reading your own report is a fun way to reminisce about the wonderful times you had on the trip. Second, re-reading your own trip reports are a useful way to prepare for your next trip. It's a great way to refresh your memory about what you did and didn't do, what you liked and didn't, what meals you enjoyed, and what you really wished you'd done that you never got around to. Third, you can share your own experiences and knowledge with others.
How Can I Best Utilize This Trip Report Archive?
There are many ways ways to use this archive, but here are some ideas:
- If you've already made some of your trip plans, you can read reports of previous visitors to gain insight about the resort you'll be staying at, the conditions in the park (crowds, weather) during the time of year you'll be visiting, and so on.
- You can read the reports to gain knowledge on specific issues...such as lodging options (offsite vs. one of the Disney resorts), trip plans when various ages are represented in your group, travel arrangements and critiques (of airlines, rental car companies, shuttle services, etc.), and other information.
- Read the reports just for fun and to keep up with the latest and greatest at the Disney resorts.
- Get ideas on report writing and apply them when you write your own trip report (I hope)
- For Disney resort addicts, reading trip reports has been known to provide smiles, prompt happy memories, and even cause mild hallucinations of happy ghosts, pirates, space travel, alien encounters, jungles, night times filled with twinkling lights and fireworks, and hundreds of small singing dolls...
Trip Report Format and Protocol
There is no set format or protocol for writing a trip report. However, I would suggest a few things to make the finished report more useful to you and whoever reads it...
Always include an introduction to your report. The introduction should include:
A descriptive list of the various people in the group that you've traveled with (this makes the report (especially a "play-by-play" style report) more interesting because you know the characters) Appropriate summary information including the dates of your trip, the resort(s) in which you stayed, and other such pertinent information. This gives the reader "advanced warning" about what to expect from the report.
Also, if you use some standard scoring scheme for your comparisons, make sure you explain your criteria for making judgment calls (and include this in your introduction, too).
Headings by Day or Category
Use the date and day as a heading to each new day of a play-by-play report. This is more important than you might think. For example, if you visit Typhoon Lagoon and notice that the crowds are huge on a given day, it helps for the reader to be able to note the day of the week. Perhaps the crowds are due to the locals that visit the park on Saturdays and Sundays and swell the ranks of the vacation visitors.
Use appropriate headings for a summary report, too. Of course, days and dates are not appropriate, but if the next few paragraphs of the report discusses your meal experiences at Epcot, make that clear. Such headers will clarify a summary report significantly.
Highlight Hints and Tips
Hints and tips can be handled nicely two different ways. First, you can describe them in the text of the report (a play-by-play) as they come up. If so, use some appropriate heading so a casual reader can pick out those tips. Second, your summarized hints and tips can be listed at the end of the report. Frankly, I like to do both -- I mention them as they come up (but I don't highlight them in any special way), then I include a summary list at the end of the report to capture the "lessons learned" on the trip.
Writing the Text
Some folks like to write their report day-by-day and even post the report from WDW as they on their trip. Others take handwritten notes (and even carry a notebook in the parks on their trip). You might wish to consider that, as an alternative.
However, my personal preference is to take my laptop computer on the trip with me and write the report as I go (but without posting it daily). This can be time consuming, but helps me to capture details of our trip that I fear I'll miss if I write the report after the fact.
The reason I don't personally like to post daily is two fold. First, I don't want to take the time or deal with the hassle of being online when I'm on vacation (although I admit to checking my email periodically when I'm away). Second, I'd rather the posting be done all at one time so newsgroup readers can pick off the entire report at one time and enjoy reading it at their pace...not necessarily in daily pieces. The added advantage is that the report pieces will likely be all together when others are browsing the newsgroup.
I suggest that you write the final text of your report using whatever word processor you normally use. If you use WordPerfect, use WordPerfect. If you use Word, write your report using Word. This will make using the tools for your writing the most familiar to you and simplify your task. Then when you're done you can copy and paste the entire thing as a post to the archive. It is best to avoid trying to write a trip report directly in your browser since the risk of losing it all before submitting is too high.
Two general styles of trip reports predominate: First, the play-by-play style tells exactly what happened in chronological sequence throughout the trip. Play-by-play reports tend to provide a "story" atmosphere to the report, usually cover minute detail, and take a long time to write (trust me, I know!). Second, the summary style covers highlights, hints and tips, opinions, impressions, and so on in a list format.
Chose a style that suits you. For on thing, consider your own personality...don't write a Play-by-play report if you tend to be bored with details. Also, if you didn't take copious notes during the trip and tend to be forgetful, writing a Play-by-play report several days or weeks after the fact can be frustrating (I know, I've tried). On the other hand, if you tend to be a detail person...the Play-by-play style might be perfect for you.
As you write your report, include details that are appropriate. It is fun to read about your first impressions of Main Street, but you don't have to regale your readership with a sweeping description of Main Street every time you go to the Magic Kingdom throughout a two-week trip. You should especially include details that readers seem to most appreciate:
- Travel hints and tips
- Resort information (including hints and tips about room locations, restaurant and other amenities, transportation details, etc.)
- Overall WDW transportation lessons-learned
- Park touring tips (and experiences with crowds, etc.).
- Restaurant reviews (in the resorts, parks, and offsite) -- and especially character meals
- Non-Disney side trip information
Other suggestions about your writing are:
- Make it readable! Typographical errors, misspellings, incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, excessive abbreviations, and other grammatical errors make trip reports tedious and difficult to read. Also avoid the tendency (especially in the play-by-play style) of writing in lengthy paragraphs. Break up the text into appropriate chunks.
- ACAtmPWNU (Avoid Cryptic Acronyms that many People Will Not Understand). At the minimum, make sure you identify your acronyms when you first use them (in the worst case, you can include a glossary). Some of the ones I've had trouble with in the past include: PoTC (Pirates of the Caribbean...and I don't know why the O is not capitalized while the T is either.) HISTA (Honey I Shrunk the Audience), IASW (It's a Small World), SM and SM (Space Mountain or Splash Mountain...depends on the context...and you have to figure it out as you go), GF, GRBR, YBCR or YCR or BCR, Poly or PR or PBR, CR, WL, OKWR, BWVR or BWR or BVR or BWI or BWIR, CBR, DL, PO, CSR, ASSR, ASMR, FWC. Just for fun, see if you can figure these out (answers are below): SFRT, WS, UoE, FW or FW, EEC, WSL, TZToT, GMR, TLS, LwtL, NLC.
Acronym Answers from Above (AAfA):
SFRT -- Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
WS - World Showcase
UoE - Universe of Energy
FW or FW- Future World, Fort Wilderness
EEC - Ellen's Energy Crisis
WSL - World Showcase Lagoon
TZToT - Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (ok, so this was an easy one)
GMR - (The) Great Movie Ride
TLS - The Living Seas
LwtL - Living with the Land
NLC - Neverland Club (a childcare facility located at the Polynesian Beach Resort)
GF, GFBR- Grand Floridian, Grand Floridian Beach Resort
YBCR or YCR or BCR - Yacht and Beach Club Resort, Yacht Club Resort, Beach Club Resort
Poly or PR or PBR - Polynesian Beach Resort, Polynesian Resort, Polynesian Beach Resort
CR - Contemporary Resort
AKL - Animal Kingdom Lodge
WL or VWL- Wilderness Lodge, Villas at Wilderness Lodge
OKWR - Old Key West Resort
BWVR or BWR or BVR or BWI or BWIR - Boardwalk Villas Resort, Boardwalk Resort, Boardwalk Villas Resort, Boardwalk Inn, Boardwalk Inn Resort
CBR - Caribbean Beach Resort
PORR - Port Orleans Resort Riverside
PORFQ - Port Orleans Resort French Quarter
CSR - Coronado Springs Resort
ASSR - All Star Sports Resort
ASMR - All Star Music Resort
PCR - Pop Centry Resort
FWC - Fort Wilderness Campground
SSR - Saratoga Springs Resort
Comparisons are valuable.
If you've had experiences at one WDW resort in the past, compare it to the ones you had on this most recent trip. If you liked Dixie Landings better than Port Orleans, explain why! Someone else that had previously enjoyed Dixie Landings might read your report and decide to try Port Orleans or not based on your comments. Summary lists are valuable, too, but document your reasons. If you list the "greatest hits" attractions of everyone in the group, explain why Grandma LOVED "Alien Encounter", why junior LOVED "Pirates of the Caribbean", and why most everyone just hated "It's a Small World."
Posting to this Web Site
If you want to post your report here, you can do so just like you would post in any discussion forum. The old days of having to email the text (sometimes in pieces) to an editor (like me or Alex) are long gone. Instead, you can now post the report by day or section yourself without dealing with a middleman. If you don't already have a MousePad account you can register here, you will need to get one before you can post a trip report or comment on others. With this account you'll also be able to participate in the rest of the message board as well as provide restaurant and hotel reviews for our User Review system. Click here to begin the process of getting an account.
However, I would ask that you provide the forum readers with some information that you should add to the top of each post when you submit a report:
COPY AND PASTE THIS FORM, WITH YOUR INFO, ON THE TOP OF YOUR TRIP REPORT POST:
Ages Represented in Group:
WDW Experience Represented in Group:
Cast of characters:
For "Travel Method" you may want to give one of these standard answers: Personal Car, Plane, Autotrain, Rental Car, Shuttle Service. The resort you stayed at can be identified by acronymn, or you can spell it out if you prefer. The Accommodations are basically the type of room you stayed in: (i.e. Standard Room, 1 Bedroom Vacation Home, 2 Bedroom Vacation Home, Villa Vacation Home, Suite). You don't have to list everyones exact age, but a breakdown of the age groups (i.e. Infant/Toddler, Elementary, Teen, Adult, Elderly) can help readers understand how the likes and dislikes of the various group members (of restaurants, attractions, and so on) vary by their age and interest levels. Finally, providing some idea as to the experience in the group of visiting the Disney resorts (i.e. Veteran, Frequent, Infrequent, Rookie, DVC Member) can give some perspective about the trip, too. A group of veterans, having visited WDW annually for twenty years will look on the parks much differently than a young family visiting for the very first time!
Speaking for the whole MousePlanet team (and especially those that worked so hard to "migrate" all of our old archive reports to this new forum) I hope you enjoy this new archive! Post long and post often!
Brian Bennett, March 2007