MousePlanet Mailbag

by Stephanie Wien, staff writer
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Hey everyone, it's apple picking season, the Evil Queen's favorite time of year. Remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, unless you got it from an old hag, in which case you might be better off with a candy bar. Mouse Tales author and MousePlanet staff writer David Koenig doesn't accept apples from strangers, but he does share letters, including the following in response to his column, "Discovery Boy" (September 14, 2010).

Todd C. writes:

I read your story about Alan Cranford with great interest. I own and operate a railroad enthusiast web site known as Trainorders.com and I have lots of Alan Cranford types on my web site. In the railroad enthusiast world we call them "rivet counters," as these sorts of people pick up the most minute detail with anything and everything associated with the railroad. Some of these people track locomotives around the country and note unique details such as a replacement air conditioning units that are painted differently and do not match, unique air horns to a particular locomotive, odd paint jobs, and so on. Over the years I have met some of these people and in every case they are a signature Asperger case. Many of these people hold down good careers in computer programming, journalism, and engineering.

I have a passing interest in the Disney obsession and although I have never been to a Disney fan show or event, many of these people I have read on the various Disney discussion web sites seem like the same caliber of people found in the railroad hobby. Do you find that the Disney fans you have met are similar to Alan Cranford in regard to attention to detail and obsession?

Hobbies such as Disney and trains (not to mention Disney trains!) are ideal for the detail-obsessive, because they are endless wells of minutiae. So it can be intimidating to speak before a crowd of Cranfords and quickly realize they know more than you do!

I had a childhood friend whose hobby was reading and memorizing the local phone book. Not sure how well he's retained this information, but it would have been nice if I could have persuaded him to search for a cure for cancer instead!


Alan Cranford writes:

Thank you for the flattering write-up. You've made me famous. One more story:

Over 30 years ago I was on leave from the Marines and visiting with my family. We went to one of the malls in Las Vegas and I encountered a cliché. You know the joke about finding a suit of armor in a museum--with a living person in it? Or the joke about someone imitating a mannequin? Walt Disney World even has living statues at Epcot.

Mom and my youngest brother and sister were with me. Something set off my internal alarm--then I thought I saw a mannequin blink. I was sort of being dragged through the mall as two women were shopping, so I wasn't certain. When we came back through the store, I was certain that the mannequin had changed poses. I knew how hard it is to stand absolutely still, and when I looked closer, her eyes were live, not dead like the other mannequins. Her hair and makeup were convincing. I thought I saw respiration.

My next move shocked my poor mother--I addressed the mannequin and complimented her on how well she stood still. Mom started acting weird--as if she just realized her eldest son was a mite touched. Not true, I'm more than a mite touched. Mom was speechless when the mannequin came to life and talked back to me. Perhaps Mom was remembering the old Twilight Zone episode with the store mannequins? My little brother was thrilled. I'll have to ask my little sister about her feelings that day, if she remembers. Though after that incident when I told my younger siblings OR THEIR CHILDREN something really weird, their reaction was "If Alan tells it to you, it is real."


Letters about trips to Disney World without kids? ("Top 5 Things I Did On My Kid-Free Trip to Walt Disney World," June 11, 2010) Staff writer Chris Barry likes them apples.

Josh F. writes:

Chris, great article. You were right on. My wife and I have three children as well and have gone to Disney World as a family about five times. My wife and I have gone, just the two of us, on two occasions. Both occasions have been for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and we are going back again in October. If you get a chance to go back with your wife I highly recommend going during that time as it is hands down my favorite experience at Disney.

The food, wine, and beer is fantastic as is the atmosphere and music. You cannot enjoy the Food and Wine Fest with your children I assure you. What we typically do is go for three nights/four days. One of the days is obviously for Epcot, one of the days is for a recreational activity such as water tubing, parasailing or waterskiing and the last day is usually to lay around the resort pool and enjoy everything the resort has to offer. Obviously we have at least one romantic dinner at either California Grill or Citricos.

Both times we've gone something happens that inevitably reminds us of the kids (a ride, show or anything). I have found that going with my wife enabled us to, like you, slow down and take in more detail. As such, it helps us when we take the kids in that we don't worry about what my wife and I want to do and can solely concentrate on the kids experience and that gives us a peace and joy about the trip we hadn't had before.

We have been there for Food and Wine and it definitely does deserve kid-free time, but it is a great time to be at Epcot. I'm glad to see someone taking advantage of all the extra activities that the resorts offer. There's so much more to a Walt Disney World vacation than the parks. California Grill gave me, hands down, one of the finest meals I've ever had anywhere. Throw on top of that amazing meal the lights dimming and Wishes being piped in while we watched the fireworks out the window and you've got one unforgettable dinner.


Karen writes:

I loved your piece on Disney without kids. My husband and I went to Disneyland in 2005 without our little darlings. It was our first trip without them anywhere - a week in California, and Disneyland was the first stop. They had been to Walt Disney World twice by then, I didn't feel the least bit guilty, and we had the best time (and made up for it in 2008, they went then).

I have always wanted to see Walt Disney World decked out for Christmas, and Jim and I went in December of last year for a long weekend. We splurged and stayed on the concierge level of the Polynesian (our favorite resort); we had a lagoon view room and fully enjoyed every minute. What I found that really brought back memories was the ability to hit the ground running early and the stamina to last all day with no complaints from the peanut gallery. On Saturday we made 12 hours (just like in our pre-kid days!) Oh sure, we were more tired than we would have been twenty years ago, but it was so much fun! I took so many pictures of the decorations, and even pictures of the Jonas Brothers! If my boys had been with us, the mortification would have been too great to bear!

But of course, we are wonderful parents, so we'll all be going back this September for four days, and staying at the Pop Century. And the best part: at 13 and 16, this is the first visit where they get turned loose as a team and do what THEY want as much as possible. I guess that means it's a semi-without kids trip for us right?

It's funny, as much as we thought we'd "hit the ground running early" like you said, we found ourselves staying behind and enjoying the room and breakfast on our balcony more than rushing out to the parks. I thought we'd go for a 12-hour marathon, but in the end, we just didn't feel the need. Maybe next time, a marathon one day, a more leisurely paced day the next. Like I said in the article, it was whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

We're staying at the Polynesian this summer for the first time and are looking forward to it. I'm taking suggestions for which longhouse to request. We're going for garden view. Any thoughts?

Enjoy your trip to Pop Century and your semi-kid-free-trip!


Debbie B. writes:

Kudos to you and your wife for taking a trip without kids. I have done it several times and although I love Disney with kids, I think everyone should take a trip with their spouse alone at least once. Your list was right on! It hit everything on the head of things you need to do when traveling with only your spouse or significant other. Seeing Disney in a different light gives a whole new outlook to the magically place.

I'm hoping we do this tip more often. It was a great time and was great for us as a couple.


Finally, reader Josephine writes in to challenge Chris' view on the "Top 5 Ways a Trip to Walt Disney World is a Bargain" (September 4, 2009):

I just saw your commentary on the Disney trips you've taken and how cost-effective you relayed Disney being. I am trying to stay positive about my search and I was ready to just forget about taking my 12-year-old sister. She has been asking to go to Disney World for years and I promised that I would take her this year. However the prices from New York City to Orlando that I've seen for an adult and one child start at $1,100 and rise steadily. Perhaps you're doing something that I am not.

I will always stand by my belief that Disney is the best deal out there. That does not, however, mean it's cheap. Traveling these days is costly, but if you play it smart, you can make it affordable. I just think for what you get at Disney, when compared to just about every other vacation out there, it's a bargain.

You would need to give me more info on when you are going, where you are flying from and where you are thinking of staying. Your cost of $1,100 could be a good deal, or not, depending on what you're getting for that cost and when. Aside from that, here are my best cost-saving techniques.

AAA - If you're not a member, you should consider joining. The trips we have taken have been booked through AAA and they have saved us sometimes $30-$40 per night when booking a room only reservation. They do not offer such a great deal on park tickets, but to be honest nobody does. A few dollars off each ticket is the best I've ever seen from anyone. But, I've found the AAA travel site and people to be very helpful. Plus, get stranded in your car somewhere once and have AAA come to your aid, and you'll wonder why you never joined in the first place.

Next, from NY, it's Southwest Airlines. They are always the cheapest. Never fails. I realize some people don't like not having an assigned seat. Confirm your flight early and get to the airport early and you'll have no problem. We travel with three kids and we've always managed to sit together. Seriously, Southwest is usually at least $50, sometimes $100 cheaper per ticket than JetBlue or the other majors.

As far as at Disney goes, I just got a code in the mail for $58 a night at the Value resorts. I can't see you getting anything cheaper that's worthwhile off property. There are some restrictions. Let me know if it's something you would be interested in and I could email you the code. It's not one of those name exclusive codes, so I think anyone could use it.

Remember, my original article was comparing value. Over the years I've paid around $150 per night at Port Orleans Riverside. I've paid close to $300 for a hotel at Hershey, near that for a hotel at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, and priced out tiny motels in various Atlantic coast towns for $200-$300 per night. I ask you where am I getting more bang for my buck, a motel on the Jersey Shore for $275 or Port Orleans Riverside for $150? There's no comparison.

Time of year is also crucial. You could save a bunch by going off-season, if that's possible. There are so many variables. I'd love to give you some more advice, but I would need more help and info from you. After you get some tips from me, from places like the MousePad discussion boards here on MousePlanet and discount codes and tips from places like MouseSavers.com, I think you'll see what my original article was all about.

 

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