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Sunday, June 16, 2019

What Many Guests Don't Realize About Disney World Planning On a Budget


by: guide4wdw - Collin

What Many Guests Don't Realize About Disney World Planning On a Budget 

It's no big secret that planning a Disney vacation that is even remotely budget friendly is getting more and more difficult day after day. While there is no doubt in my mind that the prices will keep increasing, time will tell as to how this changes the Walt Disney World experience over time. As always, I certainly eagerly anticipate what the future holds and the incredible memories Walt Disney World will help me and my family develop in the future, but there's no doubt that it can be a vastly expensive endeavor. 

As a result, many guests, including myself, look for ways to cut costs in any and all ways we possibly can. Now, I'm never going to be the person that will tell you to stay at the Super 8 on International drive to cut costs, but I am no stranger to cutting back and making Disney vacations genuinely as budget friendly as you possibly can.

I know so many of you look at this site and look at how often we tour the parks and likely have the same question I've been asked time and time again in person. It's a simple question and one that you all certainly should ask and it's simply, "How do you you go to WDW so often?" Personally, I absolutely love answering that question because it's one of the many things that I feel is vastly important in the Disney vacation planning process. 

The secret to our frequent trips isn't being a "trust-fund baby" or anything of the sort. It's quite the opposite in all honesty. Much of our planning revolves around cutting costs any and every way we can. We look at many different dates before settling on a travel timeframe and more often than not really focus on making smart flight decisions (which will vary) and really utilize budget friendly flights from whatever airline we find. Truthfully, despite some of the press about less than stellar air travel experiences, there's not a huge difference in the "in flight" experience from different airlines. Setting that aside, it's also important to note that this is "what I do" and it's one of those things that has become a priority in my life. For other people, many things may be ahead of WDW as a priority in your life. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that! Ultimately though, our biggest cost saving is traveling with family and splitting up costs when need be to make it happen any and every opportunity we have to travel. With that style comes a fairly decent level of flexibility and over the years you really do "figure it out" and learn to make the most of your trips. 

In the big picture, I've done many different cost savings articles here on the site and those tips have absolutely helped us along the way. However, today's article is a little bit different and in it I hope to really dig in and share the realities that many guests may not realize about booking a budget friendly WDW vacation. Sure, you will have to make some sacrifices to save money when booking your trip, but the sacrifices may not be near as severe as you expect and the realities of the booking and planning equation may surprise you!    

Booking Early Isn't Always Better 

This is, in my opinion, one of the more commonly accepted falsities of booking a WDW trip, Part of that may be a general travel agency push to get bookings on the record as early as possible, but the more likely explanation is that so many people tend to think sooner is always better from a cost savings perspective. 

In all reality, you have to be very careful about this one. Sure, booking early can save you money, *but* if you do book early be aware that if you're booking up to 6 months out or longer from your travel dates, you need to keep checking back for new discount rates that may be released. It's easy to book early and then put the trip on the back burner in your mind. Then, a new discount rate rolls out and you don't even learn about it until the allotted rooms for the rate have been filled. Discount rates are capped to a certain number of bookings, so always be on the lookout for discounts that may pop up. You can always rebook on the discouted rate or transfer your booked room to the discount rate structure (there are some exceptions but they tend to be rare). 

In my opinion, the booking "sweet spot" for good rates has been about 4 months from your arrival date if you're not overly picky about what resort you're looking to stay at. It's not a fool proof plan by any means but booking way early isn't always the best plan either.

Not Staying Deluxe... You Can Still Experience Deluxe 

So many prospective WDW guests get hung up on the idea of "I'm going to stay deluxe or I'm not going." In all honesty, this is probably not the best idea in my opinion. After saying that, it's important to note that I'm always a proponent of going to Walt Disney World as frequently as you can. Sure, if you're booking a one time trip to Disney World, maybe wait until you can stay deluxe, but staying in moderate, or even value tier resorts is in no way, shape, or form a vacation ruiner. 

There's no doubt in my mind that I prefer staying at deluxe tier resorts but it's not what makes or breaks my vacation. Even if you're not staying at a given resort, you can always book a meal there, lounge around the lobby, explore the grounds, and hang out for hours on end. You wont get to enjoy the pool and obviously you wont get access to a resort room, but so much of the resort experience is more than open to any guests that walk through the door. 

Never, under any circumstances, think that just because you're not staying at a resort, you can't enjoy that resort to an incredible extent. You're a guest wherever you are on property and Disney is going to treat you that way no matter if you're staying at that given resort for the night or a resort somewhere else on property.   

You Can Book What You Can Afford and Possibly Upgrade Later 

This is probably my favorite tip on this list. It is undoubtedly a strange one, but let me explain a little bit. So often, prospective Disney guests pull out their spreadsheets, plug in a series of dates, and then jump straight to ticket costs. Please don't do this. There is no hard and fast rule that you have to buy a ticket for every night of your resort stay when you book your resort and ticket package and often times people don't quite get that. 

I've spent numerous trips to WDW enjoying the parks every single day, but oftentimes the trips I remember the most are the ones where we have intentionally scheduled a few days away from the parks entirely enjoying the resort, wandering around Disney Springs, and even simply doing a little resort hopping. 

I know, to so many of you, it seems paramount to spend every possible moment you can of your vacation in the parks, but trust me when I say that if you take a break and enjoy your resort for a day, you will not regret skipping a park day 99% of the time. If you schedule a day at the resort, and somehow the money pops up to lengthen your ticket before your trip, or even during your trip, you can always add another park day and upgrade your ticket. 

Don't stretch your budget too thin but also realize that if you cut out park days, sometimes it will quite literally afford you the chance to book a longer resort stay and reallocate that money into your length of stay rather than simply another day in the parks. 

This is certainly something you start to see the value in after you buy an annual pass. At face value that seems like an odd statement, but when you no longer have that feeling of "oh I only have two ticketed days left, I better make the most of them" and instead look at it from the perspective of "I know I'll be back" it really starts to play with your mind and allows you to step back and smell the roses. Enjoying those hours away from the parks gets easier when you get out of your own mental block of thinking, "I have to be in the parks." I know this sounds like stretch but try it and thank me later!   

You Don't Have to Skip Table Service To Save Money 

The concept behind this one is a bit of a soap box topic for me, so stick with me if I get long winded. Everyone tends to associate a high price tag with table service dining at WDW for some reason or another. Don't get me wrong, it can be very expensive, *but* it does not have to be in any way shape or form. I'm not going to lie to you and say that there's some magical way to dine at Victoria and Alberts at a budget friendly rate, but there are some really excellent meals to be had in the table service realm that aren't expensive. For example, look at Whispering Canyon over at Wilderness Lodge. You can pick up a pulled pork sandwich on their menu for $14 during the lunch meal time. You can't eat a good meal off property for that! Even on property, you could easily spend an equal amount at Casey's for a hot dog and fries at a quick service location. 

Don't write off table service because it's "too pricey." All you have to do is be careful about what you order, look at the menus before you book your reservation, and drink water to keep your costs down. I'm not telling you to work the system, but rather to take advantage of the time you can have sitting down for a good hot meal in the air conditioning during your trip knowing that it doesn't have to break the bank. Do your research ahead of time and you wont go broke with table service dining. Over time, you start to uncover some incredibly budget friendly options and even after the tip the difference in price between some quick service dining and table service dining can be quite negligible.      

Skipping Some Park Days Can Save You Money AND Lengthen Your Stay 

As I touched on briefly before, it's all about how you plan your trip out that really effects what you're going to spend on your trip. If you can skip days in the parks, you may be shocked at how much money you can save. You do have to look at the cost of an additional ticketed park day from an objective standpoint because the cost of adding each additional day shrinks as your trip gets longer, but you may be shocked at how much cheaper it can be to add an additional night to your resort stay compared to another day in the park.

This realization is vastly beneficial to guests booking vacations that are fluctuating between 5-7 days and are debating adding another day. If you're traveling with a family of four and you can cut out a ticketed park day, that very well could save you enough money to lengthen your trip by another night and more than cover the costs associated with the extra night at the resort. Spend that day enjoying the resort pool, touring other resorts, playing miniature golf, exploring Disney Springs, or even simply relaxing mid week to gear up for the rest of your days in the parks. 

You Don't Need a Rental Car 

I realize this is a fairly beginner oriented tip, but skip the rental car if you're staying on Disney property. Transportation is provided and it's honestly quite excellent most of the time!  If you really need to get somewhere, an Uber or Lyft is typically 4 minutes or less away from your location anywhere on property. At this point I've dealt with both companies and their drivers many times and have had only a select few bad experiences. They are the exception rather than the rule.

To get just about anywhere on property you're looking at a cost of around $14 at most and both companies are currently pushing out discount after discount trying to beat each other and lock in more customers. 

The Dining Plan Isn't Designed to Save You Money 

The dining plan is something I personally haven't used in years. I know many people love it from a convenience factor and the fact that you know what you're going to spend on food before your vacation begins. Trust me, I get it and I plan my budgets well in advance as well sometimes, but in all honesty the dining plan is not marketed as a cost saving option, and it really never has been. 

At the very best, if you order every single thing you are entitled to on the dining plan, you will at most break even when comparing it to paying for every single item included with the plan out of pocket. At the same time, that's why we don't use it. We would never order everything the dining plan includes if we were paying for the meals, snacks, desserts, etc. out of pocket. When you think of it from that perspective it's easy to realize that it's not supposed to be a budget friendly option. It's ultimately a convenience option and it is incredible for that and I will never fault the dining plan. It's a near perfect plan for convenience and a user friendly experience. It's a great plan but something you really should think through before you fully commit to it.      

Plan a Budget Friendly Trip and You Could Literally Go Twice!

Part of the reasoning behind why we tend to be as budget friendly as possible when we tour the parks is ultimately because we go so frequently. I know that sounds kind of obnoxious to those that travel once a year or once every two years, but it is the genuine reality. We plan budget trips so that we can go more often and that works for us more often than not. 

For many folks booking a trip at the Grand Floridian (a stunning resort), you may not realize it at first but during some rate structures and discounts you could book two trips at a different resort for a similar cost. It's certainly not going to be a perfect situation and a huge money savor long term when you add in food and other costs of the trip, but you may be shocked what staying at more budget friendly resorts can do to change how often you visit WDW or how it can affect the number of days you can afford to stay on any given trip.

What Really Matters Is the Memories You Create 

At the end of the day, this is the message I don't want to get lost in sharing all of these realties. It does not matter how much you spend on a Disney trip, what resort you stay in, or how many table service meals you book. That's the cold hard truth to it all. The reality is that we are all touring the same parks, visiting the same places, and enjoying our own version of the same vacation destination. To me, that's the beauty of Disney. Sure, you can pay up and stay club level (which is incredible!), but it's not going to change your in park experience. It may change how you get there, what your nights are like, and how much time you spend away from the parks, but once you step through those gates, we're all enjoying the same Disney experience no matter where you're from, what you do, or how much money you have. 

In the big picture, none of that really matters and any seemingly different level of experience a resort provides and can genuinely provide are vastly overcome by the reality that what you remember years later and recall in your mind time and time again isn't about a park, it isn't about an attraction, and it isn't about your resort 99.9% of the time. Those things are simply catalysts creating the playground to develop the memories that stick with us for generations. Those memories we create sharing a glance with a family member as the fireworks burst high in the sky above, those moments that take your breath away as you sit there at a meal and the chef makes your day with some little touch of "extra magic" for your birthday, or even something as simple as getting caught in a sudden downpour in the middle of the park and having to seek shelter for an hour in a gift shop (yes.. that happens quite frequently), are the things you talk about for generations. Rarely is it because of any attraction or any particular dining location, but rather it's about the people and sharing a moment and in turn a memory with those you care the most about. THAT is what really matters at the end of the day and no budget (or lack of budget) can change that. 

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2019. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2019 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Thoughts on Disney's All Star Music Resort - Is It A Good "Budget Friendly" Option?


by: guide4wdw - Collin

My Thoughts on Disney's All Star Music Resort - Is It A Good "Budget Friendly" Option?

A Disney resort to me is so much more than a place to stay and lay your head between days in the parks. I know many people think of Disney resorts as a room and a bed and a place to spend a few short hours each day. In my mind, that's a thought process that's never made sense given the way we travel and what we expect to gain from the money we spend on a Disney resort. A Disney resort stay to me is far more about the overall experience because, more often than not, we will be spending a surprising amount of time enjoying what our resort has to offer. 

In the big picture, I look at everything at Disney from the perspective of my own personal experiences and what truly sticks with me years later. More often than not, the stories I share with family aren't based on a particular resort or even a particular park, but rather the little moments that you least expect. I truly believe that is the key to having an incredible Disney vacation and often times those memories are created in a way that is irrelevant to what resort you're staying in. At the end of the day, that's what really matters. No "perfect resort" is going to create those unexpected moments better than any other resort and that's something that really is important to recognize before I share my thoughts on this experience. 

I'm not going to lie to you and say this is the best resort around, but it is in so many ways a great option if it's what fits your individual needs, your individual price range, and what you want out of your vacation experience. That can be said about every resort on property. They all have their strengths, and perhaps the greatest struggle is figuring out what works for you. That's not a decision I can make for you, but rather one that I can guide you through. Which is exactly what I hope to do today with this review. I have admittedly been spoiled by staying in deluxe resorts more often than not, so that is something I should probably preface this post with as well. My expectations are admittedly higher than most, so factor that in as you feel is necessary.  

To make the long story short of what lead up to my stay in an All Star, I actually ended up here kind of on a whim. I had booked a business oriented retreat which began Friday, but had to fly in Thursday in order to be there in time for the event to begin. While I'd typically stay at Port Orleans French Quarter for shorter trips (which we also reviewed a short time ago here), I figured this was the perfect time to save money and take a look at the resort for a review here on the site (It's all for you all. I'm a giver and happy to do the "research" lol). In all seriousness though, it fit the need perfectly and since I was booking fairly last minute, the costs worked out quite well and the Magical Express was a "win-win" for saving money on transportation. 


From the 30,000 foot view, this resort was great and fit my needs perfectly. Is it comparable to the Boardwalk Resort (which I stayed in the week after the conference and will review again soon)? No. Is it even comparable to Port Orleans, French Quarter? No. But it's not designed to be and that's ultimately its greatest strength. It's a place you can go and stay in without worries of busting the bank account. More than anything, you know you're getting a nice, clean, and safe place to stay accompanied by the Disney cast and theming that really can make you feel like you're always in the heart of the magic in that "Disney bubble" so many of us refer to time and time again.

If you're looking for negatives, you're probably not going to find them in my review. It's not who I am or who I try to be. They are present and it's not a perfect resort but being negative doesn't do anybody any good in my opinion. There's enough negativity in life in general already that I don't need to be adding to it here. There are resort tiers for a reason and the trade offs should be in place as you pay more and get more in the end result.

The benefits of this resort are huge and huge from a cost effectiveness equation. For example, and as one of the many reasons I recommend everyone stay on property if at all possible, let's look at Airport Transportation to the resort from MCO if you're flying in. In my given scenario, I could have easily spent a night off property or in a Disney Springs Resort on Hotel Plaza Boulevard for $130-$150 a night compared to the $165 or so that I paid for All Star Music. However, there are a lot of hidden expenses that Disney doesn't have. Resort fees can be high off property, but more specifically transportation costs can add up in a hurry. The Magical Express can save you $50 or more in transportation from the airport alone given that it is a free service provided with your booking.

While it's not super budget friendly travel, it's not bad to say the least! 

The Property 

The only good way to describe the All Stars in general is that they are "larger than life." The decor is quite literally multi-stories tall and themed based on the particular All Star you book and what wing of the resort you are in. The categories encompass three separate resorts. All Star Movies, All Star Music, and All Star Sports. All Star Sports tend to be the home resort of dance groups and sports teams utilizing the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex so unless you're part of one of those groups, I'd try to stay away from that resort. The other two house mostly family vacationers. I was the exception to that as a single guy. To many, I'm sure it looked like I was traveling on business (which in a round about way I was) and I was by far the exception rather than the rule. 

The grounds themselves are fairly spread out but not near as bad as many sites make it out to be. You may walk 5-10 minutes to your resort room, but it's an easy walk even to the furthest rooms from the main building housing the food court and check in area at All Star Music in particular. To put it in perspective, I walked further to get to class on a college campus than I did to get to my resort room here.  

As you may expect, pools are abundant on the property. I did not take the time to actually visit the pool but they didn't seem overly crowded, even in the afternoon peak heat of the day. Everything was themed and the theming really is done quite well throughout the resort.

The Room Itself 

If I had to pick one area that could be improved upon it would be the rooms and to my knowledge this is something that Disney is already working to improve. The rooms have everything you need and even include a small refrigerator but they are "no frills" (as they are designed to be) and ultimately you can't fault Disney for that.  

I didn't spend a whole lot of time in my room that night anyway. I legitimately left Epcot at nearly an hour and a half after its posted closing time and then went to a different park the following morning. If that's what your looking for and that's what you're expecting out of a resort, this is a near perfect option. I wont lie to you and say that when I walked into our one bedroom villa at the Boardwalk 3 days later it was the same experience, because it is mind blowingly different.

It's so easy to look at the All Stars as the "low end" Disney resorts but it's all a mater of perspective. If you took that same resort room and put it anywhere else in the country with that same level of theming and environment you'd be thrilled to stay there. I guess that's the point I'm trying to make with all of this. The resort really is great, you just have to manage your expectations if you're used to staying in deluxe tier resorts. It's simply a different tier of hospitality and accommodations when it comes right down to it. 

The Bus Situation

Without a doubt, this was the factor that impressed me the most and exceeded my expectations. I'm not entirely sure if I hit the buses at just the right time or what, but my bus riding experience here was better than quite a few of the other resorts on property on this particular stay. I never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus. The buses were full but not unnecessarily so, and I never once got on a bus that stopped at another location before going to the parks. It could have been a complete luck of the draw experience but it worked out shockingly well in my opinion. 

The Magical Express experience was equally as good. I did wait at the airport for around 25 minutes while they loaded the bus with incoming flights but the journey over was flawless and since the 3 All Star Resorts are stacked very close together, the ride time was minimal. Even with the typical drop off procedures of putting multiple resort guests for different resorts on the same bus making multiple stops it wasn't bad at all. 

My Thoughts Overall

The All Stars are never going to be my top recommended resorts for first time or even returning guests. It's just not going to happen. However, if your budget is a huge concern and your options are: stay at the All Stars, stay off property, or stay home. My vote is always going to be to stay at the All Stars! 

The best way I can describe my experience is in the following story.

On the afternoon of my second day here as I returned to the resort from Magic Kingdom to head over to the conference, I hopped on a bus and didn't think much about it. As we got closer to the resort, the typical music started to play that tends to be resort specific and by what felt like happenstance the Garth Brooks song Friends in Low Places came on. Of course, the Kentucky in me loved it but more importantly the entire bus seemed to love it. About 30 seconds into the song, every dad on the bus was singing along with the song as their wives shot them a look of pure embarrassment. It went on and on but I cant deny that it was a near perfect representation of the All Star experience. No, I'm not saying everyone on the bus was a friend in a low place, but rather it shows that the people staying at the resort are there not because it's the perfect resort but rather because they know how to make the most of their experience.  

In the big picture that's all that really matters. That's a memory I'll have for years and you're not going to get a spontaneous, yet strange, experience like that anywhere but Disney. It's not about the resort you're in but rather those moments you share with family and friends that make or break the resort experience. So go, stay at this resort if you need to or want to, and realize that you will create memories that will last a lifetime if you get out of your own way and let yourself enjoy the moment!                                       

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2019. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2019 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Disney's Villains After Hours Event - Should it Be On Your List This Summer?


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Disney's Villains After Hours Event - Should it Be On Your List This Summer?

Last night was a surprising night in so many ways. If you follow our social media pages, or have joined our Facebook group to add to the conversation, you've likely seen us share the latest new experience for the Disney Parks this summer, Villains After Hours! 

If you follow Disney content, you probably already know that Disney teased this event in a big way back a few short months ago when they debuted a short teaser of Maleficent breathing fire at night. Immediately that peaked my interest and ultimately became the driving factor for me in booking this event and putting out the money to make this experience a reality.

I share that for a few reasons. One is the fact that the ultimate vision and goal of the night for me was to catch Maleficent breathing fire with a near pitch black background! Second, I mention that because I do want it to be known that we (Caitlin and I) did pay for this event out of pocket so we really can go at this from the perspective of someone "in your shoes" looking to pay the retail cost of the event. That retail cost isn't cheap by any stretch of the imagination. At a $139 advanced purchase price, a day of price of $144, and an Annual Passholder discounted price of $109, this is not a cheap event. However, I still put forth the argument that it is more than worth the cost if you're going into it with the right expectations. 

The dates really are all across the board this summer and are currently listed as the following on the Disney Parks website: 
Disney Villains After Hours takes place from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM on the following dates:
  • Thursday, June 6, 2019
  • Thursday, June 13, 2019
  • Thursday, June 20, 2019
  • Thursday, June 27, 2019
  • Monday, July 1, 2019
  • Thursday, July 11, 2019
  • Thursday, July 18, 2019
  • Thursday, July 25, 2019
  • Thursday, August 1, 2019
  • Thursday, August 8, 2019
In total this shakes out to 9 more dates after last nights first event. Of course, this all begs the million dollar question, should you go? My immediate answer is yes but I do say that with a slight hesitancy. I loved the event but it was largely due to the expectations I had set for myself. I went into this hoping to do the special things associated with the event that I couldn't do any other time and that worked out perfectly. Honestly, I loved this event. There were parts I didn't love but overall I was thrilled most of the night. If you're going strictly for attractions, this one may not be for you. The stage show is a bit long and eats into your time a little bit but it is worth watching a least once. For a three hour event you really have to prioritize what you want to get done to really have a near perfect experience but no matter what you are going to have a good time at this event! 

You can get into the event at 7:00pm with any ticket but if you were there ahead of time, you could actually check in for the event far earlier and merchandise started rolling out early as well. If you knock the merchandise out early on it will save you a good amount of time after the event officially begins. 

Magic Shots 

Throughout the night, Magic Shots were fairly plentiful with Photopass scattered around the park and a few of them were really really unique. While we didn't quite get to all of them, we snagged a couple from our friend Lisa over at TheCastleRun.com to complete the vast majority of what was offered during the event. The odd thing about these were that they were not marked on the map. Instead, you did have to wander a bit to find them but most were in fairly obvious locations that were quite easy to stumble across as you traversed the park. 

Here's a few of our favorites and a set or two we grabbed with our friend Michael of TheMovingPlatform as well. Overall, the Magic shots were great and a highlight of the event in my opinion! 


Villains Unite The Night Stage Show 

Moving on to the event specific entertainment, the true environment changing aspect of this event was the constant music and live DJ filling the hub area with an array of music bringing an incredible "life" to the event. All night long, the upbeat DJ blew away expectations, and really brought the hub to life in front of the castle which was decked out in a villainous projection all throughout the night. It was a look for the castle that I had honestly never seen before! 

The actual show itself, which Disney appropriately called Villains Unite the Night, took to the stage at 11:00pm, 12:00am, and 1:00am. Personally, I felt the show was a bit long, but it was really cool and brought a ton of unique effects into play as the villains took to the stage and brought to life a loose plot that was full of action and even a few pyrotechnics along the way! 

Maleficent At Night 

This was, without a doubt, the highlight of my experience at the event. As previously mentioned, my goal for this from the very beginning was to capture a fire breathing shot of Maleficent in the hub at night! There is no other way to capture a shot of her at night and man did this experience meet expectations! From the ominous music to the multiple bursts of fire, it was everything I had hoped it would be. In my opinion, this alone is worth the cost of admission, especially if you're into photography! 

What else can I say? Who doesn't love a massive fire breathing dragon creeping its way through a near empty Magic Kingdom blowing 20 foot pillars fo fire! This undoubtedly puts the Festival of Fantasy iteration of this float to shame and kicks up the immersion factor in a way that can only be felt and in no way can be described in words. There's no doubt in my mind that Maleficent is at her finest during these events!  In every way, shape, and form, this was the highlight of the event and has been for everyone I know that attended! 


Villainous Merchandise 

The merchandise was excellent and far exceeded my expectations (which were admittedly low). I caved and bought one of the tumblers being offered for sale and I don't regret it at all! To my surprise the merchandise was heavily guarded before the event officially began but was on sale very early in the night to guests who showed their band to the cast guarding the displays which were quite literally roped off! 

I've never seen this level of defense around merchandise for events, and much of it was limited in the amount that each guest could purchase. Everything was well stocked and ready to go and all the cast seemed pumped just to be there for the event! 


Specialty Food! 

The specialty food, I admittedly ran out of time to try. Much of it looked spot on to the guide map handed out for the event and much of it looked amazing! A few stand out offerings were Yzma's Llama Potion and Hades Temptation!  

Attraction Villanous Adventures 

This aspect of the night I was really looking forward to as well. I don't typically go to the Halloween parties so this was a nice surprise for me. The live character actors in Pirates were going above and beyond to create a memorable experience for guests both in the queue and on the attraction itself. 

Over at Space Mountain, the lights were completely out and a new soundtrack had debuted! We're talking pitch black! No light tunnel, no lift lights, no accent lighting, no nothing! It was the scariest experience I've ever had on Space Mountain and I loved every minute of it. You couldn't even see your hand in front of your face! We've laughed about riding it for hours today and I know, without a doubt, we'll be talking about that overlay for years to come! 

Ending the Night 

At the end of the night, a series of characters poked fun at the crowd and interacted with guests from afar as they were perched in the top of the Train Station as you left for the night. It was fitting end to an excellent experience and overall this is an event I highly recommend if you can swing the cost. It's not perfect but I had a blast and I really and truly believe you'll enjoy it if you take the time out of your vacation to make it happen. 

Addressing the Character Meet and Greet Questions 

Here's the deal in regard to the characters. There are no meet and greets but I don't see that as an issue. Truthfully, you wouldn't have time to do anything else if there were meet and greets and basically every villain you want to see is interacting with you in some way either distantly or up close and personal in a show or even waving goodbye to you from the Main Street Station. It's a far more uniform experience and you really can't beat an entire lineup of villains rotating in and out of position literally interacting with you and other guests for moments on end!  

While I know it was on everyones mind going into this, I do kind of get it and this is really a win-win situation for everyone when you really start to think about it! 

As always, my judgement of Disney events hinges on one thing. It's all about the memories the experience helps create with the people you care the most about! This event checked that box with authority and we'll be checking out future events like this if Disney decides to make them more readily available.

Overall, the 5000 guest speculated crowd cap was a nice touch, and while this isn't necessarily an event I'd recommend for kids, it was an incredible night to say the least!  

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2019. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2019 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Why I Believe Only a Select Few Things "Really Matter" During Your Disney Vacation


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Why I Believe Only a Select Few Things "Really Matter" During Your Disney Vacation

Tonight I had 100% full intentions of sharing a far more elaborate article about what to try and not try at Disney Springs, but this idea hit me and I think it's one of the articles that a select few will really really appreciate. Nonetheless, I think it's important to share and if this seems odd to you as a prospective Walt Disney World guest or potential first time visitor, whenever you do decide to visit so many of these things will make sense.

If you're a long time Disney parks fan like me, there comes a time when you start to realize that Walt Disney World is so much more than an ordinary vacation destination. I know this sounds like the beginning of a Disney promotional campaign but stick with me for a minute.

When you go to WDW you're not looking at an ordinary theme park. I know that's easy to say but it's far more difficult to fully convey. When you're there, you're escaping the world and you're escaping the troubles that life throws at you in a normal day and setting everything aside to simply be at Disney. For a brief moment you don't have to worry about work, the struggles of daily life, that laundry you have to do, or even that situation in life that you hope to forget but inevitably returns time and time again (everyone's is different but we all have one). Life isn't perfect and Disney doesn't inherently make all of that go away, but it does in many ways eliminate what you'd normally face in life at home. It's a strange phenomenon that is oh so incredibly difficult to share in words. When you're at Disney it's like you're surrounded by a world of pure imagination.

So many of us plan our vacations for months on end and map out every little detail but once you get there those plans you made become secondary time and time again. When you arrive and you walk up to that check in counter at your resort and enter that "Disney Bubble" the simple joy of just being there never leaves until you exit property and make your journey home. When it comes right down to it, planning is great but living in the moment and enjoying every moment during your stay is far far far more important.

Dining reservations change, fastpass+ selections change, and park hours change, but that feeling is always there. Forget the reservations, forget running to that attraction you couldn't get a fastpass for, and forget having the perfect spot for fireworks viewing. None of that really matters. It's important to book and be aware of but when you're there and when you're in the moment, living in the moment and enjoying the spontaneous nature of the parks is the single best thing you can do. I can recommend any number of tips and answer any number of questions but of the few things that really matter, nothing is more important than just being there and enjoying every moment you have.

It seems so strange, but I know at least one person reading this will understand every single word and know that feeling like the back of their hand. It's the one tip you cant tell someone how to do and it's the one tip that's going to be different for each and every person.

If I had to pick three things that really matter during a Disney vacation, the simple answer is living in the moment, creating memories with the people you care the most about, and taking time to enjoy the simplistic nature of the experience. In so many ways it's not about the attractions, the food, or even the "next big thing." It's about allowing yourself to let go of life for a few minutes to enjoy what really matters. I've said it before but the memories you create at Walt Disney World are never based on an attraction, a dining location, or even a resort that takes your breath away. The memories you create are the result of the people you share those moments with. Disney is simply a metaphorical paint brush and the tool used to create the stories you'll never forget. Everyones story is different and I wholeheartedly believe that's the ultimate secret to Disney's success.  

It's no secret that life gets in the way more often than not. Just take a moment to think back at the last time you and your family sat around a table telling stories and reliving the memories you created during the day without a distraction of a cell phone or a work call interrupting the meal, or any number of different things. Disney has a way of removing all of those distractions and time after time we've sat around the table at a table service dinner in the parks and told story after story of our favorite moments of the day, or even the stories of past trips that have stuck with us for so many years. It's the ultimate opportunity to set the world aside and reconnect with the people you care the most about.

I can recall so many memories of simple moments with family while on a Disney vacation. A few right off the top of my head were an incredible night sitting at the Boardwalk overlooking a picture perfect sunset talking and watching the performers, a moment where I happened to step back and look around during a fireworks show and notice the looks of pure joy on the faces of the people around me, and even a moment quietly sitting on a bench in Epcot watching the crowds pass by with my dad.

They're all simple memories but they're the moments that make you well up with joy inside as you recall them weeks, months, and even years later. Disney has a way of putting life in perspective and it's the perfect "reset button" to make you realize what your priorities are and what they really should be. A wise person once said life shouldn't be measured by the number of breaths you take but rather the number of moments that take your breath away. I have no idea who shared those words, but it's perhaps the most fitting way to realize what really matters when you're touring the parks. It's a matter of perspective beyond all else. Life's too short to not make the most of every moment we're given. Nothing is guaranteed so make the most of every single minute.      

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!

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