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Monday, December 17, 2018

Our Ideal Disney World "Resort Hopping" Day! 9 Resort Visits in One Day!

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Our Ideal Disney World Resort Hopping Day! 9 Resort Visits in One Day! 

If you're a Disney parks fan or even simply a casual traveler to Walt Disney World, you've likely heard of the term "resort hopping." In essence, resort hopping is = going to resorts other than your home resort to visit, shop, dine, and ultimately explore a little piece of Disney that each resort offers in new and unique ways. It's a great way to expand your horizons at WDW and an even better way to find resorts to stay at during your next trip or new places to dine that you never would have considered. 


However, at this point in the article, I feel somewhat obligated to mention that this is not a list of ways to work the system and visit other resort pools and the many other practices that Disney heavily frowns upon. Instead, this is a list of ways to explore the unique dining, hidden gems, gift shops, and unique theming of resorts, and it's actually something Disney tends to encourage rather than the alternative. Leave the pools, guest rooms, and guest exclusive areas of the resorts to the guests staying at the resorts, but be sure to explore the theming and intricate details of these expertly designed resort common areas. 

Rather than repeating much of what we've shared in other articles, today we're sharing what a typical resort hopping day looks like for us and how it is extremely possible and quite stress free to visit 9 resorts or more in one day outside of the parks. 



It's been a growing trend among our family to take the time out of each vacation to set aside one day (on week long trips) to step away from the parks to explore the resorts in more and more depth. Not only does it save a few dollars in the overall budget, but it also tends to be one of our most enjoyable days of the trip time and time again. 


Characteristically, a resort hopping day for us will begin at Wilderness Lodge's Whispering Canyon for breakfast. It's not unusual for us to be staying at the resort or its accompanying Boulder Ridge Villas, but even if you choose another resort, Wilderness Lodge is typically only a few minute Uber ride away (we shared a few tips on that service here). The breakfast is great and we even did a full review of it after the fact due to our multiple visits and even went as far as to call it a "hidden gem" breakfast on Disney property. If you know us, you know that is about as high of a rating as we could give any Disney dining location. It truly is one of the best values on property. 

Circling back to Uber, the service does play a role in our resort hopping plans but only a very slight role. In the past, I've been a critic of the service for various reasons but with the ever changing nature of the parking situation at Disney parks and resorts, it's often easier to use Uber/Lyft/Minnie Vans and provided Disney transportation than trying to drive from place to place. It's quick, it's convenient, and ultimately is worth the money, especially if you use one of the referral codes both Uber and Lyft provided us with which will get you and us a discount on your ride(s). 

(Works anywhere in the country.) 

However, while Lyft and Uber are always quite convenient, don't overlook Disney transportation and that's ultimately how we get from place to place during the day as we move from resort to resort. Getting to the first resort of the day tends to be the problem when resort hopping. If you go to a resort for breakfast, it can be quite tricky to get to your destination without an Uber or Lyft. Typically we would catch a bus to the closest park from our home resort for the week and then catch a bus at the parks bus stop to the resort destination of our choice. Breakfast tends to be a tough timeframe for doing this because the parks aren't always open early enough to get to your breakfast reservation by that particular route. As a result, ride sharing services due come into play. 

Wilderness Lodge

Once breakfast is over, consider taking a walk around Wilderness Lodge. The resort offers some of the most picturesque views on property. From the main lobby to the tucked away fireplaces, quiet overlooks, and tucked away spots, every where you turn there's something unique to see and uncover in the vast details of the resort's story. Additionally, the resort's gift shop 'Mercantile" is home to some of the more unique resort specific merchandise. If you really want to uncover some of the more overlooked details, make the short walk outside and down the covered path to the Boulder Ridge Villa lobby. It's a tucked away spot but one of the greatest tributes to Walt Disney's past you'll find at Walt Disney World hiding in plain site. Look for the Carolwood Room sign and you know you're in the right place. If you're into Disney history, it will likely exceed your expectations. 



Once you wrap up your visit to Wilderness Lodge, head out to the boat dock to make your way to the next destination that always makes it on our list, the Contemporary.

To get to the Contemporary you'll want to catch the resort loop boat. It's a short trip, completely free, and gets you there in about 10-15 minutes (sometimes less). Simply use the signs at the dock and ask your captain to verify they are headed to your desired destination. The views from the boat are spectacular, and while the photo below was taken at sunset, picturesque views can be found throughout the year nearly every day! 


The Contemporary Resort    

The Contemporary is rather unique in that most of your entertainment and dining is no where near the lobby. Instead, as you arrive at the fourth floor, by means of elevators, staircases, and escalators, the atrium unfolds and showcases one of the more impressive buildings that can be found on Disney property. The wow factor for the contemporary isn't in the lobby like Wilderness Lodge, but rather this grand atrium that constantly wows guests at first sight. 


In the main grand concourse itself you'll find unique shopping and dining including Chef Mickey's (a decent buffet offering - somewhat overpriced), The Contempo Cafe, the Fantasia gift shop, and Bayview Gifts. Each offer something unique and around the holidays you'll find festive displays all around. As a partially unique part of the experience, consider stepping out onto the large balcony overlooking Magic Kingdom in the distance. It's a spectacular view and perhaps one of the little overlooked "hidden gems" of the experience that many resort guests and visitors miss entirely.

Once you've had your fix of the Contemporary, hop on the monorail and ride two stops over to the Polynesian Village resort. 


The Polynesian Village 

The Polynesian is always a guest favorite resort that makes you feel like you've stepped into a tropical hideaway perched on the sand with Cinderellas Castle off in the distance. The views are stunning, the smells put you in the story, and the sounds of the tropical music and subtle chatter of guests drifting in and out of the lobby make for an excellent multi-sensory experience. 


Inside the resort you'll find four incredible dining options. The pinnacle of all the dining is the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show which brings a Polynesian Luau to the heart of central Florida. The experience is pricey ($66-$78 for adults) and only offered on select dates and select times. However, it is perhaps the most unique dining option for a day outside of the parks. 

Other dining options include Ohana (the family favorite meal for most guests), Kona, and Captain Cooks. Each have their strengths and weaknesses but each are well worth experiencing at least once and the vast array of options accommodate many different price points. 

The Polynesian also offers two uniquely themed gift shops with resort specific merchandise that is well worth checking out. Last but certainly not least, grab a Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai and walk down to the beaches for a stroll in the sand to complete the Polynesian experience. 

The Grand Floridian 



When it's all said and done, make your way back up to the monorail, ride one stop and explore all the Grand Floridian has to offer. Without repeating what's already been mentioned above, the Grand Floridian offer it's own array of wonderful dining and gift shops, but also has an array of high end merchandise in select stores ranging from Vineyard Vines to Lilly Pulitzer apparel and many others. 

The Grand Floridian is particularly wonderful around the holidays with Christmas music being played by a live band or piano and decor that looks like something out of a Hallmark movie complete with a larger than life gingerbread house that is always a pleasure to see in person. 

Port Orleans

As perhaps the greatest benefit of this resort hopping strategy, you can jump on the monorail one last time and head to Magic Kingdom. Without entering the park you can leave the monorail, head to the bus stop, and board a bus to your desired destination. One of my personal favorite spots to go at this point on our resort hopping days is Port Orleans French Quarter. The bus ride is only about 10 minutes long and once you arrive, having completed the other resorts on our list, it typically turns out to be around lunch time and Floatworks at French Quarter is a near perfect quick service lunch option. Once again, French Quarter offers a unique shopping experience and the theming really is one of the best resort themes anywhere on property regardless of resort tier. 


Disney Springs or Crescent Lake 

From that point, you have two great options. First, you could continue your day by heading over to Disney Springs for the night via a boat provided by the resort just steps from the lobby, or you can continue on your way to other resorts! Our next resort pick tends to be the  Crescent Lake resorts and Epcot resort area including the Yacht and Beach Club, Swan and Dolphin, and Boardwalk resorts. It is fairly difficult to get to these resorts from French Quarter but, as mentioned before, you can always hail an Uber or head to a park using the resorts busses and then switch busses to get to your end destination. 

In my opinion there is no better first stop than the Yacht Club. The little intricate details of the lobby and external resort grounds are wonderful to explore. As an added bonus, the spacious and comfortable lobby is a great place to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of your Disney vacation. If you have a bit of extra time, a quick 10-15 minute walk along the lakes edge and through the Swan and Dolphin will lead you right over to Fantasia miniature golf. It's a great way to spend some time with family, it's fairly budget friendly, and it is truly unlike any miniature golf you've played before. When you're finished, consider stopping by the Fountain's walk up window on the bottom floor of the Dolphin for some of the best ice cream on property!


If it's late enough in the day at this point, consider eating at Cape May Cafe. The tucked away seafood buffet dinner is one that we failed to eat at for years on end. It does require a reservation most of the time but reservations tend to be plentiful. The meal is incredible and is housed in Disney's Beach Club Resort. It's not necessarily the most budget friendly offering (more on that in our Cape May Cafe informational post), but it is truly one of my favorite meals anywhere on property and is one of the best kept WDW dining secrets.


At the end of the night, after your meal, consider making the short walk over to Disney's Boardwalk resort to enjoy the glistening lights of the real boardwalk experience on the edge of Crescent Lake, potentially a movie on the village green, or even some live entertainment by incredibly talented street performers. The sights, the sounds, and the overall environment is well worth your time. As day turns into night and the nightly performance of Illuminations takes to the sky at Epcot nearby, the view from the boardwalk (while partially obstructed) is one of the most picturesque views you'll find anywhere on property. The reflections off of the water create a show stopping experience for guests and it's something you won't want to miss. 



At the end of the night hail an Uber and head back to your home resort for the week and you may very well have experienced a fun filled day with very little expense and uncovered hundreds of things you never would have gotten the chance to explore on a typical Disney vacation! Enjoy every moment, try something new, and you'll never be disappointed with resort hopping! Use our plan or create your own plan with resorts you've always wanted to visit. This post only scratches the surface of all there is to see and do, but we hope that this at least gives you the motivation to try this vastly important part of our Disney vacations.   

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 there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are! 


Ready to Plan?
Need help planning your vacation? Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE - no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Their services are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you! Here's a closer look at why I recommend an Authorized Disney Travel Planner!

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.
                   



Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The One Thing So Many First Time Guests Overlook About Disney

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

The One Thing So Many First Time Guests Overlook About Disney 

When you think of Disney World, what's the first thing that comes to mind? It's interesting to me to hear answers to this very question because the answers vary depending on who you ask but in particular, there's one main separating factor among all the answers... if you've been to Walt Disney World or not. So many prospective guests have this fixated expectation of what they are going to get out of a Disney experience and more often than not, the experience they receive vastly outpaces their expectations. Perhaps the best example of this is simply the answers to the aforementioned question.

Pose that initial question to a friend of yours that's never stepped in a Disney park or hasn't done so in the last 10-15 years and you'll likely get the answer... "attractions, fireworks, characters, hotels," and the list goes on.

The Lunching Pad - First Time Disney Guest Tips

If you ask a Disney guest who's been to the parks time and time again that same question the answer typically varies drastically. Their answer is rarely about the attractions or the shows or even the world class dining but rather some story about their kids, a memory they shared with friends, or even perhaps a hidden piece of the history of the parks they found hiding in plain site. You see, the overlooked thing about Disney is that it's not just another amusement park. Sure, there's attractions, world class dining, incredible fireworks shows, and the list goes on and on, but one thing sets it all apart and much of it circles back to story and the vastly important influence story has on the "Disney Experience."



No matter if it's story in a literal sense of the stories attractions help portray, stories in the sense of the real life history of the parks themselves, or even quite possibly your story that develops from those deeply rooted experiences with friends or family in the parks year after year. The secret that sets Disney apart from all the others isn't in the attractions but rather in the stories developed that exceed your wildest expectations. 

Wilderness Lodge - First Time Disney Guest Tips
Boulder Ridge - First Time Disney Guest Tips

It's not every day that you get to walk down Main Street with your family no matter how young, old, or young at heart they may be. It's one of those simple pleasure in life that often gets lost in our daily lives. Disney, and in particular Walt Disney World, has a way of slowing things down and offering a true escape from reality. It's something that every repeat and life long Disney guest understands and more importantly the one thing every prospective guest should make a cognitive effort not to overlook by mistake. 



It's so easy to get caught up in technology, our jobs, and invariably our increasingly busy lives, but the ability to disconnect and consciously take in that moment and escape from reality with friends and family with no fear of judgement is something that only Disney has been able to provide so many of us over the years. Walt said it best years ago when he said that essentially Disney World may not hold all the answers but happiness will be at the forefront of the project. Of course, in classic Walt fashion, his description was exorbitantly more polished than my iteration of the concept, but I feel that it's still a near perfect representation of what Walt Disney World does for guests. It's not your standard amusement park but rather an experience that is so incredibly hard to put into words. I keep saying it's more than the attractions but that ultimately downplays the experiential nature of the vacation destination. The Disney parks are a vastly transformative experience that surround you and transport you to different places and different stories, but the key to it all is in the opportunity the place creates for you to create your own Disney story. That's what it's all about and in the simplest of explanations, that's the main thing so many prospective guests rarely expect and ultimately overlook. 

Pandora - First Time Disney Guest Tips

Disney at face value may not be your idea of a dream vacation, but when you dig a little deeper, the Walt Disney World resort truly is a World of different varieties of entertainment. There really is something for everyone to enjoy. Sometimes it just takes a few minutes to look beyond the obvious to uncover the one thing Disney offers that will help you create your ideal story. If you're new to the parks, or simply looking for something new to try on your next WDW vacation be sure to check out some of our favorite posts and recommendations below:


     






Magic Kingdom - First Time Disney Guest Tips

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 there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are! 




Ready to Plan?
Need help planning your vacation? Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE - no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Their services are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you! Here's a closer look at why I recommend an Authorized Disney Travel Planner!

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.



Disney World Ticket Buying Tips for 2018 and 2019

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Disney World Ticket Buying Tips for 2018 and 2019 


Everyone visiting Walt Disney World will at some point typically need a ticket in order to enter the parks. Of course, there are many guests that simply enjoy the resorts and never set foot in the parks, but that's a scenario and story (which I've experienced first hand at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter resort.) for another day. Disney World park tickets are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but we've thankfully found a few workarounds and best case scenarios that will minimize ticket costs and create a more budget friendly Disney ticket buying situation. As always, your mileage may vary utilizing these recommendations, but you can save money on Walt Disney World tickets in 2018 and 2019 utilizing these helpful hints and special offers.    


Is a "Magic Your Way" Vacation Package Your Best Option?


The answer to this question regarding Disney World tickets is going to vary vastly from case to case. Sometimes Disney themselves will offer unique theme park ticket and resort accommodation combination offers that are worth their weight in gold. However, when they do create these specific combination deals, you almost always have to book your vacation as a package. By doing so, Disney largely guarantees that you will purchase everything from them and eliminate the "middle man." However, something you may want to consider is that these deals can sometimes be beneficial monetarily, but other times may end up costing you more money than alternative options. 



The first thing I recommend every individual looking to book a WDW vacation ask themselves is, "Can I get this cheaper elsewhere?" While these combination offers are great in a majority of circumstances, take a few minutes to look at other options before jumping on Disney's package offer. Head over to Disney's site and see what the best combination price you can find may be, no matter if it is discounted or not, and then head to a third party site like the Official Ticket Center, or even consult a travel agency, and compare your overall costs of each portion of the vacation expenses. Look into stand alone tickets, look at dining plan vs no dining plan, and compare each portion of the costs individually to develop the most cost effective vacation experience you can piece together. 

Disney's vacation packages are definitely an easy and convenient avenue, but in some instances it may not be the most cost effective option. Reach out to those in the industry with experience (Travel Agencies, Bloggers, Me, Friends, and Family) and see what saved them money. You may be surprised with some of the answers they come up with.   

  

What About A Disney World Annual Pass?


Annual passes are really an animal all of their own. For most guests they're a bit overkill when booking a family vacation, if I'm being completely straight forward with you. At one point I was a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder, and likely will be again in the near future, but we live in Kentucky. We do have the opportunity to travel to the parks quite frequently, which is wonderful, but certain years make the annual pass a better opportunity for us than other years. For example, last year we went to Walt Disney World in December and then returned for the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, we had not planned our July trip until after we had returned from our December trip. As a result, we did not buy annual passes. However, in hind site we certainly should have bought AP's because we gave away some money in not doing so.

As a rule of thumb, an annual pass will save you money if you intend to spend at least 4 days in the parks within one calendar year on two separate occasions. A 4 day park hopper ticket will typically cost you around $480 and a platinum annual pass will cost you $894. If you do the math, you'll realize you could potentially save a lot of money just by going ahead and buying the full annual pass. 



Of course, there is one main caveat to that great plan (isn't there always a catch?) and that is the initial cost of the annual passes. They are not cheap in any way shape or form and most guests will not have the means necessary to buy 4 or more annual passes for a typical family on top of the costs associated with the resort accommodations. However, there is one solution to the issue this presents. If you plan far enough in advance and book a vacation package through Disney, you have the option to upgrade your packaged tickets to an annual pass before you leave your resort and all it costs you is the difference in price. By doing this, you not only save yourself the financial burden of throwing a large sum on a credit card or other payment form all at once, but also allow yourself to take advantage of the package cancellation policy (explained below) that does not apply to stand alone tickets. There's also a discount on Disney annual pass renewals when yours inevitably expires the following year.    

Money Saving Disney Tips


Is it Cheaper to Buy From Official Disney Resellers?

Personally, I've heard this question time after time. To be quite honest with you, when you compare across the board one day tickets, the benefits of booking from a reseller aren't that pronounced. The benefits really reveal themselves when you either book multi-day tickets or if you are buying tickets for larger groups and the small savings really starts to build exponentially due to the number of guests. You receive the same discount, but a $2 saving for four guests amounts to $8 total, where as a $2 savings for 50 people accounts for $100 saved. 

If you're booking a longer stay, you'll want to consider Disney authorized ticket sellers. For example, occasionally The Official Ticket Center offers a 5th day free when purchasing a 4 day park hopper or base ticket. Disney rarely makes that same offer on their own, but it will save you money if it works for your vacation strategy and length of stay. 

As always, there are many other authorized ticket resellers (Undercover Tourist, etc.) and many will push out comparable offers to help create sales. You will be purchasing the same ticket you would have bought from Disney, but simply at a discounted price. 


Which WDW Tickets to Buy?

The reality of the entire ticket buying situation is that your needs may or may not align with certain offers and ticket buying scenarios. Personally that is why I recommend a good travel agency. Notice how I said a "good" travel agency. No travel agent should ever ask you to pay them for their services in my opinion. A vast majority of the time, agents work with Disney and other organizations to drive revenue through commissions. If an agent asks for money up front, you should take your business elsewhere or really consider doing so unless you have a special reaction to that individual. I mean no disrespect to anyone who offers such a paid service, but it's not in the guests best interest to book with a paid for travel agency booking when they could go elsewhere for no additional cost at all. A quote request form for my personally recommended agency is below this article, but I would feel comfortable booking with any authorized Disney vacation planner. They go through this ticket buying process daily and know the ins and outs of the best situation available for your vacation timeframe and can typically figure out exactly what works best for you.

In regards to length of stay and ticket length, I recommend first time and returning resort guests purchase a Disney 5 day park hopper ticket at a minimum. The Walt Disney World Theme Parks are vast and to be quite honest, there is no way to see and do it all. I haven't seen it all and I've been touring the parks for 19+ years. A five day ticket gives you the opportunity to see each park for at least one full day, plus it gives you the opportunity to return to any park on your last day to revisit favorite attractions or dining locations. Some of our top plans for touring the parks can be found here on the site and may be able to help you out (Each of these touch on different resort lengths of stay and even a few ways to save money along the way.)  



Additionally, a park hopper is a must-do add-on in my humble opinion. With the park hopper option, you can start your day at Animal Kingdom for Pandora, then when you wrap that up, you can head over to Magic Kingdom to view Happily Ever After that night. It truly frees up a world of opportunities during your vacation and creates an unrestricted park touring experience. Personally, this plays into our dining process more than anything. We love eating at Epcot and Magic Kingdom (especially during Flower and Garden Festival) so we start our day early at one park then head to a second park for a meal or a few attractions. The combinations are endless. If you're new to Walt Disney World, trust me on this one, it's worth the extra money, especially during longer stays for a majority of guests.        
      

Beware of Fraudulent Disney World Ticket Scams!

This is a key point when buying anything regarding Walt Disney World tickets. Disney parks ticket scams are everywhere! Everyone is trying to make a buck off of the internet now a days and theme park guests are taking a hit from it in a big way. Every year, some type of big scam gets shut down for selling fake Disney tickets to unknowing guests. My greatest recommendations out of this entire article are to never buy a ticket from anyone that does not proudly place the Authorized Disney Ticket Seller Badge on their site or within their retail location, never buy a Disney ticket off of eBay or Craig's list, and avoid any deal that seems too good to be true (because it is). If you arrive at the gates of the park and your ticket does not work and Disney finds out that it is a fake, they honestly will not care if you knowingly bought a fake ticket or not.         


Stay Longer to Decrease Daily Disney Ticket Costs

Disney created a plan years ago that rewarded guests who stayed longer with variably decreasing daily ticket costs for longer stay lengths. Many believe it was a ploy to keep guests from venturing beyond the "Disney bubble" to other parks in the area, and honestly it has truly worked in their favor.

A one day ticket to Walt Disney World seems increasingly expensive at first glance. However, after you reach a 3+ day ticket, the daily costs start to decline as a result of a longer stay. As a result, the cost of an extra day moving from a 9 day ticket to a 10 day ticket is a tiny (in the grand scheme of things) $10. Of course, while you are talking $540 vs. $550 at that point, which is a large sum of money overall, I'd gladly pay $10 for even a few extra hours in a park. The additional day costs aren't always that cheap but it is always the case for a 7+ plus day park ticket. 

Long story short, if you want to plan a vacation, consider what it will cost you by comparison to head to Universal or Seaworld (or even Discovery Cove - As much as we loved that experience!) before you miss out on an additional day at Walt Disney World for much less money spent.        



Consider the Cancellation Policy When Buying WDW Tickets

As mentioned above, this is the one key factor to consider when buying any tickets. Tickets bought in a package, booked through Disney or an authorized travel agency, are granted the same cancellation policy as the package itself. By contrast, and likely the most influential point in this article, tickets purchased as stand alone tickets cannot be refunded. Even if you purchase those tickets through Disney, they will not be refunded.   

Final Thoughts on Disney Theme Park Tickets 

Hopefully this comparison of a vast variety of options and the realities of buying tickets at a discounted price has given you a better understanding of what all is available. One big factor to consider here in our parting thoughts for the day, is to buy your tickets as soon as you possibly can (with the exception of an Annual Pass. Wait and upgrade a ticket to one of those to avoid wasting days of the pass.). It doesn't matter if you buy the tickets in a package or as a stand alone buying option from any source, buy early in order to lock in your best and most budget friendly price. Disney has been known to increase ticket prices once a year, and if you wait too late you will have to pay the extra costs. Some years it changes very little, but it has increased every year for as long as I can remember. The key to buying early is that if you already have your tickets bought, you will be grandfathered into the new rate structure without having to pay any more, no matter when your vacation falls in the calendar year. 


If you're considering a water park day, be sure to look into the price of a stand alone water park day ticket price in addition to the Park Hopper Plus option. Depending on your length of stay, purchasing a water park ticket separately, if you know you will spend the entire day at the water park (which you likely will, they're amazing), can be the cheaper option. Water park tickets cost less than park tickets, so avoid paying for the park portion of the ticket if it is going to cost you more. If you're staying 5+ days, as we recommend above, it likely will not save you any money. If that's the case, simply purchase the add on option and use the extra time in the parks to head to another park after the water park closes to view a nighttime spectacular or catch a few extra attractions before the day comes to a close. 


There are a ton of variables in the ticket buying process, but choosing the correct options can vastly change the overall costs of your vacation. It may not be the most convenient option (unless booking through a Travel Agent which can compare them for you) but it is usually most cost effective to weigh the multitude of ticket buying scenarios. Every guest is different and expects a unique experience all of their own when touring Walt Disney World. I can't tell you what's best for your family, but hopefully this gets you in the right direction or gives you something to consider before your next trip! Thanks for reading, and have a great rest of the day! Enjoy this article? Be sure to join the Guide4WDW community

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Disney World Mistakes and Terrible Tips To Avoid

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Disney World Mistakes and Terrible Tips To Avoid

It's no secret that there's no one set way to do Disney and to plan a Walt Disney World vacation. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but there is no perfect way to tour the parks and resorts. Every person is different, every vacation style is different, and most importantly what I want out of a vacation and what you want out of a vacation may be two vastly different experiences. With that being said, there are some tips and mistakes that can be made that all guests should try and avoid if at all possible. There's no all inclusive list but today we just wanted to take a look at some of the more common mistakes many first time and even some returning guests make in addition to a few of the terrible tips we've heard shared over the years. 

There's one thing I don't want this article to turn into and that is a vastly negative post. This isn't designed to bash anyone or call anyone out. Those types of posts you'll never find on this site because no one benefits from them in any way. I'm here to share tips to help you enjoy every minute of your Disney vacation and to hopefully open your eyes to the vast nature of all that Disney has to offer along the way.


I will say though that much of this list correlates to our personal travel style. Typically we travel in a group of four, we're all adults in the given group and all over the age of 22. We're not the type of people who focus heavily on attractions, and we're not the type of guests that travel on a shoe string budget most of the time. We have traveled on very limited budgets, but it's not out of the ordinary for us to eat a table service meal almost every day of our trip, for us to stay in Deluxe tier resorts, and for us to splurge on a few things throughout the vacation experience. On the other hand, we're not the guests who stay club level every vacation or the type of guest that regularly hires VIP guides for our time in the park (although that is a great opportunity for many).



Also worth mentioning is the fact that we are able to visit Walt Disney World multiple times per year so we go at things from a slightly different perspective. If a wait time is extremely long, we simply move on to a different attraction. It's rare that we wait more than 30 minutes for an attraction and tend to enjoy the simpler elements of the experience beyond the attractions themselves. 

If you appreciate that mindset, travel in a similar manner, or wish to travel in a similar way, I think you'll really enjoy this list. If not, there's still quite a few things to consider on the list that I hope you'll think about before your next vacation either way.               

Mistake: Forgetting the Deposit  

This particular mistake is first on my list for one reason and one reason only, we have made this mistake before and have almost made this mistake on many other occasions as well. If you're booking a vacation package or any other type of on property resort accommodations there is an option for a courtesy hold without payment. However, if you do not pay the initial fee to hold the reservation within the allotted time frame the reservation ceases to exist. Paying that deposit is easy to forget about so my recommendation is to at least pay the minimum amount required to hold your reservation until payment is required 30 days out from your travel dates. It's typically a relatively small portion of the total payment and more than worth the peace of mind. 
       

Terrible Tip: The Quick Service Haters

I may ruffle some feathers with this comment but don't listen to the people who say quick service dining at Disney isn't worth your time. These people exist and honestly they tend to be food snobs in my opinion. Disney quick service at one point in time was relatively lack luster. However, today's quick service offerings are outstanding if you simply take the time research and learn about some of the better offerings that may be hiding in plain site. If you're looking for some of the better options, consider looking at the following articles: 
I'm one of the largest proponents of table service dining you'll find in the Disney community, but even I absolutely love some of the counter service locations in the parks and more importantly at the resorts. The Polite Pig holds it's own when compared to table service, Geyser Point at Wilderness Lodge does as well, and I could write an entire article on how much I enjoy Floatworks over at Port Orleans French Quarter! Don't overlook quick service meals! Even the simplest of meals may exceed your wildest expectations. 


In a similar conversation, don't eat exclusively at quick service locations if you can avoid it. So many guests are scared away from table service meals due to the price point, but they don't have to be expensive. One of my favorite articles I've ever written was a quest to prove that idea all on it's own when I shared 10 Excellent Entrees Under $15 at Walt Disney World. Nearly half of the items on that list were from table service locations. A great sit down meal doesn't have to be pricey and it doesn't have to time consuming. There are options that meet both needs.   

Terrible Tip: The Fireworks "Camp Out"

Every Disney guest has done this at some option in time. You stake out your fireworks viewing location well over an hour in advance and you sit and you wait... and you wait... and you wait some more. Then, at the last minute, a random 7 foot giant wedges into a tiny space right in front of you. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration (even though I've seen it happen first hand), I can't stress enough how rare it is that you have to spend over an hour of your time in the parks staking out a fireworks viewing location. Magic Kingdom during peak crowds may be the sole exception to this rule, but it's not unusual to find a good spot 30 minutes before show time in a majority of cases if you know where to look. We even made a list of the better spots in our 5 Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Tips for 2018/2019 article and even shared a few great viewing locations outside of the parks in our 5 Incredible Spots to View Disney Fireworks Without a Park Ticket post.

Epcot is the ultimate example of this. Illuminations, and likely whatever show replaces it in the coming year, is viewable from nearly anywhere on the World Showcase promenade. You can stake out your spot right up against the waters edge or you can enjoy an extra hour of your night grabbing dessert or exploring the pavilions and settling for a near equal view of the show by finding a spot 15-20 minutes before showtime. Hollywood Studios fireworks shows are even more convenient because of the Echo Lake area. If you're "late" to claiming a spot, simply move over to the lake side of the Chinese Theater and you can see most of the show if you stand near the front of the lake no matter what show it may be. Chances are, you'll miss a few of the projections, but for the vast majority of the show you'll be perfectly content with the viewing angle.


My sole exception to this rule is Fantasmic and if you're a photographer and want a particular shot of any of the shows. Fantasmic fills to capacity long before show time nearly every night when crowds are above average. From a photography standpoint, if you plan on using a tripod for long exposure shots and want a particular view of Happily Ever After or the nighttime shows, you will need to claim your spot and hold your ground not only to protect your gear but also to create enough space to avoid guests bumping into your tripod/monopod during the show. A great way to avoid that problem is to try and find a spot near a railing so that no one can stand in front of you and you're at least guarded on one side from a run away stroller and so that you can try to avoid disturbing anyone else's viewing experience along the way. 

Mistake: The Over-planned Disaster

If I had to pick just one thing to avoid when planning your Disney vacation, it would be this 1000 times over. I can not stress enough how detrimental this can be to a Disney vacation experience. If I had my choice of planning as much as possible or as little as possible I'd take the little as possible option time and time again and here's why. If you plan every detail of every day in the parks, you're inevitably going to spend more time trying to stay on schedule or catching up with your schedule that you'll miss out on the simple joy of just being there in the moment and enjoying whatever happens, whenever it happens. 

Look around you when you're in the parks next time. Chances are the group of guests that spontaneously rolls up to a parade or a dance party in the streets and just go with it and have an incredible time living in the moment are the people creating the most memories. Take a note from them and enjoy just being there! Plan what you have to. Plan your fastness selections, plan what day you'll go to each park, and plan your meals, the rest of it you can get by with going with the flow.    
      

Mistake: The Open to Close Attempt

While quite similar to the over planning disaster, trying to push yourself to the limit and hitting the parks sun up to sundown and well into the night can lead to disastrous results. As you head to the parks day after day it slowly starts to catch up with you and by the time you get to your last day of your trip you need a vacation to recover from your vacation. 

If you really want to make the most of your days, arrive at the parks early, stay until just before the crowds peak in the early afternoon hours and take a break during the middle of the afternoon. Head to a resort in the area and relax in the lobby or do some shopping/dining. Head to your own resort and enjoy to the pool or relax in the room and then as the afternoon starts to turn into early night, return to the parks just before or just after dinner to close out the night. The break may seem like a waste of time but more often than not it's the needed change of pace you'll appreciate and need to get through those long hours in the parks (especially in the peak summer/spring season when park hours can be from 8am to well after midnight depending on the day).    


   

Terrible Tip: "Don't Bother With Deluxe Resorts"

I have been and likely always will be a firm proponent of at least trying a deluxe resort if you've never done so before. So many guests go by the thought process that is often forced upon them by other guests that staying deluxe "isn't worth the money." Honestly, I disagree. The experience of a deluxe resort is simply different than any other resort accommodations and resort experience you'll find anywhere else around the country. It truly is a transformative experience that immerses you in theme and story that changes how you view all other resorts. Now, I completely understand that many guests simply can not make a deluxe resort economically smart for their given situation but there are a few ways to overcome the typically high costs associated with deluxe accommodations.


First and foremost is booking larger rooms and traveling with larger parties so that you can split costs and overall make the accomodations a bit more budget friendly. Another option is to book at off peak times when possible and to watch for seasonal discounts which tend to be abundant and offer up to 30% off resort accommodations. Lastly, consider booking with DVC points that can be bought through third party points resellers. David's Vacation Rentals is one particularly popular option but no matter which reseller you go with you can save a vast amount of money when booking far enough in advance. The only downside to the DVC resale route is that cancellation is pretty much non existent without purchasing travel insurance. No matter how you make it work for your situation, at least consider deluxe accommodations, because there genuinely is a difference between moderate, value, and deluxe accommodations. All are great options but deluxe is inevitably a cut above the rest. It's not just a place to stay but rather a place that engulfs you in story and changes the feel of your vacation.      

Mistake: Overlooking Resort Dining

If you've been to the parks multiple times, you've likely figured this mistake/tip out. If you're not eating at your resort or other resort locations, you're truly missing out on some of the very best dining available on all of Walt Disney World property. From excellent quick service like Floatworks at Port Orleans French Quarter to high end table service like the Yachtsman at the Yacht Club, there is something for every price point and often times food outside of the parks is even better than the food offerings available inside the parks. 
  

Mistake: Booking Last Minute 

I can firmly categorize this as a mistake because I've done it time and time again. Booking within the last month before your stay or even last two months before your travel dates is a huge disservice to your planning experience. Back in July we booked a trip roughly four weeks before we would arrive in Orlando. Was it stressful, absolutely. Was it doable, certainly. However, we're not the average guest. We've been doing this for quite some time and it was still one of the tightest turn around times we've ever faced. 

Let me reiterate that it is certainly possible to do, but at the same time it is rather difficult to do and do so effectively if you're a first time guest. You'll inevitably have to be pretty flexible with fastpass+ selections since availability will likely be very low. Resort accommodations are going to be very few and far between and likely more expensive than usual. Lastly, some select dining reservations will be difficult to secure. It has to be a much more go with the flow planning style and travel style. 


My best recommendation would be to book any Disney vacation at least 3 months in advance of your travel dates. If you are doing things a little more last minute and even if you're not, I always recommend Destinations to Travel for your booking needs because it's not only free to you but also helps us out here on the site along the way.  
         

Mistake: Never Leaving the "Bubble" 

I know it is incredibly tempting to arrive at Disney and never want to leave the parks and resorts to enter the "real world" but if you've been to the parks many times, consider switching things up and heading off site to enjoy a great meal, a trip to the outlet mall, or even another vacation destination like Discovery Cove. You may even want to make the drive over to Coco Beach for the day! Every once in a while it's a nice change of pace. For more on Discovery Cove consider checking out our article all about it from a Disney minded perspective -> An Honest Comparison: Discovery Cove From a Disney Perspective

Terrible Tip: "Just Stay Off Property"

It's no secret that I tend to prefer to stay on property at Walt Disney World. In my opinion the benefits vastly outweigh the occasional (never guaranteed) marginal cost savings of staying off property, even when staying at the more convenient off-property resorts. I somewhat generalized this commonly suggested "terrible tip" but at it's very core, you very very rarely save money in the long run when staying off site despite how common it is for guests to suggest to other potential visitors to skip on-property accommodations. 

On paper, a $99 - $120 nightly room cost may look better from a savings perspective than WDW resorts, but once you add in the transportation costs from the airport to the hotel (which Disney would provide), transportation to the parks (potentially Uber or rental cars), and parking fees at the resort and the parks, the cost savings become rather small in the grand scheme of things. On top of that, you're going to lose out on being in that "Disney bubble" and the experiential factors that "bubble" tends to develop for you and your friends/family. 

This is a heavily debated topic but for us, but as guests who have stayed on and off property multiple times, it's just not worth the trade offs to stay off property. On average it saves you very little money in the long run and you may end up even paying more for you accommodations than if you would have simply considered Pop Century or even select moderate tier resorts on property. 

If you absolutely feel the need to stay off property, consider the Double Tree near Disney Springs. If you're a Hilton Honors member, occasionally the points booking offer can work in your favor and the location is better than most off-site hotels (recognizing that this is technically "on-property" but to me anything not owned and operated by Disney is off property with the sole exception of the Swan And Dolphin Resorts due to their unique partnership with Disney and Disney transportation).

             

Mistake: Listening to the Self-Proclaimed Disney Expert

Very few things truly bother me when it comes to vacation planning and Walt Disney World (unless you compare that statement to this list... but that's beside the point), but one thing does more than anything, self-proclaimed experts. If you're a long time visitor to the Disney parks, you know what I'm talking about. It's the person you meet at the bus stop, or that colleague from work, or that random town car/Uber driver you started talking to on the way to the airport that thinks they know everything about every little detail of the Disney parks, but they've only really been twice... Often times, they're the same person that believes every rumor that comes out of the Disney parks rumor mill and is still convinced that a monorail line will be coming to the Swan and Dolphin (a widespread rumor that resurfaces every few years due to the pattern on the side of the building - it's been confirmed for years that it was never an intended "addition" and simply a part of the architectural design). Why does this bother me? 


The answer to that question really has so many different facets but perhaps the greatest level of concern I have with it is that the "tips and tricks" they share are typically vastly outdated, untrue to begin with, or simply terrible tips to share with prospective WDW guests that will adversely affect their Disney experience. 



I know this all sounds a bit ironic considering I write about Disney almost daily and many might even go as far as to call me an "expert" on the subject matter, but I cannot say that of myself and likely never will. From a literal standpoint, 10,000 hours of experience doing something is the commonly accepted frame of time and effort that needs to be put forth to truly become an expert in a subject matter. Personally, I buy into that theory because it makes sense in practice. If you add up the 21 years of experience I've spent traveling to the parks and the time I've been writing on this site over the last two years, a conservative hour calculation is around 7,000 hours. There are very few true experts in the Disney online community and even those who are like Lou Mongello, Jim Korkis, and Tom Bricker would never claim to know everything there is to know about the Disney parks. 

Be careful who you take travel advice from and in all honesty, your common sense observations are typically the best judge of how experienced someone truly is.        


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 there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are! 



Ready to Plan?
Need help planning your vacation? Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE - no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Their services are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you! Here's a closer look at why I recommend an Authorized Disney Travel Planner!

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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