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Thursday, September 20, 2018

10 Easy Ways To Save Money At Disney World in 2018

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin


10 Easy Ways To Save Money At Disney World in 2018

Back in July we shared a brief look at 5 Simple Ways to Save Money At Walt Disney World and while many of those tips still remain vastly true for the new year, we wanted to take a moment and add to our list as the parks grow and change from time to time. Today, we're taking a look at 10 Easy Ways to Save Money At Walt Disney World in 2018. A select few of these are fairly common sense options, but others dive a bit deeper into specific and somewhat creative ways to save money when booking, and even occasionally while you're on your Disney vacation.


Before we get started, there's a few different reasons you may be interested in saving money during or when panning your Disney vacation. First and foremost, many of us have been in the position where we needed to keep a trip as budget friendly as humanly possible, and while Disney still remains quite expensive, it doesn't have to be the monumental expense that many prospective travelers view it as. 

We've done Disney on so many different budgets. I can remember our early trips where we stayed at Caribbean Beach (when it used to cost around $100 a night!), cut coupons for the grocery store for months to save money for the trip, and were incredibly selective about the few dining reservations we could afford. 

At that point, Hollywood Studios was still showing "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire: Play It!", Test Track was breaking down almost daily over at Epcot, and Fantasyland still featured the lake which once held 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: Submarine Voyage. It was a different time in Disney history, but a savings experience nonetheless. Today, we tend to travel a little bit differently and have been known to stay at Deluxe resorts and eat at many table service dining locations, but for us the same frugal mindset still applies. We cut certain things out, prepare in advance, and do whatever we can to save money in order to afford our typical vacation "style." 

So, today we're going to look closer at what we do or have considered doing to save money over the years in one way or another. The biggest thing to remember is that when implementing these tips, you may have to give something up during your vacation. The key to getting the most out of these tips is not to cut out something the makes a huge difference during your vacation but rather to cut the small things that aren't necessarily fundamental to your vacation style. We tend to splurge on resort accommodations because that's what we enjoy, but other guests may not spend the time in the resort necessary to make a difference in their vacation experience. Everyone's situation is going to be different so you'll have to apply what tips work for you in the long run to truly maximize your savings.


1. Take Some Food With You


This is perhaps one of our simplest tips on the list. If you're driving to Disney World, pack up a cooler with fruit, drinks, and snacks that you would otherwise have to buy at your resort or make a trip to an Orlando area grocery store to pick up when you arrive at your resort. Buying simple snacks on Disney property can be ridiculously expensive and items that seem fairly simple tend to be the most expensive. Take for example a gallon of milk. Expect to pay near twice what you would typically pay at a grocery store if you buy a gallon at one of Disney's resort hotels. From Disney's perspective it's simply a necessity scenario. They know if you need it, you'll buy it and pay just about anything to get it. 

If you're flying, you still have a few options. Personally, I've heard excellent recommendations for Garden Grocer. The company is a grocery delivery service which services Disney property and surrounding areas. I know many Disney sites do have an affiliate relationship with them but I can assure you I am not one of them at this time. I simply recommend them because it could save you money compared to buying food on Disney property or catching a town car or uber to the closest grocery store. 

Lastly, in regards to food, we tend to recommend that guests, no matter if you're flying or driving, grab at the very least some cheese crackers or granola bars from home before embarking on their Disney vacation. Not only do they travel well and meet TSA guidelines, you can avoid a ton of breakfast costs by skipping counter service breakfast and simply doing a grab and go breakfast with a granola bar on the bus to the parks. If you still want to grab that full breakfast, wait until around 10:30 and use it as a breakfast and a lunch and save yourself an extra meal to be paid for in the end. To learn more about that strategy, before sure to check out our Disney World Dining Plan Tips and Tricks.

2. Reconsider the Dining Plan



If you've spent much time here one the site, you likely already know my opinion of the dining plan. It's a great program but a convenience rather than a good deal. If you cut out the dining plan (which seems like a good deal on paper), you may be surprised what you can save. The main plan will cost you near identical to what you would pay for the included items out of pocket. However, the kicker to it all is that most guests will never be able to fully enjoy the full showcase of offerings the dining plan provides. By the time you eat a full table service meal, which is oftentimes a buffet at Walt Disney World, you're typically so full you wont eat the next meal of the day. On top of that, your snack offerings tend to get used as secondary meals if you use them most effectively as mentioned in tip number 6 below. 

All things consider, most guests end up paying for something that they wouldn't typically buy in the first place if they were paying for the meals directly out of pocket rather than on a plan. It's vastly convenient but if you're looking to save many, it's not your best option unless you are someone who travels to the parks as a culinary adventure rather than a theme park experience. We've done that before, and it's a ton of fun, but certainly not the most cost effective option for the vast majority of guests. 

If you are looking for dining plan tips, be sure to check out our Disney World Dining Plan Tips and Tricks post or our  5 Disney Dining Plan Mistakes You Want To Avoid And Why.


3. Consider dropping the Park Hopper



I'm not ashamed to admit that I love the park hopper option on tickets. It allows you to jump from park to park as much as you want and in my opinion really allows you to maximize your time on vacation. If you want to ride Flight of Passage again but you're in Magic Kingdom, no problem! Jump on a bus and head to Animal Kingdom and jump in line. For us, the opportunities it provides vastly outweighs its cost in the long run, but with that being said, when traveling with a larger party the costs associated with the ticket add-on each day tends to get expensive.

Additionally, be aware of the reversed diminishing returns. If you go for a shorter ticketed stay, the park hopper isn't going to be all that useful to you because you will be spending each full day trying to cover as much of that particular park as possible on each given day. However, if you plan on a 7 day stay (if so you may want to try Our Typical Disney World 7 Day Itinerary) or a comparable length of stay, the park hopper can be incredibly beneficial. It can free up a ton of different dining options for each day of your trip and really allows you to bounce from park to park to make the most of every minute of your trip. 

With all of that under consideration, if you want to save as much as humanely possible, avoid the park hopper altogether. It's an expense that can be avoided unless it is fundamental to your vacation style. If you're a first time guest, you wont miss the park hopper option in the slightest.         

4. Try a Moderate or Value Resort


I openly admitted at the beginning of this article that we typically stay at Deluxe resorts. For us, it tends to be the splurge of most of our vacations. Sometimes, it's a bigger splurge than others, like when we tried club level for the first time. Granted, that was likely a once in a lifetime trip that we booked for a special occasion at a rate that we lucked into at the last minute. Even considering that reality, it may require the sacrifice we talk about in number 7 to do so.

As in life, Disney planning is very much about weighing what things are worth to you and your given situation. For us, we travel with people that get carsick very easily. So, as a result, we try to book resorts that have water transportation or monorail transportation rather than buses. There's nothing worse than arriving at a park carsick and fighting with that feeling for the first few hours. For us, it's worth the extra costs, but that is just one of many reasons we tend to stay deluxe.


In the long run, we've still stayed at moderate resorts time and time again and for a vast majority of guests they are top tier accommodations. We adored Port Orleans French Quarter and spent year after year staying exclusively at Caribbean Beach. Sure, you may have to walk further to the bus stops, or even walk quite a ways to get to the pool, but the trade off can save you $100 or more per night of your stay.  


5. Buy Disney Gift Cards


This tip is something that may or may not work for everyone. As a relatively new trend in the Disney planning online community, many guests have started buying Disney gift cards to pay for their vacations. In concept that sounds a bit strange but many guest have found it as a great way to save money and sometimes quite a bit of money. 


The kicker to the whole system is to buy the gift cards you'll use to pay for your vacation or to use on your vacation from a local grocery store or hardware store that sells gift cards and has a loyalty program. 

Kroger stores are perhaps the best example. When you buy these gift cards, there are often kickback offers throughout the year that allow the purchases to influence points used in exchange for gas station discounts at their gas stations. Typically, if you buy so many gift cards, you get a certain amount of cents off each gallon of gas purchased. 

If you do so carefully, you can max out your cents per gallon savings each month leading up to your vacation and save hundreds of dollars on gasoline while storing up gift cards to pay for your vacation expenses. 

Additionally, retail giant Target will occasionally run Black Friday type sales on gift cards offering a set percentage off of the total amount of the gift card in order to get people in their stores in hopes that they will buy something else while they're there. Most of the time, these offers are capped at a certain dollar amount of cards you can buy, but it could save you some money nonetheless. 

It me be the strangest option on our list but it has been proven to save some guests hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.    

6. Use High Quality "Snacks" to Avoid Full Meal Costs 



If you're concerned about meal costs or simply want to cut back on meal spending, look for high quality snacks in the parks. If you're eating a table service breakfast or even some select counter service meals, you may not be hungry for a full fledge meal at the next meal time. Instead, head to a bakery and grab a muffin or a caramel apple, or even the iconic Turkey legs (not a dining plan snack) in the parks for a snack offering that will get you to the next meal without breaking the bank on an unnecessary full counter service meal. 

In conjunction with this tip, avoid the combo style meals at counter service locations. You don't always need to buy a drink and a side to get a full meal at Walt Disney World. Order a big cheeseburger, a giant hotdog, or even a half rack of ribs and forget the combo. You probably wont eat all of the side items anyway and avoiding the drink alone (and opting for tip 9 instead) can save you a ton of money over the span of a weeks vacation.    

7. Cut a Park Day



We've done this time after time to offset costs. I know it seems counter productive, but you dont have to go the parks every day of your vacation to have an amazing day. Just to share with you a few options we came up with The Top 5 Things To Do At Walt Disney World Outside Of The Parks (on a budget)

You will be shocked at how much time you can spend resort hoping or touring Disney Springs for a fraction of the cost of touring the parks even when you include a table service meal at the Springs or at a resort hotel. 

We take advantage of this on nearly every trip at some point and it has become one of the highlights of our longer trips to the parks. You'll be shocked at all their is to do at the different resorts and more importantly, you'll be surprised at how little it costs when you compare it to the cost of an additional ticketed day on shorter stays.    


8. Travel With Friends To Make Deluxe Affordable

This single tip is the main reason we can afford staying Deluxe on nearly every vacation. When we travel, we travel with friends. For example, on our next trip we'll be traveling in a group of seven people. While that many guests requires a 2 bedroom villa or larger accommodations available mostly at deluxe resorts, its often cheaper to do that and all stay in one room than it is to book multiple rooms at moderate tier or even value tier resorts at times. This is especially true when you consider the tradeoffs of a full kitchen and better transportation. 

When you spread out the cost among seven individuals, the cost per person, or even per family decreases exponentially. A room that was at one time unattainable for a single family becomes much more affordable when split two or more ways.

For most groups, this is the ideal situation. you don't have to break up your party, you save money, and you get to do almost everything together. If you want a few minutes away from the group, typically doors separate sections of the villa rooms that can easily be closed to partition off the accommodations. It's a win-win for everybody if you can find family or a group of friends you enjoy traveling with.    


   

9. Drink Lots of Water


This is a two sided tip. It can save you money while greatly influencing your health during your trip. Every Disney counter service location will give you a free cup of ice water just for asking for it. It doesn't matter what you order, or if you order nothing at all, they'll give it to you and you can save a ton of money doing so. 

If you can avoid soft drinks it will save you more money than you may expect. Fountain drinks at Walt Disney World parks and resorts tend to be a bit aggressively priced. Not only that, but in the heat of the summer, water will ultimately be the best thing for you and your health as you walk many miles each day. In the end it might not only save you money, but also keep you from falling into that "Disney Funk" many guests talk about half way through their week long vacation. The body can only stand so much junk food before it starts having adverse effects in the Florida heat. Take my advice from experience and make yourself feel better while saving money along the way. Ok, rant over (lol).     

   

10. Avoid The "Hidden Costs"


For many guests, this expense is the greatest expense of them all. Disney is designed to suck you into gift shop after gift shop full of unique merchandise to commemorate your experiences. From dated logo gear to attraction specific merchandise, it's easy to want one of everything that you walk past. If you can avoid the temptation to buy these souvenirs or convince yourself to wait and find that one ideal souvenir to commemorate you're whole trip rather than just one facet of it, you can save a ton of money. 

In a similar way, watch for hidden fees of off property resorts. If you want to stay off property to save money, I would reconsider it. Many times, after paying resort fees, parking costs at the resort and parks, or fighting with non-Disney shuttles you'll realize the couple bucks you may or may not have saved wasn't worth it in the long run. Trust me, I've tried it many times, and it's just not worth it. The sole exception to this tip is the Swan and Dolphin. It's an excellent resort but features Disney transportation and official Disney "bonuses" that very few off site resorts currently offer in early 2018. 

Hopefully these tips get you on the right track to saving money on your Disney vacation. This is far from an all inclusive list but hopefully a great place for you to start or add something to your planning process. 

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 service are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you!  

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! 

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Disney World Tips and Tricks for Adults

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin


Disney World Tips and Tricks for Adults

For around two years I've started my tips and tricks articles about the same way. Every article is slightly different but at the same time there is no ideal set of perfect tips to take with you to the parks. Honestly, there's no perfect way to tour the parks in general, despite how often we try to formulate and plan the ideal Disney vacation. Plans change and situations in the parks, at the resorts, and with reservations as a whole tend to change in unexpected ways. As I've said before, the single most important tip I can share with anyone going to Walt Disney World is to roll with the changes. Plan special experiences and must-do attractions, but expect the unexpected and understand that not everything is going to go as planned. Oftentimes, the things you don't try to plan tend to be the most memorable moments when you're looking back on your Disney vacation years down the road. It is, without a doubt, the simplest of moments with the people you care the most about that stick in your mind for years on end.

Obviously, that isn't necessarily the answer you were looking for when you clicked on this article, but personally I believe it is the most important tip I can give anyone. It may not make sense now, but it will at some point during your trip. Make the most of every moment and you'll be surprised what sticks in your memories.

Moving on to specifics and tips for Adults at Disney, I have to start with the food (because where else would a foodie start??).


Explore the Dining In Depth

When the conversation of dining and Disney arises, you oftentimes get one of two reactions from guests. 1. "It was some of the best food I've ever tried." or 2. "Everything was so busy I couldn't get in places serving good food... so I ate cheeseburgers the entire time!" Both statements have flaws but the second is vastly more recognizable. Disney has so many dining options it's unbelievable. If you've been to Disney many times, branch out and try something new. Going to the parks strictly with adults can afford you so much more freedom in the dining realm. If you have kids, chances are you're always looking to appease them in one way or another. An adults only trip allows you to step away from those constraints and try something entirely new.


Personally, a few top options in my opinion are California Grill, Cape May Cafe (for a slightly less formal experience), any of the Grand Floridian dining options, or even possibly one of the more expensive options like the Yachtsman, Victoria and Alberts, or Monsieur Paul. Of course, many of those options do welcome kids, but they each have a particular way of developing an experience that is reserved and gives you that option to get away from the world for a brief few minutes to enjoy one of the simplest joys in life, fine dining.

No matter what dining establishment you choose, make a special effort to dress up, or to do something special no matter if you're traveling with friends, family, or even a spouse. Taking a moment to make a night unique and special can make all the difference in the memories that night will create.

Lastly, if nothing else, traveling exclusively with adults often allows for a different budget. Many of the top dining options on Disney property aren't cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but if you take away kids and the costs of additional guests, the price of dining at a more expensive offering shrinks dramatically. Kids are great, but every once in a while it's nice to have a little time to yourself to try a new meal or a special event that you otherwise wouldn't.    



Try a Tour 

Speaking of events, tours are an incredible way to try something new. Kids typically aren't overly entertained by tours at Disney (with some exceptions), and at times only adults are allowed to participate in select tours. If you've never tried a "behind the scenes" tour at the Disney parks, a great way to ease into it is the Behind the Seeds tour at Epcot in the Land Pavilion. It's not overly expensive, it doesn't take up your entire day, but it also retains a "special" nature of seeing what many guests don't get to see on a typical vacation.

On the other hand, you could go all out and do a five hour exclusive Keys to the Kingdom Tour. The tour literally takes you behind the scenes at Magic Kingdom to step into the famous Utilidoors, learn the history of the park, and tidbits of information about Magic Kingdom that you may have never uncovered. Looking for something a little longer? Consider the similar Backstage Magic Tour for a 7 hour look behind the scenes in a more detailed look "behind the curtain."


Enjoy the Night Life

When you share with prospective guests that Disney offers world class nighttime entertainment outside of the parks, many of them don't believe you at first. Believe it or not, Disney has cultivated one of the most impressive lineups of late night entertainment you'll ever experience. If you're looking for something simple, consider a great late night meal at the luxury STK steakhouse at Disney Springs. If you're looking to experience something unique, consider a late night at the Edison for an industrial themed dining location reminiscent of a steam punk destination full of live entertainment and incredible performances accompanied by food and drinks.

In a similar realm of late night entertainment, consider making your way over to the Boardwalk Resort to experience JellyRolls. JellyRolls is a dueling piano bar known for quirky performers and audience sing alongs. It's a location that has developed a mind blowing following that has become known across the United States. When you're finished with the experience for the night, step out onto the Boardwalk itself and take in the quiet nature of Crescent Lake.

I talked about simple moments early on in this article and this is the ideal example of a simple joy of the Disney experience. Late at night you can step out on the Boardwalk and hear the music of JellyRolls slowly drift away as you walk further and further away from the entrance. As you look across the water the reflections will take your breath away. It's a surprisingly calm moment in one of the busiest places on earth. In that moment, you can set the troubles of life to the side for a few minutes and simply enjoy being there. As an adult, there's an insane amount responsibly surrounding us each and every day, but taking a moment to unplug can make all the difference.



Enjoy a Moment of Simplicity

Building upon that late night Boardwalk moment, taking time to escape and do something you never would think of trying with kids or a larger party can make you appreciate the little details more than you would ever imagine. Take a walk down Main Street and take a look at the names in the windows, take note of the history portrayed in plain site, or even sit down and take a moment to really think about the sounds you're hearing and the sights you're seeing that make up this multi sensory experience. Those oh-so-simple moments are the luxury of traveling as an adult and with only adults. Children of all ages are looking to keep moving and for the most part want to jump from attraction to attraction. Often times, It's not until you go with just adults that you realize how much of the experience gets overlooked in the hustle and bustle of moving from one thing to the next. Take in the details, and don't be afraid to try something new. You never know what may become your new favorite aspect of the parks.


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!



Need My Help?

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or free-lance work at Guide4WDW@gmail.com. If you need a landscape or theme park photographer, feel free contact me with photo requests or contracts. All theme park writing and photos will be assessed on a case by case basis. 

For anyone else looking to give me a shout or to have their questions answered by me, feel free to contact me anytime via that same email address! I never charge anyone to answer a question and I do answer all of my emails personally.      


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. 
                 



Sunday, September 16, 2018

Yak and Yeti Restaurant Review - The Overlooked Gem of Animal Kingdom?

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Yak and Yeti Restaurant Review - The Overlooked Gem of Animal Kingdom?

Dining and Disney tend to fall hand in hand due to the sheer amount of guests that traverse the park from day to day. In fact, there are over 400 places to eat on the 47 square miles of central Florida that Disney owns (even though much of that is untouched land). It's a staggering statistic but just goes to show that there's always something new to try each and every time you return to the parks and resorts. Nobody has seen and done it all, and today's article is a great example of just that. In our 20+ years of Disney experience, we had yet to step foot in Yak and Yeti until our most recent trip to the parks. I have no idea how or why we waited so long to give it a shot.


Actually, in a round about way, I do know why we had yet to eat at this dining location and it hinges entirely on how much time we used to spend in Animal Kingdom. An average Animal Kingdom day for us was a half day in the park to hit some highlights and then we would move on our way to Epcot or Magic Kingdom to finish out the day. Pandora and the nighttime entertainment of Animal Kingdom changed all of that. Now, just to hit the highlights of the park you have to spend a good portion of a day there and, as a result, dining in the park becomes a portion of that experience. That single change in timing lead to today's article but it also changed the way we look at dining at Animal Kingdom overall. Up until Pandora debuted, it was a shockingly rare night if we spent an evening in that particular park. For comparison, on our last trip, we left Animal Kingdom after the park officially closed for the night. The nighttime entertainment changed everything. 



Getting Reservations 

Moving on to today's topic, Yak and Yeti arrived on our "dining radar" almost by default. Earlier in our trip, we had taken the time to stop by T-Rex at Disney Springs as a result of our Landry's Select Club benefits (which we wrote in depth about in our How Our Party of 4 Guests Ate At T-REX for $15! - Disney Springs Dining article). For those of you who may not know, Yak and Yeti is technically a Landry's operated restaurant. The cast members in the restaurant don't wear Disney name tags, you wont find distinct Disney branding anywhere inside the restaurant, and the reservation process is slightly different from Disney's as well. You can book a reservation through the Disney dining website, but you can also walk up to the location and typically get seated. If you have a Landry's Select card, you're guaranteed front of the line access for walk up reservations. It's a great perk and is the perfect way to escape the heat of the park for a great meal without having to worry about reservations. 

The Food 

The food itself is far better than I expected and we will be back in the future. Our typical travel group isn't overly adventurous (which is probably another reason why we hadn't tried this sooner), but it really doesn't matter. The menu was great for us. If you wanted to, you could order Malaysian Seafood Curry, but if you want something simpler you can order the Kobe Beef Burger with sesame-soy mayonnaise and crispy shoestring fries. There is something for every dining preference. As odd as it sounds, my personal favorite item that we ordered was the House Fried Rice. The rice isn't your typical "take out" fried rice but rather a mixture of different flavors, chicken, pork, and so much more. The portion is outstanding and easily fed two adults as a side item for a meal at $6.99. I won't go through the whole menu but if you want to check out all of your options, feel free to use this link.


The Cost

Yak and Yeti isn't a location that is is going to break the bank if you're even remotely careful about what you're ordering. Our family of four ate for well under $60 and had plenty of food. We decided to split meals and sides due to having another reservation later that day, but ordered the Firecracker Shrimp, 2 orders of House Fried Rice (pictured above), and one Kobe Beef Burger. As with most table service meals at Disney, we opted to drink water instead of soft drinks. Not only does it save you money but it also keeps you hydrated throughout the day when facing the Florida heat walking around the park.

      

My Recommendation

If you're looking to try something new in Animal Kingdom without facing the cost associated with Tiffins or Tusker House, put this dining location on your radar. The food is a great blend of flavor while being recognizable, and if all else fails you're not out $100+ like you could be for the other options mentioned. 

Additionally, I see this as an ideal table service lunch option for Animal Kingdom. If you're still not sold, consider trying the quick service Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafe instead. The two locations are literally attached to each other and there is a fair amount of carry over between the two menus despite differences in portions and range of menu items.   

  

Wrapping Up

In the end, our party of four all agreed that this was and is a great value dining location while touring Animal Kingdom. It gives you that needed break from the heat, the staff is incredibly pleasant and knowledgeable, and the overall experience is hard to beat at it's price point. We asked our server 5 to 10 questions before ordering, and she knew every single answer without hesitation. Our drinks were never empty, our food was piping hot when it arrived, and the casual yet intriguing design of the building makes you feel like you're in the heart of Asia. The theming is never broken from the park around it and everything exceeded our expectations. 

One particular aspect of this location worth mentioning is that it isn't the place to go if you're looking for character meals or a direct Disney influence. It's not going to give you that "Disney" charm that a character meal at Crystal Palace might, but it's not designed to. It's designed to stay distinctly authentic to the theming of the land it helps develop. In my opinion, the food is still incredibly kid friendly but if you're looking for that kid specific experience you get from a character meal, you wont find it here. It's a great meal, but typically more adult focused than some. 


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!

Need My Help?

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or free-lance work at Guide4WDW@gmail.com. If you need a landscape or theme park photographer, feel free contact me with photo requests or contracts. All theme park writing and photos will be assessed on a case by case basis. 

For anyone else looking to give me a shout or to have their questions answered by me, feel free to contact me anytime via that same email address! I never charge anyone to answer a question and I do answer all of my emails personally.      




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.                    



Thursday, September 13, 2018

How To Take Quality Empty Parks Photos at Disney - From a Photography Perspective

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

How To Take Quality Empty Parks Photos at Disney - From a Photography Perspective

I've debated writing this post for weeks. At first I wasn't sure if it fit with the theming of the site and then it hit me earlier tonight that photography, no matter if it's with your iPhone or a $1,000 DSLR, is a huge part of vacations in this day and age. It's a part of the experience we didn't necessarily have the luxury of capturing years ago and for so many guests, taking photos is just as enjoyable for them as riding an attraction or even eating at their favorite meal. As a result, I decided not to pass by this article idea and instead wanted to share a few technical details and tips so that you can make the most of your photos in the parks. 

If you've seen my photos on Instagram or even possibly on Facebook, you may have noticed that I'm a fairly architectural and landscape focused photographer, rather than a "people" photographer. One isn't necessarily better than the other but it's a different approach to capturing the moment nonetheless. I will readily admit that at this point, photographing people is not my strong point, but I will say I have managed to figure out at least a portion of the nighttime theme park photography realm. To capture similar photos to what you find in this article, keep reading and I'll share as much info as I can in the simplest of descriptions possible.  

Stay Late and Be Patient

In many ways, taking photos in the parks at night is a waiting game. If you want that coveted empty Main Street photo, prepare to stay upwards of two hours after the park officially closes for the night. I know at first glance that entire sentence seems like an impossibility, but Disney's closing procedure is like a restaurant. The attraction lines are first blocked off, and then as the final guests leave each land the land is carefully and subtly closed off to guests. After each land is closed, the castle, hub, and Main Street remain open top guests for quite some time. The exact timeframe varies from night to night and truthfully the friendliness of the closing cast members can vary from night to night (for any number of reasons). 

Once you're headed to Main Street, it's a waiting game from that point on. The photo you see below was taken roughly an hour or so after official closing time. What's not necessarily noticeable is that people were walking right past me during this shot. The park wasn't completely empty but there's a way to overcome that (which we'll get to next). The quiet nature of the park as the final guests trickle out is one of the most amazing experiences you can ever witness in a Disney park. There's an unexplainable silence coupled with the music and the periodic "Kiss Goodnight" show that amazes me each and every time we stay late. Even if you're not a photographer, it's worth hanging around just to close out the park



Use a Long Shutter Speed

The key to nighttime photography at Disney is shutter speed and an understanding of the light gathering capabilities of your camera. If you're using an iPhone, unfortunately this tip doesn't necessarily apply to you. If you're a DSLR user, no matter what brand or age of the camera you use, you're going to likely have a manual mode, a shutter priority mode, and aperture priority mode. Manual mode puts you in complete control of your camera. The device simply takes the photo, you make all the adjustments and develop all of the settings before the shutter is "pressed." The user controls the F-stop number (typically anywhere from F/1.8 - F/22), the shutter speed (anywhere from 1/4000 of a second to 30+ seconds), and the iso value. In the most fundamental of explanations, the shutter speed is the amount of time the camera has to gather light, the F-stop dictates how how open the lens is and how much light it is letting in, and the iso value is an "artificial" light that the camera creates to brighten the image artificially. 


For the cleanest of results, a great goal is to set your iso to 100, your F-stop to anywhere between F/8 and F/11, and your shutter speed to whatever value centers your light meter. The light meter looks like a ruler on your display screen or through your viewfinder. In essence it looks like this: (-.....|.....|.....0.....|.....|.....+). As you adjust your settings a series of blinking bars and an arrow will move back and forth across the meter display. Your goal is to plant that moving bar directly under the "0" in most cases. As you start to understand more about photography you can play with that more and more but centered at zero will give you what the camera sees as the "perfect exposure." If you adjust your F-stop number you'll get more in focus across the image as you go up in number and less in focus as you moving down in numbers. Both are great for select scenarios like blurring out a background to create subject isolation, but starting out at F/11 is a good place to plant that F-stop as you learn to find that sweet spot of your shutter speed for each image. Your shutter speed will likely need to change for each different shot you want to capture and as you learn more, you're F-stop will likely vary as well. If you don't know how to change these setting on your camera, switch the dial on the top of your camera to "M" and start fooling around with the dials to watch and see what changes. Each camera is a little different, but you'll figure it out rather quickly.



I titled this section "use a long shutter speed for a reason." As mentioned above, you can eliminate the random guests walking through your photo by using a long shutter speed late at night. If the shutter is open for seconds on end, the camera rarely captures the moving subject unless they are wearing a light up necklace or have the screen on their phone lit as it passes in front of the camera. It sounds like a crazy concept but many photographers call this "ghosting" out people. They simply disappear at times. In the photo below, I had my tripod set up in Pandora and a guest thought I was a Photopass photographer (it happens more than you may think lol) and lingered in the shot for about 10 seconds as I briefly explained that I wasn't who they thought I was at that moment. As usual, I offered to take their photo moments later but the shutter on the camera stayed open the entire time. This was the resulting photo (below). I wont lie and say these are the results every time and sometimes you get weird blurred out people that pop up, but it is possible to get a near perfectly clean photo as people walk right through your shot! (my site does compress these photos so be sure to check us out on Facebook for higher quality images)         


Keep Your Camera Stable 

This point by itself tends to be what turns off so many guests to photography in the parks, but it doesn't have to. If you want to capture photos in precise detail, you have to keep your camera perfectly still. Oftentimes that means using a tripod in my case. You can capture some reasonably sharp photos hand held, but with a shutter open and capturing light for seconds on end it's incredibly difficult to keep the camera still the entire time without a better knowledge of more advanced settings. If you use a tripod, or a trashcan (it serves the same function), you can set a timer on your camera, step back and not even touch the camera until the photo is finished. There are ways around this but many of theme are far more complicated than I could do justice to in this article alone. Again, if you have an iPhone, you're not necessarily going to benefit from this point but you will from the next one!


Get Creative

When you open your Instagram account, what do you see? If your feed is anything like the people posting in mine (minus a select few) you're seeing the same variation of five different pictures with different people in the photo. You've got the family standing in a perfect line, you've got that random picture of someone standing pointing at a sign, and perhaps my favorite... a random picture of something you can't even make out what it's suppose do be. Granted, I'm not knocking any of those photos... ok I may be making fun of the last one a little bit. At the same time, try something you've never seen done. Instead of planting yourself half way down Main Street turning around and taking a photo, take a short walk over to the side of the castle or behind the castle and surround yourself with a new context. Not only will it set your photos apart, but often times it makes taking the photo that much more enjoyable for everyone involved. Try something new and you may be surprised at what you can come up with. 






Find an Editing Software 

Despite popular belief in many cases, editing photos isn't a crime when done subtly. At the same time, editing needs to be done in moderation and in my opinion with the goal in mind of perfecting your photo, not changing your photo. An edit to create a near impossible photo is fun every once in a while but over accentuated colors and crazy HDR photo softwares aren't what we're looking for most to the time. Personally, I use Lightroom and Affinity photo for my more "professional" edits, but I have been known to use the simple and free Snapseed application for a quick edit on the go. In my own situation, Lightroom is where I process 95% of my photos. I find the software incredibly easy to use, and it does not directly modify your original image. You always have a backup if you don't end up liking the changes you've made.


Wrapping Up

If you liked this article and want to see more like it, please tell me about it in the comments or shoot me a message on your favorite social media platform. I really enjoy sharing info about photography and I'd be happy to share more of this in the future. Obviously, it's not the focus of this site and honestly the views tend to reflect that, but if I can help one person better understand their camera, it's all worth it. Once you capture that tone tac sharp nighttime photo you'll be hooked in a way that's hard to explain. If you're just looking to get started in photographing the parks, be sure to check out Our Photography Guide for Walt Disney World. If you enjoyed this post, please SHARE it with friends! 

If you're curious about my personal gear, I currently use a rather simple kit:
Nikon D3400 (super budget friendly)
Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 dxii
Lower Photo Hatchback 
Wireless Remote Shutter
Primaphoto Travel Tripod - It's not the world's greatest tripod but it's incredibly stable, relatively light and cost about half as much as the name brand alternative. I've seen both in person and the differences are negligible.  

These are affiliate links, and every purchase made through these links helps support the site. These are products I personally use in the parks and recommend, and I did pay for every product out of pocket at one point in time.      




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!

Need My Help?

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or free-lance work at Guide4WDW@gmail.com. If you need a landscape or theme park photographer, feel free contact me with photo requests or contracts. All theme park writing and photos will be assessed on a case by case basis. 

For anyone else looking to give me a shout or to have their questions answered by me, feel free to contact me anytime via that same email address! I never charge anyone to answer a question and I do answer all of my emails personally.      



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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