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Friday, February 23, 2018

Saratoga Springs at Disney: An Underrated Disney World Resort

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

The Saratoga Springs Resort at Walt Disney World is one of the best resorts on Disney property for the money. It features a great location, fairly effective transportation, and retains the perks of being a Deluxe tier resort while avoiding some of the costs of other deluxe tier offerings. In short, I put Saratoga Springs at Disney right next to Old Key West in regards to the best overall value for your money on property, especially when booking with larger groups (we'll get to more on that later).

While it may not be the ultimate "sought after" destination featured in the Disney TV ads or even the resort your friends and family tell you you have to at least go and visit, but it's debatably a hidden gem of a well planned Disney vacation. As one of the largest Deluxe resorts geographically, Saratoga Springs offers legitimately a room type for any type of group or party size. On top of that, it features multiple pools, and activities for guests of all ages. Without spoiling all the details in the introduction, we'll jump right into it and share a bit more below on why this has been a top pick for our vacations.

As always our preferences and yours may differ. We tend to travel in somewhat larger groups, and typically stay in villa style resort rooms or deluxe resorts, but that's just what works for us. If you fall into that same vacation style category, or even if you may not, I'd give this place a second look before booking anything else.   

(Photo: Jason Pratt - Flickr

Resort Accommodations
The Saratoga Springs resort offers a diverse lineup of lodging accommodations. From the typical and rather spacious deluxe studio rooms featuring 1 queen bed and one double size sleeper sofa to massive Treehouse Villa accommodations that can comfortably accommodate 9 guests, there's a little something for everyone. It's not the perfect resort, but one where no matter what your party size is, you can almost always find something that suits your needs. 


Personally, I recommend a preferred two bedroom villa here for a few select reasons. First, when you purchase a preferred room you are essentially guaranteed one of the better building locations on the property. What that means is that not only will you walk shorter distances to the main area, dining, and pools, but also remain close to transportation via bus or boat (boat to Disney Springs). Second, two bedroom villas are ideal if you can find another family or group of friends to travel with you and split up the costs. If you can work it out, typically you can put 7 guests into that particular villa comfortably (8 by capacity standards), and if you can split the costs you can occasionally catch a room at this particular resort for relatively close to moderate tier resort prices where you would have to book two or more rooms for larger parties. It sounds crazy, but I've done it on multiple occasions and it works out great if you can find the accommodations you're looking for available for your given dates. Villas tend to go quickly, so be sure to book early or book with our preferred travel agent or another group that can continually check for resort room openings for you. Here's why I recommend an Authorized Disney Travel Planner!

If you can find the accommodations you need, this can be a pretty significantly overlooked offering for those of us who are not DVC members, despite it technically being a DVC resort. DVC members tend to love the place and I can't say that I blame them, but many first time and retiring guests completely overlook this potentially perfect offering. Of course, as with any resort, it has its flaws and if you want to hear our largest concerns jump down to transportation.         

(Pictured: Treehouse Villas - Photo: Disney)

Resort Activities
At the resort, you do have a few huge bonuses. First, you have two pools which are both excellent "resort style" themed pools in addition to smaller pools throughout the property. The two main pools are excellent and with one of them only steps form the main quick service location, it's easy to take your refillable mug inside for a refill without having to pack up all your stuff and make the hike across property as you do at some select resorts. 

Additionally, scattered around the pool deck you'll find ping pong and other games to enjoy. Of course, they're not quite as enjoyable in the heat of the day as a dip in the pool, but nonetheless an excellent offering and a perk for those spring trips or a night off from the parks to relax and enjoy the resort. 

Last but certainly not least, the resort is home to Disney's Lake Buena Vista golf course. Personally, I see this as the better of Disney's golf facilities. The driving range is iconic and features a unique water element utilizing aqua balls that float in the case of an errant shot. Plus, opposed to hitting off of more typical mats, players utilize real turf on the range and are even provided a golf cart just to drive out to the range with your clubs even if you don't plan on playing the course. As an added bonus, as you hit golf balls, you can peer through the trees over at Disney Springs from a rather unique angle that many guests will completely overlook. It's a great facility and a great way to convince a non-Disney fan to join you on a Disney vacation in order to play an excellent golf course. The golf offering even made our 4 Unconventional Ways to Enjoy Disney That You May Have Never Considered list. 

Excellent Quick Service Offerings
As mentioned, just steps away from the main pool and check-in area you'll find The Artist's Palette. As one of my favorite quick service offerings at any resort location, The Artist's Palette is one of the best locations for variety you'll find at a resort hotel quick service location. Everything is made to order and hot and ready at basically any time of day. The location even stays open until late at night for those guests returning from the parks. It's a great first meal or last meal at Walt Disney World and a great place to grab a quick bite to eat before heading to the parks. 

If you're looking for something a little more upscale, take a few steps down the hall to The Turf Club for a Table service meal with a classic view of the on-property Lake Buena Vista Golf Course (which starts at the clubhouse downstairs) in addition to the boat launch over to Disney Springs.     

Proximity to Disney Springs
The proximity to Disney Springs is something that I see as increasingly valuable as time goes on and the transformation of Disney Springs continues to develop and change in the coming months and years. The offerings at the Springs are vast and the dining opportunities are some of the best you'll find. It's a largely varied shopping and dining experience with a little bit for everyone to enjoy with dining and shopping options for all price points. 

The quick boat ride over only takes around 10 minutes and is incredibly picturesque as the sun starts to fade over the horizon and the colors of those classic Florida sunsets reflect off the water. It's a view of the Springs that gets vastly overlooked but one of the most iconic views you'll ever experience from the little pontoon-esque boats that ferry gets back and forth from this resort, Old Key West, and Port Orleans. As the shortest of the three boat rides, it's truly hard to beat the convenience and the multitude of entertainment options just a few short minutes from your resort.        


(Pictured: Homecomin' Kitchen at Disney Springs: AKA - Our New "Must-Do" Disney Dining Location!)

Transportation... The Good and the Bad
The entire Saratoga Springs Resorts utilizes Disney's bus theme park transportation. They don't have any monorail, or boats to the parks, but for many the cost savings more than makes up for the transportation limitations. Of course, as mentioned, you do still retain the boat transportation to Disney Springs, but the transportation to any other park requires the use of multiple bus stops within the resort (similar to Caribbean Beach or other more spread out resorts) and the ride through the property can be fairly time consuming. It's certainly not the ideal situation for someone who gets carsick (like me) easily with the multiple stop and go segments, but you can always hop in your car and drive to the parks as an alternative. Also, the parking is typically only a few steps from your resort room, so it's easy to access a vehicle or rental car if you have one for your vacation.         

Wrapping Up
With all of this being shared, it's easy to see how the resort can be viewed as a "diamond in the rough" by our standards. It's not the perfect resort but one with some of the most varied options on all of property accompanying a price tag that isn't all that unreasonable. The amenities are excellent, the rooms are incredibly classy and nicely laid out, and the staff (as with any Disney resort) is truly excellent. If you're like many guests and have overlooked this property, I certainly recommend you bring it into consideration in a future vacation planning process. It even made our Three Vastly Underrated Walt Disney World Resorts You May Want to Consider for Your Next Vacation - A Few Thoughts post. 

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!




Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - A Few Thoughts and Predictions For the Future

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

In 2014, Disney unveiled the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. At that point, the ride system was one of the most creative in the industry and and even to this day, it remains an incredibly forward thinking ride vehicle that truly immerses guests in a theming element that many of us have desired to experience for many years, a true swinging mine car experience. While the project took many years to fully develop into what it is today, the current attraction shuttles guests through a roller coaster style platform at a brisk 30+ mph while retaining a height requirement that can accompany guests of nearly all ages at just 38 inches.

Believe it or not, up until that debut, Fantasyland never truly had a height requirement for any attractions. It was a piece of Magic Kingdom designed to be the pinnacle of places where kids and adults could have fun together. There was nothing to worry about and truly no disappointment on the faces of young guests who couldn't "measure up." Of course, that practice had to come to an end due to obvious safety reasons, but nonetheless the attraction requirement remains rather short at just over 3 foot.

In the realm of theming there's nothing that truly compares to the mine train experience. The level of detail in the rock work, greenery, and even down to the wood grain is near perfect and sets the stage for a picture perfect icon of New Fantasyland. With all of that being said, the attraction set a precedent in many other ways and aspects as well, so we'll dive right into that with today's post!      


New Standard for Attraction Queues
As you arrive at the attraction you'll notice two things that stick out. First, the theming is incredibly diverse, but additionally you'll almost immediately notice the interactive elements of the queue. As you make your way through the line, a touch screen game, hands on water elements, and a sets of projections occupy your time as you slowly make your way to the attraction itself to board your mine train and head off with the Seven Dwarfs on a short but memorable experience.

The steps taken here in the realm of theming have truly set the pace for interactive queues in each and every new attraction coming to the parks. Of course, it wasn't the first interactive queue developed, especially considering it was predated by Soarin's simple original interaction and The Many Adventure's of Winnie the Pooh's queue redesign, but it also led the way for fully integrated lines to create a way for guests to be entertained as they journey through the queue. In doing so, Disney achieves a few things. First and foremost, it's a guest satisfier. It turns a two hour wait into one that seems far less tedious if your mind is occupied and you're entertained along the way. Second, it allows Disney the opportunity to test new ideas in the realm of wait times. In the future, I wouldn't be surprised if we see continued tests to expand the use of technologies similar to what is currently offered at Dumbo the Flying Elephant. It may not be that exact utilization or design concept, but inevitably Disney is going to have to find new ways to manage wait times as crowds continue to build. If you're looking to overcome crowds this spring/summer, check out our How To Beat the Walt Disney World Spring and Summer Crowds in 2018 article. 


Join the Event

A Continuing Piece of History
As many of you may know or may have even witnessed first hand, up until 1994 a portion of the space currently occupied by Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was home to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. While the original attraction was quite simple, it's most loyal riders have developed a highly attached following that attempts in every way to keep its legacy alive. As a result, Imagineering mad e special effort to "hide in plain site" a small tribute to the departed attraction inside the tree included in the pooh attraction queue. For a few brief years, the tree was a part of an interactive children's play area which set right where Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is today. On the inside of the tree's little walkthrough home reminiscent of the iconic franchise, you'll find a small Nautilus carved into the inside of the door frame along the top of the entrance. It's a subtle nod to the past but a hidden gem of Imagineering you wont want to miss. This fun fact even made it into our Top 5 Things We Enjoy About Fantasyland at Walt Disney World!

An Unexpected Nighttime Opportunity 
In a rather strange way, the surrounding area of the mine train lends itself to being one of the most unique fireworks viewing areas of the Magic Kingdom. As you exit the attraction, head around to the right towards the viewable downhill aspect of the attraction. If you stand on that bridge with the min train behind you, you'll catch a unique glimpse of the fireworks coming from the rear launch site while simultaneously catching the fireworks elements being sent into the air near the castle. It's not the ideal viewing location if you've never seen the Happily Ever After performance from the hub area, but a unique option nonetheless.

In a similar way, if you manage to be on the attraction and time it just right, there's nothing quite like catching a glimpse of the fireworks as your ride vehicle heads down the hill from within the attraction itself. It's a fleeting glance but a memorable moment that rivals one of my very favorite on-ride fireworks views over at Splash Mountain as you slowly traverse the top of the mountain before entering the internal portion.      


From A Motion Sickness Perspective 
If you've read the site for a while you may be aware of another article I shared detailing Flight of Passage From A Motion Sickness Perspective. In that particular post I shared a few thoughts of the experience as someone who gets horribly motion sick. I have to drive most places to avoid carsickness, and avoid most simulator style attractions at all costs. With that being said, I do ride Space Mountain from time to time, enjoy Thunder Mountain, and have ridden Expedition Everest, but draw the line at Rock N Roller Coaster and Mission Space. Without a doubt, basically anyone in good health should be able to enjoy this attraction. It's short and the ride system is incredibly smooth. If you have hesitations, try it once and you'll probably love it!   

How to Avoid the Long Line
Avoiding a long line at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is quite difficult. Even today, nearly 4 years after it's original debut, the attraction welcomes lines of guests easily reaching well over 2 hour wait times on a regular basis. Of course, that sounds terrible, and to be quite honest it isn't the best way to spend your time in the parks, but it is an attraction where the posted wait time tends to be a bit over exaggerated. There is a way to avoid the long lines though. The first is the most obvious and that is to book a fastpass+ selection for this experience in order to guarantee yourself a ride without risking the extreme wait times. Additionally, you can avoid the lines by riding the attraction during morning extra magic hours. Head to the mine train as soon as the gates open and you'll get there before the line starts to truly back up for the day. The posted wait time will likely start at near an hour, but rarely actually takes that long early in the morning. Our "go-to" plan for touring Fantasyland quickly and affectively can be found in a portion of our How to Ride 6 or More Attractions in 90 Minutes or Less: With Only 1 Fastpass+! post, but believe it or not, Seven Dwarf Mine Train is part of that plan. 


The Subtle Details
As you leave the attraction experience, be sure to catch a glimpse to your right as you walk out for a little hidden gem that many guests look right past. There's the full front side of the cottage you see on the attraction tucked back in the trees decked out in little details to build authenticity. So many guests are so excited about their journey that they never quite catch the unique photo opportunity.

Additionally, Disney put a certain level of time and effort into making the on-ride experience so incredibly realistic that you'll likely never notice the wood grain on the buildings, the vast shrubbery and foliage throughout the ride, or even the dense man made elevation variations that allow the ride vehicle to whip around objects and in and out of small valley's as you go about you journey into the mine and beyond. It's the little things that often go largely unnoticed but set the tone for the experience and are integrated so incredibly well that it just feels right and truly authentic to the intended representation.  


These little details are what set Disney apart (in my humble opinion) and give a certain level of appreciation and depth to the parks that is beyond what you'd ever expect from a theme park destinations. Disney is set apart in so many ways and the details you can find hidden in plain site are truly hard to put into words at times. Here's a closer look at a few of our favorites that help create that iconic "Disney Magic": 
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!



Saturday, February 17, 2018

How To Beat the Walt Disney World Spring and Summer Crowds in 2018

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

With the opening date of Toy Story Land officially being debuted yesterday for June 30th, we can all but guarantee higher than usual crowd levels this summer. While Toy Story Land isn't necessarily the most anticipated addition to the parks by many (even though I think it should be and shared my feelings on that a short while ago), it will still inevitably draw large crowds looking to catch a first glimpse of the expansion. On top of that big debut, I wouldn't be surprised if we continue to see incredibly long wait times for Flight of Passage on into the summer and the foreseeable future. With the combination of both high volume generating experiences, in addition to the new offerings coming to Disney Springs this year, it will inevitably be another incredibly crowded summer in the parks. 

However, when I say that, I don't want it to be a deterrent for those looking to plan a vacation. The spring and summer are a few of my favorite times to visit the parks. The spring, in particular, is one of the very best times to visit (followed closely by Christmas time in the parks) as a result of one of my favorite events Disney puts on year after year over at Epcot, The Flower and Garden Festival. On top of that, the Florida spring weather typically fluctuates between 60 and 85 degrees, which is ideal, in my opinion. It's warm enough to be enjoyable, yet not too overwhelming hot to make the most of your entire day. Summer, while much warmer at 90+ degrees nearly every day, is still a bearable level of heat if you make the right precautions and learn to take breaks throughout the day. You may have to alter your plans and accept that you might not get quite as much accomplished in the heat of the summer, but its can be a great time to visit nonetheless. Unfortunately, increased crowd levels come with the nice weather and breaks from school for many guests, but you can overcome that barrier in many ways! A select few of you may remember a post we shared a few months ago on a very similar topic (How To Manage The Crowds During Walt Disney World Peak Attendance Dates), but today we're expanding upon what we shared there with a few tips specifically for the upcoming peak seasons.  



Go Early and Stay Late 
Arriving at the parks early on in the day, or even before the gates officially open for the day, can make a huge difference in how much you get accomplished during peak crowd levels. Throughout the first two to three hours of any parks opening, you're likely to achieve more than you will the rest of the day. It's a tried and proven philosophy and a huge part of our How to Ride 6 or More Attractions in 90 Minutes or Less: With Only 1 Fastpass+! Of course, our strategy for touring the parks isn't what works for everyone and may or may not work for your vacation strategy. Your goal may be to take your time and relax your way through the parks, and if that's the case, this may not be the best option for your situation. But, with that being said, I can assure you that it is a great way to avoid the peak crowds of the day. 

If getting up early isn't your style or if you just want to catch up on some extra sleep from staying out the night before, another great option is to stay out late. As the night slowly draws to a close in all four parks, wait times will fall, and some guests will start filtering out of the parks. It's not going to be quite as productive as early mornings, but staying late (especially on extra magic hour nights in the summer) can be a great way to squeeze in a few extra attractions or experiences into your day.    

Head to the Resorts
As many of you know, I love Disney resorts. Not only because of their elaborate theming and ever present story elements, but also because they're largely accessible from any point on property, even you're not staying at that particular resort. Resorts are the ultimate escape from the parks. You get the chance to enjoy a few moments of air conditioning, a relaxing seat in the lobby, or even a quick meal at one of the wonderful quick service or table service dining locations.  

As the afternoon approaches, the crowds at all Disney parks will reach a peak at around 2:00 on an average day. As that time frame rolls around, we like to catch a monorail to a nearby resort or a bus back to our home resort and take a few minutes to recharge. If you leave right after the afternoon parade, you can avoid the heat of the day, the peak crowds, and miss out on very little due to avoiding the longest wait times of the day. After you spend a few hours away, head back to the parks that night recharged and ready to finish the day in a spectacular way!       

Explore the Less Popular Attractions
To me, this is one of the many joys of traveling at peak times. Two members of my family are school teachers so, often times, we are forced to travel during peak seasons. But, the results aren't always a bad thing. When you travel to the parks when it's crowded, you tend to find new things to take part in and enjoy what you may otherwise overlook. For example, a short time ago, we went to Epcot on the Fourth of July. The crowds were brutal and just kept growing as the nighttime spectacular drew closer. In all reality, we expected elevated crowds, and it wasn't all that bad in comparison to New Years Eve in Magic Kingdom. Nonetheless, we wanted to take a break from the crowds in the middle of the afternoon, and decided to hop on the Seas with Nemo and friends. It did have a fairly decent wait of 30 minutes, but considering the holiday, it wasn't a bad wait time at all. At the end of the attraction, you exit into Sea Base Alpha. For years, we had casually looked through the area (even dating back to its earlier attraction days as The Living Seas with the Hydrolators), but never really spent the time to dive a little deeper into all that is offered there and to take the time to interact with the incredibly knowledgeable cast members on hand. It was a great experience and just goes to show that even the less popular attractions can be a great part of any day in the parks. Sure, they may not be quite as thrilling as flying on the back of a banshee on Flight of Passage in Pandora, but still make for an outstanding and memorable moment of any vacation.           


Take a Break and Head to the Pool 
Particularly in the summer, taking a short break form the parks for even just a few hours to head back to your resort can make all the different. Rest and recharge poolside, and return later at night as the sun start to dip below the horizon. It's a great break from the heat, can prep you for a night at Disney Springs or back at the parks, and tends to be a highlight of guests that are young and young at heart. It seems so simple, but heading back to the pool and escaping the hoards of crowds shuffling through the parks in the middle of the afternoon in 90+ degree heat is an excellent option. Step away from it all, and enjoy a few minutes of quiet or a quick cool off in the wonderful pools at any number of the resorts. 

Head to the Dolphin for an Ice Cream
This may be the simplest item on our list but, grabbing an ice cream is never more memorable than doing so at Walt Disney World. There's something about that family atmosphere, the joy on the peoples faces around you, and the simple pleasure of the experience that makes all the difference. What may come to mind when you think ice cream at Disney could be a classic ice cream from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (try the ice cream cookie sandwich... it's amazing!), but perhaps a more trivial location is at the top of our list. That simple location is the Walt Disney World Dolphin's Fountain Ice Cream walk up window. It's a cheap treat, a short boat ride away from Epcot, and one of the more memorable desserts on property in regards to both atmosphere and taste. After you grab your dessert of choice (they have more than just soft serve, but the soft serve is outstanding), head over to the Boardwalk or Yacht and Beach Club for a little live entertainment or snore around a campfire by the water. Either way, it's a great way to spend the night and escape a vast majority of the crowds of Epcot, which is just a few steps away via the back entrance to the park.          

Book Fastpasses in the Afternoon 
This particular tip may sound a bit contradictory to our "head to the resorts" tip. But, if you're concerned about making the most of a very limited amount of time in each of the parks, your best bet to ride the most attractions possible on peak days is to book your fastpasses in the afternoon. In doing so, you'll guarantee yourself a few attractions with no wait times, and you can really make the most of the high crowd levels of the afternoon without spending an unnecessary amount of time waiting in line. 

A second strategy you may want to attempt, if you're really limited on time, is to book your fastpass+ selections as early in the day as you possibly can. Then, once you've completed those attractions, you get access to your fourth "revolving fastpass" that can be used time and time again for any attractions that have not distributed all of their fastpasses for the day.     


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!




Thursday, February 15, 2018

My Disney Experience - Tips and Tricks

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

As we say time and time again here on the site, planning a Disney vacation can be a stressful experience. However, it doesn't really have to be if you have the right help and take the time to learn and carefully set up your vacation experience. As always, we're here to help in any way we can and that's been the goal of Guide4WDW.com since the very beginning. I enjoy helping people find a way to experience the best possible Walt Disney World vacation they possibly can and finding new ways to improve your planning experience. I'm not perfect and I do miss a few things along the way because the parks are always changing and developing from day to day. While taking that into consideration, we have found a few things along the way that may be helpful to you. So today we're taking a closer look at the My Disney Experience site.  


As one of the newer aspects of the Disney planning process, MyDisneyExperience.com has revolutionized the way we plan our Disney vacations across the board. For those of you who may not know, the site (owned and operated by Disney themselves) is an offshoot of the main disneyworld.disney.go.com hub of official Disney reservations, dining, and information of all types. However, My Disney Experience takes things a step farther and integrates an all in one planning resource for guests that allows you to avoid calling, or moving from page to page to book certain aspects of your vacation and compiles everything into an all in one section of the main Disney site. As you buy tickets, integrate a package stay, book accommodations, or plan dining reservations, Disney's platform updates a running itinerary for your stay with down to the minute information and a few suggestions along the way. 

Unfortunately, in the creation of the system, Disney failed to create a truly step by step process and left a lot of the system and utilizing it up to guests to simply figure out. Truth be told, it's not an overly complicated process if all goes well, but not everything always goes well. We'll get to more on that later, but beyond linking your reservation to your account and ordering your magic bands and making fastpass+ selections Disney doesn't entirely walk you through all that the system can actually do leading up to your vacation. As a result, we share this article to share a few tips of using the My Disney Experience site and how a few simple tips could better your experience overall. As always, if you have any questions along the way, feel free to reach out to us on social media or email me directly at Guide4WDW@gmail.com. The account is devoted to questions and we're more than happy to answer them or take article suggestions there as well! 

If you're booking your first vacation, when you get done with this article, or even before you begin it, be sure to take a quick look at our 2018 Disney World Vacation Planning TipsDisney World Dining Tips For 2018, and 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018. They're a great place to start if you're planning a vacation and may help you as you step into the realm of "My Disney Experience." 

There's a lot to cover today, so we'll jump right into it with one of the simplest but most useful features of the site.  

Split Payments
If you're traveling in a group or attempting to split payments among individuals, we've all been there and know how frustrating that can be to get perfectly right. As a bit of a lesser known feature of the program, My Disney Experience offers guests the option to pay for their vacation in parts or sections rather than in one big lump sum payment. Additionally  you can pay with more than one form of payment. So, instead of attempting to collect money from various parties involved in the vacation or multiple families or group members, each person can use login information to submit their own card and dollar amount they want to pay on that card without having to transfer money to other guest in the party or anything of the sort. All of the transactions are secure and can be spread out over time at your convenience if you book far enough in advance.         


Paying Through Travel Agents
As touched on above, the online system is great for slitting payments your own way, but an interesting thing to note is that if you book through a travel agent (depending on your agency), sometimes the online payment option will disappear. However, you can still pay at your convenience through your agent. It's not the easiest situation, but it's good to know that the option is still available despite the somewhat unexpected hiccup in the booking process if you're not entirely expecting it. As always, I suggest a travel agent, especially for first time guests and here's a closer look at why. No matter who you use or how they book your stay, it's something you may want to be aware of before your payment timeframe rolls around.    

Book Fastpasses With A Second Browser Window
This particular tip I've been utilizing for years and actually tried it once just to see if it would work and it resulted in a flawless fastpass+ booking experience. As many of you know, Disney's new(ish) fastpass system is now all online and called fastpass+. Fastpass+ integrates the My Disney Experience site with a physical Magic Band you wear to the parks and allows guests to select up to 3 fastpass+ selections for one park on each day of their vacation. For on-site guests, this passes can be booked 60 days in advance and for off-site guests they can be booked 30 days in advance. 

As mentioned, the booking process for these passes is all online. While for many that's great, what you don't necessarily expect is that you have to book your selections around any dining reservations or other special events you have booked throughout your Disney vacation. It sounds rather simple, but remembering all that while you frantically (which you don't necessarily have to if you use our top reservation/fastpass securing tips) try to make your ideal fastpass+ selections isn't always easy. To overcome that mental block, I started using two browser windows when booking fastpass selections. I use one window for the actual selection making process and on the other window I pull up the itinerary Disney automatically creates for each day of your stay after linking your resort reservation and other plans. As you book a pass, refresh your itinerary window and you'll see it pop up moments later revealing how it fits in with the rest of your plans. If you need or want some fastpass+ tips, be sure to take a glance at our 5 Simple Fastpass+ Tips That Could Better Your Vacation Experience.


Expect An Issue Along The Way
Even a few years after the systems major debut (which was not received all that well) the system itself still has a lot of bugs to work out. Disney phone support for the site is very good at what they do at this point and tend to be aware of the quirks of the system and how to resolve them, but inevitably you'll run into some type of issue as you use the online site. Personally, I've seen extra guests pop up on my account, fastpasses randomly disappear and reappear, and even guests from previous trips pop up on our account even after Disney support went in and manually removed them. Expect something strange to happen, but also be aware that Disney is willing to help and just a phone call away at (407) 939-4357.      

Look For Special One Time Offers
This particular tip or rather simply an offering is rather rare based on my experience. During our last fastpass+ booking experience for our July 2017 trip, a unique offer popped up on our account asking if we wanted to take part in a DVC tour or receive an informational packet in exchange for an extra fastpass+ selection (s). For some reason I opted out of taking the offer, but nonetheless it struck me as odd. I'm not entirely sure how frequent this is, but in the past Disney has offered very little incentive to learn more about Disney Vacation Club. They don't like to be overly pushy with their marketing for that option (and I'm glad they aren't), but if you have time to take advantage of this offer, it's something you may want to look out for!      


Order Your Magic Bands Early 
I know that picking out the perfect Magic Band color for your stay may not be the first thing that comes to mind as soon as you book your trip, but it should be one of the first things you do. If you put it off or wait to choose your custom bands on the online site, it's extremely easy to forget and then when you get within a few weeks of your arrival, your magic bands will no longer be personalized and you'll end up with the stock, single colored, bands available at resort check in. Once again, it's not a vacation destroyer or anything like that but rather something that can easily slip your mind if you don't do it as soon as possible. 

Extra tip: If you want a nickname or other name than your actual given name put on the band, be sure to alter the custom name option on the magic band order. Also, every once in a while the system will capitalize every letter of your name for some unknown reason so you may want to verify that as well before your bands ship.         

Linking Families
One of the most unique features of the online site is that when you book with groups or two separate families, you can invite other guests to view and take part in your planning process by linking the two accounts. It's not all that easy to get to work correctly on the first try, but once the two accounts are linked it works incredibly well. Again, if you can't get it to work on your own, give Disney's support team a call and they should get it fixed within minutes! I've had nothing but good luck from their team.    

These tips just scratch the surface of what you can do with mydisneyexperience.com and with the site continually growing and changing from month to month, there's no telling what's next. Last but defiantly not least, if you want to take advantage of the online capabilities but don't necessarily need all of the features or need a majority of the features in a more convent option, be sure to download the My Disney Experience App. The app had a ton of issues at first but is now an incredible tool when booking and during your Disney Vacation. 



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!






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