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Friday, December 29, 2017

Disney World Vacation Packages - "A Closer Look"


by: guide4wdw - Collin

In the realm of Disney vacation planning there are an impressive amount of different ticket, dining, and resort accommodation combinations and the ever present Disney World Vacation Packages. From buying from a third party seller for tickets to staying on or off property, the possibilities are truly endless when you're looking to decipher the code that is all a part of the Disney vacation experience. Many of us love the work put into planning a vacation and others enjoy taking a step back and letting Disney or someone else do the work for us. However, the neat thing about Disney is that the variety of options provided associate themselves with an even vaster variety of solutions and travel planning outlooks. Considering all of that, a Disney World Vacation Package may or may not be the best fit for your travel needs. 

If Disney does one thing well (among many other things they do well), they allow the guest to have a variety of vacation options. While that may sound a bit strange, it's quite true and here's why. When you book a Disney vacation you can do so for so many reasons other than simply to tour the parks. The all encompassing resort delivers world class dining, the ability to have a quiet vacation, the chance to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the parks, and so many other options that many guests entirely overlook. There truly is something for everyone, but in a similar way there's a vacation planning strategy for each and every one of those individuals. No two guests are alike. 

That concept brings us to the topic of today's discussion, Walt Disney World Vacation Packages. For those of you who may not know, or are even first time guests, Disney offers a packaged experience which you can book your resort accommodations, dining, tickets, and any additional add ons you'd like to experience all at once in one big package. In doing so, they also offer guests the chance to pick and choose which elements of the package they would like to utilize. For example, if you want your tickets included in your resort package you can do so, but you can also opt out of the dining option altogether if you choose to do so. It's an excellent system and one that has worked for us year after year, but when considering the big picture, it may not be the cheapest way to tour the parks. 

Don't get me wrong, when Disney offers discounted packages like this one (ending January 2nd) it is incredibly difficult to beat their price in the grand scheme of things. Additionally, something you may want to consider, especially if you are booking at non discounted prices or accommodations that do not require a package, is that you can potentially save money buying stand alone tickets from an authorized ticket reseller (Here's why we recommend an official ticket seller in order to avoid ticket scams - Section 3 of that article) or by avoiding the dining plan altogether. 

The dining plan is an excellent package and one that I have used for years, but isn't always your cheapest option. To be quite honest with you, that's hard for me to say because I really enjoy the dining plan and its simplicity, but when you break it down the cost is near identical to what you would be paying for the food out of pocket. In the big picture the convenience factor is excellent, but what really costs you is the fact that most guests will not eat their full allotment on the dining plan if they were paying for it out of pocket. Especially in 2018 (with the new dining plan choices), most guests would not typically buy a table service meal, a counter service meal, and two snacks. It's certainly doable to eat, but you'll likely be full from sun up to sun down every day of your vacation. For anyone interested, here's a full comparison under last years pricing structure and included dining plan offerings

Something else to consider when booking packages is the cancellation policy. Disney's package cancellation is something that is a huge bonus when booking. If you purchase a package, or are even looking to purchase a package, if you are booking at least 30 days before your vacation, a room can be held for three days with no deposit. By the 3rd day a $200 deposit must be made to secure the reservation. At that point, full payment is due 30 days before the check in date of your stay (if you are booking at least 30 days in advance, if not the full payment will be due upon booking). 

Here'e where the package gets quite beneficial. If you have to cancel for any reason, and it is at least 31 days prior to your scheduled stay you will not be charged for cancelling. For cancellation between 2 and 30 days prior to arrival, there will be a $200 cancellation fee. For cancellations one day or less before your scheduled check in, the entire amount is nonrefundable. 

You may be asking why any of this matters, and here's why. If you book tickets independently of your resort accommodations the tickets are non refundable. however, if you book a package, as described above, the tickets are refundable. Additionally, a room only reservation (with no package) requires a deposit of one nights rate for the reservation opposed to the $200 deposit to reserve a package. Sometimes this plays in your favor, especially when booking for larger groups that may be staying in a 2 bedroom or larger villa which typically cost $1000+ per night. 

Vacation packages are an excellent option, but you may want to consider all of your options before you go straight to that booking plan. They're certainly convenient, and it's what we use in our planning process 90% of the time, but we do so knowing that we may be giving up a few dollars (or maybe even a few hundred dollars depending on the current offers on third party tickets) here and there but to us it's worth having everything paid for together and being able to take advantage of the positive booking bonuses and cancellation policies. 

As always, what we do may or may not work for your vacation style, but we simply share what has worked for us over the years. We're fortunate enough to have traveled to the parks time and time again for around 20 years. Throughout that time frame, a lot has changed, but one thing remains true and that is the fact that a Disney vacation is more than simply a vacation destination. Disney is more of an experience that brings family together and creates memories of a lifetime.               

As always, if this all seems very complicated (and to be quite honest, it is), I recommend a authorized Disney travel planner (quote request form below). At the pace Disney changes, even I have some trouble keeping up with all of Disney's different plans and regulations, so having that person there that does this day in and day out can make all the difference when surveying your options. 

As always, links on this page may bring us a monetary compensation (which goes right back into funding the site and bringing you new content) and we truly appreciate your support. None of the links will cost you anything additional when booking your vacation or tickets but it truly helps us out in making this dream of ours a reality. Thanks! 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Updated: Disneyland Faces Power Outage - Multiple Rides Evacuated


by: guide4wdw - Collin

In a rare post about Disneyland out in California, we have an interesting story that is developing early this afternoon. According to Fox 11 Los Angeles, the Disneyland Resort lost power at 11AM PST and has led to many attractions in both Toontown and Fantasyland being evacuated.

The cause of the outage is believed to be a result of a broken transformer and there is not an estimated timeframe for power to be restored based on the current information being shared.

As is the case with Walt Disney World in Orlando, Disneyland is facing massive crowds as the year draws to a close and that could have played a role in the power failure. Each year, the Disney parks face peak crowds around Christmas and the New Year as guests are away from work and traveling. 

Today's power outage is a bit unique, but should be fixed for guests in the not so distant future. Again, we do not know how long the power outage will last, but the park is currently remaining open to guests and the parade is still being debuted to guests. As the story builds, I'll do what I can to update you on future changes to the parks operation status.

Update: 5:45 EST 
It appears as if a majority of attractions regained power at around noon PST but not all operations are running correctly (according to twitter some Fantasyland attractions remain without power). Just before the outage, it is being reported that the park reached capacity.  

Disney is actively working to restore power, but to my knowledge, at this time, the power remains in a failed state for at least a portion of the park.

A special thanks to Destinations to Travel for the heads up on this one. Be sure to check them out if you're looking to book a Disney vacation. Free quote request form below! Not only does that help us out (at no additional cost to you) but may save you money in the long run!   

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Finding The Best Flights to Disney World

by: guide4wdw - Collin

For many of us that don't live near Walt Disney World, transportation can be a real concern when planning a Disney vacation. Driving can take a few days, can be quite expensive, and ultimately takes a lot of time. However, flying, which is an excellent option a majority of the time, can be quite expensive and quite difficult to arrange depending on your given situation. So, today we're going to take a look at the ways in which we save money when flying and how we cut costs when traveling to Orlando and other vacation destinations. 

Book Early When Possible
As we've mentioned briefly in both our Disney World Dining Tips For 2018 and 2018 Walt Disney World Vacation Vacation Planning Tips, taking the time to book your vacation as early as possible can vastly influence what you'll pay in the long run in regard to expenses. I completely understand planning in a last minute fashion (we do it all the time), but unfortunately the costs of last minute planning can add up over time. 

Personally, I've had the very best luck planning flights as far out in the future as I possibly can and attempting to book on a weekday if at all possible. Each airline is a little different, but typically if you google the "best time to book" for your favorite airline, you'll typically find a recent post for that designated carrier. 

Don't Overlook Lesser Known Carriers
This particular tip is one that we've used time and time again when traveling to Orlando from our local airports. While everyone is aware of the main popular airlines: Delta, Southwest, United, etc. a few budget carriers do exist that can save you quite a bit of money along the way. 

In the past, we've had excellent luck with Allegiant. While they are somewhat limited about the locations they fly into and out of, and they only fly on select dates, if you can find a date and time that works for you the prices can be quite impressive. In the past, we've been able to fly to Disney from Kentucky for around $150 for round trip service. Allegiant does not fly into Orlando international airport and unfortunately as a result you cannot use the Magical Express service provided by Disney. All things considered, that will mean that you will have to hire out a car service/Uber or rent a car to travel to your resort. 

Based on our experience, the Allegiant Airplanes are excellent aircrafts and while they do not feature the seat back televisions that many Delta flights do these days, they're always clean and typically arrive on time as a result of being straight flights a vast majority of the time.    

Another carrier worth looking into is Frontier. Again, the prices are much cheaper than typical airlines, and flight times are a bit more spread out as well, but these flights do go directly into Orlando International airport. Believe it or not, I have no affiliation with any of these airlines (even though I wish I did! And if anyone can make that happen, give me a shout lol).      

Beware of Hidden Fees
As I'm sure many of you are well aware, some airlines will do just about anything to encourage you to book with them. Unfortunately that is increasingly true when considering the budget airlines as mentioned above. Often times when you get away from the main carriers, bag costs (including carry-ons at times) and booking fees tend to be increased to generate additional revenue. Sometimes, even with these additional costs, budget airlines can remain the most baffrodable option when flying but it is something you'll want to add into your comparison of flights (or you could have our recommended travel planner do it for you free of charge!).       

Fly at Random Times
If you're willing to fly on a weekday opposed to a weekend or at hours of the day when others would rather not fly, the prices can certainly reflect those differences. Getting out early on in the day on your trip down or leaving super late on return flights can not only save you money but also provide you with more time in the parks or at your resort and in my book, even a few extra hours on vacation can make all the difference.   

Consider a Different Airport 
We all have our favorite airport, but being willing to step out of your comfort zone a bit and try something new can lead to cheaper prices and more availability across the board. In Kentucky (were we are from) you have a choice of a variety of airports within an hour to hour and a half drive time away. Occasionally, the drive to SDF (Louisville or Cincinnati) CVG can be well worth the trade off in price in the grand scheme of things. Your local airports will certainly vary, but it's jus tone more eating you'll want to look into if you're trying to minimize your transportation costs. 

Additionally, leaving from a larger airport tends to open up a greater realm of possibilities in the unfortunate circumstance that your flight may get delayed or even canceled on the day of your big vacation.

All things considered, hopefully this gives you few ideas or possibly ways to save some money and potentially try something new when heading to Walt Disney World or even Disneyland. Flying can be tough at times, but the tradeoff in time saved can be more than worth it in the long run, especially if you get a good rate on flights.     

Beyond today's article, I just want to say that we are beyond thankful fo reach and every one of you that have supported us over the last year or so. It's been an incredible journey and one that we appreciate more than we will ever be able to explain. We appreciate each and every one of you and wish you all a wonderful Christmas filled with family, friends, and the true spirit of Christmas. 

As the new year approaches, take that chance and try something new. You never know what may happen and even at the very worst, you learn more from failure and ways to continue your growth than you do from success. Keep moving forward and find ways to do what you love and love what you do. We'll talk with you again soon (if not tomorrow). Merry Christmas!     

Friday, December 22, 2017

Our Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts with Monorail Service

by: guide4wdw - Caitlin

Caitlin's (who runs our Instagram account) back with another great article to share here on the site! 

Perhaps one of the most iconic images of Walt Disney World is the monorail sweeping across the sky atop Seven Seas Lagoon. The monorail not only serves as a transportation device, but it doubles as an attraction with breathtaking views of the Magic Kingdom and beautiful Monorail Resorts. Today, we are taking a deeper look at these resorts and all that they offer to make your Disney vacation even more magical. 

To begin, let’s dig a little deeper into what it means to be a Monorail Resort. These are the three Disney resorts that sit on the loop which includes both the Magic Kingdom and Ticket and Transportation Center stops. All three are categorized as Deluxe by Disney’s standards, making them top tier resorts. These resorts are beautiful, well-themed, and include extreme convenience due to their location on the monorail loop. Keep in mind that you can also switch monorails at the Ticket and Transportation Center to board the monorail to Epcot. We will look at the resorts in order of their appearance departing from the Magic Kingdom. First is Disney’s Contemporary Resort, followed by Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and finally Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. 

Disney’s Contemporary Resort
This resort is one of the most recognizable in all of Walt Disney World’s property as it is the resort that the monorail actually runs through the middle of. That, in itself, makes The Contemporary quite magical and quite convenient. Aside from this special feature, the resort has many other wonderful things to offer. The theming, as the name suggests, is quite modern and sleek in its design. One of the resort’s hallmarks it its floor to ceiling, 90 foot tall mural painted by Disney creative mind, Mary Blair. A favorite hunt by guests is to find the 5 legged goat hidden in the mural. The story goes that Mary added the fifth leg, because she did not believe in a work of art being “perfect.” Be sure to look for it on your next visit to The Contemporary. 
Let’s start with the various types of rooms available at this resort. The Contemporary offers rooms in the Main Tower, Bay Lake Tower, and the Garden Wing, which is adjacent to the Main Tower. Keep in mind that Bay Lake Tower is connected to the Main Tower by the Sky Way Bridge, meaning the monorail does not run through it. The tower is also exclusively for Disney Vacation Club members. The Contemporary offers standard rooms, deluxe rooms, 1 or 2 bedroom suites, and club level rooms. There are also rooms with views of Bay Lake or the Magic Kingdom available. These views, of course, come at a higher price. Speaking from experience, a view of the castle from your resort room is quite a magical moment. Being a Deluxe Resort, the Contemporary comes with a lofty price tag. But, we feel this inventive and sleek resort is well-worth its price. 

Up next are dining locations found within Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The resort is home to three table service locations and one counter service option. There are also several lounges and snack offerings spread throughout the resort. One of our favorite table service offerings in all of Walt Disney World can be found here – Chef Mickey’s. Our family are huge fans of character dining, and this location is one of the best. Chef Mickey’s offers breakfast, brunch, and dinner. We enjoy coming out for breakfast best. The cost of the meal is significantly lower during this time of day, but the food is still top notch. If you’re really ambitious, you can make this resort your first stop of the day and hop on the monorail to make it to Magic Kingdom for the opening. When dining at Chef Mickey’s, you will also experience character interactions from Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. Be prepared to swing your napkin to the music and have Mickey’s party song stuck in your head for the entire day. We recommend it for a fun time and a full belly. The Contemporary also offers more sophisticated dining locations with brunch or dinner at California Grill and breakfast, lunch, and dinner available at The Wave. California Grill is many guests’ favorite for its wonderful food and matching views of the lagoon and Magic Kingdom. If timed carefully, you can watch the Happily Ever After fireworks from the restaurant. The lights are dimmed and the music is piped in making for a memorable experience. Keep in mind that both Chef Mickey’s and California Grill are quite sought after dining locations. You can read our dining tips for how to snatch up a reservation. The Contemporary’s counter service location is The Contempo. We find this to be a nice, quick option for lunch or, my personal favorite, dessert. They offer a small (but mighty) bakery case filled with quite impressive dessert options. 
We will wrap up The Contemporary with a few more details that make this resort truly special. One of the major perks of all monorail resorts is the ease in transportation, but The Contemporary has even more to offer than the other two. One of our favorite things to do when staying at The Contemporary is to take the short boat ride over to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. This resort is the next door neighbor to the Contemporary and one of our other top picks on property. At The Lodge, you’ll find beautiful theming that places you right into America’s finest national parks. It is a wonderful resort to visit and a thrilling place to dine. Whispering Canyon Café is a crowd pleaser with its upbeat ambiance and terrific service to match (Which we shared in detail in - Legendary Cast of the Disney Parks - "Sunshine" From Whispering Canyon). Another great feature of Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the walking path to the Magic Kingdom. Although not recommended in the evening after a full day at the park, the walkway can be quite a nice way to begin your day. Enjoy Orlando’s beautiful weather and take the short walk to Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary. Our last feature to highlight is its physical location on the monorail loop. When boarding the monorail from the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary will be the first stop to disembark. If you’ve ever tried to exit Magic Kingdom after the fireworks, you know what a true blessing this can be. 
Overall, we consider Disney’s Contemporary Resort to be one of the best on property. Its location is terrific, theming is sleek and appealing, and dining options having something available for everyone. When considering price, this is not a wallet-friendly resort. But, as mentioned above, we truly feel that The Contemporary is worth its Deluxe Resort price tag. 

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Up next on the monorail loop is Disney’s Polynesian Resort. This resort makes you feel as if you’ve left Orlando and found yourself in the South Pacific. The Polynesian has one of my favorite themes on all of Disney’s property. They give you a lei at check-in - What more could a person want? When arriving at The Polynesian, you’ll instantly notice how open and “homey” this resort feels. The lobby is filled with beautiful, natural elements and unique hanging light fixtures. Its ambiance is unlike any other on property. 
Let’s look first at The Polynesian’s options for room location and setup. This resort offers a variety of rooms including standard, lagoon view, pool view, theme park view, 1 or 2 bedroom suites, club level, and the new and exquisite Bora Bora bungalows. Keep in mind that The Polynesian is set up as a village, so the room locations are in a cluster around the lobby area leading out to the Seven Seas Lagoon. The bungalows are set on the water along the edge of the resort. Any room at The Polynesian can be tricky to acquire, but the bungalows are especially challenging. We recommend a authorized Disney travel planner to help with both room and dining reservations during your Disney vacation planning. 

There are several, varying dining locations at this resort ranging from family style character meals to the frequented Dole whip location. Our family has been known to make a trip to The Polynesian Resort simply to visit for the iconic pineapple soft-serve. Ohana is a family-style Hawaiian themed meal serving both breakfast and dinner. If you visit during breakfast, Lilo and Stitch will also join you for great picture opportunities. Kona Café is a second table service option at The Polynesian with a lighter price attached. This dining location offers more authentic cuisine in an open air kitchen setting. We have visited both Ohana and Kona Café and recommend them both. Although, if you have a picky eater, Kona may not be your best choice. A great counter service option is Captain Cook’s, located on the ground floor of The Polynesian. This location serves all three meals and is well-known for its Tonga Toast. This yummy breakfast has its own cult following! Be sure to try out this restaurant for a more casual atmosphere and quality quick service food. Pineapple Lanai is everyone’s favorite stop for Dole Whip and is a great option to purchase it outside of the parks. If you’re looking for a special event dining location, The Polynesian has the perfect option. Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show combines spectacular food with thrilling entertainment. Kids (and adults) of all ages will love this luau, complete with hula dancers. Due to its outdoor location, the show is subject to weather delays or cancellation. The Dinner Show also has very limited seating, and it can be quite tricky to obtain a reservation. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a favorite among guests for its exciting adult beverages and the elaborate containers they’re served in. 
The Polynesian has several additional amenities that make the resort special. Lilo’s Playhouse is a unique childcare experience for children ages 3-12. Parents can drop off their children during the hours of 4:30-midnight. Children can build with blocks, make a craft, play in a pretend kitchen, and more under the supervision of CPR certified cast members. The cost is $55 and includes dinner and snacks. Aquatic adventures at The Polynesian are quite special. The pool contains a volcano, waterfall, and 142 foot-long waterslide. This resort includes a walkway to the Ticket and Transportation Center on the right side of the resort and one to The Grand Floridian on the opposite side. There is also boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom if you prefer this over the monorail. 
The Polynesian is an excellent choice for a fun and friendly atmosphere, multiple room options, and innovative dining locations. This resort is great for a dining stop or to book your week-long vacation. Don’t forget to pack your Hawaiian shirt! 

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Our final stop on the monorail loop is The Grand Floridian. This exquisite resort is elaborately decorated in Victorian theming complete with live music in the lobby. The Floridian experience includes a full-service spa, signature dining, and sophisticated boutiques. 
Like the other two monorail resorts, The Grand Floridian offers a multitude of room options. Your room may be in the Main Building or one of the Outer Buildings. Similar to the Polynesian, your views may be of the Garden, Lagoon, or Theme Park. 1 and 2 bedroom suites are also available along with club level rooms. The Grand Floridian is known for its magnificent suite rooms with castle views, perfect for viewing Happily Ever After. 

Dining at the Grand Floridian is unlike any other. The resort has arguably the best dining across Disney’s property. Citricos offers Signature dining with Mediterranean-style cuisine. Keep in mind that this location is only open for dinner and guests must adhere to a dress code. Another fine dining location is Narcoossee’s. This steak and seafood restaurant boasts beautiful views of Seven Seas Lagoon and offers both brunch and dinner. 1900 Park Fair offers a variety of character meals including the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast, Wonderland Tea Party, and Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner. The Grand Floridian Café is a more relaxed table service location offering all three meals. If you have a special event to celebrate, The Grand Floridian has a few dining offerings that are unlike any other. The Garden View Tea Room serves a traditional, Victorian style tea for adults or little princesses. Dining plans are not accepted at this location. The cream of crop of Disney dining is Victoria & Albert’s. This award winning location has extremely limited seating in its private dining room. This ten course meal will leave guests with an experience they will never forget. It even made our Luxury Experiences At Walt Disney World You Should Try At Least Once
 The Grand Floridian has many additional amenities that ensure guests from all resorts will stop in for a visit. One of these is its many shopping opportunities. Basin White is a specialty bath and spa shop located near the entrance to the monorail. Another unique store is Summer Lace, a boutique for women carrying Vineyard Vines, Lilly Pulitzer, and many more luxury brands. The Floridian is known across property for its lavish spa – Senses. The spa offers a multitude of facials, massages, body therapy, and nail services.  This resort has a fabulous pool that includes cabana rentals, waterslides, and a sandy beach on the edge of Seven Seas Lagoon. 

The Floridian is the ultimate Disney resort fit for a princess. Its upscale and classy feel makes for a special encounter, simply by entering the lobby. This resort comes with a very high room rate and accompanying dining costs. But, if your wallet can handle it, The Grand Floridian is a great choice to make wonderful memories at Walt Disney World. 
That is our roundup of the three monorail resorts. The Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian are all excellent choices for your Disney home away from home. Each has its own benefits and unique style. We hope that this overview gives you a closer look at what the monorail resorts have to offer. Their view of the lagoon and convenience of transportation are hard to beat. Don’t forget to stand clear of the doors! 

Thanks for reading! We appreciate all of our viewers and making everything we do possible. If you’re interested in booking your own Disney vacation, we recommend Destinations to Travel. They’re friendly, professional, and extremely good at what they do. Your support also helps support the site at no additional cost to you. We suggest them, because we use them too! If you're interested in obtaining a quote for you next Disney (or other type) vacation, feel free to use the quote request form below.
On that same note, be sure to check out the most recent offer of 50% the required deposit for Disney Cruises for a duration of at least 7 days at sea! It's a rare offer and one you may want to take advantage of if you're looking to book a cruise and spread out the payment process. Contact our friends for more info using the quote form below. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Disney World Dining Tips For 2018


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Disney World Dining Tips For 2018  

No matter how many times you've been to Walt Disney World or even if it's your very first time touring the parks, Disney dining is ever changing and continually growing. So, taking that into consideration we've come up with a few tips regarding Disney dining that you may have overlooked. 

To be quite honest with you, dining has been a huge part of our Disney vacation planning for years. When we were quite young, our family made a special effort to book character meals, table service dining, and buffets throughout our time in the parks. For years, as a kid, I loved these little experiences, and while I wasn't the one paying for it at that time, it was worth it to us to have those special meals that set Disney apart from all other vacation destinations. 

We spent vacation after vacation touring the same locations time and time again, and many of them became a portion of Our Top 5 "Must-Do" Walt Disney World Table Service Dining Locations, but in recent years we started to branch out and try a few new things. The change resulted in a greater appreciation for different cultures (found at Epcot and Animal Kingdom), but also diversified our Disney vacation. Today, we mix buffets with resort meals and typical table service offerings, but also make a special point to seek out the best of the best counter service locations, but we'll touch on that a bit more later on. 

Tomorrowland WDW

In the end, dining plays a huge role in how you plan your Disney vacation, and while we have yet to try every dining location on property, we've been through a vast majority and have come up with a few tips of our own. I know there are dozens of Disney dining tips across the web, but hopefully our list is a little more creative than most. If you like something on the list, do me a huge favor and share it with friends! Thanks!     

Plan Out Your Days

This one seems fairly straight forward for most guests, but it's something some first time and returning guests run into time and time again. Between planning fastpasses and park days, it's easy to get things to the point where they start overlapping. However, a good way to overcome that challenge is to use the My Disney Experience day by day viewing option on the "My Plans" page to check your days and assure nothing overlaps. Additionally, a good way to visualize your plans is to write everything out. As you make changes and alter reservations it tends to be easier to visualize their impact on your overall schedule.

Knowing what you're doing and when you're doing it can make a huge difference in the quality of your vacation for first time guests. You tend to waste less time, enjoy meals to a greater extent, and more easily leave the stresses of the world behind to simply enjoy all that unfolds during a Walt Disney World vacation. 

All things considered, I list this tip here with a certain level of caution. Personally, I do not recommend planning every little detail of a Disney trip. Most people tend to get frustrated when they plan everything out down to each attraction being ridden at certain times or certain shows they want to see in each park at specific times. Some guests do this and it works for them, but for a vast majority of us, it's not practical and will cause more unnecessary stress than it will create solutions. Set your meals, grab your fastpasses, and choose your must-do attractions and let the rest unfold around you as you enjoy your time in the parks.   

Magic Kingdom Entrance

Schedule A Few Table Service Meals

Unfortunately, this tends to be the most commonly overlooked aspect of Walt Disney World. Many guests expect the theme parks to be just like all other theme parks when it comes to food, but that really isn't the case if you "do Disney dining" affectively. I my opinion, if you're eating fast food cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets at every meal, you're missing out on a  multitude of dining offerings Disney brings to the table (quite literally). I understand, many guests are limited by what their kids will eat, but most Disney dining, and even many of the more adventurous offerings, will offer a special menu for kids that will feature at least a few typical kids menu items. 

The best way to take a step towards a more in depth Disney culinary experience is to try a few table service meals. I know a table service meal, due to their price point, every day may not fit everyones budget, but if you can at least squeeze one in the experience it develops may surprise you. Also, if you're selective about what you order at menu-based dining locations, they don't have to be expensive at all. For example, we recently shared 5 Excellent Entrees Under $15 at Walt Disney World. At Disney, some counter service meals will cost you $15, so it's something you may definitely want to look into. The table service offerings typically offer a unique theme that can not only create but also play a hand in developing cast member interactions and memories that will truly last a lifetime.

Additionally, on hot summer days, you'll be amazed at how much an hour or so in the air conditioning with some excellent food can jumpstart the rest of your day and rehydrate you for an afternoon or night in the parks.  

Consider the Dining Plan

In a vast majority of cases, I would recommend the dining plan for first time and a majority of returning guests. In the grand scheme of things in the planning process, the dining plan just makes things that much easier. Of course, you have to plan your table service meal for each day of the trip, but that's something you'll likely do anyway unless you plan on eating strictly counter service (as some do). 

The dining plan in 2018 will not be cheap at $75.49 for adults and will feature 1 counter service meal, 1 table service meal including one specialty beverage or alcoholic beverage, 2 snack credits, and a resort refillable mug. However, it is a pretty good value for the money and typically breaks down to a near identical cost to what you would have payed out of pocket if you dined in the same places and bought the same snacks etc. Essentially, it's more of a convenience factor than anything. 

Disney World Dining Tips

Personally, the dining plan tends to be a bit more expensive for our typical dining strategy, but for many the aforementioned convenience is well worth the additional costs. However, when I refer to additional costs, I say that in a bit of a round about way. Sure, the dining plan aligns near perfectly with the costs of the actual meals included in the plan, but most guests wont utilize that many meals when they are touring the parks and paying out of pocket. Especially with the new additions to this years plans, two snacks, a counter service meal, and a table service meal is typically more than enough to satisfy a guest for a day. 

At the end of the trip most will have a vast amount of leftover snacks, which we recommend you use in the folioing ways as described in 5 Quick and Easy Ways to Use Left Over Dining Plan Snack Credits - Plus a BONUS! 

Again, the value of the dining plan is largely going to depend on your vacation strategy and what you want to experience (or not experience) during your trip. 

Consider An Authorized Travel Planner

Using a travel planner is something that I never even considered for many years, until about a year ago we partnered up with our recommended vacation planner. For years, we booked our vacations from the ground up and to be quite honest it helped us develop a better understanding and appreciation for the planning process, but I missed out on a few things along the way. 

I recommend a authorized travel planner for a few reasons. First and foremost because an authorized planner is certified by Disney to know the parks and deliver that magical experience you have grown to expect from a Disney vacation. Second, because it can save you money in the long run. Disney releases new discounts and offers every few months and if you book far in advance (as many do) you're likely to miss out on a special offer that may shrink your vacations overall costs. It doesn't always happen, but if a new offer does arise a good vacation planner will contact you about the offer and attempt to save you money that you could have potentially overlooked. 
Disney World Dining Tips Pinterest

Additionally, having someone help you out can play in your favor in a vast way. If you have  a dining question, they can answer it. If you don't want to do a part of the planning, they can do it for you. However, perhaps the selling factor on it for me (which isn't really a selling factor because authorized vacation planners cost nothing extra to utilize) is that they allow you to do as little or as much of the planning as you want to do. When we booked our most recent trip (for next March) we booked with Destinations to Travel (quote request form below) and had a small issue with Disney's reservation site showing a room that was available, but was not available on another browser on Disney's site. Our designated agent went out of her way to call (right that moment) and managed to secure a rather elusive reservation for a 2 bedroom Boardwalk Villa. It wants entirely a make or break moment, but they did everything they could to go above and beyond and make that reservations work for us. We are affiliated with that particular travel group and do receive compensation for any sales made through the site, but I wouldn't recommend them so highly if I hadn't have had great experiences with them in the past.        

It may not be completely necessary for every vacation planning experience, but maybe something you want to consider either way, especially if you're booking for a large group, corporate conference, or even a wedding party. The situations are endless and they've often seen and done planning for parties of all sizes.    

Don't Bank on Walk Ups But They Do Happen

Everyone has been there at one point or another. You get to the park, and decide you want to find a Table Service meal for the night, but you forgot to make (or did not expect to need) a reservation. Some days, to be quite honest, you will just be out of luck. However, never be afraid to ask about walk up reservations at the parks. Sometimes guests cancel or something happens with the reservation system, and you can get into that coveted reservation you wanted more than anything else. We've managed to do this many times over the years and even as recently as July of this year on our last major vacation when crowds were a bit insane the week of July 4th, 2017. In our experience, the key to securing a walk-up is being willing to eat at somewhat unconventional times. 

The Tree of Life

If you're trying to get a lunch reservation, head to the location of your choosing at around 10:50-11:30 for your best chances of getting in. You will likely have to wait, but typically they will not completely turn you away. In the worst case scenario, a cast member will tell you when your best chance to get in will be and a time to return to attempt a walk-up once again. If you're flexible, typically you can find a way in. It's not fool proof, but it will occasionally get the job done. 

Additionally, you may want to consider eating at lesser known dining locations in that type of a situation. Magic Kingdom is a great example. You may not be able to get in Cinderella's Royal Table (even though I've heard of guests that that's worked for), but you can nearly always get in Jungle Skipper Canteen over in Adventureland if you're willing to wait. Personally, our go to walk-ups are Crystal Palace for lunch or The Plaza for dinner. 

Last but certainly not least, if you don't want to risk it last minute, but can't seem to find that reservation you're looking for time after time, be sure to check out How to Secure Popular Reservations At Walt Disney World Nearly Every Time! If you can't get a reservation with those tips, make a last ditch effort utilizing the tips we just mentioned. You may be shocked by what you can come up with at the last minute.  

Be Selective About Counter Service

As with any vacation destination, some dining offerings are better than others at Walt Disney World. The best way to decipher the dining "code" is by trying multiple counter service locations. Of course, not everyone has been to a vast variety of Disney dining offerings, but thankfully we have a few tips for you in selecting some of the better options. 

First and foremost, as a general rule, any counter service location that offers a typical Disney fast-food cheeseburger or chicken you'll likely want to avoid. Every Disney guest has been there and while the food is likely pretty good by theme park standards there are much more creative options near by 90% of the time. For example, here's a few of our top picks in each park for a greater variety throughout your vacation: 

Magic Kingdom: 

  • Pecos Bill's - Mexican food with a topping bar and a variety of choices.
  • Pinocchio Village Haus - Flatbread Pizzas, Garlic Knots, and other simple Italian offerings 

Near Magic Kingdom: 

  • Captain Cook's (at the Polynesian Resort a short monorail ride away) - Pulled Pork Nachos, Fried Rice, Roast Beef, Grilled Chicken, Flatbreads, and much more.
  • The Contempo Cafe (at the Contemporary Resort) - Pasta, Grilled Cheese, Fried Chicken, etc.


  • La Cantina De San Angel - Fairly budget friendly Mexican food, empenadas, tacos, nachos, churros, and much more. 
  • Yorkshire County Fish Shop - Friend Fish and Chips (french fries) from a simple walk up style location in the United Kingdom Pavilion 

Animal Kingdom:

  • Yak and Yeti Local Foods Cafe - Fairly simple asian food and excellent fried rice served from an outdoor walk up style location featuring outdoor seating. 
  • Flame Tree Barbecue - As arguably one of the best bang for your buck counter service meals on property Flame Tree has a vast following of Disney Parks guests. The barbecue is excellent for the price but the sauce is the true highlight of the experience. This is my must-do counter service at Animal Kingdom. 

Hollywood Studios:

  • For years our go-to quick service dining offering here was Pizza Planet (which I understand many loved and others really did not enjoy), but it was recently re-themed and redone as Pizza-Rizzo and it hasn't been near as high on my list since. It's not bad and the food is actually quite good, but it's far from my favorite in the grand scheme of offerings. Hollywood Studios is a little low on counter service offerings currently due to construction, but the redesigned menu of ABC Commissary looks quite promising. Personally, I'd make a table service reservation for Sci-Fi or Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios for a great table service meal instead of the counter service offerings. Another option would be to eat at your resort or another resort/park before you head that way. 
By spreading out the cheeseburgers, and blending in these other offerings, you not only avoid eating the typical theme park dining, but also allow yourself to be a touch more adventurous. A vast majority of Disney counter service has become incredible over the last 3 or 4 years. The counter service is getting more elaborate and certainly more creative and I'm overjoyed to see the continual transformation of dining locations for the better.

Cinderella's Castle Morning

If you're looking for even more counter service recommendations, be sure to look into Our Top 5 Quick Service Dining Options at Walt Disney World! For those of you who may not know, the main difference between counter service and table service at Walt Disney World is how you receive your food and the cost associated with the meal. Most counter service meals require you to walk up to a counter and order your food and then it is either brought to you or you wait at a second counter for that food to be prepared. Table service is the more typical dining layout you would receive at most restaurants featuring a server. At Disney these tend to be quite expensive, and feature high end dining offerings, a buffet style meal, or character interactions that counter service will not provide.

Beware of "Free" Dining

While "free" may sound outstanding, especially for a week long vacation, "free" almost always comes with a trade off in the realm of Disney vacation planning. Typically, the lost opportunity is for a greater (or equal) discount on the room itself. Of course, there is one major deciding factor that tends to hold true from year to year despite changes in cost structure. That one factor is the amount of people staying in your guest room. If you're staying in a villa or at a deluxe tier resort with more than 2 guests in your party, typically free dining is the better discount when everything is added up and considered in the big picture planning process. Either way, the difference is often negligible. 

Free dining is an incredible perk when booking a Disney vacation and something that is great to have as an available offer, but you certainly want to consider all of your options before jumping on board with the discount. Truth be told, you're paying for the dining either way, so it's really just a matter of if you'll save more money booking the discounted room offer and adding a dining plan or taking the "free" dining offer. 

One last thing to consider is the fact that some other resorts "on property," while not run by Disney, may be a cheaper option as well. None of the non-Disney resorts will allow the use of the Disney dining plan, but by paying out of pocket for your meals and utilizing the cheaper resort rate you can save some money in the long run. In this particular scenario, my top pick for a non-Disney resort would be the Swan and Dolphin or the Double Tree near Disney Springs. We've stayed at both properties many times, and while you unfortunately don't get that "Disney Bubble" feel, the savings can occasionally play in your favor.

Something you will want to consider when going this route though is that many non-disney resorts feature parking fees, resort fees, poor bus transportation (with the exception of the Swan and Dolphin - they utilize Disney transportation), and you'll have to pay to park at the Disney parks on top of that. To really make it worth it, the difference in price has to be fairly drastic to beat the accommodations and perks of the Disney resorts which do not feature any hidden fees. If you aren't desperately looking for ways to save money, stay on property. You really won't regret it.      

So, that about wraps things up for today. If you have any questions or planning concerns feel free to shoot me a message on your favorite social media account. Links to our accounts are throughout this page. More than anything, we aim to help you create the greatest Disney vacation you possibly can. Our plans aren't perfect in any way, but we truly hope they help you out in some way or another. We're hear because of your support and we wouldn't have it any other way. If you liked this article, as always, please share it with friends and help build this Disney community. We truly appreciate it!      

Your Thoughts

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

Ready to Plan?

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

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

New Years Eve At Walt Disney World - What to Expect and How to Manage the Crowds


by: guide4wdw - Collin

As Christmas draws closer and closer, another holiday at Walt Disney World also draws closer that many guests flock to year after year, New Years Eve. While we covered a few ways to manage the crowds on peak days a few weeks ago and some special events coming this year for that particular night, today we're taking a look at the best ways to go about touring the parks on New Years Eve.

New Years Eve is a unique event at Walt Disney World. The parks come alive with special events, "dance parties", and special fireworks displays. However, with all the events, a rather astounding crowd level follows suit that many guests may or not appreciate. Without a doubt, I'd put NYE at Disney right up there on the list of must-do's with NYE in Times Square (which I've yet to see in person). It's truly an experience that will set a precedent for fireworks spectaculars, but will likely also make you reconsider what a "crowd" is at a Disney park. It can be an amazing experience, but we've learned a few things from experience that may help you out if you ever plan on checking out the holiday festivities.   

Arrive Early
As you've likely heard me mention many times, arriving at the parks when they open can be a huge factor in the productivity of a park day at Walt Disney World and that same concept holds true for New Years Eve. It's vastly important that you get there early. The crowds of the day will build to capacity quickly and, while it varies year to year, will likely close to new guests around mid morning due to fire code and other regulations of the parks. At that point, you'll be glad you got there when the park opened, but more importantly plan to stay the entire day once you get in (typically in regards to Magic Kingdom) in order to avoid the chance of being refused reentry into that particular park. 

Additionally, plan some extra time into your morning for increased traffic and parking struggles, even compared to some of the most popular crowds you'll witness throughout the rest of the year. New Years Eve crowds typically welcome all types of people but it also tends to be a big day for locals to tour the parks to really set the year off right. As a result, traffic entering the parking lots will be incredibly backed up. Disney does do a great job of keeping everything moving, but the earlier you arrive, the better off you will be.    

Schedule a Table Service Meal 
Even on a typical day in the parks, I am a huge proponent of table service dining venues. Most of the food you'll receive will be excellent across the board, but additionally it will give you a needed break from the crowds on one fo the busiest days (if not the busiest day) of the year. 

Taking that extra step and spending that extra money to get a warm and plentiful meal in addition to getting a few minutes to relax, rest for a bit, and escape the fast paced nature of the parks can make all the difference in the enjoyment of any busy park day. When you throw in the festivities and length of day New Years accompanies, this one can really take a great experience and make it an extraordinary experience.     

Pack Your Patience
On a simpler note, one thing you have to remember about this holiday is that you must pack your patience. I know that sounds fairly simple, but as you're walking down Main Street shoulder to shoulder as the individual behind you rams you with a stroller (we've all been there lol), it's easy to let your mood change quickly and drastically. It'll be a stressful day at points, but if you go into it relaxed and with managed expectations you'll be much better off in regards to enjoyment.

A day in Magic Kingdom, or any park for that matter, on New Years has to come with the realization that you are going to get much less done than you would on days of typical crowd levels. Unfortunately that is just the fact of the matter, but I still say the experience alone is well worth the hectic nature of the day as it unfolds. A majority of guests are in an excellent mood and while you'll see some meltdowns, it's something I highly recommend every Disney fan try at least once. In a way, it sets a precedent for crowd levels to measure everything off of. Once you've done New Years, you can handle any crowds the parks can throw at you!    

Try Viewing the Fireworks From a Resort
While this wasn't a viewing location on our list of 5 Unusual Fireworks Viewing Locations at Walt Disney World, it is something you may want to consider for New Years Eve to beat some of the crowds. Many of the resorts will be full to capacity for parking that night (and many will not allow you to park at all), but you can always take transportation to Magic Kingdom then use the monorail or boat transportation to travel to the resorts. The best resort view is likely from the Contemporary's Grand Concourse balcony on the 4th floor or Bay Lake Tower's Top of the World Lounge (only available to Disney Vacation Club members). Both feature a near direct view out over Magic Kingdom and the 360 degree viewing angle fireworks spectacular. Additionally, the Grand Floridian and Polynesian feature excellent views of the show from the beaches along along the Seven Seas Lagoon. 

So, there you have it! If you're headed to the parks on New Years hopefully this relatively quick and easy simple tips will help you out in some way or another! Thanks for being here! (Liked this article? Please SHARE it with friends! Thanks!)      

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