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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Collin's Disney Parks Wish List for the Next Two Years!

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Collin's Disney Parks Wish List for the Next Two Years! 

The Disney Parks are in a period of construction unlike anything we've really ever experienced before. For the guest, that means two things. First, expect construction and "not so pretty" scenery at times. Second, new and amazing things are coming and coming sooner than you may realize! In about a year we'll have Star Wars Land and Epcot will be in the heart of it's largest update in history! It's a great time to be a Disney fan.

At the same time, it's going to be a time of changes and expansions that may or may not all be positive for those of us "stuck in the past" and those that are the nostalgic Disney fans. Almost ironically, I'm falling in between both opinions at this point in time and truthfully look forward to the changes but also remain a bit skeptical of what could be next and what could change along the way. Over the last few years my trust in Imagineering and it's design concepts has changed rather aggressively. At one point I was a skeptic of Pandora and that changed drastically after the project debuted. The main lesson learned in all of this was to trust Imagineering even despite whatever IP may be tied to the project that is announced or has been announced. Imagineering will exceed expectations. They've been shocking us for years and hopefully these changes will be no different. 

On the other end of the spectrum there's always been and likely always will be things that I would love to see arrive in the parks or changes that I would make if given the opportunity (which will never happen lol). That's what today is all about. I want to share some thoughts on what I'd like to see in the next two years at Walt Disney World both in a literal sense and in a "wishful thinking" perspective. Some of these are going to be personal goals, but for the most part these are what I'd like to see unfold in the foreseeable future.      


       

1. Let There Be More to The Tron Expansion 

There's no doubt that many of us are looking forward to the debut of the Tron Lightcycle coaster which is officially coming to Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World, but I'd love to see more arrive than what has been announced. Personally, I believe Tomorrowland is way overdue for a table service restaurant and this could potentially be an incredible fit or opportunity to slide an addition into the mix without it being overly obvious during construction. Will it happen? I have no idea! 

I could just imagine a futuristic glowing layout, reminiscent of the original attraction and the detail you could pump into the experience would be a near perfect incorporation to give Tomorrowland that needed boost or slight refresh that it's starting to need in select areas. Even if Tron isn't the entire theming basis, a new restaurant would be outstanding. Either way, I have a good feeling some rather serious, yet to be announced changes, could be rolling out for Tomorrowland in the next two years.    
      

2. Find A Way to Disneyland 

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I have never been out to Disneyland. From our part of the country, there are not to many budget friendly options to make the journey cost effective. At the same time, I've always wanted to find a way to "walk where Walt walked" and to take the time to experience the park with the greatest history of the Walt Disney parks and resorts world wide. This has been a goal of mine for around a year at this point and with new flights rolling out of neighboring airports, the dream may eventually become a reality. Put that one on the list for the next two years!    

3. Announce A New Pavilion For Epcot

Epcot fans have been waiting in eager anticipation for years on end for a new pavilion in the World Showcase. After adding pavilions was essentially scrapped just a year after the park first opened, the World Showcase has remained rather untouched (with a few exceptions for attractions, etc.). For all intensive purposes, with the exception of Frozen and the Norway overhaul, not much has changed and the area itself would largely be recognizable to someone who hasn't been to the parks in many years. Over the next two years, this should be changing with the announced plans for an overhaul of the Epcot experience. The details claim to be remaining true to the parks legacy and roots. Sadly, with the exception of some very early concept renderings, that's about all we know regarding this project. 

Do I anticipate a pavilion announcement? If you asked me 4 months ago I would have responded with an astounding yes. Today (August of 2018), I have to say a pavilion would fall in the maybe category. We're getting a new Ratatouille attraction, a new space themed restaurant, and a Guardians themed coaster. I don't think Disney will be taking on any more projects or announcing anymore changes until at least the end of the year. Could it be sooner? Absolutely. I would love to be wrong about this one! Either way, I don't think it would be (or will be) completed within the next two years.           
  

4. Figure Out What is Happening With Figment 

Sticking with Epcot, I want to see an answer about Figment and Journey Into Imagination by this time next year, if not sooner. For the last three years I expected Journey Into Imagination to announce it's final ride date. It hasn't happened yet and personally I don't want it to happen anytime soon. In a perfect world, it would be incredible if they would go back and rebrand the experience to it's original iteration while adding technological improvements to further redevelop the experience. 

ImageWorks desperately needs an overhaul. The entertainment is hopeless at this point. Half of the 1990's computers don't work and it's no longer impressive to send an email to a family member back home with your picture on it... That's why we have iPhones! lol. As with anything nostalgic, I certainly have fond memories of the experience as a kid, but when things start to break and in turn gets abandoned, it's time for a change! If Disney could accept a sponsor for this area in the tech realm that would showcase new technologies or even their latest products, you could really bring this space back! If you want to stick with the "Image" title, invite Sony, Nikon, or even Canon in and have them showcase the latest and greatest cameras, We are stepping into the age of Mirrorless cameras and the technology that could be exhibited in this space would really exceed expectations. I'm typically not a proponent of "branding" in the parks but since Kodak is essentially a thing of the past, it wouldn't be the worst idea to bring in a newer brand to revitalize the area even temporarily. 

Another option, and personally the one I think is more wishful thinking, would be to create a space for true nostalgia. Polaroid cameras are a hit right now, classic toys would take guests back to their childhood days, and guests could get hands on with things of the past. Bring back classic aspects of the pavilion like a new and improved rainbow corridor and reopen the second floor to everyone! The view and experience from the glass "pyramid" is one of the most underutilized spaces in Epcot. The sky is the limit for this one, but I wish Disney would finally give a definitive answer of what's next.

It doesn't look like Figment is going anywhere with his newfound presence as the "mascot" for the Epcot festivals, and truthfully I think we'll see a day when "festival times" are all the time at Epcot!                   



5. The Replacement for Illuminations

I have strongly mixed feeling about even adding this to the list. It is inevitable that Illuminations or at least the current version of Illuminations is on it's way out. When the final show will be, we really have no definitive idea at this point. We've made it through the summer without an announcement but it could arrive any day now. Documents were filed last month for some modification that likely relates to the show, and rumors exploded back in March about what was going to happen. So far, nothing has become of either piece of information/rumor but the announcement will happen at some point before the end of the year if I had to guess right at this moment.

What's next? Again, if I had to guess, I have four expectations for this show. 1. Drones will likely be a part of the show. Intel has released videos with scaled performances that could astound guests over the World Showcase Lagoon. After the small scale test at Disney Springs around Christmas (a while ago) was so well received, I see it as an inevitable addition. 



2. Water elements should be a part of the experience. Disney has done spectacularly well with World of Color in California. Personally, a World of Color scale performance was what I excepted of Rivers of Life, but this is actually a more fitting option. 3. Obviously we'll see fireworks. The fireworks, in my opinion, will be something next level. Pyrotechnic technologies have come a long way in the last few years and I would love to see them implemented here. Additionally, I expect and hope for a show with multiple launch sites to surround the showcase in a new way. 4. Projection mapping should arrive! Epcot is the only park we've yet to see a real use of projection mapping in and to me it would be the ideal location. Light up the countries with projections and every single country presents a slightly different fireworks experience. It would be spectacular and rather than one main event there would be 11 different perspectives! Again, likely wishful thinking. Disney has to do something big with the show. It's been a staple and a part of guests lives for nearly 20 years and it will be tough to replace it in so many different ways.               


6. Experience the Skyliner

Sticking with the conceptualization of what's next, I am beyond looking forward to this transportation concept. It has a lot of skeptics following it's development and construction, but this could vastly improvement transport at Disney. More than anything, I want to ride these things and regain that perspective we lost when the Skyway was removed from Magic Kingdom. It's in a new location and the technology behind it is vastly different but the views from above the parks and seeing the parks in a whole new way should be wonderful. 

My only concern with this is the effects it may have on the International Gateway entrance to the World Showcase at Epcot. The current "hidden gem" entrance may be flooded with higher crowds and defeat that near ideal entrance to Epcot to avoid the crowds and slip away to the Boardwalk or anywhere else around Crescent Lake. It may not make that much of a difference if they make adjustments to handle the crowds, but only time will tell!     


7. Update Carousel of Progress

This has been the common gripe from Disney fans for years. For the most part, guests really love the nostalgic nature of the attraction and repeat visitors have grown to love the attraction over the years. Among life long Disney fans, it's obvious that this attraction needs a refurb and a slight update. The story is great but if they could or would alter that final scene or a few effects that have been neglected for quite some time, a lot more life could be added back into the attraction experience.    


8. Fix the Peoplemover

I'm not entirely sure if this is just my bad luck or if it's a growing trend, but inevitably the PeopleMover has broken down, stopped, or had issues nearly every time I've ridden it in the last year. On top of that, the line is getting more and more bogged down, likely due to the functionality issues. This attraction really needs some TLC. Don't change anything, but get it back to a more reliable form like it once was. 

This list only scratches the surface of what I'd like to see next and truthfully I may have to do a "part 2" of this article to cover a few more details and things I'd like to see unfold in the parks in the coming years. 

If you were calling the shots, what would be the one thing you'd try to develop in the next 2 years? Inevitably Star Wars is on our list but at this point we know a good deal about what is going to be debuted with that project. I'm really looking forward to the Cantina, but more than anything I'm looking forward to the things that have yet to be announced. Here's to the next two years and all that those two years could debut! 


  

Your Thoughts


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


Need a Travel Planner?


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


Ready to Plan?


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



Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How to Get Walk-Up Reservations at Disney Table Service Locations in 2018

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin


How to Get Walk-Up Reservations at Disney Table Service Locations in 2018

With the near insane crowds that have essentially become the norm in the last five years of the Disney parks, it's no surprise that most guests assume walk-up reservations have become a thing of the past. Truthfully, that isn't necessarily the case if you know where to ask and how to ask. On a similar note, never give up on securing reservations because often times last minute reservations pop up for the most unexpected of dining locations. 

Today, I'm just going to jump right into it and skip my usual introductory remarks. Truthfully, there really is no perfect introduction to set the scene but rather a simple statement. Walk up reservations at Walt Disney World aren't near as readily available as they are at Disneyland and other Disney parks, and in all reality the only "fool proof" way to secure reservations is to book them as early as you possibly can in your reservation booking window. This process and these tips for walk-ups should be an afterthought and at times walk-up availably is the exception rather than the rule. At the same time, it is vastly doable and I can honestly say we've had more last minute reservations in the last year than we have in the past 5 years combined (including a walk up on New Years Eve at Crystal Palace!) What made the difference? Well, here's what we figured out.


1. Dont Be Afraid to Ask... and then ask someone else

I know, in the most basic sense, this sounds counter productive but knowing who to ask and trying more than once can make all the difference. If you go to a restaurant, you're likely to find a check in area out front. In this case we'll use Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom as the example. For that particular restaurant, there are two reservation/check in areas. One down at the bottom of the staircase and one on the patio area with a designated line. First, ask the cast member at the bottom of the staircase and if you get a "no" or very little information from them, go ask the other counter. Personally, I don't know if they're looking at the same information or not, but the answers you face can be vastly different. You never know unless you ask!  

2. Be Willing to Wait Around For a Few Minutes

If you ask for a walk up reservation, a vast majority of the time you'll be given a pager or the cast member will take your phone number and text you when a table opens up and they can get you seated. If you don't have a fastpass in the near future, take your pager and wait around for a few minutes. Sometimes they wont be able to tell you when or how long it will be until you will be seated, but if you're willing to wait, a lot of times the wait is far less than you expect it to be. 

There tends to be an extraordinary amount of things to see and do within a two minute walk of most table service locations, so put your name on the list and go explore something you've never taken the time to do.    


3. Eat at Strange Times of Day

When eating at weird times of day and being willing to deviate from a set dining schedule, you really open up the realm of possibilities and your walk up success odds. So many people get in a rut and eat at the same time every single day. You're on vacation! Switch it up and eat a late lunch at 3:00 in the afternoon or catch a breakfast at 10:30 in the morning. If you eat good table service meals you can essentially cover two meals with a late lunch or an early dinner. Our family is notorious for eating a late breakfast, skipping lunch, and eating an early dinner. Not only does it cut some costs but it also makes reservations a breeze and vastly increases the chances of a walk up.     

4. Ask for A Better Time to Check Back

This is my go to tip for anyone who couldn't get the reservation they wanted. If you walk over to the counter and get a snappy response about the location not taking "walkups" (which is rarely true except for Be Our Guest, Cinderella's Royal Table, and other very high volume spots), first use tip number 1 and if that doesn't work, ask if there's a better time you can return for a better chance at a cancelation or filling in for a "no show." The cast members who run these reservation counters and check in locations tend to know the guest patterns as a result of working the dining location almost daily. If you're pleasant and ask carefully, they may share a tid bit of info with you about when to return and how to give yourself the best chance of a walk up. 

Once again, Crystal Palace is great about this. We were told a few years ago that if you arrive near the end of breakfast and the start of lunch, walk ups tend to be readily available. We decided to give it a shot and after a short wait of about 15 minutes (about the same wait time as you still face with a reservation to begin with), we were seated. If you're flexible, you may be surprised at what information the cast can share and will share with you to make the most of your dining experience.   


5. Try Something New 

Many table service restaurants always have availability. If you know where to look and where to attempt to walk up, reservations are readily available if you are willing to try something new or something "off the beaten path." A few good options I can name off hand are Via Napoli (outdoor seating only sometimes), Nine Dragons, Yak And Yeti (no wait with the Landry's Select Club!), Skipper Canteen, The Plaza, Beaches and Cream, the Boathouse, Paddlefish, and basically any table service location at Disney Springs. The only park that can be a struggle to secure a meal at the last minute is Hollywood Studios. It can be done at Sci-Fi, but it is extremely hit and miss. Another option is the Brown Derby Lounge, which never requires reservations to begin with. If you're willing to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, you may be shocked at what dining offerings you may come across and what location may become a new personal favorite for you. 


6. Dont Give Up On Online Reservations

If you really want one specific reservation and all the above tips have failed, keep checking the My Disney Experience App for cancelations. Personally, I've seen Be Our Guest reservations pop up the day of or the day before the meal would take place and it's not all that uncommon! At times, guest flights get cancelled, trips get cancelled last minute, or unfortunate circumstances develop that require a guest to give up entirely on the meal they had previously planned. On top of that, many guests will hold dining reservations and drop them right before they get charged if they don't cancel in an allotted time period. 

I'm not an advocate of having your phone in your hand every minute of every day, but if you have a few minutes waiting in line or waiting for a show to begin scroll through the app and see what you can find. If something you want pops up, book it quickly, but also be aware that if you do not show up for the reservation you book you will be charged $10 per guest in the booking party. 


Your Thoughts


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



Need a Travel Planner?


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


Ready to Plan?


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



Monday, August 27, 2018

An Honest Comparison: Discovery Cove From a Disney Perspective

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin


An Honest Comparison: Discovery Cove From a Disney Perspective 

If you've followed along with our posts or simply stumbled upon our site, you've likely noticed that we're "crazy Disney people." Of course that's never a bad title in our book, but as a slight change to a our typical vacation to the parks, we recently took a day to explore all that Discovery Cove has to offer. 



Personally, we had never even taken a second look at the park which is owned by the Bush Gardens and Sea World organization. However, we thought it looked like a really neat experience and decided to give it a shot and see how it turned out. 

So, in a shocking move, even for us, we took a one day break from our time at Walt Disney World and made the short drive up I4 to this surprisingly unique park. Before arrival, we made a special effort to really learn the details of the experience and even enlisted the help of a travel agent to help everything go smoothly. 

Despite all the research, we really didn't know what to expect once we got there, and in all honesty it was an outstanding experience. Throughout the day we kept looking at each other and asking the same question, "Why has Disney not purchased this park?" Of course, the crowds would probably grow astronomically if they did, but the experience was truly Disney quality (which is saying a lot from us).



For those of you who may not be aware, Discovery Cove is a "park" where guests can interact with various animals in a very unique setting. On each given day, Discovery Cove welcomes a set number of guests into the park (typically around 1,000) to explore 4 different "pool-based" environments. 

First and foremost, you have Wind Away River. The river is essentially a really unique lazy river type environment. As with 99% of your time at Discovery Cove, everything you need for the experience is provided with your cost of entry. In this particular area, pool noodle type floats are provided as well as life jackets for both adults and children who would like to use them. Upon entry into the park itself, every guest is fitted for a wet suit or vest suit which is required to be worn anytime you are in the water for your safety. After spending the day there, this safety practice is easily understandable. In just this section of the park, the depth of the river reaches over 8ft at multiple points and the identifying black and yellow suits really help guests stand out for the safety crew. Beyond the surface guests can enjoy impressive water falls, real-life birds, and a variety of little areas to explore. To my surprise, we spent a great deal of time just exploring the river and relaxing our way around the long path of the warm water. 

In addition, two more fresh water areas called Serenity Bay and Freshwater Oasis allow guests to relax and take in the environment complete with otters behind glass that flows down into the water creating the feeling of actually swimming with the animals. Just around the corner from the otters is an island built specifically for guests to enjoy Marmosets without ever having to leave the water! If animals aren't your thing, casually walk or swim through the clear freshwater area with quite impressive "natural" surroundings! 



Last, but certainly not least, they have what is called the Grand Reef! In our experience, this really was a highlight of the day and the main reason we will likely go back in the not so distant future! The Reef is an artificial coral reef built into a very large pool where guests can freely roam and snorkel with fish and rays. This part of the day really blew away all of my expectations. From the surface, it simply looks like a few rays shuffling about, but once you breach the surface of the water, you are truly surrounded by many different varieties of aquatic life. It really puts into the "ocean" in a way that is completely safe of dangerous sea life. Even beyond the physical experience, the Discovery Cove staff really goes above and beyond to explain the animals and many of their mannerisms. 


Of course, Discovery Cove offers their namesake Dolphin Swim in Dolphin Lagoon. Unfortunately, we did not pay the extra fee to do the Dolphin swim considering the price jumps from $200-$250 dollars depending on the season to around $350+. In all honesty I don't feel like it is a "requirement" for the Discovery Cove experience, but rather something that would be great for a special occasion. 




As an added bonus, all food, drinks, and snacks are provided by the park throughout your day. To my surprise this was truly unlimited food as well. At breakfast and lunch, if you didn't like something or simply wanted more of a particular item all you had to do was jump back in line and they would give you whatever you wanted. Your breakfast included bacon, eggs, sausage, french toast sticks, a biscuit (gravy if you wanted it), fruit, and a few other offerings that I've likely overlooked. For lunch, the same setup was utilized, but this time you had a variety of meal choices ranging from chicken, burgers, and french fries to some more not so typical offerings such as a chicken and rice. The meal was also unlimited and it was great to try a few different offerings as well as a few desserts! All of the food was really good, especially the bacon cheeseburger (of course, if there's a cheeseburger offered, I always have to try it!). 



Throughout your day and between meals, a few select snack areas are scattered throughout the property and are also free of charge. My personal favorite offerings were the unlimited icees in various flavors (try the white cherry, it's delicious!) and the unlimited soft pretzels! Many other choices are also available including various beers, chips, cookies, and even ice cream. All in all, the food was a great part of the experience! 

Overall, while the price is quite high for a days worth of entertainment, I would highly recommend you give it a shot if you haven't done so already. It really is hard to compare anything to the Disney parks and resorts, but this experience really did come quite close. The feeling of the day was very similar to staying in a very high end resort, but one with very creative pool areas. Everything across the park was really first class and as an added bonus, admission includes "free" time at both Sea World and Aquatica during the 14 days surrounding your Discovery Cove day with unlimited admission to those parks. If you do take advantage of that deal it makes the price much more reasonable than if you simply go to Discovery Cove on it's own. 

With all things considered, we had an excellent experience and would really like to return at some point in the future. Just recently, the park announced some new offerings including a shark swim and a ray feeding that look great as well (each of these require an additional fee).



Well, there you have it. I know this probably sounds like they paid us to say these things and talk up the park, but in all honesty we payed our way for the day with a group of four adults total, and loved every minute of it! If you have any questions about our day there, feel free to let me know! 


As always, if you liked the article I just ask that you SHARE it with friends! It truly helps us out and brings new friends into this Disney community! Thanks!   


Your Thoughts


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




Need a Travel Planner?


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


Ready to Plan?


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



Sunday, August 26, 2018

Disney World Pictures - Our Photography Guide for Walt Disney World

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin


Disney World Pictures - Our Photography Guide for Walt Disney World 

Taking pictures of Walt Disney World has become a larger and larger part of the experience with social media and a "sharing" culture that has developed over the last 10 years or so. However, Disney fits in a relatively odd spot in that it's a place that is recognizable the world over. Nearly everyone you meet has been there at least once so on each visit you want to capture something distinctly "you." It doesn't matter if it's something you saw in the parks, or a moment you want to capture with friends and family, some how or some way you want to have the tools and ability to get the shot and savor that moment forever. This article was written with that goal in mind and hopefully to encourage a few of you to take the leap into the Disney photography realm or at the very least help you take a few better photos in the parks. 

On the contrary to all of this, I've always been a little torn on seeing the world through a lens. Today, everyone has a camera on them at basically all times and truthfully it's a pretty good camera for about 75% of applications. As a result, we feel the need to document everything and in my opinion that's not always the best way to do things. Obviously, you know I'm a photography guy if you look at the photos here or on our facebook or instagram pages, but at the same time I was that person for years that refused to experience the world through a lens or quite literally a screen at this point. I'd be lying if I said it didn't detract from the overall feeling of being there and enjoying being in the moment without a care in the world. It's also the main reason I elected to leave my DSLR in the room for one full day of our last trip. I love photos and photography as a whole but setting things aside and taking the time to enjoy the moment with no distractions can be the most powerful feeling in the world. Why do I share that in a photography article? Truthfully, because I've learned that lesson the hard way and no matter what, I recommend you always remember to be present in the moment and not so enthralled with a device that you forget to enjoy the little things.

Moving back to the topic of today's post itself (after that tangent), I wanted to share some advice in what I would do or consider if you're looking to take better photos at the parks. I'm also going to add before we get started that by all real definitions of the word I am not professional photographer in any way shape or form. According to Websters a professional is a someone engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime. I don't work photography contracts at this point, and while that would be great, I'm simply a tourist with a camera and a ridiculous amount of stored away information about what makes up a good photo in the most general sense.        

Cameras          

Of course, the camera you use is going to make a difference and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Composition makes all the difference in the world but if your camera can't handle the scene you're trying to capture... well you've got a grainy image and some disappointment to deal with. Truthfully, the camera market is a market of diminishing returns the higher in price you go. In essence, you have five options of camera type at this point at a variety of different price points: Phones (yes, I will count those!), Point and Shoot, DSLR - Crop Sensor, DSLR - Full Frame, and Mirrorless (in both full and corp sensor varieties). For the most part, the prices are going to increase in that order.

Iphones 

In the world of convenience, iPhones are the ideal pick in every way shape and form. In the world of quality, they're surprisingly good with daylight and sunset lighting due to new technologies and improved phone capabilities, but they really struggle in low light situations. In Disney terms, photos from Pandora, Dark Rides, Fireworks, and really anything without at least a fair degree of light present, a lot of grain is going to be introduced into the image as the camera tries to compensate for the lighting. The sensors on phones are so incredibly small that the light gathering capabilities simply cannot handle the environment. 


On the flip side, iPhones in particular perform surprisingly well in well lit environments. So much so in fact that often times you can rarely tell the difference between an iPhone shot and one from a DSLR without really cropping in to see all the details. For most applications, phones do surprisingly well and continue to get better with each increasing model. The kicker to it all is price. The new iPhone costs what? $1000 for the base model! Sure, it does more than just take pictures but an entry level DSRL can cost less than half of that! 

Point and Shoot Cameras

In my opinion, until mirrorless cameras started to become more cost effective for the average consumer (thanks Sony!), point and shoot cameras were making a come back. Almost ironically, (since they were the ones that started making mirrorless more affordable and worth having) Sony's RX100 series was incredibly popular despite costing near $1000. Even at $1000 it's the only point and shoot camera I've ever even considered buying and that is because of the image quality it can produce. Sony was and is smart in creating a point and shoot camera with almost full "manual" functionality similarly to what you'd find in a DSLR. As a result, it is likely the best point and shoot camera for night photography due to the added benefit of long exposures and being able to set exactly what you want the camera to do and the ability to override what the camera "thinks" is right. 

Super zoom cameras are good (the ones with the massive reaching extendable lenses that are attached to the camera body), but the Sony tends to be a cut above the rest and is the right blend of usability and image quality while remaining pocket size. There are more budget friendly options but the main goal is to buy a camera with the ability to shoot in full manual mode. You may not understand it at first but it'll be worth it in the long run!   


DSLR Cameras 

DSLR cameras are my personal preference for anyone really looking to make the most of their Disney photos. Inevitably, DSLR's tend to be more difficult to use and in all reality you'll have to learn the ins and outs of aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual modes to get the most out of your camera. If you don't want to fool with all (despite how much I recommend that you take the time to learn) of that, stick with your iPhone or a point and shoot camera. The advantages of the DSLR only really shine through when you take control of the camera and get it out of the"auto" mode. 

Almost ironically, you can pick up an entry level DSLR from Nikon's refurbished (outlet) site for around $400 ($398 on Amazon). Compare that to the RX100 and the cost vs. performance benefit is better in both regards. Sadly you lose out on some of the added benefits in the video realm of things as well as the form factor of the Sony as well. The camera world tends to be a game of trade offs. My personal recommendation, and the $400 one mentioned, is the Nikon D3400. The 3400 is a great deal for the money and truthfully the image quality is pretty superb for the price due to an extraordinary sensor. Every single image in this article was taken on a Nikon D3400. Of course, any entry level camera is going to have its downfalls and after using a 3400 for about a year I have to say one of its greatest weaknesses are medium to high iso situations. For the non "camera people" iso is essentially artificial light introduced into the image so that the exposure is corrected (that is a vast over simplification but the best way I can describe it) in very dark scenes while keeping your shutter speed high to "freeze" the scene you're trying to capture. 

If your budget allows I'd recommend a higher end model, but for most theme park guests a d3400 or even the Canon or Sony equivalents should be more than adequate. If money was no problem (I'm a college student so money is always a concern for me lol) I highly recommend Nikon's full frame lineup. Full frame cameras are going to always be more capable than crop sensor cameras and far superior in dark situations when equivalent lenses are being used. 



Full frame cameras utilize a larger sensor than the lower tier "crop sensor" alternatives but also accompany a much more aggressive price point. If you can afford it, Nikon's D750 and D850 are some of the best cameras ever made. Tom Bricker even called the D750 The Best Camera For Disney Photography before the D850 hit the market. Obviously, he's a far more accomplished and experienced photographer than I, but to say that's high marks is an understatement. Tom is the go-to guy for Disney photography tips!

Last but certainly not least, you have mirrorless cameras. Sony is the pioneer for mirrorless and if you want the ultimate in performance the A7R III is a mind glowingly capable camera. The downside to the A7R III is that the camera body itself costs around $3,000. Up until a few days ago, Nikon had no real mirrorless alternative, but if your budget allows Nikon's new Z6 and Z7 cameras look like they will be quite impressive once they ship! Mirrorless cameras offer up the blessing of a compact size while retaining incredible image quality. Truthfully I see mirrorless cameras as the next big thing in photography if the price continues to fall. The compact size is unmatched and the weight savings is a bit shocking. For Disney parks photography, light weight and compact size is a huge blessing when carrying around camera gear all day. (As always, if you do want to pic up a camera before your trip, buying through these links really helps us out here on the site and costs you nothing more!)     
                

Lenses   

If you're looking to take photos of your kids or even simple scenery around the parks, a stock kit lens that comes with most DSLR cameras and Mirrorless cameras from the factory will more than exceed your expectations. If you really want to up your photo game and develop the sharpest images possible, I highly recommend investing in a better lens than the one included with your camera purchase. Nicer lenses tend to be better in low light due to faster apertures and the results tend to speak for themselves. In the case of dark rides, a lens with an aperture of f/1.8 or lower is ideal for capturing light but no lens is going make you a better photographer without first learning to shoot in manual mode. It is the cornerstone for any great photo and makes all the difference in the end result - especially at night! 

In perhaps the greatest oversimplification possible, to get great shots at night ideally you'll need three things. A tripod, time, and some patience. The darker conditions you shoot in the longer you tend to need to keep your shutter open, and the tripod is used to keep the camera as stable as absolutely possible during the longer shutter speeds. For areas like Pandora after dark, a shutter length upwards of 30 seconds is often required to retain a proper exposure for the image. If the camera is bumped or moved while that shutter is open, the image becomes blurry and basically unusable. The patience part of the equation tends to be waiting out the crowds. 

You've likely all scene the empty park shots, and they're some the best shots around, but oftentimes we're taking those images up to two hours after the park officially "closes." If you wait around, Disney will let you mill around main areas for quite some time after officially closing while guests finish dining or riding those last minute attractions. The lighter crowds that late at night coupled with long shutter speeds (know as long exposure shots) essentially turn the individuals in the photos into "ghosts" if the keep moving continuously while the shutter is open for upwards of 30 seconds capturing the image. It's a crazy concept and one that I'll readily admit is hopelessly nerdy, but the results tend to be spectacular. Once you try late night photography, you'll be hooked after you capture that one image that takes your breath away. 



The Average Guest

If you're an average Disney parks guest, your iPhone is likely going to serve you quite well, but chances are if you clicked on this post you're looking for more out of your photos and hopefully this answered a few questions. People ask me about my photos all the time, and truthfully I'm probably not the best person to ask. I'm admittedly new to this and don't always get it right. However, to me this just goes to show that you can get a lot of neat shots (even if they're not technically perfect - I still have a lot to learn!) with very little technical experience and on a relatively tight budget. My entire camera setup wasn't all that expensive and if you'd like me to do a full overview of all the gear I use, feel free to let me know and I'll make it happen! On the other side of things this article may not be all that popular and is likely the least "Disney specific" post I've ever written. It's a bit tough to explain too much in detail in writing one article, but hopefully this answered a few questions and may help you in starting your road to taking show stopping photos that far exceed mine! 



Your Thoughts


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


Need a Travel Planner?


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


Ready to Plan?


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



Friday, August 24, 2018

Our Top Parking Tips for Walt Disney World in 2018 - What to Expect

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Our Top Parking Tips for Walt Disney World in 2018

As many of you may know, parking at Walt Disney World has gotten a touch more complicated in the last year, so today we're taking a look at some parking tips based on our personal experiences over the last 6 months. Fair warning, today we wont be telling you ways to manipulate the system or avoid paying resort parking fees or even how to park at select locations to avoid paying Disney's parking fees. Truthfully, those tips would only hurt us all in the long run and potentially increase the range of parking fees at various locations on property. Instead, we're going to share tips and what can and cannot be done in the realm of parking at Walt Disney World. 


Resort Parking Fees

While I have my own thoughts and opinions about this required fee (which I'll refrain from sharing), there are a few things you should know about how the fees are enacted and charged to guests. In our experience the fee is "hidden" for lack of a better word. Obviously, we knew we would have to pay the nightly parking fee as a result of writing on this site and following the Disney news from day to day. However, what hardly anyone is sharing is that the fee (at least in our case) is not mentioned at check in, is not mentioned at the resort parking gate, and is not even described on any sort of documentation at the resort that we could find. Instead, In our case it was billed directly to our Magic Band and was a required payment at check out. Truth be told, we knew it was coming at some point, but it's interesting to note that we were never asked if we were flying or driving, so they must have monitored enter and exit times via our Magic Band or cars were potentially recorded by the bell service. Personally, I cannot confirm whether either of these thoughts are true, but I can say that we were never asked if we parked on the property. The fee is not the end of the world but be aware if you are a first time guest or have not stayed at a resort since the change to paid parking, you could face a similar situation. 

The current Disney resort parking fees are as follows: 

  • Disney Value Resorts - $13 per night 
  • Disney Moderate Resorts - $19 per night 
  • Disney Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas - $24 per night 
  • Vallet Parking at Deluxe Resorts - $33 per night 
Also worth noting is that these are taxable rates and you will be assessed sales tax for each night of your parking fee based on Florida sales tax rates. So, in theory a $24 Deluxe resort parking fee isn't exactly $24 in the grand scheme of things it is a touch more. Valet however does include taxes in the $33 rate.

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort guests will not be charged for overnight self parking when staying at a DVC Deluxe Villa. Annual Passholders are still required to pay the fees for resort parking.   


Parking at Resorts as a Visitor (not an overnight guest)

At this point, if you are visiting a resort and will not be staying overnight or more than a few hours you will not be charged for parking at that resort. Some resorts at select times will not allow you to park without being a resort guest, but typically that is reserved to peak crowd times in order to assure guests staying at the resort have a parking spot for their stay. As usual, if you have a meal reservation at that resort, you will be allowed to park at the resort without question. 

We have had excellent luck recently when parking at resorts by simply stating we're going to get dessert or going to a certain counter service restaurant. Typically, if we do use those statements, we will in fact go to that destination. Also worth noting for those of you who are interested in photography, I have never once been denied parking if I mentioned that I was interested in taking a few pictures of the resort. 

Again, don't manipulate the system too much or over time visitors will be charged to park at the resorts even if you're not staying at that particular resort (let's hope it never comes to that). I wont lie to you and say that I've never parked at the Boardwalk to walk over to Epcot to catch Illuminations, but I've never done so to avoid parking fees. Typically if we are parking at a resort we are a resort guest somewhere on property and truthfully I don't know if that makes a difference or not in the chances of being "denied" access to parking at certain resorts. However, if you are a resort guest you park at the parks for free or can ride a bus to the parks for free so in that case you're not paying to park either way.



Parking at the Disney World Theme Parks 

If you are staying on property at a Disney resort, you do not pay parking fees at the parks. Truthfully, it's a great bonus to staying on property and can save you $22 per day opposed to staying off site and driving in and paying the parking fees. As always, I recommend taking buses, boats, monorails, and other Disney provided free transportation to and from the parks as a resort guest. You can park the car for your stay and you wont miss it. If you're flying, don't worry about renting a car, just take the free Magical Express transportation to your resort hotel from Orlando International Airport and avoid parking costs entirely.

Parking rates at the theme parks are currently:
  • Standard Parking - $22 per day 
  • Preferred Parking - $45 per day (definitely not worth the cost)
  • Oversized Vehicles - $27 per day
Disney Water parks do not currently charge parking fees.  


Parking at Disney Springs

This is the one parking location that surprises me more than all the others. Parking at Disney Springs is complimentary and truthfully one of the nicest parking situations I've ever experienced at Disney or elsewhere. The parking garages are an eyesore obstructing the views of Disney Springs from the street (which I still miss), but gone are the days of circling the parking lots and trying to desperately hope that someone left on the row you were driving down. 

Today, things are much easier, head to a garage that is not listed as "full" on the street signs, pull into the lot and look for a sign that tells you what floors have empty spaces and how many are available. Typically the top floors have plenty of room and the flow of traffic is pretty nice compared to the nightmare that is the Orlando outlet malls (If you've been, you know how much of a daunting task parking at those outlets can be!) . The system that verifies what spots are empty and what floors have empty spots isn't fool proof but it is fairly quick at registering what spots are taken and which ones are not. It's a fairly high end system and the escalators and security guards directing guests in the right direction after you park are an added bonus to a better parking situation. 

Valet parking available at Disney Springs for $20 per day. 




Staying Off Site? Here's What I Recommend

Off-site resorts are a touch tricky for a couple of reasons. Most non-Disney resorts will have a parking fee and typically a resort fee on top of the parking charge. Additionally, you will be charged to park at the Disney parks. The only real work around that which is not frowned upon by Disney is a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft. Both services are pretty well known and reliable. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the liability exceptions in Uber and Lyft user agreements but sometimes it's your best bet when trying to cut costs. A typical Uber from reasonably close by resorts can be cheaper than renting a car and parking it at the parks throughout your stay. Combine the low cost service with a dining reservation at a resort hotel and you can easily cut out a second paid trip to other locations on property by using Disney resort buses to get to the parks from your reservation location. 

Also worth noting is that after 4:00pm shuttles run from all Disney parks to Disney Springs, which could potentially cut off another paid trip via Uber or Lyft.  


Wrapping Up

Inevitably parking is getting a little complicated at Disney and truthfully I thought the resort parking fee was something we would never see at WDW in quite the blatant form that it is today. At the same time, it's just something we have to learn to expect and factor into the cost of the stays we book. Is it fair to annual pass holders?... Probably not. However, there's not too much we can do about it at this point. As usual the social media outcry faded away and did nothing but frustrate people along the way. In my opinion, it's not worth fretting about and truthfully is something that will likely only get worse before it gets better. Is it a vacation ruiner? Not in the slightest. 

Knowing what to expect and the best way to work with the given situation in the case of parking is far more important than spending hours on end trying to find ways to manipulate your stay to avoid costs. Simply pay the parking fee and enjoy the extra few minutes it affords you at your resort or in the parks. All the offsite services that will bus you in from other parking areas and such are more trouble than their worth and your time in the parks is far more valuable! 



My greatest recommendation? Accept the changes, know the fees and do your best to pay what is only absolutely necessary to manage your time and budget effectively. There's no good solution to avoid this and Disney inevitably knows that and as with any company they're trying to make money just like anyone else. Form a business perspective I can't entirely fault them for that.

If you're one of the more seasoned WDW guests reading this, be surest check out our last post on some of our top Disney Parks book recommendations! 5 Books Every Disney Parks Fan Needs In Their Collection
        

Your Thoughts


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


Need a Travel Planner?


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


Ready to Plan?


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



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