A Thank You to Ryan and Jeremy for 175 Episodes of Magic

A little over 3 years ago, I wrote a post about a podcast to keep an eye on. In that post I talked about how Backside of Magic hosts Ryan and Jeremy were discussing techniques to enhance people’s enjoyment of Disney vacations, and how—as early as episode 3–they really seemed to be hitting their stride in that space.

Since that post, and for the past 3 years, Ryan and Jeremy have continued their exploration of time saving and trip planning. As they mentioned in their last episode today, techniques and terms they coined such as “bump and run” are now regularly used in Disney (DisTwitter?) discourse. Also, whether or not you had issues with the appropriateness of some of their more “aggressive” techniques, information like Flight of Passage Fastpass+ drops is invaluable for people planning Disney vacations and Ryan and Jeremy were always at the forefront of providing that. When I had a trip to Disney World coming up, I always made sure I had listened to—at least—the last 3 episodes of Backside of Magic (if I hadn’t already listened to them the morning they came out) to make sure that there were no new bits of information I needed to be aware of.

Saldly, for us Disney fans, Ryan and Jeremy are hanging up their microphones today. It’s been a fun ride for the past few years, and I’m glad I kept my eye on the show. From the various other feedback I see in the Disney community, it sounds like a lot of other people kept their eyes on it, too.

Enjoy podcast retirement, y’all. Pop a Jai Alai. You’ve earned it.

Disney World to allow onsite guests to enter Galaxy’s Edge 3 hours before Park Open

In a post on the Disney Parks Blog this morning, Disney announced new “Extra, Extra Magic Hours” for September and October. This new benefit allows for the following early park entrance times for onsite guests:

  • The Studios: 6:00am to 9:00am – featuring Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and “select other attractions”;
  • Animal Kingdom: 7:00am to 8:00am – Pandora and other attractions (same as current EMH)
  • Magic Kingdom: 7:00am to 8:00am – attractions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland (same as the current morning EMH)

These EEMHs will go from August 29 through November 2 (though, for August 29, 30, and 31 only, Galaxy’s Edge will be open for all guests at 6:00pm).

Though I figured that Disney would offer some extra magic hours for Galaxy’s Edge, I never expected it would be for 3 hours before park open. Also, I didn’t think Disney would extend the offering to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom as well.

Overall, I’m quite please with this plan. Elyssa and I have an early September trip planned and we’ll definitely be taking advantage of these early park entry times.

Elyssa loves it when I don't agree with her opinions.
Elyssa loves it when I don’t agree with her opinions.

Rumors of an Earlier (Than Originally Anticipated) Galaxy’s Edge Opening

From the earliest Galaxy’s Edge announcement of a “late Fall” opening at Disney World, everyone seemed to assume that the actually opening date would be in late December 2019. Then, about a month or two ago, Disney changed the opening date to “Fall” of 2019. Still, I think most people still assumed this meant November.

Things really started to change last week, however, when Robert Niles at *Theme Park Insider” predicted an October 1, 2019 opening for Galaxy’s Edge . At the time, I thought it was a bold prediction, but I didn’t put much stock into it. Yesterdat, WDW News Today joined the chorus predicting an earlier than originally anticipated opening date of “September / October” and claims the official opening date might be announced at Disney’s shareholder’s meeting on Thursday, March 7.

Personally, I still think September seems too early for an actual opening, but maybe late October is workable. Of course, hurricane season is still months away from hitting Florida and that always has potential to cause some constructions delays. I guess we’ll know more (maybe?) on Thursday.

Construction foreman at Galaxy's Edge are not to be messed with.
Construction foreman at Galaxy’s Edge are not to be messed with.

Plane’s Here, Go Ahead – A Discussion of Boarding Flights

Though not 100% on point for this site, the various discussions I’m seeing this morning related to flights, flight boarding, etc.. remind me of this CGP Grey video:

Part of me wonders what it would be like to have a much more “efficient” boarding process (though, after flying Southwest with their “groups”, I wonder how the “plane’s here, go ahead” method would really work for today’s travelers.)

If what you really want to watch ist just 20 minutes of the loading and unloading animations, though, then here’s that:

It’s about the time Disney World usually Raises Ticket Prices

No hard news or anything on this. The guys at Backside of Magic mentioned in their episode this morning that it’s about the time Disney World raises its ticket prices, so it might be worth buying tickets for your upcoming trips. I agree Ryan and Jeremy on that.

For context, here are the dates of Disney’s last few matches of February prices increases:

  • February 11, 2018
  • February 12, 2017
  • February 28, 2016
  • February 22, 2015
  • February 23, 2014

Sometimes there is a 1 or 2 day “rumor” that can give you notice, but who knows if that will happen this time.

Can you really put a price on moments like these, though?

Disney World Annual Passholders Can Now Register for “Passholder Play Time” in Toy Story Land in September

Disney has started sending out emails to annual passholders so that they can sign up for the special “Passholder Play Time” event in September. Disney is advertising the event as AP holder-only access to Toy Story Land, including all 3 attractions and Woody’s Lunch Box.

The event is offered Tuesday through Saturday in September, with time slots of either 7:00am to 8:00am or 8:00am to 9:00am. When I signed up for my selected time slot a few minutes ago nearly the entire month of September was still available (though, I ended up picking a slot at the end of September, anyway.)

Good luck to everyone who wants to register! I hope you get in before it fills up!

runDisney Announces Registration Process Changes and Upcoming Registration Dates

As expected, Disney announced changes to the race registration process today (i.e. removing Active from involvement in the process.) This (hopefully) will make the registration process smoother (though I have a feeling there will be some hiccups during the initial Marathon Weekend sign ups), and also brings the ability to use Disney Gift Cards to pay for registrations. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes.

Here are the new registration dates:

2019 Marathon Weekend (Jan. 9-13, 2019)

  • July 17, 2018 – Pre-sale for AP and DVC
  • July 19, 2018 – General on-sale date

2019 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (Feb. 21-24, 2019)

  • Aug 2, 2018 – Pre-sale for AP and DVC
  • Aug 7, 2018 – General on-sale date

2019 Star Wars Rival Run Weekend (April 4-7, 2019

  • August 23, 2018 – Pre-sale for AP and DVC
  • August 28, 2018 – General on-sale date

Elyssa and I are planning on running the challenge at Star Wars Weekend next year. Maybe we’ll see y’all there!

Us with a Secondary Character from Last Jedi
Us with a Secondary Character from Last Jedi

Make Disney World Reservations before March 21, 2018 to Avoid Parking Charges

Disney has officially announced a new overnight only (for now) parking charge coming to its resorts for reservations made March 21, 2018 or later. Blog Mickey was the first place I saw with the pricing:

  • Disney Value Resorts: $13 per night
  • Disney Moderate Resorts: $19 per night
  • Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $24 per night (because the pavement at deluxe resorts costs more to upkeep ???)

Aside from the increase in cost resulting from this (for example, our recent 5 night stay at the Beach Club would have been $120 more), I think I’m most bummed out by the “makes Disney World like everywhere else” aspect. I’m sure I’ll get over it (and I’m not going “stop” going to Disney because of it), but, right now, it feels like a bummer.

It also changes the cost calculation for some of the 3-4 day trips that Elyssa and I like to take. Before, I would probably be torn between getting a cheap rental or taking an uber / lyft from the airport if I was going to spend a long weekend at the Yacht Club (current estimated cost per the Lyft app: $31.85). Now, it’s a no brainer to get the uber / lyft when dealing with the $24 in parking I’d pay on top of the rental car fee. (And, yes, I know Magical Express is a thing that exists, but I just get really antsy when I fly in at 7:00pm on a Thursday and want to just get to Disney World.) Of course, it also probably makes it more likely I just grab at room at Flamingo Crossing instead of staying onsite at all (at least until they add a parking charge as well.)

The Yacht Club Lighthouse at Dusk
The Yacht Club Lighthouse at Dusk

A Price Increase and D23 Expo Japan – A News Nuggets Special Edition

This weekend was a big weekend for Disney World news, since Disney decided to drop its latest prices increase on the same day as its parks presentation at D23 in Japan.

Starting first with the price increase, Disney has increased prices by around $4 a day (depending on the type and length of ticket you are buying). This is generally in line with previous price increases, and probably doesn’t change many people’s calculatioons as to whether or not they will actually visit Disney World, but—that said—having to spend an extra $100 in tickets for a 5-day trip for a family of four is not insubstantial. What could really impact people’s travel behavior, though, is if the rumors of seasonal pricing for multii-day tickets come true.

As an added note, Disney also increased the price of parking $2 to $22 per day (and $5 to $45 a day for preferred parking), and increased the price of its Minnie Van Service to $25 per ride.

On a more “positive” note, Disney made a number of Disney World related announcements at its D23 Expo Japan. These include that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway railway will open next year (2019) and that the Guardians of the Galaxy Roller Coaster will be one of the world’s longest enclosed coasters. Most interesting to me, though, were the announcements about the new Star Wars hotel that will be “seamlessly connected” Galaxy’s Edge at the Studios. Here is Disney’s blurb:

This first-of-its-kind resort will combine luxury with complete immersion into an authentic Star Wars story. Guests’ journey through space will start when everyone departs together for a multiday Stars Wars adventure by boarding a starship alive with characters and stories that unfold all around them during a voyage through the galaxy. At the resort, guests immediately become active citizens of the galaxy and can dress up in the proper attire. Every resort window will also have a view into space. The opportunity for immersion at this resort will also stand out among all Disney resorts around the globe, as it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, allowing guests a total Star Wars experience.

I know I’m biased, but it sounds pretty awesome (even if there aren’t a lot of details in that blurb).

Well, that covers a big weekend of Disney World related news. I hope you enjoyed this extra helping of News Nuggets!

Rendering of the Star Wars Hotel - Copyright Disney

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

With D23 and various other things (like a visit to Mighty Men of Mouse HQ), I’ve fallen a little behind on the News Nuggets. Now, with only 1 week left for The Great Movie Ride and Universe of Energy, it’s about time to unleash a mega helping of Nuggets before it’s too late. (In a nice move, Disney lifted Annual Passholder Blockout Dates so people could ride them one more time.)

Before we get started, one big item to point out is the expanion of mobile ordering at quick service restaurants that started at Animal Kingdom (yes, you could say it started at Be Our Guest, but that’s a very different process.) Mobile ordering has now rolled out at Magic Kingdom restaurants such as Columbia Harbor House, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, Pecos Bills, and Tomorrowland Terrace; Epcot at Electric Umbrella; Disney Springs at places like D-Luxe Burger; and should be coming to The Studios shortly. (WDW Info has a page they updated with the listings). Disney also announced that there will be no discounts (AP, etc…) during this “launch period”.

Okay, now on to the rest of the News Nuggets:

Phew. We’re about halfway done this double-sized helping of News Nuggets. Let’s take a quick break to watch this video on the making of Pandora:

Okay, now back to the News Nuggets:

That’s it for this edition of the News Nuggets. If you’re like me and unable to get in one last ride on the The Great Movie Ride before it closes, check out this video from WDW News today that features an actual “walk through” of the attraction. See you next time:

PSA: My Disney Experience and the Shop Disney Parks App Still Crash on the iOS 11 Beta

UPDATE: August 22 – The latest version of the apps works with iOS 11!!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, My Disney Experience, the Shop Disney Parks App, and even the Disneyland App (per the comments to my original post), all crash at launch on the iOS 11 Beta (currently, in developer beta 4 and public beta 3.) I’ve submitted bug reports using Apple’s beta feedback system (and been contacted to test a fix or two), but the crash is still occuring.  If you’re planning a trip to Disney World in the near future, and you want to use MDE for things like refreshing Fastpass+ selections, I would recommend not installing any iOS 11 beta. There is always a chance that the next iOS beta will fix things, but I think it’s possible that the fix for this crash requires Disney to submit a new version of its apps that is compiled against the iOS 11 SDK. That would mean no fix would come before iOS 11 is actually released (which has, historically, been in mid-to-late September.) 

You have been warned!

MDE Crash :-(
MDE Crash 🙁

The Kivii Way – How We Refresh My Disney Experience to Get Our Fastpass+ Selections

The concept of “refreshing” My Disney Experience to get additional Fastpass+ selections is nothing new (e.g., this post from easyWDW from April 2016.) It’s a strategy Elyssa and I have been using for at least that long and it has resulted in us getting some pretty great Fastpass+ choices (we ended up taking a last second trip to the Magic Kindgdom on Christmas Day without any Fastpass+ reservations as we walked through the tapstiles, but ended up getting at least Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, and Buzz Lightyear while we were there–no comment if we got a Meet Tinker Bell one.)

Even with people having known about the technique for some time, I feel like I’ve received a lot of questions about this kind of refreshing lately (possibly due to Disney closing loopholes related to people getting “extra” Fastpass+ selections?) With that in mind, here’s how Elyssa and I search and “refresh” for Fastpass+ in My Disney Experience:

General Fastpass+ “Refresh” Steps in My Disney Experience

Step 1: Get any Fastpass+ selection you can for the park you want to be in.

Basically, I think of this step as just “get the best available.” So, if my goal is to try and get a Mine Train Fastpass+, I’ll look to see if there’s anything available for the Mine Train, and, if there is, I’ll grab that. If there’s isn’t, I’ll just grab whatever I can in the Magic Kingdom. I’ll also avoid getting other Fastpass+ selections with a return window near what I’m “refreshing” for, so I have more flexibility to choose the results I’m presented with.

Here’s a screenshot of a current Fastpass+ selection with “Modify” link you’ll ned in Step 2 called out:

Step 2: Choose to “Modify” your existing Fastpass+ selection and see what’s available.

The “Modify” Fastpass+ selection screen is pretty straightforward. It starts with a list of times at the top that sets the search parameter for the time of the new Fastpass+ you are looking for. It then shows the other availables times for the attraction you are currently modifying (i.e., if you are modifying a Mine Train selection, it’ll show you other times for the Mine Train.), followed by all other available Fastpass+ selections for around that time (unless an attraction only has selections outside of your time window. In that case, it just shows you what is available for that attraction.)

Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about:

Step 3: If you like what you see, select your new Fastpass+

Pretty straightforward, right? If you see the attraction and time you want available, just grab it. That’s it!.

Step 4: If you don’t like what you see, select another “time” and see what options present themselves. REPEAT.

I feel like Step 4 is the actual “refreshing” step, since it’s the one that actually pulls new information from Disney’s servers. In this step, you basically just tap on the time in the top bar that you ideally want for you Fastpass+ selection. So, if you want an 11:00am Fastpass+ for Mine Train, you tap 11:00am. If something comes up, grab it. If not, then tap the next time (in our example, 11:30am) and see what comes up. Again, if you see what you want grab it. If not, then I’d recommend choosing the time period right before your ideal time (in our example, this would be 10:30am). Did you get what you want? No? Then go back and tap 11:00am again, and continue repeating this process until something opens up.

So, basically, you’re tapping 3 different “times”, over and over again (but, hopefully, not too long) in order to eventually get the time that you want. (Once again, our example: Tap 11:00am. No Mine Train Fastpass+. Tap 11:30am. No Mine Train Fastpass+. Tap 10:30am. No Mine Train Fastpass+. Tap 11:00am. No Mine Train Fastpass+. … REPEAT… Tap 11:00am. MINE TRAIN FASTPASS+ FOUND)

I’m sure other people have different ways to handle this “refreshing” step, but this method works well for us. The biggest advantage of this strategy is that your thumb is basically just tapping in almost the same place over and over again, so you don’t have to think too much about context, what the menus are showing, etc.. (Personally, I don’t like to expend a lot of mental energy when doing a task like this.)

Some other “Refresh” Tips and Context

A few other quick thoughts about this My Disney Experience “refreshing”:

  • I prioritize getting the attraction I want when doing Step 4, above. So, if I want a Mine Train Fastpass+ for around 11:00am, but a 5:00pm pops up while I’m refreshing, then I just take that 5:00pm one and start back over at Step 2. This way, I don’t have to keep scrolling down to Mine Train in the available attractions list to see what’s available. It’s right at the top. (If that wasn’t clear, here’s an example of what I might do when trying to book a Fastpass+ for Mine Train for 11:00am: Step 1: Book Splash Mountain, since it’s all that’s available; Step 2: Choose to modify that Fastpass+, Step 3: Select a 7:00pm Mine Train that’s become available: Step 4: Keep performing Step 4 until an 11:00am-ish Mine Train Fastpass+ selection shows up.)
  • Related to the tip above, it seems like Disney might just be putting the 2 Avatar attractions at the top when you refresh (which is nice.) There’s no guarantee that’ll continue, though.
  • Be careful when getting into a groove on “refreshing”. I have, admittedly, been in such a rut of refreshing, that I’ve refreshed instead of actually selecting the new Fastpass+ option that’s become available. That can be frustrating.
  • Don’t necessarily give up if things don’t work in the first 5 minutes. I’d estimate that I spent a total of 50 minutes refreshing on Christmas Day last year to get the Fastpass+ selections I mentioned. I think Mine Train took about 30 minutes of that.
  • Even though this article is about Fastpass+ selections, I’ve also used it for last minute ADRs. For example, we finished the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon and decided we wanted Kona breakfast, even though there was no ADR availability when we made the decision. It took about 15 minutes of refreshing on the bus ride over to the Poly to get an ADR for about 10 minutes in the future.

Summary

People at Disney World are always looking for the ways to best utilize the system. Paper Fastpass had a set of strategies, people tried collecting various “dummy bands” in the early days of Fastpass+, and, now, people can take advantage of My Disney Experience to get additional (or better) Fastpass+ options that are more in line with what they want to do. Hopefully, “refreshing” (no matter what technique you use), works as good for you as it does for us.

Happy touring!

You never know who your Fastpass+ might let you meet
You never know who your Fastpass+ might let you meet

Disney World Summer Discounts Announced

I’m sure you’ll see this everywhere today, but I know friend-of-site Howie from Maryland has been looking forward to this. I’ll credit Dave from yourfirstvisit.net as the first place I saw it. The discounts are pretty much what you’d expect, based on previous years:

Save up to 25%* on rooms at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels for stays most nights May 28-Aug. 31, 2017 when you book March 27-July 14, 2017.

Disney World Price Increase Coming Tomorrow – February 12 – NEW PRICES

UPDATE: New Prices Below

Pretty much the entire world is reporting that tomorrow will be a Disney World price increase (See, e.g., WDW News Today and The DIS.) The rumors include increases in the range of 2-5 dollars (depending on the “season” and the park) for single day tickets–there will probably be a similar increase on the “per day” rate for multi-day ones–, with annual passes getting a rumored increase of $10 to $30 depending on the level. If you were going to buy tickets directly from Disney in the next week or so, it might be worth buying your tickets today. If you frequently use a third party reseller, they will probably have stock at the old prices for another week or two.

Here are the new prices for new multiday tickets (Non-Park Hopper / Park Hopper):

  • 2 Day (199 / 259) from (202 (??) / 257)
  • 3 Day (289 / 349) from (290 (??) / 349)
  • 4 Day (350 / 425) from (325 / 394)
  • 5 Day (370 / 445) from (340 / 409)
  • 6 Day (390 / 465) from (355 / 424)
  • 7 Day (410 / 485) from (370 / 439)
  • 8 Day (420 / 495) from (380 / 449)
  • 9 Day (430 / 505) from (390 / 459)
  • 10 Day (440 / 515) from (400 / 469)

and here’s the update to out of state / non-discounted annual passes:

  • Platinum Pass: $779 up from $749
  • Platinum Plus Pass: $869 from $829

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

Even the holidys don’t slow down the amount of news that comes out about Disney World, so it’s time for another edition of the Rope Drop [dot] News Nuggets!

Obviously, the biggest item of news is the upcoming transformation of Spaceship Earth into the frakin’ Death Star at the upcoming Rogue One premiere event (which, of course, is already at capacity.) I’m probably in the minority on this, but I wish they’d do this more than just the one night.

The other big items are related to various festivals that occur at Epcot over the course of the year:

Lotso is already a favorite
Lotso is already a favorite
Now, on to the rest of the Nuggets:

We’ll close this edition of the News Nuggets with this video walkthrough of the famous Royal Asanta Presdiental Suite at Animal Kingdom Lodge. This might be the closest I’ll ever get to actually being in that:

runDisney Registration and Race Dates for Late 2017 and 2018 Events

runDisney has posted the dates for the late 2017 and early 2018 events (full list in the runDisney image, below.) Most race dates are pretty much what you would expect (it looks like Marathon weekend is settling right into that first full weekend in January slot instead of later in the month.) There are a couple of milestones, though, including the 25th annivesary of the Walt Disney World Marathon, and the 10th Anniversary of the Princess Half-Marathon, that you might  want to consider (Maybe runDisney will give out a special medal?)

See y’all on the road!

runDisney 2017 and 2018 Events
runDisney 2017 and 2018 Events

Disney’s New 4 Park Magic Ticket is an Interesting Option for Shorter Trips

Disney has announced that it is offering a new “4 Park Magic Ticket”. This new ticket is $280 and allows entry into 1 of Disney’s 4 theme parks per day, but–unlike a standard 4 day ticket–only allows entry into each theme park once per ticket. (In other words, the 4 Park Magic ticket allows you to get into Magic Kingdom, the Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom, one time, each.) You save $45 per adult ticket from the standard 4 day, non-park hopper price if you’re willing to accept this additional restriction. It’s also $10 less than a regular 3-day ticket. (All prices, pre-tax.) The ticket is good from Nov. 15, 2016 – May 26, 2017, but has blackout dates of Christmas time and Easter (i.e., Dec. 17, 2016 through Jan. 2, 2017 and April 10-21, 2017.). Other common restrictions such as “use within 14 days of first use”, etc… also apply.

The ticket seems to be marketed to more “price conscious” guest, as it specifically calls out guests in “nearby” hotels and offers packages at “Good Neighbor” (i.e., offsite) hotels.

Families that are planning to travel during this period and are planning on buying 4-day tickets to simply visit each of the 4 parks might want to give this a look. Having an extra hundred-plus dollars in ticket savings could mean the difference between fitting that extra character meal or souvenir into the budget. Also, it might be worth investigating if you were planning on buying a standard 3-day ticket. (Use that extra day to visit the Animal Kingdom at night, grab a drink at Nomad Lounge, and thank me later.) People running one of the runDisney races during the period might also want to see if it fits into their travel plans.

From an analysis perspective, this kind of ticket seems consistent with Disney’s “variable” pricing experiments over the past few years. It provides an incentive for people to visit all of Disney World’s park on vacation, even while some of those parks are under construction. Such efforts remain necessary to distribute guests across the resort. Elyssa and I have seen “mixed” late night attendance at Animal Kingdom since they’ve started the nighttime offerings (frequently it’s empty, but it was somewhat “crowded” during our last visit), and, until Rivers of Light finally debuts, I doubt that will change. Having something like this 4 Park Magic Ticket that encourages people to visit there–and the heavily under construction Studios–seems like an interesting experiment. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

The new 4 Park Magic Ticket is only $70 per day for a limited time and gives one admission to each of the four theme parks on four separate days starting tomorrow, Nov. 15, 2016-May 26, 2017.

New Rope Drop [dot] Net Feature – Everyday Carry – John’s Disney Bag

Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed a new navigation option pop up in the menu a few days ago. That was a “soft launch”, but today we’re officially launching a new feature on the site: Everyday Carry – John’s Disney Bag. People who know me are aware of the extent that I iterate over every aspect of my Disney plans, always trying to refine each and every detail. As you might expect, that refinement extends to the bag that I bring with me to the parks pretty much every day.

John's Disney Bag
John’s Disney Bag

This first version of the feature goes directly to my current bag setup. As things evolve (which has a high likelihood of happening in the upcoming months), I anticipate changing the page to more easily view (what will then be) historical versions.

Let me know on Twitter what you think (and what you bring with you to the park!)

The Easiest Way to Calculate Your Disney Timeline: Ask your iPhone

One of the things you’re frequently doing when planning your Disney World trip is calculating dates. (When is 180 days before the first day of my trip? When is 60 days before the first day of my trip?, etc…) Over the years, I’ve tried various options (TouringPlans’s Dashboard, Wolfram Alpha’s Professional Assistant App, and I even wrote my own date calculation program), but none of them were easy as I wanted the process to be. Enter, Siri.

“Hey Siri, what’s 180 days before April 20?”
“It’s Saturday, October 22, 2016.”
Siri Date Example
Siri Date Example

Boom. Done. It’s so simple. Why would I ever bother to do date calculations any other way? (I can also ask Siri to make appointment on my calendar or set a reminder for me, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.)

NOTE: Sadly, my beloved Alexa cannot handle this kind of date calculation (which bummed me out.) Also, Google’s “Ok, Google” assistant seemed to be able to handle the “in the future” calculation (e.g., “What is 60 days from now?”), but couldn’t handle the “days before” type of requests that are so common when doing Disney-related planning (e.g, “What is 60 days before April 20?”). Microsoft’s Cortana cannot do it either, but I don’t know anyone who uses her (except when playing Halo.)

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s time for everyone’s favorite serving of Disney World, the Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! There isn’t a lot of particularly juicy news this time, but a few things that I would classify as “transitional” (like the closing of Sum of All Thrills or–essentially–moving all convention space to the Yacht Club.) That said, let’s get to it!

We’ll close out with a video that Disney recently posted of what it’s like to be the eagle at the tail end of the Main Street Electrical parade. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

A Disappointing Change in runDisney Policy – No Race Deferrals, Even for Brain Surgery

Through some recent discussions on the Mickey Milers Facebook group, it has come to our attention that runDisney no long provides deferrals for any of its races. (Previously, you could pay a nominal fee to defer a race a year into the future.) Even more disheartening, this was not a change that was broadcast by runDisney or even before registration for the races took place, but, instead, was something we found out about when of our fellow Mickey Miles team members was informed of this policy change when requesting a deferral because of upcoming brain surgery. Instead of allowing him to have a deferral to a future year, runDisney decided to make a “1 time exception” to the “no refunds” policy and provide our fellow team member with a Disney Gift Card in the amount of 1/2 of the funds he paid to register for his races (minus the registration fees that Active.com charges.) That’s right, instead of allowing a runner to defer to the future because he was having brain surgery, runDisney said he could have 1/2 of his money back, in the form of Disney credit.

Policy changes like this disappoint me, greatly. When Elyssa had her brain surgery a couple of years ago, runDisney was fantastic about deferring our race registrations at no cost to the following year. Knowing that race was coming up again was a huge part of what motivated Elyssa to learn to walk, and then run, again. Getting that deferral was such a pivotal moment, that I clearly remember the night I got off the phone with runDisney, walked into Elyssa’s hospital room (crying) and said “I just got off the phone with runDisney. We’re running the race next year. You and me. Whatever it takes.” It was about 2 days later that Elyssa took her first post-surgery steps, and about 5 days later that she first jogged around the hall. To hear that runDisney has decided to not offer this same benefit to someone who is a very active participant in the runDisney community is heartbreaking. It really feels like taking some of the magic away

Elyssa and I love participating in runDisney events. We’ll be running the Star Wars: Dark Side Challenge in April of next year, and are really looking forward to it. In fact, while we are participating in it, we’ll probably love it. That said, thinking about it now, it saddens me that runDisney’s policies are standing in the way of people having the same chance to “come back” from major surgery and injuries that Elyssa did. Frankly, I would have been devastated if runDisney told me what they’re telling people now. It’s so disappointing that I hardly even know how to express it.

Under runDisney's new policy, I wouldn't have had this moment. My princess finally completing her race.
Under runDisney’s new policy, I wouldn’t have had this moment. My princess finally completing her race.

25% Off Sale in Shop Disney Parks App

The Shop Disney Parks App currently has 25% off and free ground shipping on “most orders”. This is great if one of your favorite website contributors has a birthday coming up and you haven’t gotten her anything yet.

Seriously, though, I use the Shop Disney Parks App even when I’m at Disney World. It is sometimes cheaper (and almost always easier) to have items just shipped directly to my home than have to worry about transporting them myself back from Disney World. Since the app even gives you a lot of your various discounts (AP, DVC, etc…), it’s usually worth checking out.

Shop Disney Parks Sales
Shop Disney Parks Sales

FuelRod or Not – Use Low Power Mode on your iPhone at Disney World

Since I posted my article on Disney’s new FuelRod program, other people have also weighed in with their opinions. (Josh from easyWDW seems to make many of the same points I made, so I—obviously—think he did the best job.)

All that said, however, one thing that you should be doing at Disney World, regardless of what battery pack you use (or don’t), is using Low Power Mode on your iPhone while in the parks. (Android apparently has its own Battery Saver Mode, which might have a similar impact, but, I’ve never used Android, so I can’t confirm.)

Basically, when you’re walking around Disney World, your phone is constantly trying to deal with things that suck battery (low or non-existent network connection, you checking the time or trying to refresh FastPass+ availability, etc…). Low Power Mode helps address some of this drain by doing things like reducing background app refreshes and some of the visual effects on your phone. Though I haven’t done extensive comparisons of when my phone dies while in a given Disney Park, I can report that my phone lasts significantly longer when on Low Power Mode. In fact, I’ve even managed a near full Disney day (rope drop at the Magic Kingdom, lunch at Beaches & Cream, visit to Disney Springs, then back to Magic Kingdom for Celebrate the Magic and Wishes) without running out of battery. (Obviously, your results may vary—and I wouldn’t recommend this being your standard operating procedure—but, it’s possible.)

Should you decide to give Low Power Mode a try, turning it on is pretty simple. First, go to the settings app on your iPhone. From there, select the “Battery” option from the third grouping of choices.

Setting Screen
Setting Screen

On the Battery menu, you then simply turn on Low Power Mode. That’s it.

Low Power Mode
Low Power Mode

iOS is kind of aggressive about turing “off” Low Power Mode, so if you happen to plug your phone in (to a charger or battery pack), you might want to check to make sure Low Power mode remained on. (I like to turn Low Power Mode on before I unplug my phone from a charger. That seems to help the automatic shut-offs a bit.)

Hopefully, this tip helps your battery survive a little longer while visiting Disney World. Good luck!