V.I.Passholder Events Coming to Walt Disney World starting in August 2018

Not a lot of information out right now, but this sounds really interesting.

Per the email the “event will have limited capacity and registration will be required. Invitations will be sent to Gold, Platinum, Platinum Plus and Premier Passholders via email over the next few weeks for V.I.PASSHOLDER Nights. Registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis.”

VIPassholder
VIPassholder

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

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

My Disney Experience and Shop Disney Parks crash on the first iOS 11 Public Beta

It’s the time of year when people begin experimenting with Apple’s latest round of iOS betas (despite recommendations from pretty much everyone in the technology industry that they should hold off.) For those of you who are Disney World fans, however, I have a special PSA: My Disney Experience and Shop Disney Parks do not work on the first iOS Public Beta. Though this could be an annoyance for people who are looking to do some shopping via the Shop Disney Parks app, it could really hamper someone who is planning on visiting the Disney World in the near future (imagine not being able to refresh to find new Fastpass+ selections?).

At this point, it’s too early to tell if the issues are something that will be resolved by future iOS updates (in advance of the final iOS 11 release later this fall) or if this is something that Disney is going to have to fix on its end. Until this is resolved, though, you should probably hold off installing iOS 11 on your iPhone if you want to use either of these apps. (Or, you could do what most people recommend, and just not install the betas at all.) Also, as a reminder, this is not anybody’s “fault’. This beta process is designed to allow these types of issues to be found and corrected before the actual release date, instead of people running into these issues with the actual versions of the software.

MDE Crash
MDE Crash

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

Hey! Look! The site still works! This latest batch of (breakfast?) News Nuggets is a long time coming. I had grand desigins of posting it when I was down in Florida IN DECEMBER, but that slipped. Then, life got in the way, and an iOS beta broke my custom Workflows, and…well..its (still) February.

To try make this post (of over 8 weeks worth of Disney news) a little more timely, I’ve culled some of the original stories I was going to publish, as well modified some of commentary to reflect my experiences and other news I’ve heard about these items.

Of course, the biggest news item that hasn’t already been written about on the site is:

With all that out of the way, on to the News Nuggets!!

Okay. That was a lot of nuggets. I need a break.Let’s watch one of the “behind the scenes” looks at Pandora:

Okay, back to the News Nuggets:

Okay, time for another break. This time, let’s look at this tribute to the late, great Carrie Fisher from The Studios:

Ms. Fisher will be missed, and (shockingly?) I was unable to come up with a way to segway back into the nuggets:

One more break before we finish? What do you say? This time, let’s check out the latest Pandora ad:

That place might be pretty cool in a few months. Now, though, let’s finish out our News Nuggets!

Whew! We’re finally done. Let’s celebrate!

Some Disagreements About Which Disney World “Enchanting Extras” Are Worth It

Over at Disney Tourist Blog, Tom Bricker recently wrote a post giving his opinion on which of Disney World’s “Enchanting Extras” (the new branding of Disney’s various tours, parties, etc…) are worth it. When reviewing his ratings, I was struck by a couple of his items (which I’ll examine more in-depth below). It was even more interesting when I read his explanation of his biases regarding his evaluation:

In terms of our bias, we are generally frugal travelers who are willing to splurge on luxury experiences that ostensibly offer value commensurate with cost. Still, we are pretty conservative when it comes to spending, so our threshold for ‘appropriate’ value for money is likely higher than most.

This, on its face, seems to align with Elyssa’s and my point of few on those items, but–despite that apparent similarity–we evaluate some of the items quite differently. For example, Tom evaluates Early Morning Magic as follows:

Early Morning Magic – No – I’ve seen a lot of people do logical contortions trying to justify the value in these, but it just isn’t there unless you approach the parks as being E-Ticket checklists, with each ride on Toy Story Mania being worth $X. In which case, you should probably just buy a used Wii and a copy of [Toy Story Mania for Wii]. What? Not the same experience as being at Walt Disney World? Exactly. There are easy ways to enjoy these attractions during a normal, leisurely day in the parks without paying a surcharge.

I can see someone not seeing a high level of value from getting to ride Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train a few times before part opening, but to just dismiss this off hand by only citing 1 attraction from the Hollywood Studios version of this experience seems disingenuous. (Also, it would be a stretch to say it is “easy” to get multiple rides on Mine Train on a given day outside of an event like this.) As friends of the site, Wes and Howie will tell you, Early Morning Magic can be a great time to ride high demand attractions with the people you love.

Tom was similarily low on Disney After Hours:

Disney After Hours – No – After an initial flop that no doubt lost Disney money, this is returning for 2017 with a lower price tag. It’s still not worth it. What makes the seasonal hard ticket parties worth the money is the ambiance and special entertainment, Disney going the extra mile for a special event. There’s nothing special about this–it’s the same thing as a normal day just with a harder cap on attendance.

“[I]t’s the same thing as a normal day just with a harder cap on attendance.” Ah, yeah? That’s exactly the point. With the caveat that maybe Disney raises that cap for this year’s version, the cap makes the experience entirely different from the experience you have in a normal day. You can walk from attraction to attraction (frequently without seeing anyone else), and walk on pretty much any attraction as well. The longest wait we had was about 5 minutes to see Mickey at Town Square just as the event was ending. The whole experience was fantastic. (And that’s not even considering the complimentary ice cream sandwiches and drinks.)

Looking back at those two events, it seems like big difference between Tom’s position and mine, is that I feel there is a lot of value in getting to ride attractions without waiting (especially high demand ones.) It also seems like I enjoy the experience of being in an “empty” (partially empty? not as heavily populated?) park more than Tom does. Yes, Disney After Hours doesn’t have the special entertainment that a holiday party might, but being able to stroll through an empty Magic Kingdom does have a distinct ambiance that I really enjoy.

I don’t always disagree with Tom’s ratings, however. For example:

Wild Africa Trek – Yes – I’ve heard nothing but unanimous praise about Wild Africa Trek from those who have done it. While the price tag has kept us from doing it, when I think about how much an experience like this would cost elsewhere (even at the the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, special experiences are pricey) it seems fair. I wouldn’t hesitate to splurge on this if it’s something that appeals to your family.

Elyssa and I have done the Wild Africa Trek, and it’s fantastic. (Here’s my old TouringPlans article on it.) I agree with Tom, and say that it’s worth trying (if you and your family are interested in at all, obviously.)

I also agree with Tom’s take on Backstage Tours:

Backstage Tours – Maybe – I think these will appeal most to those who have ‘been there, done that’ and are looking for a new perspective from which to enjoy Walt Disney World. While being backstage could ruin the illusion for some, I think seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak, can give others a greater appreciation for what takes place on stage. We’ve done a number of backstage events over the years, and have found them to be hit or miss in terms of value, but the totality of those experiences has been a deeper interest in how the parks and attractions operate.

If you’re interested in digging deeper into the history and operations of Disney World, these can be fantastic options. Of course, if someone is going on his or her first trip to Disney World (or is someone who doesn’t care about history of the parks, etc…), then these might not make as much sense.

Ultimately, the main thing to keep in mind when evaluating these types of offerings is what you value in your vacation. If you don’t particularly care about riding attractions multiple times as a result of lower crowds, maybe those “enhancements” aren’t for you. If you are more of a “foodie” and want to experience (and learn about) higher end cuisine, maybe take a look at that category of offernings. Depending on what you feel is important, you might end up with a wholly different result from Tom or me.

Disney After Hours Magic
Disney After Hours Magic

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:

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!)

Disney’s new Fuel Rod Service Seems Like an Unnecessary Hassle

tl;dr – Plan ahead and buy a battery rod or packfrom Amazon instead of spending more time and money on Fuel Rods. Also, this article has a lot of numbers.

As has been reported on a number of different sites, Disney World has started rolling out Fuel Rod portable chargers for people to use in the parks. The basics of the system are that you pay $30 to get a Fuel Rod that comes fully charged to use with your phone. When you have used the entire battery, you can either recharge the Fuel Rod yourself, or exchange it at a kiosk to get a different, fully charged one at no cost.

On the surface it sounds like a decent system, but I wondered how convenient this whole process really is, especially when compared to the plethora of USB battery packs that are on the market.

Unfortunately, Fuel Rod doesn’t really advertise the size of their…ummm…rod? (Sorry.) The only Fuel Rod review I was able to find said that he got about 65% of an iPhone charge with one of the rods. (This is consistent with what I heard on an episode of DIS Unplugged, but it seems that they used the same review I did to come up with their number.) For those mathematically inclined, 65% of the current’s iPhone’s battery would mean a Fuel Rod would have just over 1,100 mAh of capacity (the current iPhone has a 1,1715 mAh).

To satisfy my intellectual curiosity, I also tried to calculate the size of a Fuel Rod by using the “around 8 hours of phone charge” claim reported by WDW Magic. Though Apple lists a variety of battery times for its iPhone, an estimate of 15-17 hours per day for a normal user isn’t terrible. (A normal user not at Disney World, where the combination of poor network connectivity and “need” to refresh My Disney Experience repeatedly for Fastpass+ availability means that you’re probably looking more realistically at 8-10 hours of battery life, if you’re lucky.) This would mean that a Fuel Rod would charge just over 50% of the current iPhone, and most likely have a capacity of around 850 mAh.

In order to give Fuel Rod the benefit of the doubt (which they don’t deserve for keeping their specs a secret, but, whatever), let’s assume their rods have 1,200 mAh of capacity. How does that compare to various other battery options on the market? SPOILER ALERT: Terribly.

For example, for $10, you can get this Anker battery rod that has just under 3x the capacity of a Fuel Rod and is still slightly slimmer in size. This would let you charge your phone twice without having to think about “recharging your rod”. If you want to invest the same $30 you’d spend on a FuelRod, you can purchase this Amazon Basics Battery Pack that will charge your iPhone over 9 times before it needs to be recharged. In other words, you’d need to either recharge or swap out your Fuel Rod 12 times to get the same capacity as the the Amazon Basics pack. That’s ridiculous. I’d much rather “worry” about remembering to plug in my battery pack every 2-3 days than have to find Fuel Rod kiosks 10+ times over that period.

Look, I understand that some people might not want to carry a battery pack with them when they first enter the park. But, once you buy that first Fuel Rod, you’re going to be carrying it with you anyway for the rest of the day (your Disney World visit?) so you can swap it out. You might as well just pay $10 in advance and get the Anker rod that weighs 2.7 oz to bring with you. At least then you’ll be able to charge your phone almost twice before you need to worry about your battery pack, instead of the .65 times you’d get from the $30 Fuel Rod.

Disney World has made smart phones necessary items to enjoy your park going experience, and, if you want to actually use your phone, you’re probably going to need some additional power. Though the Fuel Rod seems like an interesting idea on the service, its high cost and apparent low capacity seem like a poor option to fit almost all use cases. Think of it this way: you’re already planning things like ADRs and Fastpass+ reservations in advance of your Disney vacation, why not also plan to buy a battery rod or packin advance and save yourself a bunch of hassle?

Everyone needs a phone
Everyone needs a phone

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s been a little bit since we did a full version of the News Nuggets, so it looks like we’re going to need a double order! (As an aside, Elyssa and I once thought we were hungry enough to get 2 orders of corn dog nuggets from Casey’s Corner. It did not end well.)

First, today’s big news was the release of the famous “Free Dining” offer (and related room-only discount.). Free dining is one of the most “famous” of the Disney discounts, but if you’re staying a moderate or deluxe resort, it’s almost always a better value to get the room-only discount instead.

Second, initial reviews of the first couple of “After Hours” parties at the Magic Kingdom are starting to trickle in. Attractions Magazine has some nice pictures that show (what feels like) a nearly empty park, easyWDW showed how there was virtually no wait at any of the attractions that were operating, and Dave’s brief summary on yourfirstvisit.net seems to confirm the “non-existent crowd” feel. Even TouringPlans thinks the party is worth the money. Personally, I’m tempted by it, but Elyssa and I could do a lot with $300 at Disney World, so I’m not sure we’ll end up doing it.

Third, you can now book your 4th Fastpass+ on your phone!. This should mean that a lot (most?) people no longer will need to ever visit one of the Fastpass+ kiosks (which means maybe Disney can put staffing cuts in those areas instead of on actual attractions.)

Now, on to the rest of the Nuggets!!

That’s it from this double-sized order of News Nuggets. I’ll leave you with the final performance of the Dream Along with Mickey castle show:

Born to run(Disney)

Okay, that description may apply to some people, but it surely doesn’t apply to Elyssa and I (unless a “runner’s high” means lots of wheezing and wanting to collapse). People who knows us, however, know that this time of year and this upcoming race are very important to us. (See also our Mickey Miles Podcast appearance, Part 1 and Part 2.)

So, if you want to follow us as we head down to Disney World to attempt the Glass Slipper Challenge (a 10K on Saturday morning, followed by a half marathon on Sunday), you can follow us on:

And, if you’re looking for some good Disney-related posts to read over the next couple of days, here are a few that you might want to check out:

Lastly, don’t forget to check out Harrison Ford announcing some of the plans for Star Wars Land on The Wonderful World of Disney special on February 21st!

Thank you to everyone who’s supported the site over the past few months. We’ll be back to talk more Disney with you soon!

Finish line photo
Finish line photo

It might be a good time to buy your Disney World Tickets

Friend of the site, Josh Gonzalez, pointed out that Universal Orlando has raised ticket prices. Since a ticket price increase was expected, and since Disney normally raises its tickets around the same time as Universal, it might be worth considering buying your tickets now for any upcoming trips. The TouringPlans Ticket Calculator is a good place to find out where to get the best prices on your Disney tickets.

The easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit (2016 Edition) Review

the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit
the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit

With the holidays quickly approaching, it seems appropriate to review a book that you may want to consider putting under the tree of your favorite Disney World fan (or, in your own stocking): the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit

Though have I have been fans of both Josh’s work at easyWDW and Dave’s work at yourfirstvisit.net for some time, I initially avoided a book that (by its title) appeared targeted to people who were not Disney World veterans. After getting getting asked “I’m going to Disney World, what should I know?” for the thirty-eighth time, however, I decided I should check and see if the easy guide might be my default answer to that question going forward.

Structure and Organization

NOTE: If you want a complete, super-detailed breakdown of the book, I will refer you to this post by Josh. If you’ve ever read his work on easyWDW you can probably guess what level of detail he goes into.

The easy guide is set up to walk a first time Disney World Vistor through the key decisions that any Disney World Vistor (first time or otherwise) would have to make when planning a Disney vacations, including: when to go, how long to visit, where to stay, how to tour, etc… Each one of those decisions is receives a dedicated chapter that contains a combination of reviews, recommendations, and tips on how to make the decision, and how to execute on that decision once it has been made. For example, Chapter 5, “Where to Stay”, starts by giving criteria you may wish to evaluate when making a decision about which restort to stay in, follows that up with recommendations by Josh and Dave on where they think you should stay, and then provides detailed reviews of all of the Disney World resorts. This structure means the book can be used in two different ways: as a step-by-step “how-to” for first time or inexperienced Disney World guests, or as reference for more experienced people who just want to look up certain information.

The easy guide as a Tool for First Time or Inexperienced Disney World Guests

The easy guide excels as a step-by-step guide for how to visit Disney World. It walks potential guests through the entire sequence of decisions that they will have to make as they are planning their trip, including key decisions such as when to visit Disney World and how long they should stay. The format of the book is great for first time visitors, since each chapter starts with either specific recommendations from authors Dave and Josh about their preferred choices and why they made those choices, or with an explanation of how one should evaluate various options in order to make her own decisions. (For example, Chapter 5, “Where to Stay” features a section entitled “How to Pick Your Disney Resort Hotel” that walks you through how to evaluate the various hotel options against your available budget.) Basically, it allows a first time Disney World guest to start a chapter, make the decision that chapter discusses, and then move on to the next chapter / decision, all in the order that Josh and Dave recommend.

Though first time Disney World visitors might not need to read all of the reference material available near the end of each chapter, the “cheat sheets” found in Chapter 6, “How to Spend Your Time”, are a must read. Anyone who’s ever used Josh’s easyWDW cheat sheets knows that they offer high quality advice on how to plan your day at a given Disney World park. By providing them in a book designed for first time Disney World guests, Dave and Josh have put their readers in a great position to efficiently and enjoyably see all the attractions and other entertainment available at Disney World, even if it’s their first visit.

My biggest complaint with the easy guide as a complete, go-to resource for first time Disney World guests is the sparse explanation on how to setup and use the various functionality found in Disney’s websites and mobile apps. For example, the section on making ADRs (Chapter 7, Where to Eat – Advance Dining Reservations) is only about a page and half of explanation, and does not fully convey the stressful,  6am, mad rush that takes place when trying to secure reservations at certain restaurants. Instead, that information is relegated to a “Disney World To-Do List” at the end of the book (where it could easily be missed by the book’s readers.) Relatedly, the second-to-last chapter of the book (Chapter 9, “How to Setup Everything Up and Get Everything Done”) dedicates only 3 pages to setting up a My Disney Experience account and booking Fastpass+ in advance of a trip. Though there are some very detailed descriptions of how to complete that process, some more in-depth discussion of how to use these systems (e.g., explaining that your My Disney Experience account needs to have reservations and tickets added in order to make Fastpass+ reservations) might be necessary for Disney World novices.

In summary, the easy guide is almost the perfect book to hand to someone who says “I’m thinking about going to Disney World, what should I know?” It will walk her through all the of the decisions she has to make in order to plan and enjoy her vacation. That said, if you are recommending this book to a first time Disney World vistor, you still might want to point out the importance of certain 180-day and 60-day deadlines, and don’t be surprised if you get a call or two asking for a little help when it comes time to the setup and use some of the My Disney Experience-related stuff.

The easy guide for Experienced Disney Veterans

I made a joke once when friend of the site Dutch Lombrowski was on the WDW 4 Families podcast: “Too much discussion about how various attractions matter to families, 1 star.” If you listen to a podcast named “WDW 4 Families,” you can’t really knock it when it focuses on planning a vacation for families. Here, we have a book entitled the easy guide to your first visit to Walt Disney World. You can’t really knock the book if it’s strength is in helping people plan their first Disney World vacation.

Still, I assume people who visit a site dedicated to Disney World might have some experience visiting the resort, and I want to assure those readers that they will still probably find value in the easy guide. First, as mentioned above, this book makes a great resource to hand to people who ask you what they should know when planning their first Disney World vacation, and, if you’re a Disney World veteran, you probably get that question every so often. Second, the book provides a nice collection of reviews of resorts and dining that you can reference when you need to make decisions in your trip planning. If you like Dave’s and Josh’s work on their respective sites, it’s pretty likely that you are going to like their work in the book. (You might also like the little insights from Disney historian Jim Korkis that are sprinkled throughout the book.)

Lastly, even the most veteran Disney World guest may benefit from seeing how two experts in Disney World vacations recommend planning a trip. After years and years of Disney World visits, us veteran guests might be so set in our ways that we never stop to see if someone has come up with a better way to do certain things. For example, take a look at Dave’s recommendations about which weeks to visit Disney World, or at Josh’s most recent theme park cheat sheets, and see if there’s something new you might want to integrate into your next Disney World trip.

The 864-Page Gorilla

Any review of a Disney World guide book must deal (at least to some degree) with how that book compares to the massive Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. As readers of this site are probably aware, the Unofficial Guide is an almost 900 page (three times the size of the easy guide) book that gives its readers a ton of information about Disney World and its surrounding area. Much like the easy guide, it contains reviews of hotels, restaurants, and strategies for touring the Disney World theme parks. It also adds in tons of information about off-site options, transportation (including airport and rental car information), and other Orlando area theme parks (e.g., Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld, etc…) that you will not find in the easy guide.

After spending time with both books, I think there is room on a Disney Fan’s bookshelf (on in her Kindle) for both of them. They both contain valuable information (though Josh might have an opinion as to which set of touring tips is better) and I have used both of them as a reference at various points since I purchased them. That said, the easy guide is much more focused on presenting the author’s recommendations than providing the huge dump of information that the Unofficial Guide does. Depending on how knowledgable about Disney World you are, you might see that as a benefit or a negative.

If I was picking a book to give to someone who has never visited Disney World before, I’d probably pick the easy guide. If I was picking a book for a Disney veteran, I’d have to know a little bit more about what kind of Disney guest the person was before making a recommendation.

Don’t These Guys Already Have Websites with this Information?

Yes. Dave runs yourfirstvisit.net, and Josh runs easyWDW.com You could almost certainly get all of the information in the book by digging through these sites and putting together your own “guide to a first Disney World visit.” My question is: Why would you? Dave and Josh have put together the information from both of their sites in a convenient, easy to follow structure, that allows first time Disney World guests to walk through all the important decisions necessary to plan their vacations. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?

For people like me who read Dave’s and Josh’s sites on a regular basis, I partially look at my purchase of the book as a way to support people who do good work that I find helpful. I’m not saying I would have bought the book if it was literally cow feces, but knowing that I’m supporting these guys doesn’t hurt.

Summary

The easy guide is a great book for first time (or inexperienced) Disney World guests, since it walks those guests through all of the important decisions they will have to make as they plan their Disney World vacation. Disney World veterans, though not explicitly targeted by the book, will probably also benefit from the information found in the easy guide. In the end, if you’re looking for a Disney World guide book, I recommend giving the the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit a shot.

The the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit is available from Amazon in: * Paperback (which actually includes a free Kindle version); and * Kindle formats. You can also purchase a PDF version of the book directly from Dave and Josh.

The Start of the Studio’s Star Wars Invasion

Last week, Disney started rolling out some of its previously announced Star Wars related attractions and food items. Though Elyssa and I probably won’t get to see any of it with our own eyes for a couple of months (unless we decide to just head down some other random weekend…), there has been a ton of coverage online about what is available.

If you want to get the most in-depth summary of everything (especially in the context of overall Studios touring strategies), I recommend that you check out this post by Josh over at easyWDW. In addition to covering all new entertainment and new food items, he also explains how to best fit a visit to the Launch Bay into your day:

If you do want to do the meet and greets [available at the Launch Bay], I suggest visiting as late in the evening as possible and ideally 90 to 120 minutes before close. … The benefit of going late is that we know for a fact how morning touring goes, so we can stick to the tried and true strategy there and enjoy short waits at Toy Story, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and other Meet and Greets.

Based on recent treads in crowd levels, Josh’s strategy makes a ton of sense. Take advantage of the lower crowd levels associated with rope drop to get the most popular attractions out of the way and then visit the Launch Bay when most people probably already have. It will also be interesting to see what the crowd levels are like in the Launch Bay after it has been open for a few months.

If you’re mainly interested in seeing photos of the new Launch Bay, then you can check out the companion photo post from easyWDW, or these posts onWDW News Today and WDW Magic. Both Inside the Magic and The DIS also have video walk throughs of what you can see in the Launch Bay. For those of you more interested in pictures of the new food items, I suggest checking out WDW News Today and Disney Food Blog.

On a semi-related note, various sources are also saying the new Symphony in the Stars fireworks show is rumored to start on December 18. (You can also now start booking reservations for a new dessert party associated with the show for dates starting January 5, 2016.) This is a little surprising to me, since I feel like the Osborne Lights are enough to draw people to the Studios over the holidays. I have always assumed they would wait until after the Osborne Lights are taken down to start showing Symphony in the Stars.

Star Wars toys lose all their value if you take them out of the box.
Star Wars toys lose all their value if you take them out of the box.

John’s Guest Appearance on Mighty Men of Mouse Episode 229

The gang at the Mighty Men of Mouse podcast were kind enough to invite me on the show. You can find the episode here.

Here are links to some of the things we talked about:

Disney Annual Pass Price Increase.

Trip Planning – Segmenting

RopeDrop.net

Listener Questions

As always, thank you to the Mighty Men of Mouse guys for having me on the show. Please don’t blame them when I bring the overall quality of the show down.

TouringPlans Examines Magic Kingdom Fastpass+ Priorities

Over at the TouringPlans Blog, Len testa breaks down how your should prioritize Fastpass+ options. Some quick take aways:

  • I’m not surprised at all the Peter Pan’s Flight is the number one priority (it is an insanely popular ride, that, despite being an omnimover, seems to have a little bit of a capacity issue)
  • I’m am surprised Enchanted Tales with Belle is still so high on the list (it’s ranked 5.) I haven’t seen lengthy waits at that in a long time.
  • It’s still a bummer that Fastpass+ has made it a lot harder to walk onto the Jungle Cruise at certain parts of the day.

If you have any interesting in Magic Kingdom touring and/or want some good insight into how you should make your Fastpass+ selections, I highly encourage you to check out Len’s full write up.

Mine Train Sign
Mine Train Sign -© John Kivus, 2015

The Top 5 Mistakes that Walt Disney World Guests Make

Over at MousePlante, Chris Barry has a list of the top 5 mistakes that guests make when visiting the World. The major take away from the list is how important it is to arrive at the park an hour to 45 minutes before the park opens. That early arrival time allows for a few hours of touring without any waits, as well making it much easier to take advantage of an afternoon break.

As Dutch Lomborowski of Mighty Men of Mouse says, “rope drop matters people!”