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.

Reacting to Disney World’s Annual Pass Price Increase

On an upcoming episode of the Mighty Men of Mouse podcast, I briefly discuss my thoughts on the price increase of Disney World annual passes. I frame those thoughts on the idea that they impact “people in Florida” at a much higher level than they impact Disney World guests at large. Thinking things through a bit more, I think my explanation on the podcast lacked some of the nuance that I intended to convey.

When people listen to my reasoning tomorrow, I would anticipate that one major criticism of my opinion is that I fail to account for the impact the price increase has on DVC members. Ultimately, I think is more a failure in my word choice than an actual point against my position. I should have said that the changes in annual pass pricing impact “people in Florida AND DVC MEMBERS” at a different level than it impacts other people who may purchase annual passes. My thoughts are the same for both groups.

The Yacht Club Lighthouse at Dusk
There’s a not of text on this page. I just kind of wanted to break it up. This is a picture of the Lighthouse at the Yacht Club.

My position (which I share with various other theme park commentators) is that Disney World has a certain, definitive capacity that, at peak times, is actually reached. Disney, therefore, has determined that if people who have the “option” of attending the park other times during the year (such as Florida residents and DVC members) want to attend at peak times, those people will pay a premium to do so. Basically, Disney is saying “if you want to take the spots that could go to a family making their only Disney World trip in 2 or 3 years, then you’re going to have to compensate us for that privilege.” I’m not saying thats “right” or “fair”, but it’s the decision that Disney appears to have made. (And it shouldn’t really be a surprise to DVC members who sometimes have to spend almost twice as many points to stay during Christmas as during September.)

A common attack on this pricing approach by Disney has been the idea that “Disney World is punishing its best customers.” I understand that position (and frankly, I would much rather pay the previous $535 to renew my annual pass than the new $635 (before tax)), but Disney has determined that attempting to funnel these “best” customers into non-peak seasons is a better economic strategy than trying to preserve the “loyalty” of certain repeat guests. Only time will tell if this strategy pays off, but I think it’s clear that the strategy is in place.

Lastly, I want to show some of the math that fueled my position that these prices had a disproportional impact on Florida residents and DVC members. As a non-Florida resident, non-DC member, it will cost me $676.28 (including tax) to renew my annual pass next year. Here are a couple of possible trip plans that Elyssa and I have for 2016, along with their combined prices for a Park Hopper pass:

  • Five Day Trip ($367.50) + 2 Two Day Trips ($257.30 * 2) = $882.10
  • Five Day Trip ($367.50) + Three Day Trip ($325) + Two Day Trip ($257.30) = $949.80
  • Five Day Trip ($367.50) + Four Day Trip ($367.50) = $735.00

Buying individual tickets for these trips still comes out to be more expensive than buying an annual pass, even without including the benefits like free parking, photopass downloads, and restaurant discounts that an annual pass provides. (Also, these ticket prices are almost surely going to go up next year, probably in February. At that point, these numbers will look even better.)

NOTE: All ticket prices were found using the lowest price available from the TouringPlans Ticket Calculator (And, yes, the 4 day and 5 day passes do cost the same according to that calculator)

In other words, as someone who is purchasing an annual pass as a way make multiple trips a year, I am still saving money versus buying individual trip tickets. (And also getting some benefits I’ve questioned the value of in the past.) That said, there’s a good chance that I “make up” some of the difference in my annual pass renewal price by having an extra meal or two offsite during those visits (Always feel free to let me know if you want to meet up with Elyssa and me for some G-Mac and Cheese).

In summary, I stand by my position that the annual price increase impacts certain types of guests (Floridian residents and DVC members) more than it impacts regular Disney World travelers, but I wanted to “show my work” a little more than I did when I made those statements on the (soon to be released) podcast.

Changes to Disney World’s Annual Pass, Parking, and Tables in Wonderland Pricing

As first reported by WDW News Today, Disney World has changed the Annual Pass pricing structure, effective immediately.

Annual Pass Box
Annual Pass Box

For Non-Florida residents, the Annual Passes now come in two options: “Platinum Plus” and “Platinum”. Both passes include admission to all 4 parks (with park hopper privileges), free parking (which has been raised from $17 to $20 per day) and photopass downloads (a new addition this year). The Platinum Plus option also includes admission to Disney’s waterparks, ESPN Wide World of Sports, and the Oak Trail golf course. There are also a number of changes to the Florida resident pass options ,which can be seen at WDW News Today and TouringPlans. These changes include new “Gold” and “Silver” options that include certain blackout dates, and could possibly point to the tiered pricing structure that we have seen hints of over the past couple of months.

Looking at the numbers, renewing my annual pass as a new “Platinum Pass” is going to cost $102.24 more this year than it did last year (including tax). I had assumed that the amount would be closer to a $50 increase, but I can (kind of) stomach the larger increase because of the inclusion of Photopass downloads as part of the pass (especially since I have previously said that I don’t think Memory Maker is worth its cost.)

In a related move, Disney has increased the cost of Tables in Wonderland by $50 for annual pass and DVC members. Translated, this means that you have to spend $750 in food at Disney World in a given year to break even on your Tables in Wonderland purchase (up from $500 a year.) Based on Elyssa’s and my eating habits on our Disney World visits, this price increase might mean we will no longer be purchasing Tables in Wonderland.

Your First Visit’s 2017 Walt Disney World Season Projections

For those of us who like to plan far, far in advance, Dave Shute of Your First Visit has posted his projections for Disney World’s 2017 pricing “seasons”. If you’ve been following Walt Disney World pricing for any length of time, you know that Disney World’s seasons don’t really parallel the traditional “spring, summer, fall, winter” calendar. Thankfully, Dave’s post gives us some early indications about when prices at Disney World might be at their highest and lowest.

This information might be especially interesting if there is a Mighty Men of Mouse Listener Vacation in October 2017. According to Dave’s analysis, the end of October (starting with October 15th) might end up having Deluxe Resort prices only 6% higher than the lowest prices of the year.

Details about the DVC Expansion at Wilderness Lodge

Earlier today, Disney released a press release that goes into some of the details about the Wilderness Lodge DVC expansion. As someone who loves staying at the Wilderness Lodge (John & Elyssa’s Favorites article preview?), I have been interested in seeing how Disney positioned this expansion.

Based on the press release, it appears that Disney is going to create an entirely new condo association for this expansion. My immediate reaction to that news was “shoot, that means they might not extend the contracts for the original Wilderness Lodge villas” (which are currently set to expire in 2042.) This post from DVC News, however, suggests some other potential issues:

  • Points Charts could be different;
  • Annual Dues could be different; and
  • The 11-month “home resort” booking window might not be good for the original Wilderness Lodge Villas if you buy a contract for the “new” ones.

At this point, that is a lot of speculation (and things with Disney are always subject to change), but even the possibility of those things happening is making me hesitate about buying an original Wilderness Lodge contract on the DVC resale market in an effort to take advantage of the new construction. With so much in flux, I think I’m going to spend a little more time observing before I make any moves.

Disney World October, December, and January Park Hours Updates from easyWDW

Josh at easyWDW has posted updates to Disney World’s operating schedule for October, December, and January. The December update is especially important since it includes a number of new Extra Magic Hour mornings around Christmas.

As a general note, I always check easyWDW for schedule updates before any trip. I know that I could pull the information directly from Disney but Josh’s layout and information is way more convenient. (I even prefer it to using MyDisney Experience to look for future park hours.)

Elyssa’s Definitive WDW Land Rankings

Sometimes, your heroes are wrong. In Episode 226 of the Mighty Men of Mouse podcast, our friends Dutch, Kip, and Russ attempted to rank the various lands at Walt Disney World. They did pretty well – see their rankings here: Russ’sKip’s, Dutch’s – but they also got some things wrong. Put on some potholders, because here are my takes/rankings.

Celebrate the Magic
Celebrate the Magic

1. Fantasyland. I knew my top 3 lands without a doubt, but determining the order among the 3 was tough. Ultimately, the first place position came down to the number of offerings. The magic I felt flying on Peter Pan as a child is still present in Fantasyland. The expansion has only made it more amazing. There is just so much to take in and enjoy in Fantasyland; the fact that Kip can say Mexico is better with a straight face proves that he is a cyborg.

2. Main Street, USA. I, for one, CAN feed my family on nostalgia. (And corndog nuggets). A trip to WDW does not feel complete for me without going to the Magic Kingdom, even if it’s just for a brief walk up and down Main Street. Seeing Town Square the first time each trip still brings tears to my eyes. This is my favorite place to watch parades. Also, I like shopping and Meet & Greets (more about that below).

3. Adventureland. Jungle Cruise, people. Don’t take it for granite, it’s my favorite. I really like the Swiss Family Treehouse too, which is often overlooked. Finally, it’s like I have ESPN or something and I believe that Skipper’s Cantina will serve booze and will be my new favorite restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. That was not a typo. You better believe there will be Mean Girls references on this site.

4. Africa. The perfection of this theming has been discussed thoroughly, so I’ll just preface some other rankings by taking this opportunity to point out that I really love animals.

5. Echo Lake. This is probably where takes start to get a bit warm. I still love Hollywood Studios. Quite a bit. Echo Lake and Pixar Place are in the order they are in because, at the moment of writing, I like Star Tours a little more than Toy Story Midway Mania. Also, Echo Lake is not just about Star Tours. I think Jedi Training Academy is one of the most adorable things in the universe and my love for Harrison Ford obviously extends to Indiana Jones. Last but not least, I am not ashamed to admit I sang my heart out at the Frozen Sing Along and loved it.

6. Pixar Place. Having Pixar Place so high when it’s basically just one ride, a coffee cart, and some Meet & Greets is probably crazy. But Toy Story Midway Mania is so so so fun.

7. Future World. East and West have been lumped together because I can’t remember the difference and they would have been right next to each other anyway. Soarin’ is my favorite part of Future World, so whichever has Soarin’ is 7(a) and the other is 7(b).

8. Tomorrowland. I agree that the theming could be better, but the attractions are still great, especially Buzz Lightyear. One thing that killed me the whole MMOM episode was that none of you mentioned Meet & Greets. These are a crucial part of my WDW experience, and Tomorrowland has one of the most unique. #IncrediblesSuperDanceParty

9. Liberty Square. Rounding out my top ten are the other two Magic Kingdom lands. It is by far my favorite park and I am quite content to just walk around without even experiencing any attractions. Liberty Square edges out Frontierland because I like the stocks.

10. Frontierland. Splash Mountain is scary.

11. Asia. I don’t even ride Expedition Everest because it’s scarier that Splash Mountain, but there are tigers in Asia. Enough said.

12. Sunset Boulevard. I hold John’s bag when he rides Tower of Terror and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster. While I hold his bag, I delight in the Citizens of Hollywood Cast Members surprising and entertaining while dressed in their Old Hollywood garb. I also can’t ignore the Beauty and the Beast show, because Belle was my favorite Disney princess when I was little. She’s second to Leia now.

13. Hollywood Boulevard. I mentioned that I like shopping right? I also like movies and the Great Movie Ride will always have a spot in my heart.

Okay, be careful, because the takes are about to get HOT.

14. Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Hey MMOM fellas, your ranking of Rafiki’s Planet Watch was NOT COOL. There are animals, some of them BABIES, and you can PET them. YOU CAN PET THE ANIMALS. It’s also educational.

Rafiki's Planet Watch petting zoo
Rafiki’s Planet Watch petting zoo

15. Animation Courtyard. This would have been in my top ten before they closed the Animation Academy and the character Meet & Greets there. The only reason it’s as high as it is now is because One Man’s Dream is still hanging on by a finger. It will break my heart if this does not come back somewhere. I like museums almost as much as I like theme parks, so this is the best of both worlds for me.

16. Mexico Pavilion. What the MMOM said. This pavilion is just phenomenally done. You can also meet Donald, in a sombrero. (For the record, Donald’s in the sombrero.  I guess you could be too, if you wanted.)

17. Italy Pavillon. After Mexico, I ranked the Epcot countries based primarily on food, shopping, and Meet & Greets. Italy has my favorite food. I also think the theming at the lake edge is done better in Italy than it is some of the other pavilions.

Beers of unusual size
Beers of unusual size

18. Germany Pavillon. I like Biergarten for the experience. And the beer. I like beer. And caramel. And animals. You know who else likes animals? Snow White. Germany is the best place for you to meet Snow White outside of a meal. She gets swarmed at Town Square.

19. Norway Pavillon. Uh hello? Almost all the princesses! And puffins! Awesome!

20. France Pavillon. I think we all recognize by now that L’Artisan des Glaces does really, really good work. France also has good lakeside theming, Aurora, and Belle in her adorable peasant dress.

21. United Kingdom Pavillon. I like pub atmospheres. In terms of Meet & Greets, you’ve got Tigger & Pooh, Alice, and Mary Poppins. They also sell Her Universe merchandise in the UK Pavillon which is awesome. (Instead of Patreon sponsoring, you guys can just buy me Alex & Ani bracelets and things from Her Universe).

22. Morocco Pavilion. Very well themed. You can meet Aladdin and Jasmine.

23. China Pavillon. This would be the lowest ranked country for me except for the fact that the China pavilion is the only place you can meet Mulan outside of a  meal. Mulan is a badass.

China at night
China at night

24. Discovery Island. There are several Wilderness Explorer Badges to be earned on Discovery Island. The Tree of Life needs to be looked at up close. And you can meet Pocahontas, and several other characters (like Dug).

25. DinoLand, USA. These rides are my speed. And the boneyard is quite fun. Even for “grownups.”

Boneyard slide!
Boneyard slide!

26. Streets of America. I think the Streets of America are pretty meh. I obviously love the Osborne Lights, and that puts this land above the next three, but the lights are all that Streets of America really has for me. Lights, Motor, Action is just hot and loud, and I’ve never really been a Muppets fan outside of Muppet Babies.

27. Japan Pavillon. Shopping! With swords! And pearls! I also like the Koi.

28. America Pavillon. Full disclosure: I’ve seen the movie thing like once. I’m also a bit of a contrarian. But really, the food is terrible, and our country has a lot more interesting time periods than the colonial days.

29. Canada Pavillon. Oh Canada. You’re a very nice hat. And Buffalo Plaid is nice. Sorry for ranking you so low, I’m sure you’ll understand.

30. Oasis. I thought about putting the Oasis above America because animals, but that would have just been mean.

31. Africa Outpost. I mean, drums are cool.

Fenway wants to bang on the drums all day
Fenway wants to bang on the drums all day

Disney’s Official Video on the Polynesian Village Resort

I understand it’s a marketing video, but sometimes these type of videos just make me smile:

Also, can you honestly tell me you are a Disney fan but that have absolutely no interest in ever staying at the Poly? Come on.

(If you want more Polynesian Village coverage, Josh at easyWDW just posted a nice little photo report of the resort, including a write up on Trader Sam’s Grotto, and, if you want more marketing videos, check out this video about the “fall decor” at the Magic Kingdom)

Star Wars Launch Bay to Open at The Studios in December

WDW Magic is reporting that artwork on the building that will be the future home of the Star Wars Launch Bay indicates that the new “attraction” will open in December of this year. Personally, I was hoping they would get it open by early November, but I really had no doubt that they’d have it ready before the Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in mid-December.

Tom Bricker reviews the Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

Tom Bricker recently posted a review he titled Polynesian Villas & Bungalows (though the review is actually of studio room in the Polynesian Villas, with mention of the Bungalows and how much they cost.) As you would expect, Tom’s review has excellent pictures showing the layout of the room and a good rundown about the various amenities the room provides. There is nothing particularly Earth-shattering in his write-up, but it’s definitely worth taking a look for the photography.

Rumors of a newly configured Entryway to Allow Resort Guests to Bypass Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza

The rumors about a new entry to the Magic Kingdom resort area (I believe I first saw the rumor on WDW News Today are pretty interesting. As someone who enjoys both visiting and staying at these resorts, I would love an excuse to be able to skip the (minor) hassle of the toll plaza. That said, I don’t understand why articles like the WDW News Today one only mention “guests going to the Polynesian or Contemporary.” Why would this allow guests going to the Floridian and/or Wilderness Lodge to bypass the plaza too? That part just seems weird to me.

Some Craft Beer Ideas For Disney World

The guys at Disney Hipsters had an interesting list of ideas on how Disney World could integrate craft beer into the resort. They have a few different suggestions, but I especially like:

  • Brew attraction specific beers (A nice, dark, stout from Tower of Terror could really have potential); and
  • A craft beer bar at the American Adventure Pavillon in Epcot (this became a “no-brainer” idea the second I read it.)

This year will be my first year at the Food & Wine festival since I got more into craft beer, so I am really looking forward to trying a couple of the different beer options. Thankfully, Josh from easy WDW usually does a nice preview that tells you which beers are worth your time.

New Twitter Account, @WDWToday, Connects Guests With Disney Guest Relations During Trips

Earlier today, Disney announced a new Twitter account, @WDWToday, that will allow guests to connect with Disney Guest Relations during their trips. It’s kind of a neat idea–assuming that the account is actually responsive to the guest’s tweets–since so many people turn to social media these days to try and get their problems solved.

(For those of you visiting Disneyland, you can use @DisneylandToday instead.)

Elyssa hugging Baymax
We are satisfied with our care – © John Kivus, 2015