Before I dig into Early Theme Park Entry, a few quick thoughts about Magical Express. Ultimately, Magical Express was not for me. I did use the service a couple of times for very short (about 48 hour) trips, however. I appreciated the convenience of not having to worry about my transportation but found some of its details frustrating. I disliked the amount of time it took for me to arrive at my resort (which was never the first stop), or that I had to be back at my resort 3 hours before my flight to catch the return bus (instead of leaving directly from a park, Disney Springs, etc…) That said, for the trips I used, it made sense. I was traveling solo while Elyssa was working photography jobs, and my biggest concerns were minimizing some expenses on the trip and was making sure I made my flight. (For the various issue I had with Magical Express, I did have confidence that if I made my bus, Disney would do whatever was necessary to get me home, even if there was an issue with the bus or something else unforeseen.) On trips where I wanted to maximize my time in the parks, however, I would simply rent a car. That allowed me to get from the airport to my destination (hotel, Disney Springs, or park) much faster. For example, one time, Elyssa and I were flying down to go to After Hours at the Magic Kingdom, and our flight was severely delayed. In our rental car, we could drive straight to the Magic Kingdom, and we ended up getting to the Magic Kingdom just as the event was starting. If we had been taking Magical Express, that would have been impossible (setting aside some kind of “hacks” like taking a bus to the Floridian, etc… which may or may not have worked.) There are negatives to car rentals, though, especially now that Disney charges parking. People are going to have some decisions to make regarding car rentals v ride-share v other options in getting from MCO to Disney World, and they all have cost/convenience trade-offs that might not align with people’s values as much as Magical Express. I am bummed for those people.
On the other hand, replacing Extra Magic Hours with Early Park Entry has the potential to have a significant impact on our touring, especially for trips where we stay off-site. For example, a typical day for us might start with some Tonga Toast at 7:30 am before heading over to the Magic Kingdom for a 9:00 am opening. We would probably arrive at the tapstiles around 8:30-8:40 am, stroll down Main Street, and then post up around the entrance to Adventureland to watch the Welcome Show. After Mickey opened the park, we would then head over to catch one of the first boats for the Jungle Cruise. Now, with Early Park Entry, if we are offsite guests, all onsite guests would have a 30-minute head start of getting into the park. This change has the potential to eliminate quick rope drop rides on things like Jungle Cruise, Flight of Passage, or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway if you’re staying offsite. On a recent Disney Dish episode, Len Testa estimated that this 30-minute delay to getting into the park would result in at least an extra 1 hour of waiting. We’ll have to see how things play out, but I imagine he’s not that far off, and that is a major bummer for us. (It will also be a bummer if there is no general extension of park hours later into the night, as we will definitely miss those 1am nights in the Magic Kingdom.)
It seems likely that Early Park Entry will increase the importance of Fastpass+ (if that comes back, or whatever it is replaced with) for offsite guests looking to avoid long waits and it might end up otherwise changing our touring strategy. For example, if we know we cannot get in at rope drop at Animal Kingdom since we are staying offsite, maybe we plan to have a later breakfast at Ale & Compass and then head into Epcot for the AM / early PM before heading over to Animal Kingdom at night, including trying to get in line for Flight of Passage right about park close. Again, these things will have to be evaluated once the new procedures go into effect, but it seems likely that Elyssa and I will have even more of an incentive to stay onsite as a result of this change. In the end, I guess that is exactly what Disney wants.
Yesterday was the first day that Disney World Annual Passholders without hotel reservations could make Park Pass reservations. Here is a high-level summary of some of the results (as found on Disney’s Park Pass Availability Calendar):*
There are 19 days where no parks have any annual pass availability.**
There are 20 days where Epcot has no availability (the 19 “no parks available” days, and July 24.)
There are 21 days where Animal Kingdom has no availability (the 19 “no parks available” days,” August 2, and August 16.)
There are 25 days where the Magic Kingdom has no availability (the 19 “no parks available” days, plus 6 other days.)
There are 36 days where The Studios has no availability (the 19 “no parks available” days, plus 17 other days–including a day in September (which no other park has).)
Again, these numbers are only for Annual Passholders that do not have a resort reservation. Resort guests continue to have availability for all parks after the first week of opening. (This also confirms Disney’s statement that Resort Guests and Annual Passholders will be pulling park pass reservations from different pools of availability.)
It will be interesting to see what happens when reservations for regular ticket holders open up. Specifically, I am interested to see how many reservations Disney is holding back just for them. (I would not be surprised if Disney has a small percentage of reservations held back for ticket holders so they can have a full “green” calendar at the outset, but I suspect that the number is relatively low. I could see Disney re-allocating availability from resort guests to ticket holders as time passes, and it becomes clear that resort guests are not going to use all of their allocated reservations.)
Regular ticket holders can start making reservations tomorrow (June 28, 2020), so we will not have to wait long to see how it goes.
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.”
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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:
Upcoming changes to Epcot entertainment acts – Kenny the Pirate runs down some of the upcoming (and now made) changes to Epcot entertainment. Disney seems to have decided to change these various acts a little more frequently over the past few years.
Drinks coming to Paddlefish – I wonder what the craft beer from North Carolina is. Of course, it’s kind of silly for me to go to Disney World and have beer that I can get just as easily at home.
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:
Braves Spring Training to Conclude at Walt Disney World – This is a bummer for me. I liked being able to see some spring training baseball when I was visiting Disney World. I guess I understand the Braves’ point that they are too far away from other spring training teams, but that doesn’t make it less of a bummer for me.
New Menu Items at Jiko – Since Elyssa and I have never been here, we really don’t have any favorites that might get pulled of the menu. That said, I figure Elyssa will still try to get a filet on top of a bed of mac-and-cheese if we do go.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.)
Examining the Toy Story Land concept art. – WDW News Today takes a look at the Toy Story Land concept art that was recently posted at The Studios. There are some changes to Slinky’s Coaster that are kind of interesting.
Closures at The Studios – These were all announced months ago, but the actual closing has now happened. This is going to make The Studios feel a little more crowded while they work on all the new construction.
Changes coming to Fastpass+ system at Disney World. – A good breakdown of changes coming to Fastpass+ reservation concerning Anna & Elsa and Epcot starting May 27. This further seems to indicate that late is May is going to be when FrozenStrom might be opening up.
New Options and Perks for runDisney Events – Disney is now going to let you pay $40 and pick up your race bib “day of.” That could be useful for people who are trying to get in a runDisney race but minimize the amount time they want to spend at Disney World for the race.
Update on Nighttime Experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – In news that can only be classified as a “major bummer”, Disney is delaying the start of Rivers of Light. Based on the post saying that an “update” will be provided in mid-May, I doubt we’re going to be seeing this new show anytime soon.
New Bar Coming to Tower or Terror – I wasn’t really “pleased” with the rumors of the Guardians of the Galaxy overlay, but I also really don’t see how this bar is actually going to be “a thing.” I guess we’ll see how it plays out.
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:
Len Testa Tests Budget Hotels Around Disney World – This is Len doing hero’s work. I can’t imagine staying at some of these places (and, apparently, Len couldn’t either), but it’s pretty impressive to see the lengths TouringPlans goes to in order to show people all the options available for a Disney World vacation.
Tom Bricker shares some tips for using Uber at Disney World – Uber has greatly improved the way that Elyssa and I go between certain places, and Tom has one of the best articles about how to best utilize it at Disney World. While you’re at his site reading about Uber, you might also want to check out his review of L’Artisan des Glaces (including some nice pictures of my favorite treat: the Croque Glace.)
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.
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.
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.
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.