Posted by: wildflowerz | September 24, 2014

Disney – Stuff We Learned, Random Tips, & Info

I wanted to go through and post some things we learned this time or that helped us.  I’ll try and put them in categories:

Food

  • If you go this time of year, and pick the right time, you can get your meal plan for free.  They’ve done this for the past several years at the same time.  Our school district has a week off of school, called Fall Break, in September, so it seemed like a good time to try it.  We’d previously gone in January.  Our two main things we look for when we go is lower temps and lower crowds.  Make no mistake, it is still HOT this time of year.  And it was pretty bad at points.  But there’s always tons of AC to escape to if you need to.  And most rides have their line inside, in the AC.  As long as we weren’t in the direct sun, it wasn’t terribly bad.  And it was worth it to us to get the free meal plan.
  • For the free deal, if you’re staying at a budge hotel (Any of the All-Stars & Pop Century), you get the Quick Dining Plan for free.  I believe that gives you two quick service meals and a snack a day.  You can pay the difference between that plan an the Basic one (one quick service, one table service, one snack per day).  This is what we did.  At the moderate resorts, you get the Basic plan for free.  I’m not sure how it escalates from there.
  • If your child is 10 or older, they must get the adult meal plan.  If your kid is like our’s and still picky, there are a few options.  You CAN still order kid’s meal items and use an adult table service credit.  One place offered to give us a double kid’s meal for our adult credit.  Em is picky and while she is eating more, she won’t eat a double kid’s meal.  That’s just crazy.  So you can also do what we did.  Everyone in your room goes into a pool of dining credits.  So since there were three of us and we stayed six nights, between us, we had 18 credits.  It doesn’t matter who uses which one.  So, we purchased Em’s cheaper kid’s meals and used her credits for more table service meals for us.  The only exception to this was Spirit of Aloha, which wasn’t allowed.  We were able to have 7 table service meals (one of which cost two credits each), paying for just Em’s kid’s meals at 6 of those.  We gave Em the option of eating from the adult menu, but she didn’t really want to.  We did make her pick an adult meal option at our quick service places, but those are more likely to have something she’d want.  Also, we found that at EVERY single table service meal, they gave us something for free.  Sometimes it was her meal, sometimes her drinks and/or desserts.  But we never paid for her entire meal.
  • This should go without saying, but make your ADRs as soon as possible.  Some places won’t need it, but some really will (Be Our Guest, I’m looking at you!)

Hotel

  • We don’t like to spend a lot of money.  We’ll usually do the cheaper option when it’s available.  We buy store brands quite often and we don’t pay a lot for our clothes.  So when it comes to vacation, there’s not any doubt that we’ll go for the budget choice.  We do like nice hotels.  And if it were just Chris and I, we might splurge for something nicer.  But we’re not.  The budget hotels are, obviously, cheaper.  They’re also generally more cartoony in decoration, which appeals to the kids more.  And we’re not in our hotel room a whole lot.  So paying more for a hotel is just silly for us.
  • We’ve tried Pop Century twice and All Star Music once.  When Chris and I went in 2000 or 2001, we did one of the Port Orleans hotels.  We’ve liked all of them.  For Pop, we’ve stayed in a 90s building this time and 80s once before.
  • With a Disney hotel, you get access to the bus service.  Sure, it sometimes takes a while and if you leave after one of the major fireworks things, you’ll wait a while and have a super crowded bus.  But overall, not having to drive ourselves, find parking, walk or get a tram from parking to the actual park, walking or finding a tram BACK to the car at the end of the day, getting in a super hot car, AND having to do the actual driving ourselves is a big plus.

Fast Passes

  • You can now do them ahead of time, online.  Do this.  Don’t wait until you get to the parks.  The FP kiosks almost always had a line of at least 10 people and your average person has a hard time figuring them out, at least from what we saw.  This was with low park attendance, so I can only imagine what it would be like at high traffic times.
  • EP & HS have you pick one from a small group and two from a larger group.  MK & AK have all three from a large pool.  Once you’ve used up your three (or the time has expired) you can then pick another one.  For this you have to use the kiosk.  We found that during the low attendance time, we rarely needed a FP.  There are exceptions.  For HS, the only one you needed one for (and you did need one) was for Toy Story Midway Mania.  Everything else was walk on, or 10-15 minute wait.  For Epcot, only Test Track (unless you go at opening) and Soarin’ really need one.  For AK, we didn’t need one at all.  For MK, Seven Dwarfs is a must.  However, we don’t ride the really kiddie rides any more:  Dumbo, Peter Pan, etc.  Peter Pan always had a long wait.  And we rode Space Mountain & Buzz Lightyear at park opening, so there was no issue.
  • I’d recommend you ride as many of the long wait rides as soon as the park opens.  Then, schedule your FPs for the one each of the next three hours.  Then schedule another FP after those expire.
  • Don’t bother getting a FP for the shows:  Illuminations, Fantasmic!, or Wishes.  It gets you a guaranteed spot, but the spot is super packed.  Especially if you’re going at a low attendance time, you don’t need it.

Epcot

  • Innoventions – We’ve always found this rather boring.  However, right now, they’ve got a thing there called the Sum of All Thrills.  You might remember this from Disney Quest…it used to be there.  This one lets you design a roller coaster and then ride it.  It’s really cool.  Em did it three times.  If the line is full, it will take a while because it cycles slowly, but we didn’t find much of a line either time we went in.
  • Spaceship Earth – Rarely has a line.  Hasn’t changed in forever.  Em still likes to do it.
  • Mission:  SPACE – This hasn’t changed in ages, but we always like to do it.  We end up doing it several times each trip.  We always do the Orange, more intense ride.
  • Test Track – One of Em’s top two rides in all four parks.  She loves to design the car and see how it stacks up.  Tip:  If you design your car on a different Magic Band each time, when you ride last, you can scan all of your bands and see how they compare to each other, even if you ride several days apart!
  • Soarin’ – We like this ride, but it doesn’t warrant the really long wait, in our opinion.  FP this one so you don’t have to wait.
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends – Eh.  This is kind of boring.  We usually only ride it if we’ve nothing else to do.
  • Captain EO – I have no idea why they brought this one back.  We saw it last time and hated it.  They should have stuck with Honey, We Shrunk the Audience!
  • Turtle Talk with Crush – This is EXCELLENT for really little kids.  It’s like the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor where they interact with the audience, even though they’re animated.  But this one’s with little kids and it’s too cute.  That said, we didn’t do it the last two time because Em got a little old for it.
  • Living with the Land – This doesn’t change much.  But it generally has no line, you get to sit down, and it’s air conditioned. So we usually do it.
  • Journey into the Imagination with Figment – Eh.  This was the first time we’d ridden it.  It’s alright, if there’s no wait, go for it.
  • Gran Fiesta Tour (In Mexico) – Eh.  No thanks.
  • Maelstrom – This is okay, but nothing fantastic.  I hear they’re refitting it to be a Frozen ride, so ride it before it changes!
  • Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure – If the last time you did this, they had the old plastic phones and not the new touch screens, this is better now.  It’s kind of time consuming and a little annoying to adults (okay, maybe just me), but Em loved it.  You can do it in several of the countries, but you can choose which one and do as many as you like.
  • Ellen’s Energy Adventure – This is cute the first time, but even though I love both Ellen and Bill Nye, this one’s boring on repeat “riding.”  We skip it now.
  • World Showcase – We always like walking through.  But nothing really does change in these.  I always like to stop in the UK and see what cool merch they have (lots of Doctor Who stuff now!)  The band in the UK is also worth seeing, as are the acrobats in China.  The jugglers in France are cute too.

Magic Kingdom:  Tomorrowland

  • Tomorrowland Speedway – I’ve never actually ridden this one.  It just doesn’t interest me.  None of us rode it this time.
  • Space Mountain – Must ride.  Every time.
  • Astro Orbiter – Ug for me.  It was closed this time.  But it just spins round and round in a circle.  Up in the air.  Meh.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – Love it.  It’s almost exactly the same as Toy Story in HS, but with not as much a line.
  • Stitch’s Great Escape! – This is cute the first time.  Afterwards…the burp alone makes it just gross.  But we still do it every time.
  • Carousel of Progress – I don’t think Em’s ever done this one.  Meh.
  • Monsters Inc Laugh Floor – This is cute.  It’s different every time (though similar) because of the audience interaction.

Magic Kindom:  Adventureland

  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin – Pretty much the same as Dumbo.  Good for the really Littles, but not much else.  Also watch out for the camel…he spits.
  • Enchanted Tiki Room – Meh.
  • Jungle Cruise – FULL of cheese.  Plenty of groaning laughs.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – We always like this one, though it doesn’t really change.
  • Swiss Family Tree house – Eh.  You go up.  You go down.

Magic Kingdom:  Fantasyland

  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic – This is cool and I like it.  We usually do it, but it was closed this time.
  • It’s a Small World – Ug.  Do it once, just to say that you have.
  • Peter Pan’s Flight – This is fine, but it’s SO not worth the 45m wait that it usually has.
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel – It’s a carousel. We usually skip it.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – Good for the really Littles.  Otherwise, skip it.
  • Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Our family LOATHES this ride.  It makes NO sense whatsoever and it just feels like a giant acid trip.
  • Mad Tea Party – Chris and I don’t like spinning around in circles, but the line’s usually short, so Em does it on her own.  Also the White Rabbit and Alice are usually outside for pictures.
  • The Barnstormer – Really little kid roller coaster.  Cute, but more for the PreK set.
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – This one’s alright.  It’s a lot like The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot.  Ride it if there’s not much of a line.  Also, the line is really dark and cool (as in temperature).
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle – This sounds fun for the Littles.  We’ve not done it.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – SO good.  FP it.  Make sure you also wait at least once when lines are lower.  The line is cool with stuff to do and there are big, high powered fans to cool you down.

Magic Kingdom:  Frontierland

  • Splash Mountain – You probably won’t get super wet, but if you get wet at all, the inside part is FRIGID.
  • Big Thunder Mountain – Always ride it.  At least twice.
  • Tom Sawyer Island – We did this for the first time this trip.  It’s nice for a bit of a break from the regular park.  There are weird mines to explore…think really enclosed and dark.  If you’re a person of size at all, don’t even try it.
  • Country Bear Jamboree – Ug.  But if you need a seat to rest for a bit…

Magic Kingdom:  Liberty Square

  • Hall of Presidents – We’ve not done this one in ages.  But it’s a good one to torture Em with, telling her we’ll be making her see it.  XD
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – Never ridden.  Don’t see the appeal.
  • Haunted Mansion – Love it.  It is rather creepy.  This is one that Em doesn’t like, but she’ll ride because I like it.

Magic Kingdom:  Main Street USA

  • Walt Disney Railroad – Good to get you from the back of the park to the front…if you’re willing to wait on it.
  • Wishes – This is a very good night time show.  Try and get a spot near the park entrance because the buses after this will be a NIGHTMARE.  If you don’t care, over near Be Our Guest is a good spot to get a unique view of the fireworks.

Hollywood Studios

  • The Great Movie Ride – This is so dated.  Most people don’t know most of the movies highlighted here.  We skip it.
  • Fantasmic! – SO good!  We love this one.  Get there early so you don’t have a sucky seat.
  • Studio Backlot Tour – Do it once and then don’t bother.  I hear they’re taking it out anyway.
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid – Ug, no thanks.
  • Magic of Disney Animation – I think this is the one with the dragon from Mulan and the life Imagineer?  If so, it’s cute to do once, for sure.
  • Toy Story Mania – MUST do!  Multiple times if you can.  But FP it for sure.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set – This is just a play area.  Okay for a spot for the parents to rest for a bit.
  • Lights, Motors, Action!  Stunt Show – This is cool and changes a little over time.  The seating is very uncomfortable to me.  Stadium seating with no backs.
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular – This is cute, but we usually miss it.  I hear it’s leaving soon, to be replaced with something Star Wars
  • Star Tours – Cool!  It’s a different ride every time.  And there’s usually no line.  We ride it multiple times each trip.
  • MuppetVision 3D – The actual show doesn’t change much.  The pre-show did this time, but nothing major.  This one’s alright to do once, but I wouldn’t do it multiple times.
  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage – Meh.  If you’re an uber B&tB fan, do it.  Otherwise, skip it.
  • Rockin’ Roller Coaster – This is so cool.  The line’s usually not bad either.  We’re also Aerosmith fans.  I find it odd that they’ve not updated it, but it’s still cool.
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – This is Em’s other favorite ride.  It’s cool and super creepy.
  • Frozen Sing A Long – This seemed super popular and I wouldn’t doubt if it became permanent, but right now, it’s just part of their extended Summer of Frozen.

Animal Kingdom

  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug! – This one was closed this time, but last time we didn’t enjoy it.  The effects were rather painful.
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris – They’ve taken out some of the cheese, but it’s cool to see all the animals so close up.
  • Expedition Everest – Another favorite.  Ride it early and there’s no line.
  • Kali River Rapids – If you want to get REALLY, REALLY wet, ride it.  I’ll be happy and dry, waiting for you.
  • Flights of Wonder – It’s a bird show.  But it’s a good bird show.  I usually don’t like this type of thing, but this one’s entertaining.
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical – A lot of people LOVE this one.  This family does not.
  • TriceraTop Spin – Eh.  Okay for the really Littles.
  • Primeval Whirl – This is cute, but not fab.  Ride it if there’s not a huge line.  This, along with Rockin’ Roller Coaster, are the two rides at Disney with the highest height requirement.  THIS one, it doesn’t make much sense.
  • Dinosaur – I like it.  Em hates it.  I think it’s a cute little ride, but a bit scary.
  • Festival of the Lion King – This is a REALLY good show.  Don’t miss it!
  • All the trails – There are a bunch of trails you can take that are okay.  They’re all super shaded and there are learning-type things with all of them.  But none of them are all that special, in our opinion.

The Parks in General:  Go to Touringplans.com and get a subscription.  Click on Walt Disney World at the top.  Click on Touring Plans at the top and go down to Personalized Touring Plans.  Follow the instructions.  After you’re done, go to your phone and download the app.  App’s free, but you’ve got to have an account to use it.  I think it was $10ish to set up.  Worth EVERY penny.  You can pick what rides you want to ride, including attractions and character meet and greets.  You can add your dinner plans in if it’s in that park.  If not, you can just schedule a break for a certain amount of time.  You can also enter your FP info.  You optimize the plan and it tells you what to ride and in what order.  As you’re going about your day at the parks, you can re-Optimize and it will adjust.  The handiest part of this is that it will list the posted wait times for rides (what Disney says and posts at the ride entrance), as well as the actual wait times (submitted by subscribers…you can do it too).  The Disney wait times are ALWAYS longer, sometimes as much as twice the time.  So, if the ride says it’s a 40 minute wait, but it’s actually 20, suddenly it doesn’t sound so bad.  It will also tell you when you should ride.  For instance, a certain ride will have a track record of wait times.  And it will tell you if the wait time is expected to go down, up, or stay the same and advise you on when you should ride.  This was THE handiest app we had.  MyDisneyExperience is decent too, especially if you want to look at restaurant menus while you’re waiting in line.  It’s also handy for keeping up with those ADR numbers that you never actually need, but are always good to keep on hand.  It also will hold your FP info.

That’s all I can think to add.  If you have any specific questions on anything, feel free to hit me up.  I’m, by no means, an expert, but we plan our own Disney vacations and try and read up a lot on things, so I’ve got a lot of random knowledge.

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