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March 25th 2014
Published: June 13th 2017
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We got up early, took in some of the animals having breakfast outside our window. We had our own breakfast from our refrigerator and settled up finances. I toured the grounds while others were packing up. The Kidani Village pool is quite large and quite impressive.We headed to Downtown Disney to do some shopping. The World of Disney store is incredibly large and the merchandising is magical. The Lego store has a lot of displays made of Legos -- well worth a visit. Earl of Sandwich was WAY crowded so we settled for yummy sundaes from the Ghiardelli store before we hit the road. There was a lot of construction in the parking area. But I guess something is always under construction at WDW.

Hints for Doing Disney

FAST PASSES

- If you haven't been there in a long time, you may not know the crowds and lines are controlled by what are called Fast Passes, which essentially reserve you a spot in a shorter line during a specific hour during that day. Your attraction reservations (three per person per day) can all be
done electronically before you even arrive.

- They also have some Fast Passes for character meetings and for parade and fireworks viewing.

· You can change the Fast Pass even while you're there so pick something now and you can change it as many times as you want. You can also get additional fast passes after you have used up your allotted three.

· Fast Passes "sell out" early; so nab them early … 60 days ahead!

MAGIC BANDS

· If you haven't been there this year, you may not know that Disney now has Magic Bands … colorful wristbands that are actually all-in-one devices that connect you to the vacation choices you make ahead of time online. You use them to enter the parks, unlock your hotel room and buy food and merchandise. Plus, they keep track of restaurant and Fast Pass reservations.

· You simply swipe them at the electronic Mickey logos and everything goes on your account (and Disney's record books, of course). No need to have cash for beverages or souvenirs. And the souvenirs can be delivered to your hotel if you are staying on property.

There are Disney Smart Phone apps … probably hundreds ... but here are a
few of my favorites:

• My Disney Experience (access real-time waits, park hours, parade show times, make dining reservations, change FastPass reservations, store all choices made ahead of time online)

• Disney World Maps – with GPS and compass to find your way around the theme parks

• Disney World Dining – menus, prices, locations, reservations

• Disney World Lines – what are the waiting times for favorite rides? where to go and what to do to make the most productive use of your visit

• Kenny The Pirate, which is a website app available at www.kennythepirate.com. It tells you where to locate all the characters in each part, each day.

MAGIC KINGDOM

· MK tickets cost slightly more than the other parks.

· Want to enter the Magic Kingdom early? Book a breakfast reservation at 8 am at Crystal Palace or Cinderella's Royal Table. Best to book 180 days out.

· Fantasyland is the most appealing land for little ones. DO this first thing in the morning.

· At Harmony Barber Shop, you can get your tyke's first haircut. Package includes commemorative ears.

· At The Pirates League, receive a makeover and training from veteran pirates. Get a buccaneer name, learn swashbuckling maneuvers and march in
the Parade of Pirates in Adventureland with Captain Jack Sparrow.

· Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a royal salon where young guests are magically transformed into little princesses and knights before getting their photos taken with favorite Disney characters.

· Top attractions are in the eye of the beholder.

o For teenagers, the "mountains" are popular: Splash, Big Thunder and Space

o For pint-size travelers, It's a Small World, Dumbo, Peter Pan's Flight, and this year, meeting Anna and Elsa from the animated movie “Frozen” (the wait for this in May 2014 was five hours some days so be sure to get a Fast Pass if this is critical to your little ones)

o And for everyone: “Wishes” Fireworks that conclude a day at the Magic Kingdom

§ Ideal spot to view both the Electrical Light Parade and Wishes Fireworks is Main Street near the hub/circle (between castle and plaza restaurant); Tinkerbell flies overhead

§ Be sure to be inside “white tape” so you aren't asked to move and get a seat 30-60 minutes before fireworks.

EPCOT

· EPCOT opened in 1982 and is twice as big as Magic Kingdom in terms of acreage.

· Flower & Garden Festival, mid-March to mid-May, features 30 million
blooms and 100+ topiaries.

· Epcot has two sections: Future World opens at 9 am and World Showcase opens at 11 am. World Showcase is excellent to meet characters, but isn't especially appealing to small children.

· TOP RIDES: go there first thing in the morning. All of the best have height restrictions.

o Soarin' (calm hang gliding ride, very enjoyable)

o Test Track (fast cars but not roller coaster like)

o Mission: SPACE (green version is thrilling; orange version can make you green around the gills)

o Maelstrom (Norway) log ride

· Don't Miss: IllumiNations, nighttime laser and fireworks show. Grab a seat by the water in World Showcase at least 30 minutes beforehand.

· Experience “beers around the world”. Start in Mexico and drink a beer in every country as you walk around the lagoon. By the time you get to Morocco, you won't notice you're tired.

· OR, consider buying a snack for everyone to share as you meander through each country … an international dining experience.

ANIMAL KINGDOM

• At 500 acres, AK is the largest of all Disney theme parks worldwide – 5X the size of Magic Kingdom.

• Despite its size, it's easiest to handle in terms of walking. Big spaces are traveled
in vehicles.

• AK closes early because the animals go to sleep.

• TOP RIDES: go there first at park opening

o Kilimanjaro Safari (best ride of all parks, in my humble opinion). Do this ride first thing -- animals are out in full view for breakfast; they nap as the day gets hotter.

o Festival of Lion King – charming musical review

o Expedition Everest – thrilling roller coaster ride, not for the faint of heart, but overrated in terms of scare factor

o Finding Nemo Musical Review – do NOT miss this! It's delightful.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

This may not take all day – depending on how crowded it is. Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade is very entertaining (get seated 30 minutes ahead). If you want to take the Backstage Tour, wait until afternoon. If rain is in the forecast, Hollywood Studios is definitely the best park. Almost all single attractions and queues are indoors. TOP RIDES: Go there first at park opening or book Fast Passes o Toy Story Midway Mania

o Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

o Rockin' Roller Coaster

o Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

o Star Tours (roller coaster-type flight simulation)

Fantasmic! (settle in 60 minutes ahead)—fireworks and water extravaganza
OTHER WDW DELIGHTS

· Blizzard Beach. Disney Imagineers have gone all out to create a water park with the paradox of a ski resort in the midst of a tropical lagoon. Mt. Gushmore features a 120-foot-high Summit Plummet, as well as toboggan and water-sled runs.

· Typhoon Lagoon. Swimming area spreads out over 2½ acres and contains 3 million gallons of water. Twelve huge chambers create waves large enough for the professional surfing championships.

· Downtown Disney (shopping, dining, entertainment, theatres, bowling)

· Disney's Boardwalk (replica of East Coast 1930's waterfront resort, mainly dining and shopping, best visited in the evening)

· ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Atlanta Braves spring training

THEME PARK TICKETS

· To determine ticket purchases, check out the Park Ticket Calculator of www.touringplans.com.

· To visit two parks in one day, you will need to Park Hopper option on your ticket (extra $ of course).

· Discounts are available through Disney: Annual Passes, Florida Residents, UK residents, Disney Vacation Club, military, etc.

· Discount theme park tickets are available through AAA, Undercover Tourist, Kissimmee Guest Services, Maple Leaf Tickets and the official Disney Ticket Center.

· DO NOT BUY from others as they often sell expiring tickets.

· Supposedly, the lowest ticket price is the 10-day hopper pass; go ahead and pay the extra for the non-expiring feature. It works out to about $65/day ... and whatever days you don't use on the first trip will last forever and you'll have them the next time you come back, regardless of how many years go by. Just remember where you store them!

· In 2014, excluding lodging and transportation, it cost a family of four almost $700 per day for admission, parking, food and souvenirs.

WALT DISNEY WORLD TIPS

· Late August (low crowds, high heat) to beginning of November is the best time to travel; also January and May. Check Crowd Calendar at www.touringplans.com.

· If you have a car, drive to theme parks. Parking is free if you are staying on property and it greatly reduces the time wasted on Disney transportation.

· Disney World Transportation Buses start running about two hours before parks open. Get on a bus at least one hour ahead (90 minutes preferable).

· Do big rides first, or during parade or fireworks.

· Rent a locker near the entrance to lighten your load.

· Choose left lane when you can; it moves faster. When you enter the park, start left … most folks go right.

· Staying on property often gives you Extra Magic Hours. Either 1 hour early or 2 hours late.

· Every night after dark, Electrical Water Pageant can be seen at five of the resorts.

· Enjoy a FREE campfire sing along with Chip at Dale at Fort Wilderness.

· Before you arrive, you can buy Memory Maker PhotoPass CD for $149 (set price, 1 day or 10 days). Photographers are at picture perfect spots. You can download all the photos taken... along with permission to reprint. Upload them to Walgreen's or whatever and order prints of your own choosing at the discount rates. Includes all ride photos.

· Need to know where a character is meeting? Check: http://kennythepirate.com/disney-world-character-schedules/uncommon-wdw-character-meets.

· Each park has a FREE First Aid center and a Baby Care Center.

· Stroller or wheel chair needed? Cheaper to rent one off site.

· Guest Assistance Card offers those with special needs special entrances and waiting areas.

· You can bring your own beverages/food in a soft-sided cooler. You can also get water and/or ice for FREE at any counter that serves fountain drinks.

· Order groceries online at Garden Grocer … 72+ hours before you arrive. They arrive when you do.

· Busiest times are generally when schools are not in session.

o June to mid-August

o Thanksgiving week

o Two weeks around Christmas

o Two weeks around Easter

o Smaller holidays like MLK, President's Day and Columbus Day

· Celebrating a birthday or anniversary? Just ask concierge for buttons. No proof required. (One of our party celebrated a birthday 30 days before we got there. Nonetheless, we got free dessert at three meals. Free champagne at another.)

“Grandparents' Survival Kit”, St. Louis Post Dispatch

· Stay at Park accommodations if you can afford it.

o More time to spend at the park

o Enter earlier than other visitors

o Priority seating/reservations for meals

o Baby-sitting/child-care available

o Parking is free

o Disney transportation (bus, boat, monorail)

· Avoid most crowded/uncomfortable periods.

Monday-Thursday are most crowded (Friday-Sunday are typically travel days to and from Orlando) Build in rest periods around midday - Arrive when gates open

- Return to hotel for lunch/swim/nap

- Head back to the park late afternoon

o Avoid overheating, sunburn, dehydration

- Carry water, sunglasses, umbrella

- Use sunscreen

- Wear a hat, loose long-sleeved shirt

- Rest in shade or air-conditioning

Rent a wheelchair - Use it as a rolling rest stop

- Pick up when entering or rent before and bring into park

Make time for yourself - Enroll kids in day care, WDW Camp, learning program or Disney Institute

- Indulge yourself in a spa treatment, golf, Disney Institute adult program

- Split duties occasionally -- ½ day for each grandparent


A Friend's Notes on Visiting with Pint-Size Fans

I used to work with a fellow who is now Disney's Director of Guest Satisfaction. He makes the following suggestions:

· If you are going to be there 4+ days, buy a multi-day park hopper pass that allows you to go from one park to another on the same day.

· Wear comfortable shoes; bring suntan lotion.

· You pay for parking just once each day – no matter where. Parking is free if staying on property.

· Most important - ARRIVE EARLY each day. If Disney says Magic Kingdom opens at 9 am, it means they start letting people in the park at 8:30. Arrive at parking lot 15 minutes prior to that. Note: Even though gates open, rides don't begin until published time.

· Pre-school children prefer Magic Kingdom and generally like the Carousel, Dumbo, It's A Small World, Country Bear Jamboree and Nemo Show.

· Bring kids' swimsuits to the parks; there are several places where they can run and play in fountains.

· Take time for naps. If the little one will nap in a stroller, then nap time is a great time to pop over to one of the hotels to shop and relax.

· There are a number of rides that have height or age restrictions that little ones cannot ride. If these are attractions adults want to ride, they can do the "baby swap". (No, you keep the same kid in the end.) At the entrance to, say, Splash Mountain, tell the Cast Member that you would like to baby swap. One parent (e.g., Dad) stands in line, the other takes junior and waits at the exit. When Dad exits, he takes junior while Mom walks in the exit and rides the ride. You only wait once and you both get to see it … just not together.


OTHER SUGGESTIONS

· Electrical Water Pageant is a floating parade of sea creatures outlined in tiny lights that can be viewed from five different resorts.

· Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, staged at Fort Wilderness, is the liveliest dinner show.

· Tables in Wonderland restaurant discount: Join Tables in Wonderland, the ultimate food lover's feast, exclusive to Florida Residents, Disney Vacation Club® Members and Annual/Seasonal Passholders. http://tablesinwonderland.com.

· Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party starts second week in November, 7 pm to midnight. Extra admission fee. At Osborne Family Spectacle (at Hollywood Studios), dancing lights twinkle to music; and there is falling snow. To see all the decorations, go after the filming of the Christmas parade the first week in December. Make sure you visit all the resorts!

WHAT TO WEAR

· Wear comfortable shoes

· Don't take a purse – take fanny pack or light-weight cross-body back

· Don't take full wallet – take something functional but not big and bulky

· Sunglasses

· Make sure you can secure everything on wild rides

WHAT TO TAKE

· Band-Aids

· Binoculars and tripod for AK savannah viewing

· Cameras, camcorders, chargers, batteries, memory cards

· Dining confirmation #s and hard copy

· Disney Phone Apps: download My Disney Experience app and others

· Drink powder: Crystal Light and iced tea

· Extra suitcase/duffle bag

· First aid items like Ibuprofen

· Gum

· Hand Sanitizer

· Hats/ears

· Laptop

· Needle and thread

· Ponchos/rain coats

· Purse … lightweight and hands free

· Safety pins

· Shoes (not flip flops) … comfortable, walking shoes

· Snacks

· Stain stick

· Sunglasses

· Sunscreen

· Water bottle to refill (with filters)

· Ziplock bags for camera and for purse for wet rides



DINING

Make advanced dining reservations exactly 180 days out!!! Believe it or not, the really popular meals fill up six months ahead.

The dining website opens at 6:00 am and phone is 7:00 am, both Eastern Time. You can book online any time after that date but you may be in for a disappointment if your own little princess doesn't get to have breakfast with her favorite Disney princess.

CHARACTER DINING

Priority seating required. Call WDW-DINE up to 180 days in advance. Park admission ticket required for dining at park events. Best choices:

Here are the best choices for Table Service (listings in bold are character meals)

· AK: Tusker House

· AK LODGE: Boma

· AK LODGE: Jiko

· BEACH: Cape May

· BOARDWALK: Flying Fish Café

· CONTEMPORARY: California Grill (watch fireworks at MK)

· CONTEMPORARY: Chef Mickey

· CONTEMPORARY: The Wave

· DOWNTOWN: Raglan Road

· EPCOT: Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

· EPCOT: Biergarten

· EPCOT: Chefs de France

· EPCOT: Coral Reef

· EPCOT: Garden Grill

· EPCOT: La Hacienda de San Angel (fireworks viewing)

· EPCOT: Le Cellier (scallops for appetizer, filet with risotto for entrée then maple crème brulee)

· EPCOT: Rose & Crown (fireworks viewing)

· EPCOT: Via Napoli

· GRAND-FLORIDIAN: 1900 Park Fair

· GRAND-FLORIDIAN: Citricos

· GRAND-FLORIDIAN: Narcoossee's (fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant viewing)

· GRAND-FLORIDIAN: Victoria & Albert's (Chef's Table is a personal experience behind the scenes)

· HS: 50's Prime 50s Prime Time Cafe

· HS: Hollywood & Vine

· HS: Mama Melrose

· HS: Sci-Fi

· MK: Be Our Guest

· MK: Cinderella's Royal Table

· MK: Crystal Palace

· MK: Liberty Tree Tavern

· MK: Tony's

· POLYNESIAN: Kona Café

· POLYNESIAN: Ohana (fireworks viewing)

· SWAN: Garden Grove

· WILDERNESS: Artist Point (mushroom soup)

· WILDERNESS: Hoop-de-Doo (huge barn complete with musical numbers, and buckets of good food)

· WILDERNESS: Whispering Canyon

· YACHT: Yachtsman Steakhouse

Quick/Counter Service

· AK: Yak & Yeti

· AK: Flame Tree BBQ

· MK: Cosmic Ray's

· MK: Pecos Bill

· MK: Casey's Corner

· MK: Be Our Guest

· EPCOT: Les Halles Bakery (France)

· DOWNTOWN: Wolfgang Puck

Snacks

· AK: Coke slushies, Paw Print brownie, Dino Diner Snacks' cinnamon-glazed nuts

· DOWNTOWN: Sea salt caramel hot cocoa at Ghirardelli Soda fountain

· EPCOT: China slushy, Sunshine croissant before 11 am, Club Cool by Coke (free sipping), France ice cream shop, Germany chocolate-covered sea salt caramels, Fife & Drum Tavern jalapeno cheese pretzel and/or sweet cream cheese pretzel

· HS: Bakery on Sunset Blvd., candy apple, Butterfinger cupcakes, fudge, slushes, carrot cake cookies; apple crisp outside Fantastiks

· Mickey Mouse ice cream treat

· MK: Dole Whips ice-cream-like floats, Plaza Ice Cream store with Edy's, Bakery's Cinnamon Rolls, Sleepy Hollow Funnel Cakes and Chicken Waffles

· POP CENTURY: King Cupcakes at Everything Pop

· Turkey legs (MK: Lunching Pad, HS: Sunset Ranch Market, AK: Safari Turkey at Discovery Island, EPCOT: Treat Cart near Test Track, BLIZZARD: Avalunch, TYPHOON: Crush Hot Dog Cart)

· Starbucks: Main Street Bakery in Magic Kingdom or Fountainview Café in EPCOT

DINING PLAN

Dining Plan is a great way to save on the cost of food if you normally eat all the food that you will receive on the plan.

· Free dining is always offered on the cheapest dining plan.

· If it's not free, whether it's worth it to you actually depends in what deal WDW offers.

· Free pin codes: they give them out randomly ... just by being in their computer system. You will get an email or post card notification. Call and ask if there's a free dining pin code attached to your name.

OTHER

· You can parasail at Contemporary Resort, sailing over Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, etc.

· Private Surf Party is available at Typhoon Lagoon. Before the part opens, 25 people can book lagoon for three hours – 100 waves.

· Surfing school at Typhoon Lagoon – 2.5 hours, 12 students per class, 2-5 times per week. Lots of perfect waves.

· Individual VIP tours, with personal guide (premium tour has vehicle, park hopping, etc.)

· Cinderella Castle suite inside the castle

· Polynesian Resort's Beach: Grab a picnic dinner from Captain Cook's — or a Lapu Lapu from Tambu Lounge! — and head down to the Polynesian's beach to take in the MK Wishes fireworks out in the open air.

HOTELS/PROPERTIES

Disney website charges you rack rate for lodging (i.e., full price). When special offers come out (and they will), call and ask them to apply the special. They will not do it automatically.

A note here: It is well worth hiring a Disney expert travel agent to arrange your plans. There is no cost to you – the get a commission from Disney. And they know their stuff. They will stay on top of discounts and other specials as they are announced.

Properties recommended based on Trip Advisor and other travel blogs:

· Deluxe: Animal Kingdom Lodge

· Deluxe: Beach Club

· Deluxe: Contemporary

· Deluxe: Grand Floridian

· Deluxe: Polynesian

· Deluxe: Saratoga Spring Villas

· Deluxe: Wilderness Lodge

· Moderate: Caribbean Beach

· Moderate: Port Orleans French Quarter

· Moderate: Port Orleans Riverside

· Value: Art of Animation

· Value: Pop Century

FODOR's SUGGESTIONS

· Rent a boat to cruise the Seven Seas Lagoon or the waterways leading to it.

· Take a nighttime whirl on Cinderella's Golden Carousel in Fantasyland.

· Have dinner at the California Grill, and watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

· Have a drink at the cozy Yachtsman's Crew bar in the Yacht Club hotel.

· Take a walk on the BoardWalk. Watch IllumiNations laser show from bridge that leads to the Yacht and Beach Club, then boogie at Atlantic Dance.

· Enjoy a British lager outside at Epcot's Rose & Crown Pub -- the perfect IllumiNations viewing spot. Book ahead, for table with view.

TOMMYE'S SECRETS

· Secret way to get to EPCOT: Go to Boardwalk Hotel, tell gate guard you are having breakfast there, park in self-parking, take free boat ride from Boardwalk to EPCOT. Makes for traffic-free exit after IllumiNations.

· There is a secret entrance to Animal Kingdrom through Rain Forest Cafe's gift shop.

· Animal Kingdom … very last path to the right after the Tree of Life and before the bridge to Harambe Village. Its entrance is somewhat covered with vegetation so it can be easy to miss. And if you see rocks with holes in them, be sure to look through the holes for a nice surprise.

· Book yourself a nice, relaxing dinner at Narcoossee's at the rear of the Grand Floridian. Make a reservation months in advance; try for 30-60 minutes before sundown. While you dine in air conditioning on some delicious food, enjoy a porch-side view of the Electrical Water Pageant and the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

BEFORE YOU GET THERE

· Make dining reservations 180 days in advance

· Make FastPass reservations 60 in advance

· Book Memory Maker PhotoPass at least 14 days out

· Sign up for Dining Plan at least 72 hours out

· Buy theme park tickets

· To determine ticket type and #/$, go to the Park Ticket Calculator of touringplans.com.

· Check on Extra Magic Hours

· http://www.ridemax.com/order.php


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