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Disney World: what should I know and do?


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#1 of 36 DaveF

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Posted February 11 2009 - 10:11 AM

I'm taking my wife to Disney World this Fall: her first trip ever and first vacation in Florida. We're making plans now. We're doing the whole shebang: Disney hotel, meal plan, multi-day pass with parkhopper option.

One specific question: How are the crowds on over the Labor Day holiday weekend? We can go that weekend or a bit later. My goal is avoiding the crowds.

Anything tips to share with Disney novices? Any must see attractions that I might otherwise miss? Secret codewords to get free upgrades? Posted Image

#2 of 36 Todd Hochard

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Posted February 11 2009 - 12:32 PM

How much is "a bit later?" It stays stinky humid in Orlando until late October/early November, which can be a shock for a Northerner. In fact, it's a shock for a guy like me who lived there for 12 years when we go visit.Posted Image

They have pretty good "value season" rates in the 2nd half of October and first 2 weeks of November, IIRC. The parks are far less crowded (although 3rd/4th week of January is lowest, IIRC) at that time, so you can see and do more.

Eats- Our favorites are the Garden Grill in Epcot "The Land", O'Hana at Polynesian for breakfast, Liberty Tavern in Magic Kingdom for dinner. These are all "character" meals (we have two kids), but good eating, nonetheless. Lunch in Cinderella's castle was neat for the experience, but I wasn't super crazy about the food- same with the dinner at Grand Floridian. We've never actually done any of the "adult-themed" dinners, so I can't say.Posted Image

Tricks-
-If you ask at the monorail, they'll let you ride up front with the driver.
-If you're getting park-hopper passes, they're handy for doing a park in the morning/afternoon, heading back to the hotel for nap/swim, then heading to a second park for the evening- fireworks at MK or Epcot (laser show on the lake), or Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios.
- Use the transportation to go everywhere on property. WAY easier and more relaxing than driving your car. If you're staying at a hotel that has a boat landing, that's our favorite way to get around (e.g. Wilderness goes to MK front gate, Boardwalk goes to Epcot, Yacht/Beach to Hollywood, Port Orleans to Downtown Disney).

What resort are you staying at? We enjoyed Wilderness the most, but Port Orleans is a great value, and still pretty nice. We did All-Star Music once, which was decent. My wife is angling for Yacht/Beach next year (alas, economy dictates a "skip" this year, I thinkPosted Image )
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#3 of 36 Michael Warner

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Posted February 11 2009 - 12:39 PM

If you're staying on site be sure to take advantage of the early park access hours -- you can hit the big rides before the riff-raff is let in. Be sure to use the Fast Pass system as well as that saves a lot of time. Using those two things we've managed fairly stress and line free trips during the absolute busiest of times. I've been many times both pre and post kids and have never failed to have a great time. Don't fret too much about crowds and just roll with it.
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#4 of 36 Stan

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Posted February 11 2009 - 01:29 PM

Not sure if the parkhopper packages include the competition, but I would definitely spend a day at SeaWorld if you've got the time. Was there a few years ago and loved it.
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#5 of 36 DaveF

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Posted February 12 2009 - 03:29 AM

Thanks, all.

We're going early September, either Labor Day weekend or the following week. Concerned that Labor Day weekend is the final hurrah for families with kids, I'm thinking of going Tuesday+ just after the holiday for smaller crowds. I did this in '05 and it was great. But Labor Day weekend captures my wife's birthday. Hence the dilemma Posted Image

We're staying at a Disney hotel: Port Orleans, French Quarter, or Carribean. So the boat ride out of Port Orleans is a good way to get to the parks? I didn't really understand that, and was leaning towards Carribean, based on the style and online photos. (We're doing the full Disney thing, including pick up at the hotel, so no rental car at all. This also means no Sea World, Universal, etc.)

We've been warned away from All Stars by everyone we've talked to.

Will look into early park hours Posted Image never heard about it. And will use Fast Pass -- never used it but everyone says it's great.

#6 of 36 Walter C

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Posted February 12 2009 - 05:03 AM

As soon as the park opens, go straight to the Kilomanjaro Safaris, which is at the back of Animal Kingdom. Supposedly, that is the best chance to see the animals, and the line gets very long later in the day.

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#7 of 36 Philip Hamm

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Posted February 12 2009 - 05:28 AM

Lunch at Epcot - go to Canada. They have a nice restaurant with wonderful Canadian beer.
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#8 of 36 John Gido

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Posted February 12 2009 - 05:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stan
Not sure if the parkhopper packages include the competition, but I would definitely spend a day at SeaWorld if you've got the time. Was there a few years ago and loved it.

Parkhopper does not include the competition. Separate admission fees/parking fees for those.

If you do plan to go off-site to visit SeaWorld or Universal Studios, I would see Disney's MGM Studio theme park before going to Universal Studios. Otherwise, you might be disappointed in MGM.
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#9 of 36 nolesrule

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Posted February 12 2009 - 05:34 AM

They dropped the MGM. It's now more generic.

Anyway, the best way to avoid the crowds at Disney is to come over here to Busch Gardens. :-P

#10 of 36 RolandL

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Posted February 12 2009 - 06:02 AM

Check out these web sites for tips on Disney World -

MouseSavers.com - Walt Disney World FAQ

TouringPlans.com — The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World

Disney World - The Largest Unofficial On-Line Guide to Disney World, Walt Disney World

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Cinerama web site

 


#11 of 36 Rick Wunder

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Posted February 12 2009 - 06:36 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveF
But Labor Day weekend captures my wife's birthday. Hence the dilemma Posted Image

I don't know if this will simplify or complicate your planning, but in 2009, Disney is offering free admission to any (one) Disney theme park to anyone who visits on their birthday. You need to register the guest's birthday on Disney's website, which creates a certificate which should be printed and taken to the park for free admission on the big day.

Enjoy your trip!

#12 of 36 Ken Chan

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Posted February 12 2009 - 09:40 AM

The fairly new Toy Story ride, which is great, probably had the longest line the quickest. It's one reason to go to the (now) Disney Hollywood Studios. Go there first.

#13 of 36 DaveF

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Posted February 12 2009 - 01:05 PM

For the birthday thing: since we're buying a multi-day pass, Disney gives us some alternate gift instead of admission. It's not clear how much it's worth, especially if the crowds are much worse on a holiday.

I've been to Universal Orlando and my wife to Universal LA, so no loss skipping it this trip.

Meals will involve some negotiations. The international options at Epcot sound great to me; my wife is a much more conservative eater. Posted Image But we'll work it out.

A coworker, and annual Disney vacationer, told me a family member called Disney and got 40% discounts for a May trip. Posted Image I'm tempted to postpone reservations and see if Disney introduces new discounts for the Fall as they're doing for Spring & Summer (e.g. Buy 4, get 3).

I'll be making a list of the park tips to use when we get there Posted Image

#14 of 36 DanielKellmii

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Posted February 12 2009 - 01:45 PM

The week following Labor Day will be less crowded. Personally, that is what I would do if I was travelling without children. That time of year, it is always hot. Always carry some bottled water with you. Also, buy a poncho offsite in case it rains. The ponchos in the park are $8. You feel kind of stupid paying that kind of money for a $1 item. Since you have time, wake up early and do what you want. In the middle of the day go back to the hotel and take a nap, go to the pool, enjoy the company of your wife.... I always go with my kids and always have snacks. It is a huge money saver, but the biggest advantage is that you save time. You can snack and wait in line at the same time. People walk around with coolers even though you are not supposed too. Nobody seems to care. When I am there, I eat breakfast and dinner. Lunch is a snack on the run. If you must take a picture with Mickey, don't do it in the Magic Kingdom. That is the longest line.
Use your FastPass. Those are great. Make your dinner reservations in the morning or the night before.
Just because the park opens at 9 AM, doesn't mean that you can't get there at 8:30 or even 8 AM. There is a lot of transportation to get into the parks. Since you are coming from a hotel, that make things easier. But, it will take longer than you think to get into any park.
Personally, I hate the buses and use my car. The monorail/boats are great.

Magic Kingdom: Go on a weekday. It avoids the crowds caused by the kids. Pay attention to some of the kids. For the small ones, everything is very real. There are some great moments even if they are not your kids. I think Space Mountain is being refurbished otherwise, go on that ride early. Look up the history of Splash Mountain. It will make that ride even better. Yes, you will get wet on that ride.

EPCOT: Start by going to the back and work your way towards future land. I have no idea why, but everybody starts at Spaceship Earth and ends up in the countries in the afternnoon. Go backwards.

Hollywood Studios: The Star Wars ride is a cheesy motion simulator ride. Not worth a long wait in line. Actually, the line is the best part of the ride. There is a special effects show as well. Approach the cast member and ask if they have any need for volunters. It is easy and fun. You don't really do much, but your wife will get a kick out of it.

Animal Kingdom: Go early. In the summer the animals are doing the smart thing most of the time. Hanging out in the shade and sleeping. This is the smallest park and can be done in a day unless you insist on doing everything. You might even be able to get away with half a day depending on your interest.

Please make it fun. Don't try to do everything. Go with the flow. And don't forget about the shows. Make it a point to see the Lion King show (if it is still there) in Animal Kingdom. If you want too, you can spend an entire day doing nothing but going from show to show. One way to guarantee a lousy time is to try and see everything. You can't. They do that on purpose to get you to come back.

If you like fish/seafood try the Coral Reef restaurant in EPOCT. The setting is very unique. The patisserie in France is also worth a stop.

Let us know how much fun you had.

#15 of 36 Todd Hochard

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Posted February 12 2009 - 01:57 PM

Quote:
We're staying at a Disney hotel: Port Orleans, French Quarter, or Carribean.
We've stayed Port Orleans Riverside once, French Quarter twice. We've walked through Carribean Beach- not impressed.

French Quarter is a good one. You can ride the boat to Downtown Disney- The Marketplace, Pleasure Island, West Side. Not to any park. You take the buses to the parks, which is fine, and quite easy to do.
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#16 of 36 nolesrule

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Posted February 12 2009 - 03:50 PM

Daniel's absolutely right about the ponchos. In fact, I would recommend just picking up several of the really cheap ones, and then just tossing them after they are used. Yeah, I know. Not environmentally friendly, but do you really want to deal with a wet poncho all day after a short rain shower?

This thread makes me realize I haven't been to Magic Kingdom since 1995 and EPCOT since 1989. My daughter will be old enough for the Kingdom in a couple of years. I can wait.

#17 of 36 Dennis Nicholls

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Posted February 12 2009 - 07:36 PM

I haven't been to EPCOT since 1983. Do they still have the 360 degree projection theaters in China and France? Posted Image
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#18 of 36 drobbins

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Posted February 12 2009 - 11:55 PM

I don't want to rain on your parade, but we went to Disney last summer and while we had fun, it wasn't worth the money in our opinion. (but then again I don't own a bluray yet either.) The rides were good although we only got to ride less than ten of them. The local Sixflags is a much better place if you want rides. Some disappointments were:
  • The disney character were roped off with lines to get your picture. Don't know why they didn't have them roaming freely. They could have had three or four of them located throughout the park.
  • When closing time came - they closed. Even with a park full of people having a good time. Ten o'clock - get out!
  • They had many experiences using video. Non were digital as I would have expected. The scratches in the film took away from it.
Like I said we had a good time, but it was definitely not worth the $3k we spent. We could have had more fun for $300 up the highway at Sixflags.

#19 of 36 DaveF

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Posted February 13 2009 - 12:45 AM

Ok, so we'll push off the trip by a week, to not be there on Labor Day. My wife liked Port Orleans and French Quarter more than Caribbean, so I'll let her know those are recommended.

The heat doesn't bother me, but my wife is half ice-cream and will melt; I'll talk to her about a "siesta" schedule.

I've been and am sure I'll enjoy it, but my wife hasn't and is a bit skeptical. However, I've been to Six Flags and as much as I enjoy an amusement park, no-one does the "experience" like Disney.

Ponchos: good tip. It drizzled when I was there in '05.

#20 of 36 nolesrule

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Posted February 13 2009 - 05:01 AM

One other thing about ponchos....think cargo shorts. Those extra pockets will hold several of them easily. At least that's my experience having been to years of September football games in Florida.





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