Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tips for Visiting WDW

Over the years, I've been asked about some tips for going to Disney. Every time I'm asked, I look for this one email that I remember writing. Every time, I can't seem to find the darn thing. So, I'll post my notes here so that I don't lose them for the umpteenth time.

  • Lodging 
    • Absolutely positively STAY ON PROPERTY. If there was one suggestion I would give noobs, this would be it. 
      1. First and foremost, you're now immersed in the "magic" 24/7. While you're checking in, they're playing Disney music. When you're at the pool, there are those little Disney touches abound. It's a big plus in my book. 
      2. You get access to the "Extra Magic Hours". These differ day by day, but typically a park or two will either open a few hours early or close a few hours later for resort guests only. Some of my fondest memories have come during these less crowded early/late park times. Also, if you have little ones, this can help you get in there extra early so that you can maybe sneak back to the room during lunch for a nap/bite/swim. 
      3. You get shuttled to the resorts, no rental car. The buses can sometimes be slow, but probably not as slow as you driving/parking/paying/catching the tram and repeat at night. Also, you save money on a rental car.
      4. You get the "Magical Express" - a shuttle to and from the airport where they take care of your bags (certain airlines only) from your departure city. Awesome service if you can get it, saves lugging your stuff all over creation. 
    • You have to consider how much you'll be at the room vs. cost. For us, we're in the parks all day long until they close, so we really only use the room to sleep in for the most part. So, it doesn't make sense for the cost of, say, the Wilderness Lodge, since we're only there to sleep. So we typically do the value resorts. However, the upper echelon resorts are AWESOME. 
  • Pre Planning
    • After planning your days, go to the Disney Parks website and look up the calendars for your parks. Figure out when the parades are and plan your week - write down the hours for each and figure out what days to go where (don't forget the Extra Magic Hours). For instance, if the Main Street Elecctrical parade is ONLY on Friday, you might want to do that park that day for sure  - pencil that in and then work on the rest of the week. 
    • Beware that the parks with Extra Magic Hours are typically more crowded than the other parks on those days. So, if you don't need to go there to hit a special event like a parade or fireworks show, pick a different park on that day. 
    • You can use hopper passes to jump to a park just to catch one of the parks' AMAZING night time spectaculars (DO NOT MISS!!!) only. 
      • MK - Wishes
      • Epcot - Illuminations
      • Hollywood Studios - Fantasmic (My favorite thing to do, always gets me all misty because of it's awesomeness). 
    • Bring your own stroller. You can rent them in the parks, but you still have to get there. Sure, it stinks lugging them onto/off of the bus, but I prefer it. 
  • Consider the Meal Plan, but Beware
    • The meal plan is very intriguing - you pay a certain amount and then that basically pays for your food during your trip. There are several types of dinings - counter service (you walk up and get your food), table service (you get a waiter/waitress), or snack (a bottle of water, banana). One meal plan includes a counter and a table, and a cheaper version does two counter services. 
    • There are some drawbacks to the upgraded table-service meal plan, which leads me to suggest only doing this if it's discounted or free: 
      • You spend a LOT of time eating and sitting in restaurants and NOT riding. 
      • You have to book your restaurants a few months early. 
      • You're now locked into doing a restaurant at X hours - very much limits where you have to be and in what park. 
    • Because of these drawbacks, I'd do the counter service plan, pay out of pocket for a few special counter-service meals (see below for recommendations), and only look at the deluxe table service plan if you want to spend time in restaurants, taking your time and enjoying the air conditioning. Probably not something to do with rambunctious kids. 
  • Recommended / Avoided restaurants
    • Magic Kingdom
      • I absolutely love the Pecos Bill counter service cafe. The Caesar chicken wrap and burgers are excellent and I love the theming. 
      • For table service, I highly recommend the Crystal Palace buffet. Good food, you get the characters for your kiddies, and because of the naturally lit interior, this is a killer spot for family photos. 
      • We did the Tomorrowland Noodle Hut once (asian themed), and it wasn't very good - I'd avoid it. 
    • Epcot
      • The Coral Reef has good seafood and you eat with the tank right next to you - kinda cool, but again, you're going to pay and take a long time. 
      • Canada has good steaks, but this is a bit fancy for a theme park restaurant and I'd only do this with adults. 
    • Hollywood Studios
      • The Brown Derby has the best food in the parks, IMHO. I LOVE the Cobb salad. It's a TRUE cobb with bacon, avocado, and exceptional dressing. This is pretty true to form of what they used to serve in the place's namesake back in the early 1900's. Definitely something you're NOT going to get anywhere else, highly recommended. 
      • 50's Prime Time Cafe - this place is just plain fun. It's like you stepped into Mom's kitchen straight out of the late 50's. The servers call you "scooter" or "sport", you eat at Formica tables with a TV playing classic shows, and if you don't eat your green beans, you get put in the corner. It's a great time for all, highly recommended. 
      • Sci Fi Drive In Theater - Simulates a drive in back in the 50's, complete with corny sci fi movies. Food is OK, but the atmosphere is awesome. Another highly recommended one. 
    • Animal Kingdom
      • The Flame Tree BBQ has outstanding counter service food. Be sure to walk down behind the restaurant for a jaw-dropping view of Everest. Probably the coolest seating area in any of the parks. 
      • Rainforest Cafe - Not quite Disney, but it sits right outside the park. Always good food, great atmosphere, etc. A favorite of ours. 

1 comment:

izza said...

I'm actually going to be there in 2 months and your post has given me something to look for. Thanks for sharing Disney ideas.