Lysa’s Christmas at Disney World Pre-Trip Report – Episode 17

In this week’s episode, for December 18, 2016, we will be getting a full pre-trip report for Lysa’s upcoming Christmas trips to Disney World as well as taking your listener questions on Disney travel.

Please send any questions about the show to host@mousedreamsblog.com and visit our website, www.MouseDreamsBlog.com for more information. Also, like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MouseDreamsblog and follow us on Twitter @MouseDreamsBlog.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors and friends at Big Dreams Travel, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Visit them at www.bigdreamstravelusa.com to help with your next vacation.

You can submit Disney trip planning questions for us to answer on the show by e-mailing us at podcast@MouseDreamsBlog.com, by tweeting your question to @MouseDreamsBlog on Twitter, or by visiting the listener questions page on our website at www.MouseDreamsBlog.com/podcastquestions. We would love to answer your questions on travel including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise Line. Have a great week everyone and thanks for listening!

Subscribe to the Podcast:     Podbean      iTunes      RSS Feed

Jon’s Summer Disney World Trip – Episode 15

cropped-NEW-Icon-Edit-A.jpgIn this week’s episode, for November 20, 2016, we will be discussing Jon’s most recent summer trip to Disney World.

Please send any questions about the show to host@mousedreamsblog.com and visit our website, www.MouseDreamsBlog.com for more information. Also, like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MouseDreamsblog and follow us on Twitter @MouseDreamsBlog.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors and friends at Big Dreams Travel, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Visit them at www.bigdreamstravelusa.com to help with your next vacation.

You can submit Disney trip planning questions for us to answer on the show by e-mailing us at podcast@MouseDreamsBlog.com, by tweeting your question to @MouseDreamsBlog on Twitter, or by visiting the listener questions page on our website at www.MouseDreamsBlog.com/podcastquestions. We would love to answer your questions on travel including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise Line. Have a great week everyone and thanks for listening!

Subscribe to the Podcast:      Podbean       iTunes       RSS Feed

Understanding All of the Important Reservation Dates

Trip Planning Tuesday CastleAs you begin the planning of your Disney World vacation there are several important dates that you need to be aware of. We recommend booking your resort package or room only reservation as far in advance as you can. Having a reservation on the books will give you a way to make dining reservations in advance of the general public, which can be a big advantage with those hard to get reservations. Also, it is important to remember just because you are booked into a certain package does not mean you cannot get a discount if one is released. If a package discount or room only discount is released after you have booked your trip you just need to call Disney or your travel agent and the discount can be applied, which means the price of your trip will go down! Awesome! Now, once you have the initial reservation made here are a few important dates you need to be aware of moving forward.

  • 180 Days in Advance – Dining reservations open 180 days prior to a certain date, and since the Dining plan came about many years ago it is important to make most of these reservations as many of them fill up and the times you want may not be available if you wait until later. Now, for the big perk of already having a reservation. You should have your reservation linked on your Disney account and when your 180 day mark comes about you should be able to book dining reservations not just for the first day of your trip, but for the next 10 days, so really you can book up to 190 days, which gives you a jump on when off-site guests can book. This can be a huge advantage, especially for those hard to get reservations like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or many of the character meals. Now, if you are staying off-site you will have to book your reservations for each day, 180 days in advance. So it does involve getting up early to get online or on the phone to make those reservations. This is a great reason to use a travel agent, because most Disney travel agents should help make dining reservations for you, at no cost, and you can keep sleeping. Of course our sponsor, Big Dreams Travel, is one of those agencies. Online dining reservations change to the next day at 6 AM EST, every morning, while the phone lines open at 7 AM EST (407-WDW-DINE). It is also important to note that many other things, such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and other services like that open at 180 days as well. You can also make recreation reservations 180 days in advance for things such as watercraft, evening fireworks cruises, fishing trips, or other things. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for recreation reservations.
  • 60 Days in Advance – If you are staying on-site the 60 day mark is important for two reasons. First, you need to be prepared by this day to make your FP+ reservations. Online FP+ reservations open at midnight EST 60 days in advance of your trip. Again, most Disney travel agents will help you make these plans and reservations. You should also have a rough set of touring plans ready to go for each day and have ideal FP+ times ready to book. Keep in mind you must have park tickets and a valid resort reservation linked to your Disney account to make these reservations at the 60 day mark. The second thing you can do on this day if you are a resort guest is check in online for your resort. You can view our post on 5 Things to Know About Checking In and Out to get more information on this process.
  • 30 Days in Advance – There are two important things happening at this stage of trip planning. First, if you are staying on side and have a vacation package reservation (hotel and park tickets) your final payment will be due at this time. So make sure you get this paid or have made arrangements with your travel agent. The other main thing to do on this date is if you are staying off-site this is your FP+ reservation date. Remember, you must have park tickets linked to your Disney account. Online FP+ reservations open at midnight EST 30 days in advance of your trip.
  • 90 Days in Advance – Disney golf courses open their reservations for tee times 90 days in advance. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for reservations. You can also visit the website at www.golfwdw.com.
  • 365 Days in Advance – We did want to mention one thing that opens to book one year in advance and that is golf cart rentals if you are staying at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Call the bike barn at 407-824-2742 for reservations.

Let us know if you have any question in the comments section below.

Disney News & Listener Questions from 2/29/2016 – Episode 6

In this week’s episode, for February 29, 2016, Jon and Lysa will be discussing news and current events at Disney Destinations around the world as well as taking your listener questions on Disney travel.

Please send any questions about the show to host@mousedreamsblog.com and visit our website, www.MouseDreamsBlog.com for more information. Also, like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MouseDreamsblog and follow us on Twitter @MouseDreamsBlog.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors and friends at Big Dreams Travel, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Visit them at www.bigdreamstravelusa.com to help with your next vacation.

You can submit Disney trip planning questions for us to answer on the show by e-mailing us at podcast@MouseDreamsBlog.com, by tweeting your question to @MouseDreamsBlog on Twitter, or by visiting the listener questions page on our website at www.MouseDreamsBlog.com/podcastquestions. We would love to answer your questions on travel including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise Line. Have a great week everyone and thanks for listening!

Show Notes
Link to Article on Star Wars Concept Art

Subscribe to the Podcast:   Podbean        iTunes        RSS Feed

Disney Parks will See Ticket Price Increase on February 28

Disney has announced that beginning on Sunday, February 28, 2016 they will increase tickets prices around 5%-8% for most tickets and will also be using variable rate pricing for 1-day tickets. One of the ticket vendors we support, Undercover Tourist, will still have discounted tickets (at 2015 prices) for a limited time, so buy them while they are still available.

For 1-day tickets Disney has instituted a tier pricing structure for three distinct time periods of the year, value, regular, and peak. Peak dates will happen about 30% of the year and this includes the holiday season, all of the spring break time period, and most of the summer. During this period the Magic Kingdom will cost $124 per day while the other parks will be $114 per day.

The value season will include only about 20% of the year and this will include most of late August and September. During this time a 1-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom will be $105 and all other parks will be $97.

Finally, all other dates will be termed regular season. During these dates the Magic Kingdom will cost $110 per day and all other parks will be $102 per day.

*These prices do not include taxes.

Animal Kingdom Families with Children Morning Plan Review

AnimalKingdomEntranceFor this weekends edition of the trip review article I’m going to go through a morning visit we had on our last trip to Animal Kingdom. This is not going to be a step by step touring plan for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it will give you a good idea of what to expect and one specific way to tour this park with the use of Fastpass+. For clarification we are a family of two adults and one child who is too young to ride Expedition Everest and this trip took place in June, so summer crowds were in effect. (Picture to the Left Credited To: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia)

We arrived at the park via our resort bus at 8:25 AM before a 9:00 AM opening.

 photo IMG_0621_zpsqrrib9ig.jpg

The park opened at 8:47 AM, but keep in mind Disney had been changing things up with Animal Kingdom’s opening procedures, so it may very well be slightly different from this. After walking to the back of the park we ended up arriving at Kilimanjaro Safari just before 9:00 AM and had to wait a couple of minutes for the ride to open. They opened right at 9:00 AM and we were soon boarding a safari vehicle. Here are a few pictures of our safari, which was good as it usually is in the morning.

 photo IMG_0996_zps3we98hre.jpg

 photo IMG_0635_zpsfpc5cnto.jpg

 photo IMG_0656_zpsdrallvtm.jpg

We were off the ride just before 9:30 and were well ahead of schedule. We had actually planned on visiting the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and we would have had about 25 minutes to do so, but we decided we would rather spend the time grabbing some breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery. Our plan was to attend the 10:00 AM Festival of the Lion King Show as we knew it would be not very crowded and we could show up very close to showtime. We arrived at 9:55 AM and walked right into about a half full theatre and enjoyed a great show!

 photo IMG_0671_zpsuztwutpg.jpg

 photo IMG_0674_zpsei5duaff.jpg

After the show our plan was to use our first Fastpass+ of the day. Now, for our family we have a hard time deciding what to use our third Fastpass+ on. We usually use one on Everest and Dinosaur, but our son is not quite into Kali River Rapids yet and my wife and I don’t care to ride it without him like we do Expedition Everest. The attraction we settled on to use our Fastpass+ for is the Mickey and Minnie Meet at Adventurers Outpost.

 photo IMG_0677_zpseplrkfgq.jpg

We have done this meet before and it is a really unique meet and greet as you actually get both characters at the same time, which is not the case at most meets. We arrived at 10:40 and were meeting Mickey and Minnie by 10:45 which bypassed about a 20 minutes standby line. Not a huge jump, but Character meet and greet lines are notoriously boring and some of the least fun ones to wait in. After a great meet it was about 10:55 and our next plan was to head for some lunch. We enjoy having lunch at Restaurantosaurus or Flame Tree BBQ in this park. Flame Tree certainly has better food, but it was very hot and we decided on Restaurantosaurus as the seating area is air conditioned. I’m not going to do a full dining review here, but I will include a picture of my entree, the Mac ‘n Cheese Dog. We enjoy the food here, although it is nothing special, but the air conditioned seating area is a big positive.

 photo IMG_0680_zpsgprbsxx5.jpg

The next step on our agenda was that we stopped at about 11:30 for a ride on Triceratop Spin and had to wait about 10 minutes. Next we were heading to the 12:00 PM performance of Finding Nemo: The Musical. We arrived about 11:50 and got a seat on the first row of the top section and it was perfect.

 photo IMG_0688_zpsilirnmfl.jpg

The show was over by 12:40 and we headed at this point to use our next Fastpass+ at Expedition Everest. Of course one of us has to stay with our son so it took us about 25 minutes to both get our ride in. After riding Everest we headed back to Dinoland to use our final Fastpass+ at Dinosaur.

 photo IMG_0693_zpsj6frjbds.jpg

We arrived at 1:20 and I was able to ride walk right into the pre-show. While one of us rides the other likes to take our son and ride Triceratop Spin as the line is usually about the perfect length to take up the time the other person is at Dinosaur. When I got off at about 1:40 my wife had decided she didn’t want to ride so we were ready to head out of the park. Here is what we accomplished in about 4 and a half hours at Animal Kingdom in the summer.

  • Kilimanjaro Safari (Standby)
  • Breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery (Would have had time for Pangani Trail)
  • Festival of the Lion King Show (Standby)
  • Meet Disney Pals Mickey & Minnie at Adventurers Outpost (Fastpass+)
  • Lunch at Restaurantosaurus
  • Triceratop Spin (Standby)
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical (Standby)
  • Expedition Everest (Fastpass+, 2 Times due to Young Child)
  • Dinosaur (Fastpass+, Other adult and young child did Triceratop Spin)

We were very pleased with our day, especially considering we were able to see both Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo, which is kind of a difficult task in just a half day of touring. We hope this plan helps you in planning your morning at Animal Kingdom. Thanks for reading and happy trip planning!

3 Principles of Disney World Itinerary Planning

Trip Planning Tuesday CastleFor today’s Trip Planning Tuesday article we wanted to get a little more specific on planning a Disney World Itinerary. We think there are three major principles that should be followed when it comes to planning a Disney World Itinerary that is going to be perfect for your family. These are in no particular order of importance and the different principles should support each other as an itinerary is laid out.

1. Rope Drop is Sacred – As we mentioned in our post on the Nuts and Bolts of an Itinerary, one of the most important things you can do is use the first two hours the parks are open as lines will be much shorter than the rest of the day. Rope drop, a fancy term for park opening, is a huge part of this and arriving at rope drop is a principle that should not be taken lightly. You need to be at the park in most cases 30-45 minutes before rope drop so you are in a good position to start your day. Even being just 10 minutes late to rope drop can have a domino effect on the rest of your morning, so arriving in advance is extremely important to getting your day off to the right start. Let me present you with a scenario to illustrate this:

If you are ready for a Magic Kingdom rope drop, the park usually opens about 15 minutes early, so you will be let in around 8:45. You arrive at your first step in the plan, Peter Pan’s Flight, at around 8:50 and walk on the ride. You are done with your ride by 9:00 and headed to your next attraction, Winnie the Pooh. You arrive at Pooh at 9:00 and wait about 5 minutes to ride. By 9:10 you are headed to your next attraction, Under the Sea. You arrive there by 9:20 and ride with a 5 minute wait. So by 9:30 you have done 3 attractions and can continue with your day.

–OR–

Let’s say you arrive at 8:55 with the park already open, just 10 minutes late. The crowds to get through the turnstiles will now be larger, so it will be 9:10 before you arrive at Peter Pan. The line at Peter Pan is now 10-15 minutes, so you are not done until around 9:30. You will not arrive at Winnie the Pooh until 9:35, which also now has at least a 10 minute wait, which means you will arrive at Under the Sea around 9:50 at the earliest. It will have at least a 10 minute wait, meaning you won’t get off the ride until around 10:10.

So you see, arriving just 10 minutes late means just three rides into your day you are going to be 40 minutes behind where you would have been if you could have entered the park on time. This is not only affecting the next ride, but lines are going to be longer at every other ride you want to visit that day. So, be aware of the domino effect that will happen if rope drop is missed.

2. Don’t Follow a Late Night with an Early Morning – Now, all of the talk so far has been about rope drop and getting up early. We are certainly not expecting you to do that every day of your vacation, just on select ones when you want to hit headliner attractions. For every 2 rope drop days you plan we suggest 1 sleep in/restful mornings. The key to this is if you have had a late night for something such as Wishes or Fantasmic! we suggest making the next morning a sleep in day. It can be extra stressful trying to rally the troops to get to rope drop if you didn’t get in bed until midnight the day before. Just avoid that and schedule your sleep in/rest days the mornings after your late nights.

3. Plan Your Rest – One thing you must do is make sure you have planned rest time during your trip. This can be in the form of sleep in/rest mornings or in the form of the TBE touring method. Whatever type of day you are scheduling make sure it has some form of rest scheduled. Getting some rest during your vacation is, in our opinion, the best way to keep people from getting cranky and having meltdowns. You know the meltdowns we speak of! You have been in the parks and seen adults and parents alike have meltdowns, and most likely they are because they have been in the parks for 14 hours a day for the past three days and they just need some rest. So, plan your rest, and you won’t regret it.

If you have any questions on any of these topics please don’t hesitate to let us know and we’d love to help you answer them.

5 Things to Know About Dining at Disney World

Crystal Palace SignIt’s Trip Planning Tuesday here at the MouseDreams Blog and in this article we are going to share some tips on dining at Disney World. Dining is one of the most fun aspects of a Disney trip as you get to experience food from many different cultures and countries around the world while on your vacation. People often use the stereotype that the only thing you eat in theme parks are burgers and fries, but this couldn’t be further from the truth at Disney World. There are so many options for you if you know where to look, and we are going to do our best to give you all of the information you need to be successful. In this article we are going to give you the top 5 things you need to know while planning your dining options at Disney World. Keep in mind you can visit our dining page for even more information on all things dining at Disney World.

  1. The Difference Between Quick Service and Table Service – As you prepare more and more for your trip you will begin to hear restaurants referred to as either “Quick Service” or “Table Service”, so let’s define these for you. “Quick Service” restaurants are those that do not take reservations and are typically a location where you walk up to the counter, order your food, and then take it to your table yourself. Although there are a few of these that will deliver your food after ordering. “Table Service” dining on the other hand is a sit-down, full service, restaurant where you have a waiter attending to all of your needs. These meals take anywhere from 60 minutes to 2 hours depending on the level of service the restaurant provides.
  2. When Reservations are Needed for Table Service Dining – Table service dining is very popular at Disney World, even so popular that many of the most popular restaurants will book up completely 180 days in advance when guests are able to make reservations. We recommend making all of your table service dining reservations at the 180 day mark just to make sure you get what you want. Of course you can make changes after that point and move things around if there is availability, but the popularity of many of these restaurants makes reservations hard to get at times. Online reservations open at 6 AM EST, 180 days in advance of your trip, while phone reservations open at 7 AM EST.
  3. Where to Meet Characters While You Eat – There are certain meals at Disney World that are labeled “Character Dining”. These are all table service restaurants, so they will require a reservation, and many of them are popular enough they do book up very close to that 180 day mark. At these restaurants, most of which are buffets, 4-5 characters will visit your table during the course of your meal. These characters will not have a photographer with them, but you are more than welcome to take your own photos with the character interacting and posing with members of your family. Also, autographs are welcomed as well in these situations. Keep in mind when planning your itinerary it may take up to 90 minutes for all of the characters to make their way around the entire restaurant.
  4. Best Times of Day to Eat Quick Service – Quick service dining locations definitely have certain types of day where they are more and less crowded, and it will benefit you to know when those times are. First of all you will want to try to avoid the 12 PM to 2 PM time period at these locations, that is when they will be most backed up due to the lunch crowd. If you are in the park at rope drop we recommend planning on eating lunch around 11:15 so you can get out of the restaurant before the big crowds arrive. Alternatively, you can just tour right through lunch time and eat later on when you return to your resort. As far as dinner the crowds they usually arrive in a wider time frame, so the exact time is not quite as important as lunch. The most crowded times for dinner are from 6 PM to 8 PM, but again it varies a little more at dinner time. We recommend eating between 5 PM and 6 PM to have the best chance of avoiding some of the dinner rush.
  5. Are Resort Dining Locations the Same as Those in the Parks? – When it comes to dining at Disney World, especially when on the Disney Dining Plan, one of the biggest questions people ask is does it matter if I am in a theme park or in a resort? The answer is very simply that it does not matter. When on the dining plan quick service locations are the same in the resorts as in the parks and the same thing for table service restaurants. We recommend making reservations for table service restaurant in the resorts the same as we did in the parks. Another common misconception is that you can only use your dining plan in the resort you are staying in. The dining plan includes all restaurants at all resorts and theme parks on property as well as Downtown Disney, so there are really no limitations to what restaurants you can visit.

Please comment below and let us know any questions or thoughts you may have and we will do our best to help you.

The Nuts & Bolts of a Great Disney World Itinerary

Cinderella CastlePlanning your itinerary is something that can be quite time consuming, but it is something that also helps people get excited about their upcoming vacation. Below we are going to cover some of what we like to call “The Nuts & Bolts” of a good Disney World itinerary. These principles will filter down into almost all of the advice we give in all parts of the planning process. These are not necessarily steps in making your itinerary, those will come in following posts, but these are simply the big ideas that should be the goal of any good itinerary.

  1. Standing in Line is No Fun – This is the first principle that we like to base everything off of when it comes to planning park time. The simple fact is that not one person who goes to Disney World enjoys standing in line for more than 15 minutes or so. The steps taken in planning an itinerary should reflect this. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation only to spend a majority of your time standing in line. By using the tips we are going to give you it is possible to go on a trip where the longest lines you have to stand in are around 20 minutes.
  2. The First Two Hours are Golden! – The next main principle we advise is that the first two hours that theme parks are open in the mornings are going to be by far the best time of the day to tour. We have tested this numerous times and you will be able to get more done in the first two hours of the park being open than you can the rest of the day combined due to shorter lines during that time. We will get more into this principle as we go, but just keep in mind to avoid lines you must use the first two hours after park opening.
  3. The Hourglass Principle – This refers back to #2 above but it is an important principle for you to understand. The crowds in theme parks are just like an hourglass. As time goes on the pile of sand at the bottom grows and grows without there being a way for any of the sand to get out. People are going to pour into the theme parks after park opening and no one will be leaving until the afternoon causing ride wait times to just climb and climb the longer the park is open. When you get to the parks and understand this principle you will see that you have over half of the park done by lunch time and other people will still be pouring into the park to start their day. The bottom line is you MUST be ahead of “THEM”.
  4. The TRE Method – The TRE method is something we will refer to throughout many of these articles. This refers to our suggested daily structure of Tour a park in the morning, Rest & Relax in the afternoon, and Enjoy the evening as a family. This is not the structure we would use every day as we definitely recommend having some mornings to sleep in and enjoy your resort, but for most days we think the TRE method is the best way to tour the parks effectively and keep everyone happy, well rested, and having a great time. We suggest your tour the parks from rope drop to around noon or 1 PM before returning to your resort for a break. Here you can take naps, swim in the pool, get out of the heat in the summer months, and enjoy that resort you paid so much for. Then you can enjoy your evening as a family. This may mean taking in a parade or fireworks or having a nice meal. We can speak from experience that these afternoon breaks will be the best thing you can do on your vacation, especially if you have younger children with you.
  5. Cranky People Don’t Have Great Vacations – Think about it. When do you have the best moments on family vacations. I’ll bet it is not when family members are cranky and tired. Our entire planning process is built around getting you into the parks at the best times of day so that you don’t stand in line, because standing in line breeds tiredness and crankiness. So yes, we are going to recommend you get out of bed and get to the parks early, but we are also going to give you some built in rest time in the afternoons as you get to head back to your resort, take a nap, swim at the pool, while “THEY” are still standing in 60 minute lines inside the theme parks, getting cranky.
  6. Enjoy Your Evenings – The evenings are some of our favorite times at Walt Disney World, not because we are riding attraction after attraction, but because we are making great memories with the ones we love. There is a lot to be said about a nice meal with your family or spending time watching Wishes at the Magic Kingdom. You will definitely be able to fit in a few attractions, especially with the FP+ system, but the focus of your evenings is not completely on riding rides. It is on making magic for your family.

We hope you are seeing the big picture for planning a Disney World vacation. Please let us know if you have any questions below and a “MouseDreamer” will stop by to help you out.