Walt Disney World Insiders – We Have Some Advice

LOOKING FOR AN INSIDE TRACK ON WHAT TO EXPECT INSIDE WALT DISNEY WORLD?

Welcome to everything Disney, Walt Disney World that is. Below are links to in-depth articles on where to stay, how to get ready for a visit, where to eat and additional things to do.

We first visited WDW forty years ago and now live less than twenty miles away. Over the years we have seen a lot of changes and we’ve learned a few things. Let us share our ideas and information on Walt Disney World.

 

 

 

The Happiest Place On Earth!  Without question, WDW is the most visited vacation destination in the world, paying host to forty million visitors a year. Adding to that the city of Orlando also features Universal Studios, Sea World and over a dozen additional major tourist attractions. All this adds up to a must-do vacation destination for a lot of families the world over.

Far and away the star of the Orlando attractions is Walt Disney World and an experience not to be missed.

10 Things To Consider Before You Visit WDW. If you are planning a visit in the future we have some advice to help make the most of your vacation.

First and very important is to start making reservations as far in advance as possible. Decide if you will stay inside the “World” or at one of the seemingly thousand of additional resorts outside of the property. Restaurants and special events are in high demand and the sooner you start making reservations the better your chances of getting what you want. You will also want to start making “Fast Pass” selections to get you onto rides faster.

Where To Stay. Our recommendation is to stay inside the “World”. While it is true you can save money and often get more for your money staying off property, you will miss staying in the heart of the excitement. Often staying inside WDW can add hours of time to your park visits. First, you are already nearby when the parks open and in addition each day  a different park has early or late extra hours for WDW resort guests only. Usually the gates open an hour early or are extended by an hour.

A World of Foods To Experience. There was a time when a visit to WDW meant a day or two of fast food. No more! Walt Disney World has more restaurants, snack bars, cafes and lounges, food trucks and dinner shows than can be counted. While we would never characterize food at WDW as a bargain it is also remarkably varied and extremely good. Several are rated on the best in America list. Get an early start on where you plan to eat.

Dozens of food choices at Disney Springs

Special Events and More. Maybe you are planning your first trip to WDW but the people at Disney World have additional plans for you. You can think of it as them just wanting to make your visit extra special but actually they really want you to come back over and over again. These offerings include Christmas parties, Food and Wine Festivals, Flower and Garden Shows, behind the scenes tours, special park events and hours, marathons…  Find out all that’s going on.

The Liberty Belle Riverboat in The Magic Kingdom

Getting Around WDW. One of the things we like about Walt Disney World is the adventure of just getting around the “World”. From boats and ferries to monorails and soon to open sky cars getting there is all part of the fun.

Magic Bands and Fast Pass. When it started you could only get a Magic Band if you where a Disney hotel guest and to make Fast Pass reservations you had to have a hotel reservation too. Things have changed. Now if you have purchased park tickets and created a My Disney account (anyone can register for free), you can now make Fast Pass reservations before you travel to WDW.

The Disney Vacation Club. Over twenty-five years ago Disney began a time share program with the opening of the Old Key West Resort. In the beginning it was structured very much like other time shares but soon it was restructured into something uniquely Disney and may represent one of the few true values in timeshare.

A boat from Epcot to The Boardwalk resorts

A Brief History of Disney World. Just under fifty years ago Walt Disney opened a vacation and entertainment complex on the west side of Orlando, Florida. Not wanting to repeat the mistake of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, where the park was sited on a piece of land surrounded by property owned by a multitude of other interests. This time they secretly began buying massive tracks of land just west of the city ending up with about thirty-nine square miles of what used to be swamp and orange groves.

When Walt Disney World opened it comprised two theme parks and three resort hotels that included The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, The Contemporary and Polynesian resorts and a property on the golf course appropriately named The Golf Resort (now called Shades of Green for exclusive use of active military)  along with a shopping and private hotel areas.

Big Thunder Mountain in The Magic Kingdom
Pirates of the Caribbean at The Magic Kingdom

Today WDW includes four theme parks, The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Studios and Animal Kingdom along with two water parks. There are now four golf courses, Thirty four Disney owned resort hotels (soon to add four more) five separate time-share resorts (Disney Vacation Club resorts [DVC]) and expanded shopping and entertainment district. There is also a sports complex and a campground (which was part of the original “World”.

In addition there are major additions and upgrades being made to several parks, upgrades to WDW transportation network and a Star Wars Experience hotel to open soon. The people at Disney are hard at work trying to get you to visit more often…

 

REVIEWS AND WORTHWHILE LINKS

CURRENT REVIEWS

GOOD LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • Walt Disney World home page HERE
  • Calendar of WDW special events HERE
  • Dining Guide to WDW HERE
  • The Disney Food Blog HERE
  • My Disney Experience HERE
Advertisements

Walt Disney World – Staying Inside the “World”

Above – Christmas at Animal Kingdom Lodge

A great number of families have a trip to Disney World as part of their future plans. If this is you, here are a few pointers on selecting accommodations.And we would really recommend staying inside the “World”.

Christmas at The Wilderness Lodge
Christmas at The Wilderness Lodge

First, the Walt Disney World is more than four theme parks. There is Disney Springs (previously Downtown Disney) with more shops and restaurants than you can count. There are two water parks, a sports complex and an entertainment area associated with the Boardwalk Hotel. In addition a number of the on property hotels are worth a visit just to see, like The Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Grand Floridian. There are also dinner shows at the Fort Wilderness Camp Grounds and the Polynesian Village as well as Cirque de Soleil, and  night life at Disney Springs with the soon to open “NBA Experience”.

Throughout the Disney property there is a range of accommodations at various price points. Like most resort areas, the pricing varies by season and there are numerous specials and packages available. Average room rates at Disney properties are around $250 to $300 with economy rooms being in the $125 to $170 range. The premium resorts without specials run $450 and up per night. Even though often listed on the reservation site, many of the units are not readily available because they are part of the Disney Vacation Club system.

Morning at Riverside
Morning at Riverside

The economy range includes the “All-Star” hotels and are priced near what you are used to paying for travel around the U.S. You can also save a considerable amount by selecting a motel “off property”.  The huge supply around Disney World usually keeps prices remarkably low compared to Disney hotels and hotels in general. The biggest disadvantage to staying “off property” is the hassle and cost of parking at the theme parks and missing access to the Disney transportation system. Staying at a Disney World resort lets you park at the inside hotels and gives you the ability to travel around the “World” as you wish until very late at night. Also, if you are booking a resort off-property be aware that many hotels apply a daily “resort fee” on top of the room rate (usually $12 to $20) that may not be quoted as part of the listed room rate.

The Yacht Club Resort
The Yacht Club Resort

Inside the World and going up a bit in cost is Port Orleans, Riverside, Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach, each with its own theme and character. In a similar price range, or maybe a bit higher, are two hotels not actually operated by Disney located in the Boardwalk area. They are the Swan and the Dolphin and come with almost as many perks but no magic bands*.

 

 

Christmas at the Grand Floridian

At the higher end in resorts are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where animals roam past your balcony, The Boardwalk with its entertainment area and Wilderness Lodge near The Magic Kingdom. Even higher in price are two of the original hotels with monorail stations at their door, the Contemporary and the Polynesian. The crown jewel of Disney World is the Grand Floridian also on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop.

In addition to the Disney operated hotels, there are three areas inside the “World” which feature hotels. They include the Buena Vista area near Disney Springs, the Bonnet Creek area which includes the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club and the exclusive Golden Oaks neighborhood with its Four Seasons Resort. In these areas bus service, if available, is limited.

The transportation system and being close to all there is to offer are two of the main reasons for staying “on property” but the Magic Band system is also a consideration. These bands are connected to your vacation account so you can enter the parks, select FastPass rides, open your hotel door, access your dining plan and charge at many gift shops and restaurants.See our separate article on Magic Bands (link coming).

Following is a complete list of hotels and features:

A building at the Music resort
A building at the Music resort

Disney’s All-Star Resorts (each with its own matching theme)

 

 

  •     Movies Resort
  •     Music Resort
  •     Sports Resort
  •     Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (family suites only)

 

 

Overlooks at the Animal Kingdom Lodge
Overlooks at the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (set on an African savannah with live animals).

  •   Jambo House
  •   Kidani Village

Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our favorite places to stay at Disney World. Really pricey but perhaps worth the expense. See our review HERE (link coming).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boardwalk & Swan across the lake
Boardwalk & Swan across the lake

The Boardwalk area with restaurants, entertainment venues, roaming entertainers, access to Epcot and Disney Studios    Disney’s Beach Club Resort & Villas

  •     Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  •     Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
  •     Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  •     Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  •     The Swan & Dolphin hotels (Not Disney operated)
The Grand Floridian
The Grand Floridian

Seven Seas Lagoon area (access to Magic Kingdom, view nightly fireworks)

  •     Disney’s Contemporary Resort (monorail loop running thru it)
  •     Disney’s Grand Floridian (monorail loop running thru it)
  •     Disney’s Polynesian Resort (monorail loop running thru it)
  •     Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (boat service to Magic Kingdom)
The Coronado Resort
The Coronado Resort

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside (boat service to Disney Springs)

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (near Disney Springs with bus and boat service to Disney Springs)

The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (boat service to Magic Kingdom).

If you are booking a Disney hotel and are going to visit the parks, it is strongly recommended that you purchase the tickets, set up an account at My Disney Experience website and begin to reserve FastPass for rides.

 

.

The Cruise Port of Bar Harbor Maine

Visiting The Cruise Port of Bar Harbor, Maine

A favorite stop for New England and Canada Maritime cruises, Bar Harbor has a lot to offer. The town itself and waterfront are the major attraction with a number of shops and great restaurants to visit.

The Town Pier in Bar Harbor

Where Your Ship Docks

Bar Harbor is a tender port and the boats will tie up at the Town Pier. From there it is only a short walk into the center of town and there are a number of excursion and whale watching boats available right at the pier.

Because it is tidal New England the tides can rise over a large range sometimes making a it a climb up from the tenders dock.

 

 

Downtown Bar Harbor

Transportation

The best way to get around Bar Harbor is The Island Explorer, a free town shuttle bus that even offers free transportation to Acadia National Park and up Cadillac Mountain. The downtown area is also an easy walk with lots to see.

Currency

You’re in the United States and the U.S. Dollar is the local currency. Most credit cards are welcome and there are a number of ATM machines in town.

Attractions

This area is where the fall foliage starts to change color first in the Eastern United States and fall leaf change cruises are popular. Bar Harbor also offers a number of whale watching excursions and the town sits on the edge of Acadia National Park. A trip up Cadillac Mountain is a popular excursion. The top of the mountain is the first spot touched by the rays of the rising Sun in the United States each day and the Park Service offers a number of programs for visitors.

Good Links for Additional Information

Free Shuttle Website

The Official Bar Harbor Website

Acadia National Park Website

Visiting Cadillac Mountain Website

TSA and the Little Sequined Top

My wife has a sequined top that she has worn while traveling a few times. I don’t believe there is anything seriously metallic in the sequins and it has made its way thru a number of metal detectors. On a recent trip all hell seemed to break out over this top.

While we have never paid for pre-clearance we usually get pre-cleared on our boarding passes (not really sure why). Last October while passing thru the TSA Pre check my wife was directed to go thru the scanner. Feet on the marks, hands above your head and wait, something has gone wrong. It seemed the agent scanned her several times and now she is pulled aside for a thorough search. What went wrong? She was wearing that top!

After a little research we have discovered that TSA screening devices have a lot of issues with some types of women’s clothes. That splash of gold print on a T-Shirt can contain enough metal to set off the metal detector. The same with attached beads. Sequins can literally blind a scanner. Since often these things are part of the fabric, passing a wand over you cannot determine if it is the top you’re wearing or something concealed under it. Time for the pat-down.

A comment Submitted by Cindy M found on the TSA blog from Jan 2018 – When the scanners were introduced I believed they were an improvement. Now however, I see that the machines don’t spot real problems. Instead they seem to be confused by a variety of normal things such as sequins, metal, or other sorts of embellishments on clothing.

Why is it I\we have to dress for the TSA?! Actually you don’t but you can expect to be delayed and/or inconvenienced.  Especially if you ignore some simple tips that help TSA do their job efficiently. They do post a lot of information online that can help avoid these sort of issues. Unfortunately as of now sequins aren’t one of those tips.

 

 

An Unusual Blarney Castle Adventure

A Short Story

Blarney Castle Caution

If you are not up the the challenge of climbing six stories of steep stairs – don’t start the tour…

I think that one of those requirements for first-time visitors to Ireland is visit Blarney Castle. It was way up on our list of must see.

When you tour Blarney Castle the first thing you are confronted with is a six story, narrow spiral staircase. Everything is rough stone and there isn’t enough room on the stairs for more than a single file line. Someone getting past another in line would be a serious challenge. In touring the castle and getting up to the rock of eloquence (better known as the Blarney Stone) you must ascend on one staircase and descend on another equally narrow staircase. While on the ascent there are a couple of side rooms attached to the stairwell there is no way out until you climb the full six stories. At the top you walk over to the Blarney Stone and afterwords cross over to the other corner and start down the second staircase.

Before you enter the actual castle itself there is an attendant that clearly explains the issues with the spiral staircase and that if you don’t think you are up to the climb you shouldn’t continue.

On our visit last year as we entered the grounds we became aware of a couple in the group that stood out. He was, it turned out, in his 90’s and walked with a Hurrycane. It’s that foldable walking cane with the hand grip at the top and the four footed base as seen on TV. As we entered the castle the elderly gentleman was ahead of us with about six people between us and him in line. Just ten feet inside we were at the foot of that spiral staircase. At that point we commented to ourselves that we were impressed with his courage if not his judgement.

To his credit he made it up almost three stories before he couldn’t take another step. At that point the people below on the stairs couldn’t do anything to help because we were stuck in a single file. There was a lot of discussion up and down the line and eventually the line above him managed to get into an alcove and one gentlemen came back to him. With his wife behind him and help from the man above they managed to help him crawl up a number of steps to that alcove. After that the line started moving up again – there was no other choice. There was no way we were going to get a line three stories up into the castle to back up. When we got to the top of the castle several people explained to the attendants helping people kiss the stone* about the gentleman’s problem.

Maybe Blarney Castle has experienced this problem before but the logistics of stopping the line, getting help to him and than getting him down three flights of steep, narrow, spiral stairs does seem like a daunting task. That doesn’t even take into consideration the tour buses that are on a schedule and have significant distances to travel.

I’m sure there are a number of morals in this adventure but I’ll leave them to the readers imagination.

*You lay on your back while the attendants hold you as you stick your head through an opening at the top of the castle, six stories above the ground while you kiss the stone protruding from the wall above you – try that on a wet and rainy day. Also there doesn’t seem to be any Purell in use and you start speculating about all those people ahead of you that day?

Photo Essay – The Keukenhof

It’s coming up Spring in Europe and that means it’s Keukenhof  time in Amsterdam.

For additional information about the Keukenhof click  HERE.

Open 21 March to 15 May 2019

The Keukenhof is unarguably the largest flower gardens and show in the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Official site click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For additional information about visiting the Keukenhof click  HERE.

Iguazú Falls, Elephant Island Antarctica, The Faulklands, Patagonia…

Going Off-Grid for 3 to 4 Weeks

Visiting Iguazú Falls in Argentina, Elephant Island Antarctica, The Faulklands, Patagonia and a couple of big cities along the way. See you on the other side.

Courtesy Argentina Tourist Agency

In researching this trip we have every reason to believe that other than a few days in Buenus Aries and Montoviedo we will have very little access to the Internet and aren’t expecting to post or upload much. We look forward to sharing this adventure when we get back…