Tuesday, March 1, 2016

MY Top Ten Tips for your Disney Vacation!

After I got back from my first Disney World trip in 20+ years, I started reading all these Pinterest “Tips & Tricks” about going to Disney. And yes,I realize I did that backwards – you don’t have to point it out to me! The thing I learned is that I missed SO much! And now I feel I have to go back again. However, there were lots of things that I learned from my trip that weren’t really addressed in most people’s lists of things not to miss. So for your reading and Disney planning pleasure, I submit to you my “Top Eight Things To Know Before Going To Disney World”. (Sorry, I couldn't actually come up with another two things!).

PLAN PLAN PLAN. Now, I know that nearly every article tells you this, but don’t do what I did and leave it up to someone else to plan, figuring you’ll just go with the flow. My friend Barb planned everything (Yeah Barb!) and only afterwards did I realize that some of the things I wanted to do weren’t on her list of priorities. Mind you, before we went, I didn’t know I wanted to do these things, only AFTER, when I – you know – read the brochures on the plane ride home! So take the time to visit all the tips and tricks sites BEFORE you go. Decide what’s most important to you and try to work it in. At first I thought that trying to plan our days down to the minute was going to be stifling, but really, it makes the difference between standing in the middle of a parade route (been there, done that) wondering what to do next and snagging the best place in line for Thunder Mountain. Vacationing is serious business!
GETTING OUT & ABOUT. If you’re staying “on property”, meaning in a Disney Resort, you really don’t need a rental car. I was worried because I have never been on vacation when I didn’t have a car at my disposal but the Disney bus system is so efficiently run, you’ll be glad you skipped the price of a rental. HOWEVER… if you are using the Disney Magical Express service – here’s a few things to know.
    •  DO NOT FORGET to attach the tags they send you in the mail to your luggage. These are very important. And if your travel agent tells you that Disney didn’t send tags for each person but you can just tell the ticket agent at the airport…(not mentioning any names-ahem- AAA Travel), INSIST that this is NOT acceptable and tell them you DEMAND to have the luggage tags you need, even if someone needs to overnight them to you in the mail! Trust me on this – you don’t want to be at your resort while your luggage is circling ‘round and ‘round on the carousel back at MCO! I speak from experience.
    •  If you are landing in Orlando at night, be prepared to NOT receive your luggage until the morning. I don’t remember seeing this in any of the paperwork I read beforehand ( I DID read some!), but you will not get your luggage from the Magical Express people for THREE HOURS or more after you land. So better pack some PJs and underwear in your carry on.
    •  The Magical Express is not Magical for everyone. I use a mobility scooter, or as Disney calls them ECVs. The giant Magical Express bus, and it IS giant, does have a lift for people using ECVs but it’s narrow and the turning radius at the top is quite a small area. They did give me the choice of loading the ECV while I took the stairs onto the bus, but there was no way I would have been able to make those 2 foot high stairs! (I exaggerate slightly!).They ended up calling a special van for me and my entourage and on the way home, there was chaos trying to get our party back to the airport. So if you’re using the Magical Express and you use an ECV, make sure you’re ready for any little “problems” that pop up. 
    • The bus system within the resort is great. I was worried about waiting long lengths of time because each bus can only take two ECVs, but I never had to skip a bus and wait for the next one. When you’re in your ECV, there is a special place to wait, rather than trying to master the cattle lines. In some cases, when the bus pulled up, no matter where the rest of your party was in line, the “gatekeeper” would put you on first and call your party out of the line and everyone got to board first. Other times, you waited til your party was at the front of the line and then they boarded you. But honestly, the first example happened more often.
CRASH TEST DUMMIES. Speaking of ECVs... As I said, that’s what Disney calls them – Electric Conveyance Vehicles. Personally, I think it stands for Every Customer [had better]Vamoose – because the people using these things are reckless! Seriously folks, Disney World is NOT the place to learn how to use an ECV/scooter! It’s way too crowded and congested for scooter newbies and really, you’re gonna end up hurting someone. I’ve been using ECVs for years, so I can stop on a dime and make a 20 point turn in under ten seconds but some of the people I saw using these machines needed their licenses revoked. There was one group of about 12 people – I kid you not – who had Granny and Grampy with them, each on their own ECV. There was NO WAY either of them should have been on scooters. I watched as they BOTH plowed into a crowd of people while waiting for the Muppet Vision 3D attraction. Then, as a man from their group tried to “help” them, he was running over his own feet, then ran Grampy into a wall. These poor elderly people had no idea what they were doing. Once inside the theatre, they tried parking their ECVs against a back wall and walking to the seating area, when they could have stayed on the ECV. BOTH of them crashed into the wall. Now really, they had about 12 people with them, they could have easily rented wheelchairs instead of scooters for Nana and Papa. So do us all a favor, unless you KNOW what you’re doing or want to take the time to go to an open area in the parking lot somewhere to practice – stay off the scooters cause you’re going to hurt someone!

QUICK SERVICE MEAL PLAN. DO IT! I was worried that our group of “healthy eaters” wouldn’t have enough to eat all week but we had plenty and then some. Just learn to take advantage of the plan the best way it fits you. Everywhere I read, it said it consisted of Breakfast, 2 Snacks and Dinner. But really, the meals are interchangeable and so flexible that you’re never hungry. I don’t eat breakfast usually so I would grab a bagel or muffin in the morning and that counted as a snack. I refilled my refillable Disney cup (which can be refilled nearly everywhere with soda or water) and off I went. Lunch and Dinner consists of your meal, a drink, separate from your refillable cup, and dessert. And you STILL have a snack credit for the day. At the end of our trip, our group of seven had over 30 snack credits left, which we promptly spent at the gift shop on cookies, popcorn and candy for souvenirs and plane ride snacks! And here’s a HINT! At Port Orleans French Quarter, one of the desserts/snacks you can get is an Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s two giant chocolate chip cookies with about three scoops of ice cream in between. Easily enough for two people. However, if you just want a cookie, you only get ONE as a dessert or snack… so… I put two cookies in the same Styrofoam container that the ice cream sandwich comes in and told them it was an ice cream sandwich without the ice cream! I ate one cookie and brought the other back to my room for later! How smart am I?? LOL!

MAGICAL PHOTOS. The Magic Photo Express thing - skip it. It’s a lot of money to have your picture taken when you can actually ask that same photographer to take a picture with your own camera. We did get some nice shots where they added some characters into the picture with you and yes, there were some shots of us on rides, but really, IMO, not worth the extra money.

PARADES & FIREWORKS. Okay, not really a tip, but a complaint. Disney is really no place for kids. We were there to do some serious vacationing and there were all these little kids everywhere! LOL! And what’s wrong with little kids? Well, for one thing, they’re scared of fireworks so there’s lots of screaming and crying. If they aren’t scared, they insist on being held high to see and Mom and Dad are all too willing to sling junior up onto their shoulders to get a closer look. But really people? I can’t fit on anyone’s shoulders so you just blocked my good view without even a glance back. So can I ask you, if you’re tall or insist on putting little Suzy on your back, would you mind stepping to the side and letting the short people see from the middle?

STROLLERS. Just about every ride that I saw had a stroller parking area and all of them were jam packed. Outside the Carousel ride, there had to be 100 or more strollers lined up row to row. And in these “empty” strollers were clothes, diaper bags, cameras, packages and even handbags. Yes, this is Disney, the most magical place on earth. But criminals go on vacation too. I’m not a thief but if I were, I could have made a killing. I know it might be a pain to empty the stroller every time you go on a ride, but unless you have someone watching out for your stuff, don’t be surprised if something is missing when you come back (it wasn’t me!).

GROUPS. Don’t do it! There were 7 of us and we spent so much time trying to keep track of everyone and who wanted to do what, when, and where, it was exhausting. Of course, if you’re bringing kids under 12, they shouldn’t be given choices of what to do or where to go anyway – be the boss! But when it comes to traveling with other adults – leave them at home! Just take your best friend and have a blast! 

You can read the "play by play" on my Disney Vacation at mishes2cents.blogspot.com - just scroll down to start at part one!

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