Category Archives: Tips

Booking with a Discount

Several times per year, Disney vacationers can book their trip and choose to either apply a room discount or receive a free dining plan. This promotion usually runs seasonally (it is now currently active for summer) barring specific “blackout” dates during which the discounts cannot be applied. It’s generally a good plan to wait for these discounts to become available before booking, because they can save you a lot of money. But how do you know which one to choose?

Below is a breakdown of prices from a Value, Moderate, and Deluxe hotel comparing the savings of the room discount and the free dining plan during the summer season.

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If you’re staying at a Value or Moderate resort, the Dining Plan could wind up saving you more money per night. Keep in mind, however, that Value resorts are only offered the Quick Service Dining Plan, which may not help as much as you think. Read more about the different types of dining plans here.

If you’re booking a deluxe room, applying the 30% room discount is usually the better buy. However, it is still worth researching the dining plans available and determining whether or not applying one would best suit your vacation.

 

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The Disney Dining Plan

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The Disney Dining Plan can be purchased as part of you vacation package, and is a method of budgeting your expenses that will provide you with tokens (stored on your MagicBand) that can be redeemed for various meals and snacks throughout the parks. There are different tiers of the plan that are paired with certain hotels, and during particular dates throughout the year, the Dining Plan is offered for free. How does this work? Let’s take a look:

The Tiers

Quick Service Plan: includes two counter-service meals and one snack per day at $42/day; offered for free with Value resort rooms

Standard Dining Plan: includes one counter-service meal, one sit-down meal, and one snack per day at $60/day; offered for free with Moderate and Deluxe resort rooms

Deluxe Dining Plan: three meals (either counter-service or sit-down) and two snacks per day at $110/day; not offered for free

Details

The three types of meals offered (counter-service, sit-down, and snacks) can be purchased at specific types of restaurants. Counter-service are your fast food type places, like Casey’s Corner, Gaston’s Tavern, and Liberty Inn. On the plan, you would generally pick up lunch at one of these spots. Sit-down meals are your fancier restaurants, and you would ideally use these for nice dinners. They can be redeemed at places like 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Mama Melrose, and Le Cellier Steakhouse. Snacks can be purchased at kiosks throughout the parks.

Because tokens are not affected by price, you can use one to purchase an entree that costs any amount. That is to say, a sit-down restaurant token could be used to buy a $15 salad, or a $25 steak. In this way, if you utilize the tokens effectively and manage your meals beforehand, the Dining Plan can wind up saving you a lot of money. This isn’t always the case though, and poor planning might make the plan not worth it in the end. It all depends on how you can budget your tokens. Look into where you would like to eat beforehand to determine whether or not the Dining Plan would work for your trip.

The free promotion can be a good thing to take advantage of, but remember that selecting it for your trip would mean that you cannot receive the room discount offered at the same time—look for another post coming soon about knowing which discount to apply.

 

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Spotlight: The Yacht Club

There are a lot of factors that go into deciding which on-site hotel to stay at during your vacation: price, location, atmosphere, amenities, etc. Some people feel a certain loyalty to their hotel of choice, and will stay there for every Disney trip—others like to explore the wide range of options available. Personally, I enjoy knowing exactly which hotel I’m going to book for all my vacations, and that’s the Yacht Club.

The Yacht Club is a deluxe hotel located in the Epcot resort area next to its sister hotel, the Beach Club, and across from the Boardwalk Inn. The resort is modeled after a New England seaside beach town and features a gorgeous landmark lighthouse, as well as Stormalong Bay, an outdoor pool complete with sand and a massive shipwreck-themed water slide. The rooms are boat-themed, and there is a special floor reserved for a “Concierge Level,” which contains a lounge that serves food and a private balcony. Here are some great reasons to stay the Yacht Club:

The View

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The back of the resort looks out over a scenic lagoon with sandy beaches and a boardwalk that leads to the lighthouse. It’s incredibly picturesque, and is especially pretty at dusk. The resort holds movie screenings and other events right on the beach, and you’re always free to walk along the sand and lounge in the beach chairs. You can see Epcot’s IllumiNations right from the beach, and many of the resort’s rooms give you a view of the lagoon from your balcony.

The Rooms

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The rooms at the Yacht Club are simple but elegant, and are slightly more refined than the ones found at the Beach Club because the Yacht Club typically caters to an older crowd. All rooms are furnished with a private balcony that provides great scenery. The lobby is also very elegant, and when you arrive you are greeted by The Captain, who hangs around the resort completely in character.

The Amenities

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Stormalong Bay is an outdoor pool that connects the Beach and Yacht Clubs. It’s an enormous facility with plenty of sun, sand, and beach chairs. It’s got a great water slide for the kids, a lazy river section, and has plenty of noodles and tubes to go around. The Yacht Club is also home to Yachtsman’s Steakhouse, an upper-scale restaurant with some really quality food options.

The Location

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Perhaps the best reason to stay at the Yacht Club is its position between the parks. A short walk from the hotel will take you directly to the back of Epcot (pictured above) and right to the France Pavilion. From the park, you have boat and monorail access. If you choose to walk down to the lighthouse, there is a boat service that will take you across the way to the Boardwalk, or over to Hollywood Studios. Buses also stop by the lot to bring you to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.

 

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Spotlight: Flower and Garden Festival

If you’re booking a last minute vacation this spring (and you love Epcot as much as I do), you’ll want to check out the Flower and Garden Festival, held every year from March to mid-May. The special attraction takes place in both World Showcase and Future World, and features gorgeous character topiary and flower arrangements throughout the parks. The festival hosts special events for Earth Day, as well as entertaining “Flower Power” concerts on select weekends. You can also visit “Outdoor Kitchens”  throughout the park, which are similar to the offerings of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. For an extra fee, you can also participate in a “Gardens of the World Tour,” in which you’re led around the park by a horticulturist for a 3-hour tour of the most impressive garden displays. Also feel free to stop by the United Kingdom Pavilion for a “tea garden” afternoon special tour.

Here are some displays you’ll see throughout the parks:

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It’s a great time to visit the parks, and for the avid Disney-goer, it’s something you’ll want to see at least once.

 

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Spotlight: Haunted Mansion

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This iconic supernatural journey through a ghostly home is located in Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom, and is one of Disney World’s most famous attractions. Just because it’s well-known doesn’t mean it’s overrated! The ambiance and attention to detail are just a few great things that puts this ride on my must list.

The Haunted Mansion attraction starts with an interactive queue that builds the spooky atmosphere, complete with an eerie crypt and ghostly graveyard. Inside the mansion, Disney Imagineers put forth some of their greatest work with a room that inexplicably stretches right before your eyes. When you get to the ride, an invisible Ghost Host invites you to take a seat inside your ‘doom buggy’ and tour the home where ghosts lurk at every turn! You’ll want to try out this ride a couple times to catch all the details – they’re worth it!

While a little scary at times, this ride is suitable for younger vacationers, and is perfect for the kid at heart. It truly sums up Disney Magic.

Images courtesy of vimeo.com, answerparty.com, and disneyworld.disney.go.com.

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Spotlight: Disney’s Magical Express

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Disney’s Magical Express

Looking for convenient transportation between Orlando International Airport and your Disney resort? Consider Disney’s Magical Express, a bus packed with amenities that is sure to jump start your vacation. By signing up before your trip, you can access a special terminal at Orlando International Airport where the Magical Express Bus will be waiting for you to board. Using Disney transportation allows you to bypass luggage pickup, and have all of your belongings delivered to your hotel room just a few hours after check in. The bus itself has spacious, fabric seats, air conditioning, and a cute Disney video that is great for little kids. The Magical Express will make several resort stops as it travels around the park, so depending on which hotel you’re heading to, you might have to sit through a few drop-offs before reaching your destination. If you’re in a hurry to make a reservation, therefore, the Magical Express might not be for you. However, this complimentary Disney service offers a convenience that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Give it a try, and enjoy your trip!

Image courtesy of momminitup.com.

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Spotlight: Disney’s Boardwalk

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For an enjoyable and laid-back evening, stop by Disney’s Boardwalk, located just outside of Epcot and across from the Yacht and Beach Club hotels. Though it’s open during the morning and afternoon, the best time to experience the Boardwalk is at night, when the entire strip is lit up and comes to life. The environment is evocative of a classic Seaside boardwalk, complete with arcades, bakeries, shops, and live performers. If you walk along the strip, win some prizes by playing games of chance and skill, and end your evening by picking a table along the water’s edge and treating yourself to a beautiful view of Epcot’s IllumiNations, visible just above the Boardwalk buildings.

I personally love ending my vacations with a trip to the Boardwalk, which is somehow simultaneously relaxing and exciting. There are many great places to eat (the ice cream shop is particularly delicious) and the performers are so full of life. The Boardwalk is a must for me, and it’s something unique that everyone should experience at least once!

Image courtesy of disneyworld.disney.go.com.

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Tip: Purchasing Park Merchandise

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Worried about having to carry bags of souvenirs on your day at the park because you don’t have time to stop back at your hotel? Here’s a quick tip: ask the cashier to package up the items and have them sent back to the room you are staying in. Though this is a very popular tactic for veteran park-hoppers, a lot of vacationers might not realize this option exists. As long as you are staying on property, cast members can bundle your purchases and have them shipped right back to your hotel, where they will magically appear waiting for you. It doesn’t cost any extra, and it’s a great way to avoid carrying your souvenirs all over the parks!

Similarly, if you’re worried about carrying cash, remember that your Magic Band can now be used to charge items to your room bill. This means that you can now scan your Magic Band at any restaurant, quick service, or store in the Disney parks, and have the total purchase automatically added to your overall hotel bill.

 

Image courtesy of wdwhints.com.

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Tip: Nighttime Show Viewing Areas

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Wishes

For the traditional and rightfully classic view of Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular, Wishes, many vacationers will want to line up along the edges of Main Street, USA. While this will certainly provide you with a fantastic vantage point, you’ll need to arrive very far in advance (sometimes more than an hour) to reserve a good spot, and you’ll have to deal with very heavy crowds. If you’re eligible to use the FastPass+ system, therefore, I recommend picking up one for Wishes. This reservation guarantees you a “preferred viewing location,” and allows you to arrive to the site anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes before showtime. With this FastPass+, you’ll be surrounded by significantly thinner crowds, as only people with a valid FastPass+ will be allowed to enter the viewing area. You also won’t have to scout out your spot an hour ahead of time, so you’ll have a better opportunity to enjoy the park.

The FastPass+ for Wishes allows you entry to an area called the Rose Garden, which is located on the outskirts of Tomorrowland and is in very close proximity to Cinderella Castle. The Rose Garden is roped off by employees until the window of entry arrives, at which point cast members will welcome you into the viewing area. Because the Rose Garden is to the side of the castle, you won’t get the traditional vantage point pictured above. You will, however, get extremely close to the castle without having to deal with large crowds or wait an unnecessary amount of time, and in my opinion, this option is very well worth it. For a quick sneak peek at what Wishes looks like from the Rose Garden, check out my video.

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Though there is a similar FastPass+ option available for Epcot’s IllumiNations, I prefer an alternative viewing method. For any fans of the Great Britain pavilion, I suggest booking a reservation at the Rose & Crown pub. This dining option is delightfully themed and boasts some great authentic dishes. If you eat close to the showtime of IllumiNations (I would recommend around 7:00 or 7:30) and speak with the very accommodating wait staff, you will be allowed to enter a roped-off viewing area just around the back of the Rose & Crown. If you’re familiar with the pub, the area I’m talking about is just past the outdoor tables around the side of the restaurant. This area never has more than a dozen people in it, and does not require you to arrive much earlier than 20 or 15 minutes before showtime. You’ll have an up-close, unobstructed view, and I highly recommend trying this out. For a sneak peek of what your view of IllumiNations will look like from outside the Rose & Crown, check out my video.

Images courtesy of disneyworld.disney.go.com.

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Tip: Extra Magic Hours

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One of the biggest benefits of staying on Disney property is access to “Extra Magic Hours,” which is exactly what it sounds like – more time to enjoy the parks! Everyday, one of the four main parks are open an hour before or after the regular schedule. This means that if Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours tomorrow morning, the park would be open to on-site Disney vacationers at 8 AM instead of 9 AM! Evening Extra Magic Hours tend to run even longer, tacking on two or three hours after closing time.

If you’re staying at one of the Disney-owned hotels, I would highly recommend planning some days around the announced Extra Magic Hours. Before you decide on a park for the day, be sure to check out Disney’s schedule and see if your group can work in the designated times. Parks during Extra Magic Hours are often much less crowded, and it’s a unique experience to see them early in the morning and late at night! When factoring in these Extra Magic Hours, you should also read up on what is open and running during these times.

Image courtesy of disneylandflorida.com, resources courtesy of disneyworld.disney.go.com and allears.net.

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