Are Disney World Special Ticketed Events Worth The Money?

halloween 1I have many clients that sometimes get sticker shock when I tell them the price of tickets at Disney World. By the time I’ve gone over the value that ticket get’s you, they usually end the conversation by saying, “oh that’s a pretty good price then.” That’s the trick with Disney vacations, the value is in the eye of the beholder. The practical thinker inside me often compares Disney World tickets to sporting events or Broadway shows. Some people think nothing of shelling out 100-200 dollars to see their favorite team or to get a good seat at the Lion King on Broadway. These events only last 2-3 hours, but a day at Disney World can get you anywhere between 9-18 hours, or on some special occasions 24 hours. When you start to think that in one day, you can ride awesome rides, meet most of your favorite characters, see shows and parades, and end the night with a firework spectacular, you realize the value is there and Disney gives you a great bang for your buck. But you will only feel this way if you see all those things as valuable. Family members that get dragged to Disney against their will really won’t care how much the ticket cost, it’s overpriced and that’s that. So why am I now rambling about ticket values and Disney lovers and haters? Well, when you look at special ticketed events at Disney World, you have to think of them very much like a regular ticket to the park. If you can see the value in the event, the money will be worth it, if not, you won’t understand why people shell out all this extra dough to go to them.

christmas 1What is a special ticketed event?
Special ticketed events have been slowly popping up more and more at Disney World. Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are the big two to know about. These party events are from 7 until until midnight and are available on select days September-December. The park is only open for people that have purchased this special event ticket. Depending on what night you go, the price could be anywhere between 60-75 dollars per ticket. Hollywood Studios offered a Villains Unleashed event and Disney’s Animal Kingdom introduced Harambe Nights this past summer, with tickets going for over a hundred dollars. So what do these parties include that would make me want to shell out an extra couple hundred dollars on top of my normal park ticket?

•Smaller crowds
•More personal time with characters
•Special parades, stage shows and fireworks
•Unlimited “goodies”: candy or cookies
•The feel of a party atmosphere
•Specialty food and merchandise

The park was pretty empty.

The park was pretty empty.

I can’t speak for Harambee Nights or Villains Unleashed because I’ve never been, but I have attended both the Halloween and Christmas parties. My experience was very little crowds. We felt like we had the park to ourselves. The wait time on rides were maybe 5-10 minutes (even for Space Mountain and Big Thunder). There were spots of the park that just had no people in them. To me, this has value in it. I hate crowds and I hate waiting in long lines, so to be able to experience all the rides I wanted to as basically a walk on is very enticing to me. Now of course I read Disney blogs and I have read that this is not always the case with everyone. Some people that attend the events on let’s say Halloween and very close to Christmas might experience more crowds than I have in the past. Even if this is true, it will be far less than the Magic Kingdom’s normal crowds for the day.

If you have children that love to get character autographs, pictures, or just want some one on one time with them, this also adds value. The lines to wait for the characters will be much shorter than during the day, and you might even see some of the less popular characters lurking about. I am not so into characters so this doesn’t really appeal to me, but that could all change when I have kids of my own.

halloween 3When I see a show or parade at Disney World, I am subconsciously thinking in the back of my head, wow, they really give me my money’s worth here. I see a lot of value in entertainment. The time they spend on costumes, choreography, decorations, details, songs, and concepts; I am always amazed. And seeing something new that you don’t get to see during a regular trip to the Magic Kingdom is always exciting too. This holds a lot of value to me, but someone like my husband that does not see the excitement in fireworks (weirdo) would not enjoy it as much.

unlimited cookies and hot chocolate

unlimited cookies and hot chocolate

Unlimited goodies at Disney are always very nice. During the Halloween Party, you get to trick or treat throughout the park. You will leave with an entire bag, full to the top with candy. Kids and chocolate lovers everywhere will really love this. At the Christmas party, they provide unlimited cookies and hot chocolate. If you ate about 8 cookies and hot chocolates, you would probably get your money back in food because we all know buying a cookie and hot chocolate from the Main Street Bakery would add up quickly.

At certain locations in the Magic Kingdom, they will have more dance music playing than their traditional themed background music. You may even decide to jump in and dance if you feel the rhythm. It does help to make the event feel more like you have been invited to a party and not just you get to stick around for extra magic hours. I love music and I love to dance so this is a win.

halloween 2Some people love buying specialty items that you can’t get everyday. These ticketed events will offer a variety of snack options and merchandise for purchase that are exclusive to the event. I definitely love yummy snacks, but I’d be ok with the stuff they are handing out that’s included.

So do all these party perks have you ready to pay that pretty penny yet? I will say that while I enjoyed myself at both of these events, it’s not something I would do every time I’m there for the fall or winter. I was happy to experience them, and maybe when I have kids I will try it again, but I feel that a normal day at the Magic Kingdom fulfils me enough with it’s entertainment and value that I don’t need to go seeking more. So give em a try if it’s in your budget and you’re looking to try something new, but do not fret if it’s not in the cards for your family. There is so much to do for everyone you will not be disappointed.

Getting Ready For Your Walt Disney World Vacation…MagicBands

magic 5 About a month out from your Walt Disney World vacation, you will receive a special little present in the mail: MagicBands. These are the greatest things Disney has given us since Dole Whips, and I’d like to share with you not only why they are awesome, but some tips for stress free use.

Peel off the black part to make it a kids sized band

Peel off the black part to make it a kids sized band

Right away I was super impressed with the bands. You can choose from seven colors (red, yellow, green, grey, blue, pink, orange), from your My Disney Experience account after you have a Disney reservation. The bands have your name inscribed on them in case you have a large party with duplicate colors. The bands also arrive as one size fits all, but have been creatively designed to magically turn into a kids size band by removing part of the strap. The bands are lightweight, waterproof, and can be easily taken off if you don’t feel like sleeping with it on.

Why Is The MagicBand So Magical?

Your name is printed on the inside to keep every in your party straight.

Your name is printed on the inside to keep every in your party straight.

Disney has pretty much done away with the paper ticket and has phased out paper fastpasses. Everything is now linked to your band.

Your MagicBand:
1. Will open your hotel room.
2. Is your ticket into the parks.
3. Is your fastpass+ ticket onto a ride.
4. Can be linked to your photopass account.
5. Can be linked to you credit card to pay for meals and souvenirs.
6. Allow you access into certain areas around your hotel (i.e. Stormalong Bay pool).

MagicBands let you toss that fanny pack away.

MagicBands let you toss that fanny pack away.

You can just about go to the parks wallet free if you’d like. You may even feel lighter or opt to leave your fanny pack at home. I especially appreciate the convenience of everything rolled into one because I have forgotten my ticket in the past. I also had to put up with my husband asking “do we need our tickets for this?” obnoxiously every time we left our hotel room during our first Disney trip together. MagicBand made it easier to manage his negative behavior, because I could see it on his wrist and could ignore him when appropriate. Other times that MagicBand would have helped me was when I was with a group of my friends and we had been at one of the parks in the morning when it was cool and I was wearing jeans. I used to keep my park ticket in my back pocket so I’d have easy access for the fastpass machine. That evening I changed into shorts and went back to the Magic Kingdom. I didn’t realize my ticket was still in my jeans pocket until we were at the gate. A pain in my butt that will never happen again.

Get all up in that Mickey head grill.

Get all up in that Mickey head grill.

How To Not Look Like A Newbie:
There is a Mickey head in the middle of the MagicBand. There is also a Mickey head on anything that will read the MagicBands RFID chip (hotel room door, park entrance turnstiles, fastpass return line, etc.) Your band will only read if you touch Mickey head to Mickey head. Yes, you actually need to touch your band to the Mickey Head. You’ll see many people who don’t read this blog waving their MagicBand over the sensor and hoping for Disney magic to allow them entry. While the park attendants will patiently remind you that you need to touch Mickey to Mickey, the patrons behind you may not be as patient. Want to get your kids excited/train your kids to use them, practice at home by decorating your house with Mickey stickers. Put your kids to the test. Put them high, low, on top of counters, on doors. Your family will not only look unbelievably awesome for knowing what to do, (read: you will look like an awesome parent with your life together when your kids manage their MagicBands flawlessly, and who doesn’t want to look like an awesome parent?) You will also save some time not having to learn how to use them.

Complimentary when staying on property.

Complimentary when staying on property.

FYI:

MagicBands are only complementary to Disney World Resort guests and Annual Passholders. If you are staying off site, you will have the option of purchasing a MagicBand at one of the parks. If you do not wish to purchase a MagicBand, you will have a card that will essentially do the exact same thing. If you do have a MagicBand, you do not have to link it to your credit card. It might become all too easy to start waving your wrist around in the air and spending money on souvenirs like you just don’t care. Also, even if you do opt in, your children won’t be unless you want them to. Remember how I mentioned the My Disney Experience account? This is how you choose your fastpasses and link them to your MagicBand. Make sure to link your reservations ahead of time to avoid frustrations. I will go over the My Disney Experience app/account in a different blog, but for the meantime, those staying on property can reserve fastpasses 60 days out and off property 30 days out.

Why Disney World Resorts Are The Best (Series)…Deluxe Resorts Part 1

welcomeWe have come to the next part of the hotel series: deluxe hotels. Anyone trying to do Disney on a budget should stay far far away from these guys. The deluxe hotels are available in themes to match anyone’s interest and needs. Since there are 8 deluxe hotels on property, I am dividing my posts up so as not to overwhelm anyone with the amount of exciting Disney knowledge. This post will focus on the Magic Kingdom resorts which include The Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Wilderness Lodge. Each vastly different from each other, and each awesome in their own right. Unlike the value and moderate resorts which closely resemble each other, deluxe resorts march to the beat of their own drum. I have stayed at 3 of the Magic Kingdom resorts, and been a frequent customer at the Contemporary. Allow me to break down what amenities each resort possesses, along with some pros and cons you might experience.

Grand Floridian Lobby

Grand Floridian Lobby

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Notably the most expensive resort on property, the Grand Floridian does try to live up to its grand name. This Victorian themed resort has multiple buildings, restaurants, and entertainment. Many people wonder with such an expensive resort (rates typically are around $400 a night or more) will they feel out of place dressed in a tee shirt and flip flops. The answer is no. Everyone is in the same boat you are. They are spending the days in the park, they are walking to the pool, they are exploring the hotel. Occasionally you will see people dressed up, but it’s usually because they are on their way to dinner.

Grand Floridian Orchestra

Grand Floridian Orchestra

One of the most enjoyable parts of this hotel for me was the live music. Every night in the lobby they either have a pianist or an orchestra serenading you with your favorite Disney classics. While this hotel is beautiful, I have to say I was not a fan of the room décor. Victorian is just not my cup of tea so I didn’t want to hold it against them, but then I saw the room pictures from the new Grand Floridian villas and those look beautiful to me. So in my opinion it might be time for a room remodel. Again, my opinion. This hotel is conveniently situated on the monorail line, but you also have the option of taking a boat over to the Magic Kingdom. At this time, you cannot walk to the Magic Kingdom since there is a waterway in the way, but there are nice walking paths on property. Some things to consider when staying at the Grand Floridian, while you are super close to the Magic Kingdom, everything else will be pretty far away.

Club Level is always stocked with delicious treats.

Club Level is always stocked with delicious treats.

Do not be surprised if it takes you an hour or more to get back from Downtown Disney, so as always, plan accordingly. I was unexpectedly upgraded to club level when I was there on my 21st birthday which was fantastic. Food and drinks are provided all day long. Tip: If you are doing a club level, I would not recommend the dining plan and vice versa. There comes a point where you physically can not eat anymore food and you start to feel gluttonous and wasteful. I would pick one or the other so as not to gain an additional 20 pounds on your vacation. FYI, the club level does include alcohol, so let that sway you one way or the other.

The Contemporary

Bay Lake side of Contemporary Atrium.

Bay Lake side of Contemporary Atrium.

I have had some really fantastic stays at the contemporary resort. This hotel always screams Disney to me when I see the iconic monorail pass through the building. I have an entire post dedicated to interesting tidbits about the Contemporary resort so I will try not to repeat myself. This hotel has a modern feel to it. You have the main atrium and an additional garden wing where you will have your more affordable rooms. The rooms at the contemporary are my favorite of the deluxe hotels. Clean white sheets and pillows, giant square sinks in the bathroom, modern desk, and even a day bed that could sleep an extra child. If you have a room in the atrium, you will either have a view of the Magic Kingdom or Bay Lake. FYI, Chef Mickey can be loud if your room is close to that side of the building. Some people prefer the garden wing for this reason.

The monorail is quieter than Chef Mickey.

The monorail is quieter than Chef Mickey.

Strangely enough, the monorail is very quiet, and you will never notice it going though when you are in your room. My absolute favorite thing about staying at the Contemporary is the walkway to the Magic Kingdom. It is literally a walkway just for you, and will get you there faster than taking the monorail. While these deluxe hotels are pricey, you are really paying for the convenience of being close to the action. The contemporary also has a nice marina on the Bay Lake side where you can parasail. One thing this hotel doesn’t have compared to some of the other resorts are nice walking paths.

The huge hospitality suite

The huge hospitality suite

While Bay Lake is fun to look at, I was never wowed by the grounds themselves. I was also upgraded while staying at the Contemporary to the hospitality suite/club level. I literally felt like a millionaire and got a taste of what celebrities might do when they go to Disney. Connected to a regular room was a huge living room, complete with kitchen, couches, dining room, and extra bathrooms. It was unbelievable big. And the club level is located on the Magic Kingdom side of the atrium which means incredible views and again, all you can eat and drink throughout the day.

Enjoy the Spirit of Aloha

Enjoy the Spirit of Aloha

The Polynesian
While I have never stayed at the Polynesian, I definitely plan to after the extensive rehab that is currently happening. The Polynesian will be going back to its original opening name of the Polynesian Village Resort. This hotel houses a lobby and 11 additional long house buildings. Each will have a different view or will be closer to something. For example, you can request rooms closer to the pool, closer to the main building with the monorail, the bus stop, etc.

Self serve Dole Whips

Self serve Dole Whips

Since this hotel is also on the monorail line, you can hop on in the main building, or have the option of boating over to the Magic Kingdom. The tikiman http://www.tikimanpages.com/poly/ can give you some great updates on what is actually happening to the resort and how your stay might be affected if you have an upcoming trip planned there. The Polynesian does have some great dinner entertainment, with the Spirit of Aloha luau dinner show. This hotel also serves Dole whips which have becoming something of a cult classic refreshment. FYI, while this hotel is situated on the beach of the Seven Seas Lagoon, you cannot swim in the lake. Apparently flesh eating bacteria is just waiting to take hold of some unsuspecting tourist. Don’t let it be you.

View from Wilderness lodge room.

View from Wilderness lodge room.

Wilderness Lodge
The Wilderness Lodge has a very rustic/lodge feel. The lobby is very beautiful and has a stream that flows through the hotel to outside and eventually shoots off as a geyser. This hotel is great for the family looking for deluxe amenities, but doesn’t want to pay top dollar. Often the rooms here will be $100 less than the contemporary or other deluxe resorts. While this hotel is not on the monorail line, it is a Magic Kingdom resort, so you will be transported to the Magic Kingdom by boat. This hotel sits close to Bay Lake and has a nice walking path out the the boat docks.

Bunk beds room, love 'em or hate 'em.

Bunk beds room, love ’em or hate ’em.

While I think the hotel is beautiful, I did not find the rooms to be as nice. This resort offers a bunk bed option, but I found that made the room seem smaller. However based on your families needs, this could work out perfectly. This hotel is very close to Fort Wilderness and a nice walking/biking path links the two resorts. Wilderness Lodge has some very nice restaurants and is home to Whispering Canyon Cafe, a western/comedy/audience participation family style dinner.

More on Deluxe Resorts
What you get with a deluxe resort is a theme of a place and/or time and less in your face Disney (This doesn’t mean there aren’t tons on hidden Mickey’s to find). These resorts are far smaller than your value and moderate hotels, so there is more of an intimate, personal atmosphere.

Interior hallways in the deluxe resorts

Interior hallways in the deluxe resorts

All of the deluxe resorts also have interior hallways, meaning the walk to your room is inside a building unlike the values and moderates where you walk outside, similar to a motel. This means that your window view will not have people walking past it like the values and moderates, so it’s up to you if that view is worth shelling out a little more dough. Keep in mind, the deluxe resorts don’t really have food courts, and what they do have is often very small and get’s very crowded at breakfast time. If you are not super into breakfast, consider eating in your room, or grabbing something at the park. On the flip side, the deluxe resorts offer way more table service dining options (buffets, character meals, dinner shows, elegant dining). These can be fun and tasty, but pricey too. So if it’s in the cards, go for it, if not, you have plenty of great options all over the Disney World Resort to choose from. Stay tuned for part 2 of this post where we will look at the Epcot resorts, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The Job I’ve Been Waiting For…Disney Vacation Planner

Carsland in Disneyland

I’m a Disney World AND Disneyland pro

Over the last couple months, I have been putting all my effort into becoming a Disney Vacation Planner for the Wish Upon a Star With Us agency. While it might have been a bit of a shock to my friends and family when I sprang this news on them, after a couple minutes, no one really seemed surprised. I can’t help but think this was the role I was meant to play. My vast knowledge and love for Disney suddenly has a purpose in life, and I couldn’t be happier.

 

So what exactly does a vacation planner do? We plan vacations of course! But not just any vacations, Disney vacations: the most magical of them all. I won’t lie to you when I say planning a Disney vacation can be more work that one might like it to be. There are many things to consider, where to stay, when to go, where to eat, what to do when we get there.

Let me take all the stress out of planning for you.

Let me take all the stress out of planning for you.

My job is to be your Disney guru and channel your inner-most Disney desires. I take the time and stress out of planning so you can just show up and be on vacation. I will take care of booking accommodations, park tickets, magic bands, fastpasses, dining reservations, transportation, and anything else you can possibly think of. No more searching the internet for hours wondering if this weekend is the right time to book, or if prices will drop next weekend. No more pointing and clicking your life away doing your own research for restaurants. You already know your family — tell me what they like, and I’ll help you find your very own Disney niche. For those that want to give up full control, I will plan it all, for those that have ideas of what you already like, I will work with you. And here comes the kicker, this service is no cost to you! That’s right, free, and we all know nothing at Disney is free. My planning abilities also extend far beyond Disney World. As a graduate of the Disney College of Knowledge, I am authorized to book Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani Resort and Spa, Disney Cruise Line, and Adventures by Disney.

Now what do I get out of it? I get an excuse to talk about Disney everyday. I get to plan magical vacations so families will have lasting memories together. I get the satisfaction of knowing I helped play a role in your dream vacation. Disney pays us a small commission to provide this service for you.

thinking of a runDisney event? Let me help you plan.

Thinking of a runDisney event? Let me help you plan.

Part of Your World blog readers, spread the word. If you’re in the market for a Disney vacation, I’m your girl. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Now is the perfect time to go. Celebrate today with everyone that makes you happy in this world and head to the happiest place on Earth.

Contact me and let’s start planning your next Disney vacation today!

sandy@wishuponastarwithus.com
(716) 672-9996

Disney in the Summer…Mother/Daughter Style

CIMG8196 (Medium)Are people born with an addiction to Disney, or are they made? I have been heavily influenced by my mother, who fed my addiction from an early age. She just got out pictures from our first mother/daughter trip. It was the year 2000 and I was an extremely awkward looking middle schooler. No offense to my dad and brother, but on a girls only trip, we made our own rules, plans, and quickly learned what worked well for us. As two easy going gals, we could venture the “world” at our own pace, taking in the smells, people watching, and noticing the details in everything. Before I knew it, I wanted to know more and more about Disney World and I wanted to go back more and more to Disney World. And luckily for me, my mom could be easily persuaded to more frequent trips.

CIMG8615 (Medium)We just booked a trip at Disney World for this July and will be staying at the Beach Club Villas (This has become my new favorite resort). While we had sworn off Disney in the summer (I don’t do well in heat…sweaty everything) it just felt like the right time to go. After a year of ups and downs, we are feeling good, and sometimes you need to celebrate life and family. While I’m not trying to fool anyone, July will be hot, humid, and crowded, I do have a few suggestions for those traveling in hotter months, and/or are traveling with someone that isn’t looking to jump on every ride and hop from park to park.

CIMG8683 (Medium)Pick Your Top “Must Dos”
Do not feel like you have to tackle everything in the park. Use your Fastpasses to pick your top choices, and then maybe hit a couple more if the crowds aren’t too bad. You must be flexible and be ok with leaving the park if you didn’t get everything done you typically do on a February vacation.

Leave During The Hottest/Most Crowded Part Of The Day
The new Fastpass+ system has made this concept work even better. If you really can’t stand the heat, wake up early and hit the parks until maybe 10-11. Head back to the hotel and swim or nap and grab a bite to eat. Since you can now make Fastpass+ arrangement ahead of time, you can schedule them for the evening hours. Come back to the park around dinner time or later to catch the fireworks. The parks are open pretty late in the summer, usually 11 or midnight so you will still have plenty of time to have fun once the sun goes down.

CIMG3881 (Medium)Take Frequent Breaks
As noted above, when you come back to the hotel midday, use this time to check out the hotel’s pool, catch up on some sleep, sit in a hammock that some of the resorts have, just relax. Don’t be scared to take breaks at the parks too. Find a bench in the shade, enjoy some delicious ice cream, or relax on one of the longer rides. You body, mind, and soul will thank you for not overdoing it.

Stay Hydrated
When I was younger, I was definitely guilty of drinking too much Diet Coke on vacation. Now that I’m old and wiser, I realize I need to stay hydrated so I don’t get fatigued. As annoying as it might be to have to run to the bathrooms frequently from drinking so many fluids, dehydration and heat exhaustion don’t sound particularly appealing to me. Maybe try going back and forth between your beverage of choice and water.

CIMG8118 (Medium)If Possible, Avoid Outdoor Attractions
There are many attraction at Disney World where the entire show/ride is outside. While I’m not saying you should scratch these from your itinerary all together, I would wait until evening if at all possible. The attractions/shows that are mostly outdoors are as follows. Animal Kingdom-Kilimanjaro Safari, Epcot-entertainment around World Showcase, Hollywood Studios-Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Lights, Motor, Action Stunt Show, Beauty and the Beast, and Magic Kingdom-any entertainment in front of the castle, Big Thunder Mountain, Astro Orbitor, and Splash Mountain (unless the line is not bad since you will get wet). Save these for a cooler morning or evening and head to the air conditioned rides during hotter times of the day.

Have Different Shoe Options
Make sure to bring shoes that you can walk around in all day. If these shoes are sneakers, I would recommend also having comfortable sandals as well. On a hot day, your tired swollen feet will want some fresh air. But remember, Disney is NOT the place to try out new shoes. Make sure you are able to walk a few miles in your footwear before you deem them Disney appropriate. Also, summer tends to be the rainy season in Florida. Only having one pair of sneakers that are now squish can put a serious damped on your trip.

P1000476 (Medium)A little planning ahead of time can lead to a much more enjoyable vacation. It’s really easy when sitting at your computer with a light springtime breeze ruffling your hair to over plan a summer trip full of every attraction imaginable. Remember, simply checking attractions off of a listed itinerary is not the purpose of a Disney vacation, enjoying spectacular attractions with beloved friends and family is the purpose of a Disney vacation. Sore feet, sweaty clothes, and sunburned skin are easy ways to turn a majestic fireworks display intended to cap off your perfect day into a series of loud noises you can’t wait to end so you can finally collapse into bed. You’re much better off planning a relaxed, conservative trip that will leave you looking forward to the next attraction, show, meal, park, day, and vacation — although if Mother-Daughter trips to Disney have taught me anything over the years, it’s that the next attraction or meal is far less important than the next conversation, smile, laugh, and memory shared with your family.