Thursday, January 8, 2015

{Disney} The good, the bad and the ugly

I wanted to write a final wrap-up post from our last trip of what worked for us, what didn't and some general thoughts.  It seems like Disney is in a constant state of change and with each trip, there's additional planning as I'll never be able to keep up with it all contemporaneously.  If you're planning an upcoming trip, I hope this will be of interest to you.  I do have one other Disney post I'm working on discussing whether or not there is any benefit to the Disney Dining Plan.

Magic Bands

When I first read about Disney moving away from credit card type passes to a plastic band that you need to wear around your wrist all the time, I was not excited.  In fact, I looked to see if there was a way to opt out.  I imagined that the band would not be comfortable to wear and that the kids would constantly be messing around with them, taking them on and off until one was lost.  Boy, was I wrong.  They were so incredibly convenient and I couldn't even feel it on my wrist.  The band holds your room key, park passes, dining plan information, fast passes and credit card info, if you so wish.  You gain access or pay for items with the wave of a wrist.  A few mornings, Rich went for a run and because he wore his magic band, I was able to take a shower without worrying about opening the door for him.  The kids fiddled with the bands while they were wearing them but they didn't take them off until we were in the resort room.

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FastPass+

Admittedly, the concept annoys me.  I find it frustrating that almost all of the spontaneity of a Disney vacation has been stripped away.  You need to book your dining reservations six months in advance, which means you need to know which parks you plan to visit on which days.  Now you need make your fast pass selections in advance.  It almost feels like you're a robot and you are programming your vacation.  BUT I have to say that once we were there, it was so awesome to have those fast passes taken care of and in hand.  Or, I should say, on the magic bands.

We did have some slight issues making our FP+ selections.  We had two resort rooms.  Rich and I were in one room with two of the kids and Grammy was listed as being in the second room with the third kid.  Rich was able to make FP+ selections for all of us except for Grammy.  I did some research on the disboards and read about all the glitches with the system so Rich ended up calling one night (had to wait to speak to someone, blah, blah) to get it all fixed.

I will add that I was surprised that almost every ride/attraction had the option for FP+ which I didn't realize until we were in parks.  Why would anyone ever need to have a FP for the teacups?  There's never ever a wait time of more than 5 minutes.  If you are new to Disney, be sure to do some research so you don't waste a FP+ selection on a ride that doesn't typically have a long wait.

I also wanted to link to this thread on the disboards which will provide you with much more information that I would ever be able to.  I still haven't fully wrapped my arms around the whole process.

Big Girls

Although the girls are seven years old, they are tiny and hadn't reached 40 pounds (by their seventh birthday) which meant that they were still using their Britax boosters in the five point harness mode.  We kept feeding them ice cream and by the time our trip rolled around, they all finally weighed enough to use a regular booster seat with a seat belt, which significantly lightened our travel load.  (I do want to note that even now, months later, they still use the five point harness when they ride in our minivan.  Safety first.  They are within the weight requirements for their seats to do so.  We don't use the Volvo to travel as a family, usually only an adult and one or two kids.  Our Volvo has two built-in booster seats and those are a perfect fit.  Better than the backless boosters that we bought.  Sorry for the slight sidetrack.)

During our vacation in December of 2012, we found ourselves in a bit of a quandary as to how exactly we would transport all of our suitcases and car seats and kids from the luggage pick-up to our rental car.  This time around, the girls were big enough (notice I didn't say old enough) to safely pull a suitcase (we gave Anna a small one that we had brought full of cath kits) and we easily made it across the street to our rental car.

Cost

It's hard to pinpoint a list of specifics with this but there was this sense that you were getting less bang for your buck during this vacation.  Costs have increased at Disney but that doesn't mean that you'll receive more.  In fact, you may get less.  For example, instead of meeting four characters at the Tusker House character breakfast, we met three.  Supposedly, it was a trial run that was reversed after our vacation.  And don't even get me started on all the monorail problems.

Lighting

Yes, the lights.  At indoor character meets.  A big thank you to whoever decided to install bright lights shining on the characters at the meet and greet spots.  In the past, I found the lighting to be less than ideal which lead to creative Speedlight usage.  That was not an issue this time around.

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Packing Light

There were six of us all together on this trip - three adults and three seven year olds.  We brought five suitcases and one of them was really small.  The other four were either the size of a carry-on or just a touch bigger.  We packed light but I made one crucial mistake - I didn't pack enough shoes.  I had with me a pair of cloth sneakers and a pair of garden-variety flip flops which under normal circumstances probably would have been fine but when it pours, like torrential downpours, your sneakers will need to dry out and you'll be stuck wearing those flip flops as you walk for miles and miles.  If I had brought a pair of running sneakers instead of cloth, I may have been okay but lesson learned.  Pack an extra pair of comfortable shoes.  I also make sure that everyone has a hoodie or sweater, even when it's expected to be hot.

Strollers and Rain

My sister-in-law was asking me about this the other day so I thought I would add it here.  Be sure to bring something to cover your stroller seats with in case of rain.  Most of the stroller parking areas are uncovered.  Some folks use rain ponchos and we've used ours as well but then you are left without one (or two) to actually wear.  In a pinch, you can use plastic shopping bags.  I would recommend garage bags.

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Disney Without Tears

Rich and I try to keep a vacation schedule that's reasonable for the girls.  And for the adults as well.  For example, we won't plan two early days in a row or multiple late nights or a late night followed by an early morning.  The goal is to keep everyone well rested and happy.  Think about all the members of your group when planning and what will work best for all of you.

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8 comments:

Margaret said...

Sounds like your experience was mostly positive... I'm glad you had a good trip! I have to say, it's funny reading your posts about Disney World when I am only familiar with Disneyland in California. I grew up there and went many times as a kid. I went about 6 years ago with friends and then just recently with my own kids this fall for one day. They don't have nearly all the planning and automation that you mention at DWorld. No Magic Bands yet (although I hear they're coming), no reservations to eat, except at a couple of the fancy places, and the teacups usually have a 45-minute line. :-) (Now, that's within the park.... I think the character dining at the hotels surrounding the park may have reservations and such... we've never done those). I also don't think there are nearly as many character meet and greets, although I never kept a close eye out for them. My parents were of the opinion that you're paying the big money to ride the rides, so that's what we always did. I'm glad your girls enjoy the meet and greets though... in the pictures they look like they're having such fun!

Katie said...

Those "all in one" bands are popping up everywhere! I got to a lot of music festivals and they're usually a part of any multi-day pass- it's a ticket and payment option in one.

Love the Disney reviews by the way! It's making me want to head down to Florida!

Anonymous said...

We are planning our August vacation now and your tips have been so helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write them up!

Meg said...

I just wanted to chime in to make sure I said that your Disney posts are really helpful! I'm planning a trip now and between your blog and the dis boards I know what I'm getting myself into. Thank you!

Candice Schmitz said...

These Disney posts are invaluable. We are planning a trip in 2017 and I have to say that I am a bit overwhelmed! Do you think a travel agent who specializes in Disney is advisable for the uninitiated like myself?

Cynthia said...

I definitely get what you're saying about the FP+ system. I'm just so hesitant about it because of allll the forward planning required. I mean, I loathe standing in line all day (and I don't even have kids with me), but I get stressed feeling like I have to schedule everything out in advance so rigidly!

(I haven't been to WDW since the late '80s, but may be going there after Thanksgiving)

Cynthia said...

Also, I meant to comment on your post about GAC/the first aid station. My dad is an amputee and on a recent trip to Disneyland experienced his artifical leg running out of charge while in the park. He went to guest services about it and was redirected to First Aid, because they could provide him with somewhere to sit so he could take his leg off for the charging process. He really appreciated their understanding/consideration of it as first aid.

The Sasha said...

Candice, I'm far less of an expert but from what I've seen using a Disney travel agent is great. You don't pay (they get the money from the commission, or at least the ons I know of does) and they not only figure out all th pass and meal stuff and deal combos for you, they'll also book you for the things where you need to call at 6 am etc to book them. I haven't run all the numbers so I can't promise it costs less than doing it yourself, but it definitely saves a ton of time, especially if you don't know any of the stuff. (I'm another person who grew up going to Disneyland and the whole elaborateness is very new to me)