Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Planning to See The Mouse: Where to Stay

Assuming you don’t live in the greater Orlando area, you’re going to have to pick a place to stay. There are on-site Disney resorts, off-site resorts, vacation homes, and time shares in the area. What’s the best choice for you can get out of hand in a hurry. Here’s what we usually do…

On-site v. Off-site

We’re DVC members, so this decision is pretty easy for us for the most part. However, when we extend a stay by a day or two, we need to stay outside of our chosen DVC resort. What determines on-site v. off-site are a couple of things: Price and distance from the parks.

Price is the first one. You’re already dropping a good chunk on a trip to Disney, why spend more on a place “just to sleep?” Off-site hotels can be cheaper at face value. However, you’re going to have to pay for parking ($12 a day). You’ll also be further away from the fun, which you’ll have to determine what your travel time is worth.

Disney’s Value resorts can have discounts which gets them under $70 a night…if you find a good $40 deal off-site but have a 20 minute drive every morning and a $12 parking fee greeting you, maybe it’s not that big of a bargain.

Another perk of the on-site hotels are that they participate in Extra Magic Hours. This allows Disney Resort guests to stay in the parks longer or arrive earlier on certain days for each park.

However the biggest perk of staying on-site is all the Disney transportation at your disposal. They’ll bring you in from the airport, then they’ll move you all over the resort by bus, boat, or monorail. We’ve driven from Ohio to Disney, parked the car, and not gotten back in it until it was time to drive back to Ohio.

Which Level of Disney Resort

We’re going to go ahead and settle on a Disney resort, which we usually do, but which one? Deluxe? Moderate? Value? Tough choices…again!

They break down pretty easily, though. The closer you are to the parks and the more space you have in the room, the higher up the chart you go. Value resorts are typically the furthest from the parks, though the Pop Century isn’t too far from Epcot or the Studios. The moderates are a bit closer, though still a decent bus ride away, and the deluxe resorts can be walking distance from the action.

The other differentiator are the eateries. Value resorts will have a food court and some quick grab stuff. Moderates will have a sit down restaurant along with the food court. The deluxe resorts will have multiple sit down restaurants and a “grab and go” type place.

One last thing to keep in mind is which area of Disney World you will like to stay. They break the resort areas into the Magic Kingdom Resort Area for those closest to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Resort Area for those resorts closest to Epcot and the Studios, Animal Kingdom Resort Area for those near the Animal Kingdom, and the Downtown Disney Resort Area for those near Downtown Disney. The maps that Disney provides online breaks it down pretty well, and you can see which resorts are where.

So, what’s our choice? As noted before, we’re DVC members, and the Boardwalk is our home resort…and it’s our favorite. The location is great, steps from the back door of Epcot and an easy trip to the Studios. The boardwalk area at night is great, and though the pool isn’t quite what they have across Crescent Lake at the Beach and Yacht Clubs, it does quite well.

The resort choice is never an easy one, even after you’ve stayed at a few of them.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What a Good Friday

April 10th was a great day for Brendan and I. After thinking about it a little bit, it should be a good day for's three days after his birthday and three days before mine. This year, April 10th happened to fall on Good Friday.

Brendan was set for his first day home by himself. Wendy and Alex were gone, I was on my way to work. About a mile away from home I thought that I had no real reason to head into to work, so I called my boss, he agreed, and I did a U-Turn just past 270 and headed back home.

Once home, the fun started. We took a gift card I had, some of Brendan's birthday money and went to Meijer's to get some Legos. Not just any Legos, Star Wars Legos! What we ended up with?

The Republic Attack Shuttle, which was Brendan's pick. It was a bit out of his price range, but we shared it on the condition that he would trade the Lego kit that was in his price range to me. What was that one?

That's right, Darth Vader's TIE Fighter! I was Ok with the downgrade in value on my end because I got Vader out of the - win situation for the two of us.

So, we got home and prepared to put our new purchases together. You need something going on while you put your Legos together, and in our case what better than Star Wars episodes IV, V, and VI.

So, all in all, what a day. Legos, Star Wars, and very little else. We may have to look into more fun on April 10th next year.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Planning to See The Mouse: Resources

It's not a big secret amongst those that know me that I am pretty  much addicted to heading to central Florida to visit Walt Disney World. We enjoy every trip there...and no we don't wait in long lines or spend tens of thousands of dollars every time we're there.Spaceship Earth

So, like any good undertaking where you're dropping a few hundred dollars, a little planning is in order. For Disney, that could mean a fair amount of planning if you're making your first trip down.

"But I hate planning! I want to go with the flow! Enjoy myself! Plan...pffft."

If you have never been to the Walt Disney World Resort, and that is your stance then I can promise you a few things: You will be in line a lot, not sitting down at table service restaurants for dinner, sun burned, burned out, and likely vowing never to return because it was a huge waste of time and money.

So, lets get our planning under way with some resources to help make things easier rather than miserable.

First, in print form I'd head straight for The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. Yes, this book is a little daunting at over 850 pages, but it has everything you need to know about Disney World. (And, it serves as a nice doorstop when your trip is over.) They are most notable for the touring plans they provide in the book, but the book has information on all the on-site hotels, many off-site hotels, bus times, attraction ratings and reviews, restaurant reviews, and much more.

Online, the list of resources is huge, so I'll list a few that I use.

  • - In my opinion, this is probably the most complete resource for Disney World online. They cover the whole resort, have news as it comes out, and do a good job with the parks and hotels. However, the big plus to this site is they list the menu of each restaurant on property. When your wife is a picky eater, this comes in handy each time you plan a trip.
  • - This is the online site for the Unofficial Guide. It has more touring plans, a crowd calendar, and some simple planning tools. It's well worth the $8.95 subscription fee to get all the goodies here.
  • - This is a forum based fan site that's fairly popular. There is a wealth of information here, but sometimes it can take some sifting to find it. Either way, it's a good place to browse and join in when you feel the urge.

Lastly, a few podcasts that are worth adding to the line up.

  • WDW Today - Again with the Unofficial Guide, one of the authors is a member of the crew that podcasts here. However, it's more than just reading of the book on your iPod. The normal cast of characters has a wealth of knowledge, and they've produced over 500 shows so far.
  • The WDW Radio Show - Lou puts on a well produced, choc full of information podcast. Lou is the author of two trivia books on Walt Disney World, and he carries it further on this podcast with news, rumors, and some great interviews.
  • Inside The Magic - Another well produced, and long running podcast dedicated to Disney World. Ricky was the first Orlando based podcast, and he's done a great job with it over the last few years. He delivers news weekly, and has a list of regular contributors that provide a different, but fun look at the parks.
  • Netcot - I didn't discover Van's podcast until recently compared to the first three I listed. But, this one might be my favorite. It's typically 20 minutes or less, has guests, top 7 lists, attraction reviews, and all the other stuff Disney based podcasts deliver. However, Van is a realist when it comes to vacationing with The Mouse, and if he thinks something stinks, he doesn't sugar coat it.

That's enough reading and listening to keep you occupied for a while. I'll have some more planning posts in the future, because if I'm not at Disney I'm at least planning to be there.