Disneyland 2014 Trip Planning Guide

In this article, we cover what you absolutely must do to plan your 2014 visit to Disneyland Resort. We previously implored anyone who would listen that 2012 was the perfect time to visit Disneyland. Well, it was in many ways, and those who listened to our advice got to be among the first to visit Cars Land. Disneyland has been on a roll since then, and we’ve updated our Disneyland vacation advice numerous times since then, finally arriving at this version for 2014 trips. We have received messages from a lot of people who had amazing trips thanks to our recommendations, and this guide has been refined based upon our recent visits to Disneyland, including a visit last December for Christmas–our first Christmas in Disneyland since the overhaul to Disney California Adventure (the Christmas season is now, by far, our top pick for when you should visit Disneyland…such a beautiful time of year there!).

Disneyland Resort kept the ball rolling in 2014, expanding upon the success of its big recent addition, Cars Land, with the opening of Mickey and the Magical Map, plus World of Color – Winter Dreams, seasonal celebrations, and more! We highly recommend a visit to Disneyland to enjoy these additions. As long as Disneyland keeps doing new things and Cars Land keeps looking great, you may be hearing this same sentiment in 2014, 2015, 2016, and…you get the idea.

There are a lot of great times of year to visit Disneyland (read below for our recommendations of when to go to avoid crowds at Disneyland), but our favorite time of year is Christmas-time at Disneyland. The decorations are beautiful, the spirit is festive, and there are some fun attraction overlays and seasonal foods to enjoy.

Read our Guide to Disneyland at Christmas for additional information on visiting during the holiday season. If Christmas isn’t your thing, consider Halloween Time at Disneyland, and check out our Guide to Disneyland at Halloween for assistance planning a trip during that specific time of year. For tips applicable to trips anytime of year, consult the trip planning resources below.

Also, this vacation planning guide applies to the Disneyland Resort in California. If you are visiting Florida, please consult our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

Photography Reviews

Looking for the best camera (point and shoot or DSLR), lens, or other photography gear and equipment to buy? This photography buying guide offers helpful “real world” ratings and reviews on photography equipment from an actual photographer (take a look at my photo galleries to see my work). Although my specialty is landscape and travel photography, the gear reviewed can be used in a whole range of photographic scenarios. If you’re not interested in learning about photography, but just want to find Disney photos to download or print, click here.

Before considering any camera and photography equipment upgrades, it is a great idea to learn about photography. Use online resources (Google can find a tutorial on anything!), but if you want to learn the basics or read something more thorough, we recommend books (read our book reviews). The book we always recommend starting with is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Seriously, get it. All of the expensive equipment in the world won’t help you if you haven’t learned the basics, and that book is the best way to learn the basics. A book is a lot cheaper than a new lens, and if you’re a beginner, that book will improve your photography more than a new lens.

No camera “takes good pictures.” Some cameras can help an adept photographer more than others, but if the person taking the photos doesn’t do things right, photos taken with a $2,000 camera can look worse than photos taken with a camera phone. Likewise, many experienced photographers can take better photos with an iPhone than inexperienced photographers can with expensive DSLRs on Auto Mode.

The point being, it’s important to learn the fundamentals of photography in addition to buying shiny, new toys. This guide will start by providing resources for learning more about photography (the most important step) and then reviews and information concerning buying more tools to improve your photography. (more…)

Disney World 2014 Trip Planning Guide

The Wishes! fireworks at the Magic Kingdom are the perfect conclusion to a day at Walt Disney World! WDW Trip Planning Guide: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-world-trip-planning-guide/

Planning your 2014 trip to Walt Disney World can be intimidating, especially for first-time visitors. There are four theme parks, dozens of hotels, hundreds of restaurants, and a variety of additional entertainment activities and options that can really complicate planning. Walt Disney World is a busy place, so determining when to visit and how to tour the parks to avoid crowds is a critical step in the process. Add to that trying to save money on park tickets and hotels, and planning can be daunting, especially for first-time or infrequent guests who want to plan a memorable trip.

If you’re feeling yourself being sucked into the rabbit hole that is Walt Disney World vacation planning, you’re in luck, as this guide will assist you. Think of it as Walt Disney World Trip Planning 101. As complicated as the process might seem right now, it’s really not that bad, and the ultimate payoff will be huge. You’re also a bit fortunate that you’re being sucked into the rabbit hole, as many first-time visitors don’t realize Walt Disney World planning can be so complicated! The commercials make it look like a carefree world where everyone runs around holding hands with Mickey Mouse while laughing and riding all of their favorite attractions without any problems…but that’s definitely not the reality.

Even after dozens of trips to Walt Disney World, we still don’t know everything there is to know about the place, but this post contains most of what we do know (the relevant stuff, at least…). We wouldn’t visit so much if we didn’t like it, so our opinions are colored by the fact that we are Disney fans. That said, we don’t see the world through rose colored glasses, and we try to stay as objective as possible here, sharing the good and the bad. If that’s not for you, there are plenty of other planning sites that offer only positive or only negative spins on Disney.

Also, this vacation planning guide applies to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. If you are visiting California, please consult our Disneyland Resort Trip Planning Guide.

This page is designed as a jumping off point to give you some general background information on each aspect of your trip, with links to some of our posts that offer much more detailed information.


Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014 Tips

The 2014 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties at Walt Disney World will incur in September and October. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014 is scheduled for the following dates: September 1, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, and 28; October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31. You can purchase tickets (ranging from $57-77 per person) on Walt Disney World’s event page.

On these nights, the Magic Kingdom closes at 7 p.m. to guests who haven’t not purchased tickets for the Halloween Party. So you can prepare for the Halloween Party now, here is our analysis based upon the last several years (we go to it yearly) to help you determine whether this expensive hard ticket event is worth it to you, and if so, what your “Plan of Attack” should be to efficiently conquer the various offerings.

Note that this guide covers Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, not Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. For info about the latter, read our comprehensive Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland!

Should I Attend?

So at over $60 a pop for tickets to the 2014 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, you might be trying to determine, “is it worth it?” If you’re asking this, you’ve probably never been, otherwise you’d know the answer to this question. Our opinion, as Disney-biased tourists, is that it most definitely is worth the price: at least once. Once you’ve experienced the party once (it doesn’t change much year-to-year), you might determine that it’s simply too expensive to experience again. For a one time event, though, it’s definitely worth it for everyone except those on traveling on thin budgets. Personally, we prefer Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but I think it’s fair to say that the two are about equally popular with guests (the guest costumes at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are pretty awesome to see).


Maximizing Counter Service Credit Value on the Disney Dining Plan

Eating at the most expensive Counter Service restaurants in Walt Disney World is the best way to maximize your value on the 2014 Disney Dining Plan, especially if you’re on the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan, as those are the only meals you get! If value maximization is your concern, you should also make sure to get your “money’s worth” from Table Service meals (click here to see our tips for maximizing your table service dining at Walt Disney World). While most Counter Service combos are priced right around $10, there are some places you can eat and combos you can purchase that give you a lot more bang for your buck!

This list calculated the most expensive meals by taking the highest combo, dessert, and beverage available on the Dining Plan and adding them together. We did this as opposed to taking the median or mean since, if you’re truly concerned with saving as much money as possible, you’re going to be ordering more expensive menu items. We feel considering only the more expensive menu items is most helpful to Guests looking to maximize the Disney Dining Plan value, but your mileage may vary.

Additionally, since this list contemplates only expensive items, this list is completely objective. If a restaurant “scored” better thanks to its pricier options, it’s on the list, regardless of whether I think its food stinks. It’s very important to consider quality of food, not just prices, when determining where you want to eat. You’re not really getting more “value” for your money if you eat expensive food that you don’t like!

This list is updated yearly, with prices adjusted and restaurants shuffled around the list, bounced, or added as costs change. Prices have consistently increased by about 5% since 2011. (Note: menu prices continue to rise, so if our prices might be off by ~$1 total, but rankings remain accurate.) For our most recent update, Be Our Guest Restaurant and Katsura Grill joined the list, bumping Riverside Mill and La Cantina de San Angel. (more…)

Maximizing Snack Credit Value on the Disney Dining Plan


Snack prices at Walt Disney World vary considerably, and snack credits included in all of the 2014 Disney Dining Plans, even $2 differences in snack prices can add up over the course of an entire trip. Since snack prices are lower than Table Service meals and Counter Service meals, there’s generally less of a difference between high and low snack prices than there is between high and low priced meals, but it’s still worth paying attention to snack prices if you want to maximize your total value on the Disney Dining Plan. Here are our top ways to use your Snack Credits on the Disney Dining Plan.

Since there are exponentially more snacks available on Disney property than there are other items, some snacks aren’t always available, and their prices can fluctuate (most prices have increased incrementally on the Disney restaurant menus), it’s not feasible for us to give a dollar-to-dollar breakdown, so this is more of a general top 10 than our Table Service and Counter Service credit-value maximizing articles.

Changes to this list for 2014 are revisions of price ranges. There aren’t many substantial changes from 2013, as most big changes occurred with the opening of New Fantasyland. LeFou’s Brew, the specialty beverage somewhat akin to Butterbeer (not in taste) from Wizarding World of Harry Potter, made the list thanks to its $4.50 price. The Warm Cinnamon Roll available at Gaston’s Tavern did not make this list due to its price. However, it’s a borderline good value, and it’s worth noting that this is a cult favorite among Walt Disney World fans. We don’t care for the Cinnamon Roll, but we are definitely in the minority for that! The other signature item at Gaston’s Tavern is the pork shank (pictured above), and unfortunately, it is not a snack.   (more…)