Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide

If you travel to Walt Disney World or Disneyland and are able to see or hear, you probably are familiar with Disney’s “Best” Kept Secret: Disney Vacation Club (or “DVC” as the cool kids call it). Disney Vacation Club prices are higher than ever in 2015, with the new Polynesian Bungalows being particular expensive both in terms of dollars and points, making many wonder whether buying into Disney Vacation Club is actually a good idea for their families. Maybe you’ve recently taken a Disney Vacation Club tour or heard a sales pitch and are now wondering if it’s actually as good as that emotional pitch made it sound.

If you’ve considered purchasing Disney Vacation Club, one of the biggest considerations, no doubt, is whether it makes good economic sense. Unfortunately, as with almost everything in life there is no definitive answer to this question that fits everyone. From a purely economic perspective, Disney Vacation Club will not make sense for a lot of people. However, it’s worth reading on to see if it makes financial sense for you, or if there are other compelling reasons for you to make the purchase.

As mentioned above, if your main reason for purchasing an interest in Disney Vacation Club is to save money, whether it’s a good deal for you depends of your party size and resort tier preference. Contrary to Disney’s claim that Disney Vacation Club will save you “70% off” of future resort stays, this is not actually the case. If this were true, do you really think Disney would actually be offering the program–and that it would be wildly profitable for the company? Sure, Disney might take a bit of a hit to guarantee that you will be a loyal customer for years to come, but 70% off?! As we all learned in grade school, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Disney’s 70% savings number assumes things that aren’t realistic to reality, such as paying rack rate in the most expensive Disney hotels and no return on investment for the (unfinanced) money invested in Disney Vacation Club. Even assuming these things, I’m still not quite sure how Disney arrives at its 70% off number, especially in 2015 when DVC direct prices are substantially more than they were just a few years ago. I think it might be equal parts magic and advertising puffery, but I’m not entirely sure.

It’s also worth noting that Disney Vacation Club is a pre-paid vacation plan, which differs slightly from the traditional definition of a timeshare. In the strictest sense, Disney Vacation Club can be viewed as an asset, but not a tangible one. This is an important distinction to some people, but it doesn’t matter to a lot of people.

With that said, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying into Disney Vacation Club, and what you should think about before you decide whether to pull the trigger… (more…)

New Look!

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It seems like the look of so many things in the parks is changing lately: from Condor Flats becoming Grizzly Peak Airfield to Disney’s Hollywood Studios losing its hat to the new hub in the Magic Kingdom. Now, you can count the design of DisneyTouristBlog.com among those changes (okay, probably not quite as big of a deal as those changes to…well, anyone).

I spent the better part of the day yesterday working on the new design, prepping the existing framework of the site, launching it overnight, and then staying up really, really late fixing some of the bugs. You’ll notice there are still some (okay, a lot) of bug remaining. I have a good amount of tweaking still to do.

What do you think? (more…)

Drinking Around the World Showcase at Epcot

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This post is a guide to Drinking Around the World in Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World, with our picks for the best beers, wine, and mixed drinks. There’s also plenty of strategy for conquering this worldly task without climbing up the side of Mexico pavilion and holding up a Duffy plush Lion King style. We originally wrote this post a couple of years ago, and have now updated it for 2015 with new ideas and drink recommendations.

Since most of us probably won’t be able to haphazardly spend thousands of dollars to fly to Paris at a moment’s notice for some artisan cheeses or brave a winter in Canada just for some fine brews anytime soon, Epcot’s World Showcase offers us the next best option: sampling many alcoholic beverages and decadent desserts of the world in authentic-looking environments all while on vacation at Walt Disney World. Of course, whose bucket list doesn’t also include having a drink in 10 different countries in a single day? No? Well, now you can add it to your list and cross it off. 

The premise is simple: start out at one end of World Showcase, and continue through the countries, sampling a drink and/or dessert in each country. As there are 11 countries in the World Showcase, this is easier said than done. It’s even more difficult during Food & Wine Festival, when Epcot adds lots of kiosks that serve additional drinks. If you’re looking to complete this drinking event then, check out our Guide to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival for additional tips & info. With even more drinking options, expect Drinking Around the World during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival to be a lot of fun…albeit perhaps not for your liver.

First, we will start with our tips and strategies for Drinking Around the World Showcase, generally, followed by specific drink recommendations…. (more…)

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort Review


The Wyndham is a hotel in Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney Area. This review covers my recent stay here, featuring photos of rooms and hotel amenities at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort. The Wyndham is an interesting hotel due to its…relative uninterestingness. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, and it probably is, but in just about every regard, the Wyndham is fairly standard. Nothing over the top, nothing really bad, nothing really great. Pretty much a utilitarian hotel that gets the job done in every regard, but likewise fails to wow. Depending upon your perspective, this might be its biggest strength or greatest weakness.

From the generic tower structure of the hotel to the low-to-average prices to the pedestrian but serviceable rooms and beyond, Wyndham Lake Buena Vista doesn’t disappoint. Nor does it exceed any expectations. It’s not a diamond in the rough, it’s just a predictable, solid hotel.

Amenities at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista include a lot of the standard hotel stuff, like a fitness center, tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts, meeting spaces, restaurants (including a 24-hour cafe), video arcade, car rental, and Disney gift shop. Then there’s the less-standard stuff: a nice pool with water play area for kids, Disney character dining, and a “Director of Fun” for kids’ activities.

Let’s take a look at all of this, plus the rooms and pros and cons of the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista… (more…)

Extra Magic Hours: Pros & Cons


Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World are extended park hours available to Disney resort-hotel guests. On certain days of the week, guests can enter a Walt Disney World park one hour before it opens to the general public, or stay in a park two hours later than normal operating hours. This post covers the pros and con of Extra Magic Hours, and how to best take advantage of them if they work in your favor, or whether you should avoid them entirely.

I thought it would be worth addressing Extra Magic Hours (EMH) because there recently have been a few reader questions about them, and because my advice is a bit contrary to what I’ve commonly heard elsewhere. Before we get to that, let’s start with a little background. Extra Magic Hours are available, as mentioned, to all guests of Disney resort-hotels. If you’re staying at a hotel with “Disney’s…” as the first word in the title, you’re eligible. Additionally, there are some “official unofficial” hotels that also receive the perk, and those are: the Swan & Dolphin, Shades of Green, and the Hilton Orlando (in the Downtown Disney area). Guests at any of these hotels are eligible for Extra Magic Hours at no additional cost.

You can see which park has Extra Magic Hours on any given day by looking at the daily Walt Disney World Calendar, so you can plan to be in–or to avoid–parks having Extra Magic Hours while planning your itinerary.  Note that not every attraction is open during Extra Magic Hours. There are few options in the morning than the evening, but most headliners are open during both, with the notable exception being Magic Kingdom Morning EMH, where basically just Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are open.

Guests gain entry to the park during Morning Extra Magic Hours an hour before the general public by scanning their MagicBand (which shows the resort identification) or showing a valid room key. Since Evening Extra Magic Hours begin immediately after the end of the normal operating day with no “hard” closure and reopening in between, to gain access to attractions, guests scan MagicBands or show room keys. If you’re the clever type who wants more park time to enjoy the ambiance but you aren’t eligible for Evening Extra Magic Hours, you can just wander around. No one will stop you unless you try to go on an attraction.

If you’re not staying on-site, you can’t take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, and your best bet will probably just be to skip the park with Extra Magic Hours, and instead choose the park that stays open latest for the general public.

Alright, now let’s take a look at some Extra Magic Hours strategy for those who are staying on-site… (more…)

Coolest Summer Ever 24-Hour Party Planning Tips

Dreamy Sunrise Over Cinderella CastleBefore we traveled to Walt Disney World the week between Christmas and New Year's, which is notoriously the busiest week of the year, a lot of people asked us whether we were crazy. Yes, of course we are, but that had nothing to do with our decision to visit during that week. The decision to bear those brutal crowds was made easy for us thanks to the extended operating hours and impressive New Year's Eve fireworks shows. And although we're not fans of large crowds (I'm betting not many of you have

During the Coolest Summer Ever 24-Hour Party, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Disneyland & Disney California Adventure will be open for 24 consecutive hours beginning on May 22, 2015 at 6 am until 6 am on May 23, 2015. Despite being a holiday weekend, Memorial Day is not too busy. This 24-Hour Party falls on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, making it the perfect time to take a long weekend trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland.

We are biased. I’ve made trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World for every one of these parties. I love them. Not everyone does. Several readers have written to us sharing their negative experiences, so your mileage may vary. This is not a hard ticket event, so a normal, single day ticket will entitle you to visit the parks for the full 24-hour party!

Based upon our experiences at the parties, here are some tips for enjoying these special events if you’re going to be Walt Disney World or Disneyland, and also some tips for those of you watching the fun from home! While this planning guide is a great primer, if you want a better idea of what to expect during the 24 hour event, I strongly encourage you to read our trip report from the “One More Disney Day” 24 hour event or last year’s Memorial Day Walt Disney World Trip Report. Even if you’re not going, there are some pretty photos from the events! This post was originally written for the first party, and it has been updated for each of the parties since.

Also, check out our general Disneyland Trip Planning Guide and Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide if you’re not a “regular” at either park for more general planning tips. With that said, here are our Coolest Summer Ever 24-Hour Party tips! (more…)

Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy Review

There’s a new trackless dark ride in the Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris based on Ratatouille, in a ‘Streets of Paris’ mini-land that has the potential to turn around that much-maligned park. But does it? We’ll take a look in this spoiler-free ride review of Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy (Ratatouille: The Adventure), and also–perhaps more importantly–offer some thoughts on the new area as a whole and what it does for the Walt Disney Studios Park.

Let’s start with a little context. The Walt Disney Studios Park is the second gate at Disneyland Paris, sitting a few hundred yards from Parc Disneyland, the most meticulously designed and costliest Disneyland-style park ever built (well, before Shanghai Disneyland). By contrast, the Walt Disney Studios Park is the cheapest Disney park ever built, and is by most accounts, the worst Disney park in the world. In a previous article, I even questioned whether it has the defining characteristics of a Disney theme park. Despite a decent attraction lineup, the public has largely rejected this second gate, which has contributed to Disneyland Paris’ historical woes.

That’s the backdrop against which the addition of the Place de Rémy (Streets of Paris) mini-land and Ratatouille: The Adventure is set. Much like the success of Hong Kong Disneyland hinged on the success of its three mini-lands, so too, I feel, does the future of the Walt Disney Studios Park lie with Ratatouille.

So…is that future bright? (more…)

Swan & Dolphin Hotel Review


The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin are on-site hotels near Epcot that are Deluxe-caliber. This review features photos of a newly renovated room in the Dolphin, thoughts about the collective amenities at both hotels, and a general summary of the hotels’ value.

Reviewing the Swan and/or Dolphin is a tricky proposition for a few reasons. First, what exactly are they in terms of classification? They are operated by Starwood, but dubbed “Walt Disney World resorts” and their location plus certain amenities (Disney transportation, Extra Magic Hours, etc.) put them in line with other Disney Resorts. However, they lack other perks (Disney’s Magical Express, Disney Dining Plan, etc.) found at Disney-owned resorts, and have some policies inconsistent with Disney-owned resorts.

I’m going to dub them “official unofficial Disney Resorts” as I think that incoherent moniker accurately summarizes the arrangement here. There’s also the question of treating them as one single hotel or two distinct hotels. As best I can tell, they are akin to the Yacht & Beach Club, except without any significant thematic differences. As such, I feel it appropriate to lump them together for the purposes of this review (the infallible TripAdvisor seems to agree with this approach).

I won’t bore you with the history of how deals Michael Eisner made gave these hotels their murky status (you can read DisneyWar for that) or the contrived, now abandoned backstory of the design choices of the hotels (you can read this excellent Jim Korkis article for that). Suffice to say, the Swan & Dolphin are among the most historically interesting of all the hotels at Walt Disney World, and the size and scale of the hotels has made them controversial and divisive among Walt Disney World fans. (more…)