The Essence of the Disney Parks’ Magic

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Now that I’ve “Aired My Disney Parks Grievances,” I figure it’s time to show the other side of the coin and share why I enjoy the Disney theme parks so much. Shockingly, no, I do not go because I get some misplaced sense of enjoyment out of other guests catching my ire. Most of the time, the little pet peeves I mentioned don’t even phase me; they’re just little, fleeting moments. I’m guessing this is true for most people. While America’s national pastime is complaining (sorry, baseball), I think we all mostly enjoy life or, in this case, the Disney theme parks.

For the most part, what I’m going to list here as the “essence” of what I find endearing about the parks is what makes the experience “complete.” Sure, the parks wouldn’t be what they are without amazing E-Tickets like Splash Mountain and Tower of Terror, nor is there anything quite like stepping onto Main Street and seeing Cinderella Castle in the distance, but I view those things as the foundation of the experience.

There are literally hundreds of different things about the parks that put a smile on my face and make me a hopeless Disney “addict,” but instead of simply posting a laundry-list without much explanation for each, I want to focus on a select few, saving the two most important things for last… (more…)

Disney World Free Dining 2015 Dates

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The Free Disney Dining Plan is now available at Walt Disney World for booking by Disney Visa credit card holders and the general public! Free Dining dates for 2015 that are currently available are listed below. We will update this page as dates change or are added/removed. You can also sign up for our newsletter to be alerted as soon as we hear anything about 2015 Free Dining dates.

Here are the current Walt Disney World Free Dining dates available for booking by Disney Visa cardholders, and for the general public:

  • August 28 through October 2, 2015
  • October 25 through October 31, 2015
  • November 8 through November 19, 2015
  • December 15 through December 21, 2015.

These dates are OFFICIAL, not rumor. For 2015, there’s also the requirement that guests purchase at least 2-day tickets that include either Park Hopper or the Water Park Fun & More option, or both. This is a new requirement as of this year. Additionally, a 3-night minimum stay is required with a maximum stay of fourteen nights. This means you can’t purchase discounted Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller, which is something to keep in mind when doing the math to determine if “Free Dining” is a good value for you.

To answer some common questions: yes, you must purchase tickets with the offer even if you already have them (or an Annual Pass). No, bookings made with Disney Vacation Club points are not eligible for the offer. No, you cannot “stack” this offer with a percentage-off room discount.

More details about the 2015 Free Disney Dining Plan promotion are listed below… (more…)

Tips for Renting Cars for Walt Disney World

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One of the big dilemmas facing many people is if they should rent a car at Walt Disney World, and if so, how to save money when renting a car at Orlando International Airport. This post covers the pros and cons of renting a car for a Walt Disney World vacation, as well as how to go about saving the most money on rental cars, and other rental car hacks, pitfalls, and other random rambling.

As a threshold matter, you have to determine whether you need to rent a car at Walt Disney World in the first place. Unlike many other vacation destinations, a rental car at Walt Disney World is not a strict necessity, so don’t assume that a booking a rental car is an inherent step in your trip planning. In the first section of this post, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of renting a car. If you already have determined that a rental car is right for your family, you can skip ahead to the second half of the article, which covers tips and tricks for saving money on rental cars at Walt Disney World (and beyond).

We have a lot of ground to cover in this post, so let’s start by taking a look at whether you should rent a car at Walt Disney World or roll the dice and rely on Disney’s “lovely” “free” transportation system… (more…)

Disney Parks Pet Peeves

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To borrow the immortal words of Frank Costanza, I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it! That’s right. I know this blog is normally rainbows, unicorns, and all sorts of other good vibrations, but it’s time for you to hear what I really think (…as if I’ve been holding back ;) ). Here, it’s time for my “Airing of Disney Parks Grievances.”

On the surface, I’m a reasonably patient person with a fairly relaxed attitude. Just under that lies a surly curmudgeon who holds back festering irritation about myriad little things that probably should bother no one, many of which are witnessed in the parks. Much like an internal combustion engine somehow magically converts fuel into energy, I think in a way I turn these minor irritations into some sort of energy for (hopefully?) fruitful endeavors. So this isn’t all negative!

With that said, this post is in no way helpful to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or other park trip planning. Actually, it’s not really helpful to anything anywhere at all. Think of it as a junk food blog post that you shouldn’t waste your time reading. That is, unless you read any of the crap on BuzzFeed, ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, etc. In that case you clearly don’t care about wasting your time, so read away, kind souls!

Now I’ll let my inner Statler & Waldorf take over and share a few of my many Disney theme park pet peeves…

(Fair warning: this is my inner Statler & Waldorf talking, so it does have a bit more bite than normal–for the sake of balance, I’ll be back next week with a post titled “Endearing Things About Disney Parks”) (more…)

How Much Does a Walt Disney World Vacation Cost?

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The cost of a Disney trip can be shocking, often being much higher than people anticipate. This post takes a look at Walt Disney World vacation price ranges for each element of the trip, from park tickets to hotels to dining and beyond. Hopefully, it will help you avoid sticker shock when you make that Walt Disney World vacation quote request, or will help you to come up with a more reasonable plan if you’ve already received the quote and realize it isn’t feasible.

Frankly, this is a tough post to tackle. Even with hypotheticals it’s impossible to pin down the actual cost for every set of circumstances. Rather than try that, we’re going to look at some ranges and prices for each aspect of the trip, come up with totals based on those, and let you extrapolate for your own conclusions based upon that information. Given that the thing most readers report surprise over to us via comments and emails is cost (crowds and lines are a very distant second), I felt this a topic worth addressing, even if I can’t give any hard numbers for everyone.

As a blunt preface: a Walt Disney World vacation is an expensive proposition. It’s undeniable that Walt Disney World vacation costs have skyrocketed in the last 5 years, and with record attendance, that trend doesn’t seem likely to reverse itself anytime soon. Despite this, I think that the comparative cost of a Walt Disney World vacation is not out of line with many other destinations.

Sure, you could travel to one of America’s National Parks and pay a $10 entry fee for your entire vehicle for a week, camp on-site for $15/night, and cook food by campfire for $25/day for a party of 4. You could also travel to New York and spend the cost of theme park tickets on daily entertainment, pay $150/night for ‘adequate’ accommodations, $55/night for parking, and an exorbitant amount on food. The point isn’t that a Disney vacation isn’t expensive, but that expensive is a relative term.

This post assumes a 5-day, 4-night Walt Disney World vacation for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids) that is not within driving distance to Walt Disney World, with no rental car unless otherwise specified. Airfare is not discussed as it varies so widely based upon origin city that there’s really nothing meaningful to say–just know that it’s another cost that’ll probably add another $200-500 per person to your trip.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the range of costs you should expect to incur for each element of your Walt Disney World vacation… (more…)