Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 1

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Thanks for joining us on our Walt Disney World Memorial Day 2014 Trip Report. It’s been a while since we did one of these for Walt Disney World, and a lot of trips have occurred in between, so we figured it was time to get back to our roots with a Walt Disney World trip report…like we used to do in the ‘good ole days.’

We are fortunate in that we are able to travel regularly, a result of a dedicated effort we made a few years ago to make travel our #1 priority at this point in our lives, with any necessary spending sacrifices made elsewhere. Because we travel so regularly, it may seem a bit disingenuous when I say I was really missing Walt Disney World, because I hadn’t spent a full day in the parks since last October (I spent 2 hours in Epcot earlier this year and Sarah was down for a few days with her sister this year, but my last full day in the parks was the beginning of October 2013). I know it certainly reads like a “First World Problem,” and it is. But that’s how I felt. Even when we could only afford to go to Walt Disney World once per year, we went through ‘withdrawals’ only a couple of days after our trips were over, so I don’t think it reeks of entitlement too much that I missed the place after being away from the parks for 8 months.

In that time, we weren’t exactly taking a hiatus from Disney, so I can’t even begin to complain. Like I said, we’ve been fortunate to be able to travel a lot, but there really is something about going to Walt Disney World that I just can’t explain. For me, it’s my “home” resort and I have nostalgia for no other Disney destination besides Walt Disney World. Even though I think the parks in Tokyo are far superior to the ones at Walt Disney World, nostalgia is a powerful drug (even for me). Besides, there’s something I find legitimately, truly special about visiting Walt Disney World. Maybe I am hopelessly sentimental, but I still have a passion for Walt Disney World that I don’t think I could ever have for any other parks. I don’t know…maybe that just makes me a fool, because I have seen what the other global parks have to offer.

Still, there’s something about riding around the TTA Peoplemover as the sky turns deep blue and the neon lights illuminate Tomorrowland that just makes me smile. No matter how many times I’ve seen Impressions de France, I still get goosebumps from seeing its sights and hearing that score. I still look up at Spaceship Earth as we close down Epcot, and just marvel at its grandeur. I still tear up during the Kiss Goodnight. We may visit Walt Disney World less in favor of other places, but we still love it. Is a lot of that love rooted in nostalgia and our memories? Sure. I see nothing wrong with that, as that’s not the only reason I love Walt Disney World, and each of us do things on a daily basis grounded in our memories and attachments.

That should give you an idea of why I was approaching this trip with a good amount of excitement. I was looking forward to being back “home.” It was also nice to have plenty of time to plan and tweak our Advance Dining Reservations, and to give serious thought to what we wanted to do. Suffice to say, we packed a lot into the 5 day trip. Good thing one of those days was going to be 24 hours long! (Well, they all would be that long, but…you know what I mean!) Unfortunately, I did not have an active Annual Pass, so we couldn’t book FastPass+ in advance. Long story, but I let mine lapse and waited for our Disneyland Annual Pass to also expire so we could start fresh with Premier Annual Passes instead of having separate Annual Passes for Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

My normal ritual of getting McDonald’s from the Indianapolis Airport had to be skipped because we cut it a little close on time, so let’s fast-forward to our arrival. We were staying at the Contemporary to start our stay, and unfortunately, we had to wait about 15 minutes before even getting on a Disney’s Magical Express bus, then another 20 minutes for it to fill up, and then nearly another hour as we were the last stop for the bus. There was nothing magical about the experience, and it really has us rethinking our staunch “no rental car at Walt Disney World” policy.

Fortunately, we built some cushion into our first night schedule and didn’t schedule our ADRs at Chef Mickey’s until 9:15 pm. Unfortunately, when we got to our room, we found that our MagicBands didn’t work to open our room, so we had to go back to the front desk and spend more time with them troubleshooting the problem. Not the first problems we have had with MagicBands, and not the last, either.

To their credit, every Cast Member was incredibly nice and patient in dealing with these problems, and I can only imagine the abuse the frontline Cast Members deal with on a daily basis–despite them having no say over how the MyMagic+ system operates.

They were able to get us in the room, nixing my plans of setting up a tent in the Grand Canyon Concourse and falling asleep to the peaceful sounds of monorails gliding overhead. Also nixing my plans of having to figure out where to buy a tent in Orlando and how to convince Security (and Sarah) that sleeping in a tent in the middle of the Grand Canyon Concourse was an okay idea.

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Our room in the Garden Wing was very nice. When it comes to Walt Disney World hotels, I am more into themes you wouldn’t find elsewhere, whereas Sarah just likes nice, well-done rooms. In other words, it appealed to her more than it did me, but I still really liked it. I was fairly entranced by the glowy light-thing below the TV, and petitioned for us to sleep with that light on, but my request was denied. It seemed like a reasonable request to me, after all, I wasn’t making us sleep in a tent!

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We had little time to enjoy the room then, though. Instead of having an hour or more to get to Chef Mickey’s, as we should have if everything occurred on a reasonable schedule, we were a bit late. As for the meal itself…I don’t want to spoil what will be a “fun” review, but we both sincerely wish we would have dined at Contempo Cafe. In fairness, Contempo Cafe is one of our favorite counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World.

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I know this is a lot of negativity right off the bat, but things were not off to a good start. The good news is that things got much better and, aside from a few minor bumps in the road, never really got bad again.

The only real blunder after that occurred right as we got back from dinner and I received a SlickDeals app notification on my phone, alerting me to a crazy airfare price mistake. We stayed up until after midnight finding something to book (spoiler alert: we canceled it the next day after concluding that it was excessive).

When my alarm clock went off at 4:30 am the next morning, I was definitely not ready to get up. I guess on the plus side, the in-room coffee machines now have Joffrey’s, which is much better than the sludge I’ve grown used to drinking at Walt Disney World. I still don’t even remotely consider coffee “the best part of waking up,” but I no longer gag with every sip.

It’s always exciting being in one of the Disney theme parks for sunrise, and this morning was no different.

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Sunrise was just after 6:30 am, so when I got into the Magic Kingdom, the sky was still briefly a shade of deep, dawn blue.

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Hope you’re prepared for a lot of New Fantasyland photos, as I spent almost all of my time here since it was my first time seeing it with all of the walls down and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train complete.

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I basically ran around New Fantasyland like a madman, trying to find unique spots for photos before the sun came up. I spent a decent amount of time in the Little Mermaid queue. I assume everyone was heading for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, as very few guests were passing me by here!

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This is one of my favorite shots, but I wonder what others think of it–I intentionally got my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens really close to the trees in the foreground and used a wide open aperture to make some of the foreground branches out-of-focus. I think this works…do you?

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In addition to New Fantasyland, I made “rounds” up by Cinderella Castle, too, trying to find interesting light. I noticed a herd of photographers up by the Liberty Square bridge all waiting for the sunrise over Cinderella Castle. I’m sure they wondered why I kept running laps around them!

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Be Our Guest Restaurant was another favorite spot for me early on.

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Photographing the sunrise is like a chess match with mother nature. The sunlight doesn’t break the horizon in every spot at the exact same time (since the horizon is uneven) but even before the sun breaks the horizon, color lights up the sky. Often, these colors are prettier before the actual sunrise, and you don’t really know when the prettiness will “peak.” Because of this, many photographers camp out in their ideal spot and wait for that ideal moment. Hence all of those photographers on the Liberty Square bridge.

I have way too short of an attention span for that. Instead, my strategy is, literally, running all over the place trying to “outsmart” the sun (although I’m not sure it’s too beat up that I’m getting more photos of it) hitting various spots at their ideal times. This is high-risk, high-reward. If timed incorrectly, you can miss the optimal colors everywhere you go, or catch them while you’re in commute between two locations. I prefer this because I don’t have the patience to wait around for one shot, and because I prefer quantity over quality.

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Fisheye portrait of this…thing…on the lightpost guarding Beast’s Castle. I still don’t know what the heck these are. I know they aren’t gargoyles or dragons. They look sorta like depressed half man, half serpent, and half demon dudes. Whatever it is, I’m sure it haunts Al Gore at night. ;) They are pretty cool looking no matter what they are.

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While I love a good Cinderella Castle sunrise shot, I think that has been done pretty well before, so I was more concerned with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I wish the colors were a bit better, but the above is basically “the shot” I was after that morning.

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…Or maybe this one is. It was tough using a high-enough aperture to get the sunburst, and also a fast-enough shutter speed to freeze the Mine Trains.

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Instead of, you know, actually riding this new attraction with minimal wait that morning, I spent my time taking photos of other guests enjoying it. Ahh, the life of a geeky photographer!

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I couldn’t get enough of watching other guests enjoy attractions, so I decided to head over Dumbo for more photos!

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Here’s another shot of the Al Gore creature, this time shot through some trees to give it a voyeuristic look with the green foreground bokeh.

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And then I went to the toilets…the TANGLED TOILETS! For photos. Not even my overly-detailed trip reports need that kind of detail.

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The sun took forever to peak above Prince Eric’s Castle, but when it did, I went for a couple different approaches shot through these trees. The first, above, with the Sigma 15mm fisheye stopped down to create the starburst effect.

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For this one in the exact same spot, I used my Nikon 14-24, wide open, to give the sun a soft, blown out look. I’m a big fan of sunbursts, but I actually prefer the second photo. Nice change of pace, I think.

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Moved around a bit to position the sun between the structures in Prince Eric’s Castle. Overkill? Possibly.

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Mad props to this guy for dressing like this in May. I was already soaked through my polo by this point in the morning. I can only imagine how hot he was covered in potato sacks.

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At this point, I decided my morning shoot was done. It was basically just a waiting game of waiting for Sarah so we could eat and book some FastPass+.

Overall, I was pretty satisfied with my sunrise/early morning shooting. The sunrise itself was lackluster, but I think (hope?) I made lemonade out of lemons and got some good early morning shots. Regardless of the sunrise colors, it’s always fun to shoot in the parks while that morning light is nice. Unfortunately, I can’t share all of my photos from the morning, but watch for them elsewhere. You’re not really missing much…basically just more from New Fantasyland, although some of the best shots are missing.

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When Sarah arrived, we realized that my Premier Annual Pass wasn’t correctly synced with my MyMagic+ account, so we headed to Guest Relations. I forgot to mention it earlier, but I had an issue redeeming my Annual Pass (Sarah had purchased a voucher during her trip with her sister while a Disney Vacation Club promo was going on). This marked my second trip to Guest Relations to deal with the Annual Pass, and the third problem of the trip overall with MyMagic+.

Every single time, the Cast Members were very gracious and resolved the problem, but it was still frustrating. The last Cast Member with whom we spoke added extra FastPass+ options to our accounts to ‘compensate’ us for all of the time lost, which was nice, too. For the record, we did not request any “compensation.” We also did not at any time mention that we are “bigshot” Disney bloggers in an attempt to get more favorable treatment. Mostly because I’m guessing that would have been met with the following reaction by the Cast Member: “I’ve never heard of that website, but congratulations on being a bigshot in your own mind, I guess. It doesn’t help me fix your problem any faster.”

These were the last of our MyMagic+ issues for the trip, and I actually (admittedly) found the system growing on me as the trip wore on. In fairness, we are not “power” FastPass users–most paper FastPasses we got went unused–so the limitations didn’t really bother us. Most days, we didn’t even use our initial allotment of 3 FastPass+, but that’s just us. It will be nice going forward to make Toy Story Mania and Soarin’ FastPass+ reservations, but we’re most looking forward to using the My Disney Experience app as a way to organize everything. I’ve been a big user of TripIt in the past, and My Disney Experience is like my ideal version of that, except specific to Disney. To that extent, the system is a success in my eyes.

To the extent that it has had so many kinks while being rolled out to the general public is, in my eyes, unacceptable. Taking a couple of hours out of our trip to deal with issues isn’t a big deal for us since we aren’t really in a hurry to do anything, and we know we will be back. (Still, having issues with it on our last three consecutive trips is frustrating.) Negative early-on experiences like what we have had for those ‘once in a lifetime’ guests that Walt Disney World seems to desire could set a negative tone for the rest of their trip.

I’m not suggesting that others are having as many issues with the system as we have had (people are far more likely to vocalize negative experiences than positive ones), but if even 20% of guests have had these types of issues, it’s too many. I understand that certain components of the system couldn’t be corrected without actual guest use, but it seems to me that Disney was all too eager to roll the system out as quickly as possible since it all was already behind schedule and over-budget. I obviously don’t know the particulars, but to me it sure seemed like Disney sacrificing the guest experience for the sake of pushing the system live before it was ready to start recouping its costs. The good news is that there seem to be fewer instances of problems now than there were when the system first began tests in 2013, so hopefully Disney is finally turning a corner with it.

I have a lot of other ruminations on MyMagic+, but it seems like the whole thing has been discussed to death. Heck, I remember discussing NextGen in our Walt Disney World Christmas 2010 Trip Report. Maybe it’s time to just put this conversation to bed (on this site at least…Disney fans aren’t likely to stop talking about it until 2025) by saying that regardless of whether it’s “good” or “bad” or is somewhere in between–the more likely reality–it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

I’m ready to move on, and I hope Walt Disney World is, too. Fast-tracking some rumored–and needed–substantive projects would be a good way of doing just that.

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A much more interesting and positive topic: ice cream. Although we didn’t have ADRs, they were able to squeeze us in at Plaza . If you’ve read our Plaza Restaurant Review, you know we are about the only Walt Disney World fans who don’t like this spot. Well, it’s time to revise that review, because they’ve added a couple of new menu items that we absolutely loved. Four words: Beef Brisket Onion Burger. Wow. My new #1 burger at Walt Disney World.

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After lunch, we did some other stop, before deciding to bite the bullet and queue up for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We wouldn’t be in the Magic Kingdom in the morning again that trip, so we figured that afternoon might be our shortest wait. We ended up waiting an hour, which is the longest we’ve waited for any attraction in a looong time. I don’t even recall waiting that long for anything on our trips to Tokyo Disney Resort last year!

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I won’t bother rehashing our thoughts on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train here. Suffice to say, I think it’s destined to become a classic, but it is flawed. If you’re interested in knowing more than that, you can read our Spoiler-Free Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Review.

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After that, we did more wandering, took pictures of stuff, and probably rode around on the TTA Peoplemover like 4-6 times. It was originally going to be down for refurbishment during the 24-hour day, and it was about the best news ever for us when that was postponed. I normally don’t mind things being down (no “VACATION RUINED!!!1!” mentality here), but we needed the TTA that day!

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Sarah peaking out from behind the Tomorrowland rocks, gazing at Cinderella Castle. Totally not posed. ;)

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Sarah running towards Cinderella Castle. Totally not posed, either. ;) ;)

Okay…time for us to “run.” We’ll be back with the second half of the Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party soon!

Click here to return to our Walt Disney World 2014 Memorial Day Trip Report Index in order to navigate to other installments. If you’re new to our trip reports, make sure to check out our past Walt Disney World and Disneyland Trip Reports.

For actual Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice beyond these quick and random tips, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.

Your Thoughts…

Did you attend the Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party at Walt Disney World? Did you have fun? Get some good photos? What have been your experiences with MyMagic+? Share your comments on any of these things–or anything else from the trip report–in the comments!

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77 Responses to “Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 1”

  1. Lacey says:

    I read somewhere that all the gargoyles were named Frank. Something to do with labeling/placing them on the design plans.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Seriously? I’m cool with that. But, are they even gargoyles? They don’t look like gargoyles to me.

      • Liz says:

        They aren’t gargoyles technically. Gargoyles are used for drainage on top of churches/buildings. If this were seen on a building it would be referred to as a grotesque or occasionally chimera. But gargoyle just means an ugly/disgusting creature.

      • Cathy says:

        Personally, I think the light post creatures bear a resemblance to the Beast. ;) Perhaps just before the full transformation occurred, explaining the shorter horns, lack of fur/hair. LOL

  2. Ashley says:

    I am so excited about this trip report! I love all of your trip reports and really appreciate them (I hope you do one on your Christmas trip to Tokyo soon!) but it is fun to see one back in Walt Disney World. I can’t wait for the next installment!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Hong Kong Disneyland is next up. If I do a trip report for Christmas in Tokyo at all, I’ll probably wait until Christmas to post it. Not totally sure on that yet.

  3. Fred says:

    More pictures of Sarah, please.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I know it’s tough to discern tone, etc., on the internet, but…this strikes me as creepy.

      • Dave says:

        It’s not just you… That’s not right. There’s plenty of internet out there for that, no need for it here!

  4. Kevin says:

    “This is one of my favorite shots, but I wonder what others think of it”. I saw the picture before reading the text below and my first thought was “this is one of my favorite shots”. Well done.

    As for the 3 pictures of Prince Eric’s castle, my preference is the first one.

    Sadly, we arrived right on the first day of the TTA refurbishment. Alas, a reason to go back! :)

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Good to hear on that shot. It’s always tough to determine whether I’m judging a shot based on my intent and sort of “reading between the lines” of what’s actually there, and in this case, I was concerned that the effect of peaking through the trees to the Castle wouldn’t come across that well. Glad to hear others like it!

      At least Country Bear Jamboree and Carousel of Progress were both operational! :)

      • Kevin says:

        I could be biased – one of my favorite (non-people) shots from our vacation was of the castle peeking through the trees from the other side near Merida’s M&G.

        Alas, we did not ride the Carousel of Progress. But we did watch the Country Bears (at 10:30-11 PM with 5 other people in the theater!).

      • Dave says:

        I hate to be critical because I love 99% of your shots and I’ve learned a lot from this blog. Since you asked, though; this one, to me, is weak. The branches at the top right that are really blurry add nothing to the shot. Reminds me more of getting inked in Mario Kart, but I digress. The red mulch is also just kinda there, not adding anything. The mood of the light is terrific and I like the potential of the shot, though. I’m sure you’ll nail it. A thought occurred to me that what would make it absolutely perfect, even though it’s impossible, would be a swan boat emerging from the tunnel.

        Dave

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Don’t ‘hate to be critical’ – I truly wanted honest feedback, I wasn’t just fishing for praise. Your points are right on the money, and I keep wavering back and forth on whether that out-of-focus foreground branch adds or detracts from the shot. Regardless of that, you’re definitely right about the mulch.

        Thanks for the feedback. I am ALWAYS open to constructive criticism. I get more than enough praise and, while that’s definitely nice, it also doesn’t help me grow as a photographer or analyze my photos.

  5. KCmike says:

    Fun read and jam packed with great once in a lifetime (well at least once a year) photos of the sunrise at WDW. I’m with you on qty over quality. I only get to vacation once a year at Disney and I try to pack as much photography as I can and still enjoy family time. Again Tom well done with your photography as you continue to be an inspiration to us all.

    Mike

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That ‘gotta get as much as I can on our one trip this year’ mentality is how I started out, knowing that I needed ~100+ good shots for one per day on Flickr. Even though we visit more, I’ve never really shifted gears. I’m fine with it…I kind of like running around feeling pressured to get as many good shots as possible! :)

  6. Jamie T says:

    Love reading your blog. It has helped us a great deal when planning trips even though I’ve been about 15 times.
    I echo your sentiments on WDW. But so much that I really have no desire to visit any of the other Disney parks. I wouldn’t mind maybe going to Disneyland. I guess I feel if I’m going to save the money for a trip, I want to use it at a park I love. Though I’m disappointed at some things (I’ve learned about on your blog) at other parks will never be at WDW. Why do you think the Tokyo parks are far superior? I’m kind of disappointed in Disney for this.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I would strongly encourage you to visit the other parks. While you won’t have the nostalgia for them, what they lack in nostalgia they make up for in quality and (in the case of Disneyland) history.

      There are a ton of reasons why Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are far superior: upkeep, Cast Members, attraction quality, live performances, detail, theming, snacks, and more. You really ought to read our Tokyo Trip Report if you haven’t: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/tokyo-disney-resort-trip-report/

      • Jamie T says:

        Thanks. I haven’t read that one yet.

        I could never talk my husband into going to Japan just for the Disney parks. Oh well, I’ll just live vicariously through your blog. :)

  7. Matt G. says:

    I’m so glad you decided to a report on this trip! My sister and I were in the parks from Sunday-Tuesday of Memorial Day Weekend. I was disappointed to learn that the TTA Peoplemover was going to be down for refurbishment during our trip, but was ecstatic to learn they’d postponed it! Despite the fact that my sister has been to WDW more often than I have, she’d never been on it. I had to introduce her to a classic Disney attraction. Now if only Disneyland would get it back…

    • Tom Bricker says:

      No kidding about Disneyland getting it back. Sadly, I don’t see that being in the cards, but I know a lot of Disneyland fans would rejoice if it were. Here’s hoping they add some new eye candy during this refurbishment!

  8. Mike says:

    “This is one of my favorite shots, but I wonder what others think of it–I intentionally got my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens really close to the trees in the foreground and used a wide open aperture to make some of the foreground branches out-of-focus. I think this works…do you?”

    Personally, this is one of my favorite two shots from this blog post. Keep up the awesome work! :)

  9. Tammy says:

    I have use MyMagic+ on three trips now and had very minimal issues. Using the app has been very easy. If you can’t find what you want, sometimes it’s better to use an actual computer instead of the app. When I got fastpasses in April for the frozen princesses,
    I could only do it on a computer…it didn’t come up on the app. And then they were gone really fast. I heard the same is sometimes true of Mine Train. You can sometime get fastpasses on the web site and not on the app.
    In January we had some fairly significant delays with the system because we were staying at Shades of Green instead of a Disney Resort and it really limited our ability to use the system at all. But we had the same experience you did and we were given extra fastpasses whenever we had issues and needed to seek help. And they were the old paper passes and we could use them at any time on any ride.
    We also noticed that a LOT of people were using the in park fastpass kiosk locations. Just as a hint,
    Go deeper in the park of choice and you won’t have to wait at all. The ones located at the front of the park get really bogged down really early and seem to stay that way. The ones father in seem to never be busy…especially in Epcot.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Just to clarify–and I should probably clarify this above–but I know not everyone is having issues with MyMagic+. I’d hazard a guess that most guests have had no issues with it, in fact.

      However, if even 1 in 5 parties have moderate to significant issues, that’s too many. My guess is that back in 2013 when they began testing and the “hiccups” were especially bad, more than 1 in 5 parties using the system were having issues. Obviously, Disney cannot roll out a system that is flawless. It takes some testing and adjusting. My big concern is that they rolled out a system that they knew had issues that could have been addressed without the test and adjust phase, simply because the project was behind schedule and it “was time” to roll it out.

      That said–good tips for using MyMagic+ while in the parks. You’re also right about the kiosks deeper in the parks, we noticed that, too.

  10. Kris says:

    It’s nice to see you “home” again, like you I find the WDW Magic Kingdom lacking compared to Disneyland and with the California Adventure reimagined with the addition of Cars Land and Buena Vista St. Disneyland has two of the best (Epcot’s still a favorite for me) parks in the U.S. Great 1st installment and looking forward to more!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Agreed. Disneyland is definitely the best park in the US for me, and DCA is also an excellent park. Given that we typically do 3-4 day trips, Disneyland Resort is also a more “manageable” experience for us.

      • Kevin says:

        Great point about the size of Disneyland. We were there for 4 days last summer and felt like we’d don everything we wanted to at the two parks. We spent 7 days at WDW and left without hitting some of the things we would like to have done.

  11. Kirstine says:

    I’m so excited that you are doing a new trip report! I love them so much.

    Those sunrise photos over New Fantasy Land are incredible! Can’t believe you are holding back even better ones!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      It’s not really holding back so much as me not having the ability to post them anymore. You’ll see them eventually, though! :)

  12. Amanda says:

    I have to agree about Chef Mickey’s. I had breakfast there in 2011 and it was probably the worst meal I’ve had at WDW. Plus the characters were unfriendly to my table of adults, they got away from us as fast as possible. The service was bad and the food not good. Can’t wait to hear about your experience.

  13. Darolyn says:

    Great start so far, Tom! The sunrise pictures are great! Prince Eric’s castle is very photogenic. I am also with you on the hotel room schemes. I enjoy theming you can’t get anywhere else and honestly, when we stayed at BLT, it just didn’t do it for me. (Not to mention that the room we had was in pretty bad shape) For me it was too contemporary, which is probably the idea given the name of the resort! But yeah, I wasn’t a fan. Glad you guys got to ride TTA! That was definitely one thing in DL that I missed greatly. DL’s Tomorrowland left much to be desired in my eyes.

  14. Tiffany says:

    Love the pictures as always! Especially the Tangles toilets – makes it seem so enchanting :)

  15. Sabrina says:

    Thanks for posting a WDW trip report, these are my favorite ones to read and they are most relevant to my DW travels so I appreciate it. We had some serious issues with our Magic Bands too when I went in February, we ended up sitting at the front desk for 3 hours trying to get it all figured out. What a mess but the cast members were more than helpful and very apologetic so it was definitely hard to be upset about it. Hopefully they get it fixed soon!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      It is a testament to the Cast Members that they are dealing with these problems so well. I’m sure they get screamed at and treated with hostility for problems outside of their control, and yet the Cast Members are still a pleasure to deal with. Major kudos to Guest Relations CMs, and anyone else on the front-line dealing with MyMagic+ stuff over the last year!

  16. Wendy says:

    “This is one of my favorite shots, but I wonder what others think of it”

    As someone else said, before I even read your comment about that shot, my immediate thought was that it was one of my favorite shots I’ve seen of yours. It conveyed a wonderful sense of me actually peeking through the trees to see this far off, beautiful castle.

    So glad to read a WDW trip report! I love what I learn through your other Disney trip reports, but there’s just something extra special about the WDW ones.

  17. Michael says:

    Hey Tom,

    This is my first time posting to your site but I’ve followed for quite a while now (started on Flickr and then found ya’lls site about a year and a half ago.) I wanted to share something I found interesting from our trip back in November while taking pictures all of the Magic Kingdom. I was chatting with a cast member outside of “Prince Eric’s Castle” while setting up a shot and she shared something I thought you might find interesting. When I called it “Prince Eric’s Castle” (which is what most all photogs I know of call it) she said “you mean ‘Ariel’s Castle’?” She shared that the cast members refer to all of the castles by their “Princess’” first name. I’m not sure if everyone feels this way, but I thought I would pass it along to see what you thought.

    Oh, and great work as always. Love the new stuff!

  18. ChrisD says:

    Really brilliant first part and I’m looking forward to the rest! I visited on the 28th-30th – my second visit to WDW after catching the bug in September – so it’s fantastic to read a trip report that coincides time-wise with my visit.

    I think there is something a bit more than nostalgia to WDW’s allure, though… having visited Disneyland California and Disneyland Paris extensively, I don’t think there is anything like the same build-up on arrival in those parks. Disneyland involves a heck of a time finding somewhere to park, and after driving past various seedy hotels you’re suddenly there – and Disneyland Paris is approached by RER train for many people, and the Marne-le-Vallée station is VERY far from magical. WDW, on the other hand, offers endless anticipation – and even more for the Magic Kingdom. Heading out onto the freeway, you see signed exits for individual Disney parks. You then enter the main complex and pass numerous threshold signs – there’s a much more gradual transition from the real world to that of Disney. You captured that sense of excitement in the first photograph of this report! I think the impact of that is that, when you DO finally enter the park (“itself”), you don’t spend any time getting into the fantasy mindset – you’re already there.

    Has visiting other parks regularly made you less inclined to do certain attractions at WDW? Visiting Paris extremely regularly, I sort of view it as a waste of my time to do attractions that are mostly the same (or better) elsewhere – e.g. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean.

    Chris

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I think you’re on to something with the initial approach, which certainly does foster more anticipation (FWIW, I think the best ‘approach’ is in Hong Kong where they have a themed MTR train!), but I think that wears off pretty quickly.

      There’s certainly something more than just nostalgia to the Walt Disney World experience–a lot more. We wouldn’t keep coming back if it were just nostalgia. But for us, we have to admit that nostalgia does play a big role.

      We are less likely to do attractions at Walt Disney World that have superior versions elsewhere. Pirates is probably the one exception to this, because its queue is still awesome and we just love that ride–anywhere–so much!

  19. Brittney J. says:

    So fun – I always enjoy reading a “Bricker Trip Report” and seeing Disney through your eyes.

    We were actually finishing our family trip that week by enjoying “24 Hour Day” at the Magic Kingdom, and saw you running around taking pictures in the morning, so we started a game of “find Tom Bricker” – and whoever saw you first would get 10 points each time – if someone saw you and Sarah together, 50 points!! Sorry if that makes us sound like creepers, but we enjoy reading your blog so much and absolutely love your Disney pictures, that we were just shocked that you were there too and that one of us had actually spotted you! But you were in the “photo-taking zone” the first time we saw you, so I wouldn’t let my sister interrupt you to say hi… but it was cool for us to get to share the parks with y’all that day! :)

    My next Disney dream is to go to an international park – Paris or Hong Kong or even TOKYO!! You’ve inspired us to dream big!

    Thanks Brickers :)

    Brittney from Texas

  20. Christy says:

    Where did Sarah get the polka dot “Minnie” dress? I have to have it!!!

    • Shauna says:

      Seconded, please share!

    • Victoria says:

      I swear I just got that exact same dress but in blue and white polka dots at Charlotte Russe today. The front looked familiar and then I saw the cutout in the back and was like “OMG, THAT’S MY DRESS!” What’s ironic is that I bought it specifically to wear to Disney when I go in the fall.

    • Kathy says:

      x3!! that’s all I was thinking about looking at those pictures!

  21. Dan Heaton says:

    Love these reports! We’re going next January, which will be three years since our last trip to Disney World (had our second daughter in 2013). It’s close enough now where I can start planning in my mind and getting excited about it. Reading about your trip and seeing the incredible photos is perfect for this process. Can’t wait to read part 2!

  22. Matt says:

    YAY!!!! New trip report! Just a quick off topic question, am I the only one seeing funky little aliens in every commenter’s profile pic?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Because funky aliens are super-badass! ;)

      Actually, it’s because none of you are registered to have profile pics.

      If you go to http://gravatar.com, you can associate a profile pic to your email address. The good thing is, it doesn’t give you a profile pic on just this blog, but on ANY that use WordPress comments (which is many).

  23. Shauna says:

    Pictures are A+++ !! Would you ever consider doing a Wdw photography class? I’d be interested. (I normally 2nd shoot weddings)

  24. Adam R says:

    Just in case the AP WDW/DL scenario comes up again for anybody reading I had a similar situation. We got our WDW APs in mid Dec 13 and had our first DL trip planned in Feb 14. Not thinking I bought a 4 day hopper to DL and had it shipped to me. A light bulb came on and I called the Disney ticket office to ask if I could just upgrade to a Premier pass and they said I could. So when we got DL we took our unused 4 day DL hoppers and WDW APs to the ticket booth and after about 30 minutes (calling FL to verify dates and prices) we were able to upgrade to the Premier pass. We were credited what we already paid for the WDW AP and the DL Hoppers, I think we had to pay about $80 cash each to settle up, but with the DL AP discounts we got there it more than made up the difference. We also ended up getting another month added somehow, Exp 1/15. We had non-Florida resident WDW APs so I assume resident passes would cost more than $80 to settle up. But if any WDW APs are headed out to DL this year or early next year for the 60th it may be worth running the numbers to get the Premier AP.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Just out of curiosity, is your expiration date mid-December 2014 for the Premier AP?

      They are very hit or miss with how they handle these upgrades, but the official rule is that your expiration date is the earlier AP date. For us, this was problematic because our APs were spaced with expiration dates about 6 months apart. Meaning that if we upgraded to the Premier, we’d lose 6 months.

      In actual practice, I’ve heard of them not-backdating the expiration date, but we never found a Cast Member who would do that.

  25. kick says:

    your blog is such escapism for me while I’m stuck in the office cube. So nice you guys get to take so many trips!!! Since I don’t have kids at the moment, vacations are what I spend most of my money on too.

  26. M says:

    I agree with you about FastPass+ and MyMagic+… I am sure that not every guest has problems, but so many guests do seem to be having them. I know what you mean about negative experiences driving people to review, but I feel like every WDW-focused blog I read has had at least one negative experience. Yeah, the bloggers are frequent visitors so they have more opportunities to have a negative experience, but they are also often the most savvy to the workings of these things!

    The whole MyMagic+ thing has actually made me hesitant to plan a WDW trip. After a pretty much yearly WDW trip for five years, we haven’t been since 2011. Part of that has to do with convenience (we’ve done the Paris and Anaheim resorts in the last few years because of nearby relatives), however, living in New England, we can take two days off of work and still have a great three or four night WDW vacation. At this point we’ve waited out the construction of all the New Fantasy Land stuff, but MyMagic+ sounds like a hassle. I have to rethink all our park touring paradigms, re-master all the reservations stuff, and still possibly waste hours and hours at guest relations. I imagine that for us, FastPass+ will present a net loss to our enjoyment since we usually go during slow times so we could easily stack more than three fast passes in a day and still have flexibility of which parks to visit. I swear I’m not a change-hater, but there’s a lot of planning hassle to deal with and I keep hearing about these unpleasant experiences!

    Maybe in another year or two things will have settled down enough with MyMagic+ that I will be ready to face it!

    • Brittney J. says:

      We just finished a trip and had 0 issues with our Magic Bands or MyMagic+ – and there were 9 of us in our group!

      I did talk to Guest Relations after the trip about the fact that once you use all three fastpasses, you can get an additional FP, IF and only IF you visit a FastPass Kiosk – you could not add it via the app or website. I told her that diminished our FP experience as we only went be a kiosk if it was convenient, so usually didn’t end up adding a fourth fastpass (only did this 3 of the 7 days we were there and one was the 24 hour day).

      She said they were trying to fix the app so that you can eventually add the extra fastpass that way – but you can only add 1 after you’ve used the first three, then you must use the fourth before you can add a fifth, etc.

      Anyway – we had a good time overall – and my 11 year old brother thought the MagicBands were the coolest! He wore his all the way to Florida and back!

      Don’t let the new technology stop you from going – just research, play around with the app, and figure out your plans, and then use it as a tool during the trip. :) It was nice to be able to use the app to see the ride wait times or what rides were down before hiking across the park.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Even though we had troubles with it this trip, those mostly seemed like “unique” issues related to our Premier (WDW and Disneyland) Annual Passes. The issues are becoming fewer and fewer, and I think by fall, we are realistically looking at a very smooth experience, with even more kinks ironed out.

      Hopefully, by fall they also have added the capability to add additional FastPass+ after your first 3 via the app, not just the in-park kiosks.

      What I’m saying is that I don’t think you need to wait that long to return. You’re probably fairly “safe” in the near future.

  27. Amanda G. says:

    “Even when we could only afford to go to Walt Disney World once per year, we went through ‘withdrawals’ only a couple of days after our trips were over”

    See, you get it. This is why I read your blog!

  28. Chronic Gin Deficiency says:

    (commented on the wrong post before)

    I understand how you’ve made travel a priority. Not to sound accusatory, but how are you able to take so much time off? If I remember correctly what you said about your careers, neither you nor your wife are in jobs known for their leisurely hours.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      When I started working, I deliberately chose a position with a more ‘family-friendly’ employer…which also worked out to be a more travel-friendly employer for the same reason. Of course, that also meant (significantly) lower pay, but it has worked out.

      From a scheduling perspective, pretty much all I do is write at work. I usually have a minimum of 30 days to complete any given brief, with that time easily extended to 60 days in most cases. So if I’m gone a 3 days or even a couple of weeks, it really makes no difference–except for the fact that I fall behind on things and have to work longer hours to make up for it. For the most part, though, I’m really on my own schedule and just have to keep on top of tasks.

      All of that will likely be changing in the medium-term future, though…

      • Sandy says:

        How can you leave us with a cliff hanger like that??!!
        I love the reports on Tokyo and Hong Kong as well as the US parks – thank you and Sara for taking the time to document and pull them all together.
        Last question – why no picture of your #1 beef brisket onion burger??
        Ok, I need to catch up with the next parts of your report. Thank you!

  29. Aly says:

    Yay trip report!

    Srsly, though….what is that sack creature??

  30. Gage says:

    Very envious of how often you guys go to Disney parks. It’s been 3 years and I have 1 more to go until mine and my fiancé’s honeymoon. Worst part is, I only live 2 hours from WDW so I’m sure you can imagine the kind of withdrawals I’m enduring haha. Either way, I love reading your articles! They’re comical, informative, and also serve the purpose of allowing me to live vicariously through you and your disney adventures haha. Thanks for another great article, you guys rock!

  31. christian says:

    grate photos tom they color and flare in some of them looks amazing

  32. Jennifer S says:

    Yeah! I love reading your trip reports! Beautiful sunrise shots… I like the first train shot (more intense color) Keep up the god work!

  33. jennifer says:

    Our last trip to wdw in march was one constant problem with our magic bands. Really think they should have perfected the system before changing over and felt their was a loss of care towards your entire experience. We will be spending more time on cruises and Hawaii while Disney figures out their problems and return if ever to a more family friendly experience. We all felt Disney is focusing more on trends and adult party hype.

  34. Valerie says:

    Hi Tom,
    I have a question that I should probably know the answer to, but I know you’ll know the answer! My husband and I had WDW AP’s (from the excellent DVC deal in 2012) they expired April 2014. We knew we weren’t going to WDW again until October, so decided to hold of on renewing because we’d lose that 6 months of time.

    We are planning on buying new AP’s before our October 2014 trip. Of course we don’t want to activate the passes until we get there. If we buy the AP’s and get the voucher, is there a way to link the voucher to MyDisneyExperience without activating the passes so that we are able to book FP+ before we get down there in October?

    I’ve heard yes, but not definitively, so I wanted to ask someone I know I can trust with Disney info! Seriously, I love your blog, and I really appreciate all the info you have about everything! Thanks!!

  35. Mary C. says:

    We used to be anti car rental at WDW as well, but I just went to WDW in May and was pregnant. We decided to rent a car and I will never go back! It was nice not to wait for ME, stop at the grocery store and go from resort o resort with no drama. We were very frugal about it by shopping around and getting codes. It was a good deal at the end of the day, and i don’t think I will ever go back to not renting a car!

  36. Ellen Hillery says:

    Yay! I’m so glad you liked The Plaza! I was one of the folks who suggested it as a hidden gem to you a few years back!!!

  37. Yvonne Paradise says:

    Can’t wait to do People Mover in the dark!!!! Thanks for that tip :D

  38. I would like to suggest a future post in which you feature Sarah’s Disney parks fashion! The Minnie Mouse dress is adorable, but I’m particularly curious as to where she got the blue dress she wore to Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekend.

  39. Abby says:

    Tom, I found your blog today via Google and had no idea you are such an expert! We were also at Disney on the 24 hour day. I’m looking forward to reading your full report and digging into your site! Your photography is incredible. We’re headed back for NYE (which is the search that led me here). Take care!

    Abby Rom

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Had you visited prior to the 24 hour party? New Year’s Eve and the days around it will be significantly more crowded, but if you’re able to go at off hours and/or stay near the Magic Kingdom, it certainly makes things easier. Hope all is well with you and Gary!

      • Abby says:

        We’ve been several times (we actually spent a few days at WDW the week between finals and law school graduation!), but this was our first big trip with my family and our 3yr old princess-loving daughter. We spent the full week before Memorial day at Bay Lake Towers. It was incredible. We’ll take another big trip next year (November, most likely), but can’t wait to head back in a few months.

  40. Michael Greiner says:

    You’re not the first to have trouble with the Magic Bands,
    Nor shall you be the last.

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