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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

School or Disney? That Is The Question

Since 104 days of summer vacation may not be enough to get in a trip to Disney, not to mention the potential for heat and crowds during that time, some families are faced with the dilemma of taking kids out of school for a trip to the magic.    Oh, what to do?

Well, one option to consider is to take the kids ruing the “off” times, when everyone else is in school while the kids are still part of the pre-school set.  No missing school and getting an opportunity for a Disney vacation with smaller crowds.  Best of the options.

But if your children are older and in school, then your family may have to decide. . . school or Disney?  I will say, the boy has missed some school due to Disney trips, but not many.  Two days at most.  We went in November during a short school break and added on a couple of days in which he missed school.  He did have some “homework” that was completed and turned in.  We saw other families with their “homework” stacks being completed in the airport.

Let us not overlook the potential for learning at the most magical place on earth.  The theme parks are more than just rides, shows, attractions, and characters.  At Animal Kingdom for example, there are Discovery Stations for the kids to learn about the animal world.  These stations are staffed with Cast Members are very interactive.  There are also Cast Members located throughout the various trails to answer questions, share information, and point out details often overlooked by guests.

EPCOT has a whole world to explore, literally.  The Kidcot stations at the World Showcase Pavilions offer a chance to explore a new language both verbally and in writing.  The music, sounds, sights, and tastes of various countries and cultures surround World Showcase Lagoon.  The various films and experiences throughout World Showcase give guests of all ages vivid images, information, and music of the country or region represented in the Pavilion.  The American Adventure Pavilion offers a journey through U.S. History.  After we had watched O’Canada, the Circle Vision Film in the Cananda Pavilion, the boy turned to me and said, “I want to go to Canada.”  I could understand why.  Even today, he can recognize the music from the presentation on our “Four Parks, One World” CD.

EPCOT also offers the Living Seas Pavilion with two stories of encounters with underwater creatures.  Inside the Pavilion, various learning stations are available for guest interaction along with presentations.  Living with the Land Pavilion offers guests an opportunity to learn about recycling Earth’s resources in a movie featuring the gang from The Lion King, and a boat ride featuring information about the land and various ways to grow plants with the Living With The Land attraction.  It is one of our favorite attractions. 

In addition to the opportunities available for all guests, Walt Disney World offers various tours and experiences that can extend the learning.  For example, guests wanting to know more about the animals at Animal Kingdom could reserve the Wild Africa Trek tour for an additional cost.  A family may want to go “Behind the Seeds” for a tour at Living with the Land in EPCOT.  The Living Seas Pavilion also offers interactive experiences with sea creatures.

So, if your family is deliberating with the decision about school or Disney, consider the learning options available at Walt Disney World.  Also, check with your local school about their attendance policy.  Weigh your options and make the best decision for your family.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Walt Disney World Resorts and Their Various Transportation Options

A Williams Family Blog reader, Lee, asked about info on various Walt Disney World Resorts due to rumors about guests having difficult time with transportation, etc.  And, while we haven’t experienced any “nightmares” while using Disney transportation (thank goodness!), we have learned a thing or two while navigating Walt Disney World. 

It took a while to organize this post in my head. . . do I start with various transportation options or by resort category?  I decided to go by resort category.  Here’s our take on various resorts and what we have found with transportation with the various resorts.

Walt Disney World Resorts fall into 3 categories:  Value, Moderate, and Deluxe.  A resort is classified as one of the 3 categories based on location within Walt Disney World, size of accommodations, amenities available to guests, transportation options available, and price.  All of our stays at Walt Disney World have been at resorts classified as moderates.  Actually, we have stayed at 4 out of 5 moderate resorts—with the only one left to experience being the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.

Value Resorts include the “All Star” Resorts—Movies, Music, and Sports, Pop Century, and the new Art of Animation Resort.  Art of Animation offers family suites except for the newest building—The Lion King—which offers standard resort rooms.  All Star Music offers family suits as well as standard resort rooms.  The Value Resorts are served by Disney busses.  There is one bus stop for each resort located outside the main building of that resort.  The Value Resorts are quite large—can accommodate many guests, so during peak travel times, busses can get full quickly.  We have no personal experience with the Value Resorts.

Moderate Resorts include Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside and its sister resort, Port Orleans French Quarter, Coronado Springs, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness

We have stayed at Caribbean Beach twice and found that while it is beautiful, the fact that it was Disney’s first attempt at a moderate resort is evident with guests having to use an internal bus to get to their resort room and main building as the check-in/registration area is very much separate from the rest of the resort.  I found it ironic that we had our carry-on luggage and were faced with large signs posted on the internal bus saying “No Luggage Allowed.”  Needless to say, our carry-on bags went on the bus with us, but it made no sense to me to have an internal bus picking up arriving guests with that type of sign.  We found location makes a big difference when staying at Caribbean Beach Resort.  The farther away from Old Port Royale will either make your vacation quiet or inconvenient, depending on your point of view.  Disney has made changes to enhance theming and entice guests to come to Caribbean Beach by creating “pirate” themed rooms, which are located in some of the buildings farthest from Old Port Royale.  Guests would pay more for the themed room located farthest away from the main pool, food court, shops, etc.  Caribbean Beach Resort does not have elevators, so if you have a room beyond the 1st floor, be prepared for the stairs.  The multiple bus stops at the resort making getting to and from a bus stop short and easy.  Guests riding the busses to and from theme parks and Caribbean Beach will find that it is a direct route with the only delays being the multiple stops within the resort.

Port Orleans French Quarter offers guests a moderate resort that is more compact.  Food Court, pool, and other amenities are a quick jaunt at this resort.  There is only one bus stop located just outside the main building that houses Guest Registration along with food court, shops, etc.  There is only one swimming pool at Port Orleans French Quarter, but guests are welcome to use the main swimming pool at the sister resort of Port Orleans Riverside and can get there by boat or by walking.  In addition to bus transportation, Port Orleans French Quarter has boat service to Downtown Disney and Port Orleans Riverside.  We had a 3rd floor room during our stay and appreciated the elevators.  On occasion, busses will be shared with guests at Port Orleans Riverside.

Port Orleans Riverside is the French Quarter’s more spread out sister resort.  Riverside offers a section of buildings designed after grand plantation homes and another section with more of a log cabin theme.  The resort busses also operate as internal busses with four stops within the resort—North, South, East, and West.  The main building with guest registration, food court, and shops is located at the South bus stop.  Riverside has a main pool along with several quiet pools located throughout the resort.  Riverside boasts the most pools than any other resort on property.  In addition to bus service to and from the parks, boat service to Downtown Disney and the French Quarter is available to guests.  Something we learned our first night there was to know your bus stop before getting on the bus to the park.  Is your stop “East,” “West,” “North,” or “South”?  The stops are not marked, so knowing this will require looking at the resort map handed to you during check-in.  The direction of the stop will be announced and that is all you will have to go by.  Get off at the wrong stop, and you could end up walking quite a distance to your room, or end up going back to the theme park.  Trust me, it has happened to us and we have seen it happen to others (and I was told never to speak of it again!)  You can’t rely by “looking” out the window of the bus for your location after dark as it is difficult to see due to the bus lighting as well as the foliage blocking the views to buildings.  And, the bus drivers don’t know the resorts and rely and the pre-recorded message that corresponds to the route.  I contacted Disney Guest Services about this issue and suggested that Cast Members verbally tell guests what “direction” their bus stop would be when checking in, in addition to the map, and/or mark the stops with the “direction.”  These are things Disney Cast Members wouldn’t know as they most likely wouldn’t experience this as a guest.

Coronado Springs was Disney’s latest attempt at a moderate resort and they seemed to have worked out several of the “flaws” from earlier attempts.  There are 4 bus stops throughout the resort that also operates as an internal bus system.  The stops are marked and numbered—1, 2, 3 or 4—one stop for each of the “sections” of the resort, with stop 1 building El Centro or the main building.  And, while the main pool is separate from the main building, there is a food counter, ability to refill mugs, and arcade near the main pool, giving guests most of the amenities without having to go to the main building which also has restaurants, food court, shops, arcade, health club, and convention center.  Coronado Springs is a convention hotel and the layout does keep convention guests and theme park guests a bit separate.  Elevators are available for guests with upper floor stays.    Quiet pools are located throughout the resort.  Coronado Springs boasts the largest hot tub on property.

The Cabins at Fort Wilderness are the largest moderate resort accommodations, sleeping six guests.  Fort Wilderness has an internal bus system in addition to bus service and boat service to the Magic Kingdom.  Guests often rent golf carts for use throughout Fort Wilderness.  Many dining opportunities are available here along with Hoop Dee Do Review—Walt Disney World’s longest running live entertainment venue.  Many outdoor activities are available for guests.  We have yet to stay at this resort.

The Deluxe Disney Resorts include Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary Resort along with Bay Lake Tower, the Polynesian Resort, and the Grand Floridian Resort.  Studios and 1, 2, and 3 bedroom Villas are available at Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club, Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Bay Lake Tower, and are being built right now at the Grand Floridian.  Will the Poly be next? 

While we have yet to stay in any of the Deluxe Resorts, we have visited several for dining opportunities and have taken advantage of Disney transportation.  Here’s what we have discovered:
Just like the Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian share the monorail and bus service, the Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club share boat and bus service.  We have ridden the bus from the Beach Club to Magic Kingdom and made several stops along the way to pick-up and drop off guests.  We have also taken the bus from the Beach Club to Downtown Disney and had quite a wait as we watched several busses come and go that were headed to the same location.  We have also taken the bus from Animal Kingdom to the Poly which also serves the Contemporary and Grand Floridian.

Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian offer boat service to and from the Magic Kingdom.  The Contemporary is a quick walk to the front gates of the Magic Kingdom and the Poly offers a 5 minute jaunt to the TTC to take the monorail to EPCOT.

Guests at the Boardwalk and Yacht and Beach Club can walk to EPCOT or Hollywood Studios.

Boat service to Downtown Disney is available from Old Key West and Saratoga Springs, though guests at Saratoga Springs may find walking to Downtown Disney easier and faster.  Guests staying at Old Key West and Saratoga Springs also have bus service to and from theme parks.

Guests at Animal Kingdom have bus service to and from the theme parks along with an internal bus serving Jambo House, the newest section with Disney Vacation Club villas.

To us, guests staying at Deluxe Resorts have efficient walking distances to various theme parks or Downtown Disney.  Once you leave the monorail line—Poly, Contemporary, or Grand Floridian—the transportation gets more inefficient—having to share routes with more resort.  Wilderness Lodge stands out with both bus and boat service without having to share with other resorts.  I can now understand why guests staying at some of the other Deluxe Resorts choose to drive to and from theme parks, etc.

Yet, Disney created the transportation system specifically to get guests to stay on property and not wonder off with their money in hand.  If the folks staying at a deluxe accommodation—spending the most money for that accommodation—feel they need a vehicle to make the most of their trip, they now have ample opportunity to travel outside the Disney bubble and spend their money.  To me, that’s not the best for the bottom line. 

Disney reported that use of Disney’s Magical Express service that offers guests free transportation from Orlando International Airport to their Walt Disney World Resort, was down during the first quarter of 2012.  Could inefficient Disney transportation service be part of the reason, as guests feel the need to rent a car?  I have another reason in mind, but I’ll share that for another post.

For us, using Disney’s transportation system is the way we want to travel.  We love to sit back and let Disney do the driving—either bus, boat, or monorail.  We usually don’t mind waiting too long for a bus and enjoy visiting with folks, even if we are hanging onto the handrail on a crowded bus going back to our resort.  We have had busses all to ourselves along with monorail cars and have ridden boats to and from Downtown Disney as well as to and from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom.  We want our vacation to be inside the Disney bubble and from the moment we arrive at Orlando International. . . actually from when we check our bags at our departing airport, we are on vacation!

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Don't You Ever Get Bored?"

“Don’t you ever get bored?” was the question posed to me during a conversation with a friend and colleague about a return trip to Walt Disney World.

“No!” was my adamant reply.

The exchange happened when I was asking how a recent trip (June) to Walt Disney World had gone for their family—it was a repeat visit.  I got to hear some good stories, like watching a moving storm while waiting to watch Illuminations which resulted in a long, but dry, wait in Guest Services followed by a race to the car in the rain.  Memories!

Seeing the smile, I asked when they would be going back.  A grasp to the forehead was followed by an “I don’t know.”  Seems there is a dilemma about when the youngest child would be returning.  Go sooner while child is younger or wait a while and go when the child is older.  No easy answer there.  I was then asked when we would be going back.  I rattled off the triple digit number of days until our next slice of magic.  That’s when the “Don’t you get bored?” question hit.

Nope.  We don’t get bored.  We get to combine familiar, well loved experiences with new ones each trip.  The husband and I were chatting about the possibility of a longer trip to the most magical place on earth for next summer and where we might dine.  We had 8 meals in just EPCOT alone lined up—combining new ones with favorites.  That’s not boredom;  that’s a mission!

Our next trip, which is still triple digits away, will take us back onboard the beautiful Disney Dream.  We will be staying in the same stateroom—literally the exact same one, sailing the same itinerary—just the Castaway Cay days have rotated a bit, on the same ship.  But this time, the ship will be decorated for the holidays and there will be a few different offerings on board because of the holidays.  And, we will get to try things on the ship that we didn’t get to last time.  The husband and I are definitely going to the Quiet Cove pool this next trip.  Bored?  No way!  While the ship will be delightfully familiar—no spending the first few days finding our way around—we will get to have different experiences.

Following our Disney Cruise, we have a 3 day stay at Walt Disney World.  We are staying at the same resort as last time.  But we won’t know what section of the resort we will be assigned until we arrive, potentially making our stay a bit different.  We will have one day of park tickets and plan on visiting Hollywood Studios.  Will we do some of the same things we have done before?  Yes.  But this time, Tower of Terror may be on our list as the boy works up his courage. 

Downtown Disney?  Familiar, sure.  But Santa Goofy will be there and another friend/colleague has already put in a shopping order request for a store we don’t frequent, so that will be a new experience. 

Dining?  We have an old favorite on our list as well as a new restaurant and one we haven’t been to for a while.  No boredom there!

What’s great about repeated visits is there really isn’t an opportunity to get bored.  During a first time visit, a guest can feel overwhelmed. . . decisions, planning, details and those are even before getting there.  The immersion into Disney Magic that we long for can feel like overload to a first time guest.  The quest for a perfect, once in a lifetime vacation can be daunting.  As veterans, we know a bit about what to expect.  Many of our decisions are made before we arrive and we pretty much know where we are going.  So, it is easier to relax and enjoy.  And, the pressure is off to make our vacation go “perfectly.”  Smoothly?  That’s always the goal! 

Just the other morning, we had Disney theme park music playing and the boy heard the theme for Soarin’.  He shouted the name of the attraction from the other room as the tune was easily recognizable to him.  He then asked if we would be riding Soarin’ during our upcoming trip.  Not this trip, as we are going to Hollywood Studios.  No disappointment.  He’s ridden Soarin’s many times and will get to again, I hope.

So, no boredom.  Anticipation and excitement?  Yes!  Definitely, yes!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It Really Is A Small, Small World

As the song says, “It’s a Small, Small, World,” and that was ever apparent the other day when I checked my e-mail.  There’s was an e-mail message from a person with the same name as the husband.  I wondered why the husband would be e-mailing me.  If he needed something, he would just call or text, not the mention that the technological prowess seems to fall on other members of our family.  But here was his name right in front of me on the computer screen.

I clicked the message open and began to laugh out loud as I read.  See, there is another person in our community that has the same name as the husband and he is also a Disney fan.  We have bumped into his family when our sons have been on the same soccer team and at one point, we even shared a cleaning lady.  We’ve even been to Walt Disney World at the same time and have caused some confusion when the husband was being announced as an extra in Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

I’m told by his wife, that he checks out the Williams Family Blog every once in a while and he must have read about our new fondness for Coronado Springs, especially the Pepper Market.  He had attached a picture of his two sons to the e-mail taken at the entrance to the Pepper Market.  His e-mail said that he had found a jump stick with some photos of past Disney trips and came upon the photo.  He thought it would give me a laugh.  It sure did. . . and not just the photo!

Seems the sons’ favorite place to eat for a while was Pepper Market—that I can understand!  Until they discovered Pizza Planet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, that is.

So, to the other Williams Family, thanks for the chuckle.  It made my day!  And, it illustrated the words to the familiar song, “It’s a small world after all!”

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Free Wi-Fi Now At EPCOT and Typhoon Lagoon

Guest can now experience free Wi-Fi service at EPCOT and Typhoon Lagoon at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Already, guests have free Wi-Fi service at all of the on-site resorts and the Magic Kingdom.  The other two parts just came on-line with others sure to follow.

What does all of this mean?  Disney is readying its resort for Next Gen technology to give guests the opportunity to use technology to navigate the parks.  Already, guests are using RFID or Radio Frequency Identification on their room keys which allow for “waving” the card with the chip in front of the door lock rather than the “slide in and out” to unlock the door.  We experienced RFID keys on the Disney Dream during the summer of 2011 and it looks like our newest favorite resort, Coronado Springs, will offer all RFID cards by the time we arrive for our next trip.

RFID key testing has begun in the parks for admission and Next Generation Fastpass distribution and return has gone through one round of testing and another is on its way allowing guests to pre-determine their Fastpass return times prior to arriving at the park via technology.  Hence the need for free Wi-Fi.

On our trip in March, we did take advantage of the free resort Wi-Fi as the iPad traveled with us and I checked emails—skimmed emails would be a more appropriate term.  We were on vacation and I wanted to be disconnected from the “real” world.  Emails brought me right back to the real world and I didn’t like it, so my moments “connected” were brief.

And, while we can use an iPad, I certainly don’t want to carry it around in the parks.  Though, I have seen others doing just that.

Another option to give us access in the parks and resort would be a “Smartphone” of sorts.  I have written about that before and am not ready to take on the addition fees associated with a Smartphone, or the potential cost of the phone.

A friend suggested, after reading the post where I was digging my heels in about using technology at the parks, an iPod.  Less cumbersome than an iPad and, after the one time initial cost, less expensive than a Smartphone data plan.  Hmm. . . I might be able to get behind this idea. 

In the meantime, I will have to applaud Walt Disney World for their forging ahead in the world of technology to be a leader and innovator in applying uses for guests.  That’s what we have expected from Disney all along—to be a leader in applying the latest technology to make guest experiences better—more magical.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Disney Cruise Line Makes Adjustments to Itineraries Sailing From Galveston

Disney Cruise Line announced changes to the itineraries for the Disney Magic sailing out of Galveston, Texas.  While the Magic doesn’t arrive in Galveston until September 22—a month from now, DCL is making adjustments to itineraries for early 2013 sailings.

Three 8-night Western Caribbean itineraries are being replaced by six 4-night sailings that stop in Cozumel, Mexico and include 2 days at sea.  Six 8-night itineraries will visit Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay, Port Canaveral, Key West, and include 4 days at sea.  Cruise fare includes park admission and ground transportation to/from Walt Disney World during the stop at Port Canaveral.

Guests with current cruise reservations are being contacted regarding the changes by DCL and travel agents.  Reservations will open September 5, 2012, for new reservations for the revised itineraries.

While the Magic makes Galveston its home part for fall 2012 and early 2013, the Wonder will be coming to Galveston later in 2013.  Will the Wonder’s itineraries be adjusted as well?

When DCL first announced the Galveston and Miami itineraries, there was a glaring lack of inclusion of stops at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas.  We’ve sailed on itineraries that didn’t include a stop at Castaway Cay and boy, did we ever miss it!  Adding stops at Castaway Cay on the adjusted itineraries is good news.

DCL is demonstrating that they can turn a cruise ship, or at least a cruise itinerary on a dime.  Looking at market trends and anticipating guest wants/needs and making adjustments to better meet guest demands is a smart move.  Both for the Disney Cruise Line brand and the bottom line. 

While we aren’t planning on sailing out of Galveston, we are familiar with the area.  When DCL first announced Galveston as a home port, we wondered about which airport ground transfers would serve—George Bush Intercontinental in North Houston, Hobby Airport in South Houston, or the smaller airport in Galveston.  I did find out on DCL’s web-site that ground transfers are $60 per person for the Galveston sailings vs. the $70 per person for ground transfers from Orlando International to Port Canaveral.  Also, DCL is advertising pre-cruise stays near George Bush Intercontinental Airport and in Galveston.  Nothing mentioned about hotels near Houston Hobby Airport.

Guests who may be flying Southwest or Airtran, take note, as both fly into Houston Hobby rather than Houston Intercontinental.  There may be other airlines in the same boat, so to speak.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Williams Family Part of the National Consumer Panel

One way we save money is to find creative ways to pay for what we want or need.  That’s why we are now part of the National Consumer Panel.

I had joined a few weeks ago and had received follow-up emails asking if we would be willing to be part of the panel and scan purchased items and upload the data.  When I learned that the uploads along with survey responses earn points that can be redeemed for various prizes I said sure!

An e-mail came a bit later saying that we were on the waiting list for a scanner and that as soon as one was available it would be shipped to us.  Within days another e-mail came saying the scanner had been shipped.

Soon, the package arrived via FedEx with the scanner and directions.  I waited until the week-end to hook everything up and give it a try.  The scanner is plugged into an outlet near our computer and another cord—for data transmission—is connected to the base device and our router.  It was easy to hook up.

Then it was time to scan purchases made at the grocery store before putting them away.  I even got to enter where the purchases were made, who I shopped with, whether or not I used coupons, and the total amount of the sale.  I finished by uploading or transmitting the data just to see if I could do it—data is only required to be transmitted weekly.  All went well and the scanner beeped at me when it was done and then shut off.

Now, the real test begins.  We need to scan anything that comes into our house via purchase.  And, I do mean anything!  If we are out and stop by a convenience store for a soda and slice of pizza—scan it.  If we purchase gas for the car—scan it (there’s a special way to do it).  Pet supplies—scan them too. 

The husband and I read through the provided material and he asked really good questions and we worked out how to respond to them.  He even asked about purchases made on vacation.  Yep, those too.  So, those Disney trading pins he is planning to buy?  He will have to save the little cards that they come with so we can scan them when we get home.  But alas, there’s a way to tell the panel that you won’t be transmitting as you are gone on vacation, too.  There's also a way to tell the National Consumer Panel that you didn't make any purchases during a week and transmit that data.

I can already tell this is going to be a test for my memory as I have to enter the coupon amounts if coupons were used to purchase items.  I don’t intend to shorten my coupon stack so I will have to rely on my memory. 

The husband is one his own for errands and a bit of shopping so we’ll see how it goes.  I’m sure he will do just fine.

While goods are certainly a huge component of the data collection, I noticed services are not.  If I got a massage—no data entry.  Haircut—no data entry.  And while a suitcase purchase would be scanned, the airline reservations that the suitcase will be used on do not require data collection.

We are just launching into this journey.  For now it is an adventure--something fun and new.  The husband and I did check out all the possible rewards.  I’ve got my eye on a new vacuum cleaner.  Glamorous, I know.  And, I would have to scan it upon arrival!

We can stop at any time and ship the scanner back to the National Consumer Panel.  Directions along with a label came in the box.  I put the box in a safe place just for that purpose.

If you would like to join the panel--click here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The "On Property" or "Off Property" Choices Uncovered

Just after making the decision to go to Walt Disney World, when you are going, and how you are getting there, comes the inevitable decision about where to stay.  Typically this question is the simple “on or off property” question, but there is more to it than that.  Let’s explore. . .

If off property is your answer, there are many options to choose from—vacation homes, condos, resorts, and hotels in various price ranges.  Some offer shuttles to/from parks at predetermined times throughout the day.  Others include suite accommodations, free breakfasts, and on-site water parks.  The list of amenities is as long as the list of hotels and is only limited by your wallet.

Speaking of paying, at an off site hotel, payment is handled like any other hotel.  Use your credit card to hold your reservation, then pay when you arrive. Your entire stay could be added to your credit card when you check-out.  Usually it is charged each day or every other day.  Some offer room charging for purchases made in shops and restaurants at the hotel.  Not having to pay until you arrive allows for budgeting the cost of your travel right up until the moment you leave for vacation.

Also, guests staying off site can collect or redeem points or rewards from various frequent stayer programs that match the hotel of choice. 

Depending on the location of your off-property accommodations, shops, restaurants, and other entertainment venues abound.  And, of course, there’s the option of visiting those “other” parks.  You just have to determine your transportation options and ticket needs.

We have stayed off-property and went to those “other” parks before and yet to have to rent a car in Orlando.  A town car service was needed to get us from the airport to our off-site hotel which was a block off of International Drive and access to the I-ride Trolley.  So between walking, taking the hotel shuttle to/from the parks, and using the I-ride Trolley system, we were able to get anywhere we wanted/needed to go and didn’t have to pay for a car or parking.

Staying on Disney property at Walt Disney World also has a variety of options, too.  There are “room only” stays where guests reserve a room at a Disney resort by paying the deposit of the cost of a one night stay with the balance due upon arrival.  Guests using this option may or may not want theme park tickets.  They may have an Annual Pass and not need to purchase tickets or want to purchase tickets from an outside source or purchase tickets upon arrival.  Any of the ticket options can be added to a “room only” reservation upon arrival, including any of the Disney Dining Plans, Park Hopper, or Water Parks and More.  Use of Disney’s Magical Express is available for guests with a “room only” reservation.  This type of reservation may be best for anyone who still isn’t quite sure of their vacation dates but wants to have a room reserved.  Double check cancellation policies prior to making a “room only” reservation.

Another option is the “Package” option.  This includes a room reservation at a Disney Resort, tickets, and use of Disney’s Magical Express from the airport to the resort.  Packages usually offer some type of discount, have a $200 deposit, and are required to be paid in full 45 days prior to your trip.  The “Magic Your Way” tickets can have as many options added to them as you like. . . Park Hopper, Water Parks and More, Disney Dining, etc.  Guests using this type of reservation can still add on to their park tickets once they arrive.  For example, let’s say you have a package that includes park tickets for 4 days with the Park Hopper option and you are staying 5 days.  You decide you want to add an extra day to your ticket—no problem, or maybe you want to go to a water park, so you figure out if it would be more cost effective to add the Water Parks and More option to your ticket or just pay for a day’s admission to the water park.  There’s still flexibility to ADD options to your package after you arrive. 

A Package reservation is best for those whose plans are most likely not going to change and for folks who enjoy the discount a package purchase provides along with the convenience of knowing your vacation is paid in full prior to your arrival.

Then there’s the Disney Vacation Club stay at a Disney Resort.  Points are used to pay for a stay.  Park tickets and Annual Passes can be purchased at a discount either prior or during your stay.  It is my understanding that if the Dining Plan is added to a ticket for a Disney Vacation Club stay that the cost of the Dining Plan is due in full at the time of the resort reservation.  If this is not accurate, please let me know with a comment.  Use of Disney’s Magical Express is available for transportation to/from the airport to your resort.

Even as a Disney Vacation Club member, the other options are still available.  It just depends on whether or not you are using points for your stay.

The simple “on or off property” question can be a bit more complex than it seems.  It’s great that there are so many options available to meet people’s needs.  We have friends who are Disney Vacation Club members and regularly use their points for stays.  They have Annual Passes and enjoy the deluxe accommodations that DVC provides.  We also have friends who enjoy stays off-property and use a year’s worth of points earned through credit card purchases to pay for their stay in a resort chain associated with their credit card company.  We also have friends whose travel dates are likely to change and a “room only” reservation with park tickets added on when they arrive would be the best option as they won’t know for sure they are going until their bottoms are on the seats of the plane.

For us, the Package reservation works well.  We budget for our vacation to be paid in full 45 days prior to our trip, and once we purchase plane tickets our plans are pretty firm.  We enjoy the discounts and convenience of knowing that even our dining is paid for ahead of time.  And, we have discovered that if there is a discount that becomes available even after we had made our reservation, our reservation can be adjusted to reflect the discount. . . even if we are paid in full the difference would be refunded to us!  Just more reasons that keep us coming back!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Our Love of Disney is NOT All My Fault!

Sometimes I feel that folks think our family’s, dare I say obsession, with Disney is all my doing. . . my responsibility. . .my fault.

But I have evidence to the contrary!

A couple of weeks ago the husband and the boy headed off to a local community event complete with climbing wall, wagon rides, and pony rides.  A sudden rain storm stopped the event, so they headed to the local mall for a go on the bounce house.

While at the mall, the husband must have wandered into the Hallmark Store and discovered the following holiday ornaments that he felt compelled to take pictures of.

Of course, I didn’t discover the ornament photos until I loaded the pictures from the SD card into the computer and they were a bit of a surprise, although evidence that our family’s appreciation of all things Disney does not begin and end with me.  The husband carries his share of the “obsession” as well.

Speaking of all things Disney, I got to hear a heartwarming story yesterday of how our blog helped to make someone else’s trip a bit more magical.  Seems that a special “auntie” was at the Magic Kingdom trying to convince her near tear nephews that meeting the Disney Princesses was an okay thing to do. . . for a boy. . . and that other boys do indeed meet and greet the Princesses, aka the boy.  The “auntie” explained to her nephews that she had read about and seen pictures of another boy meeting the Princesses—from our blog.  Upon hearing this, the nephews mustered their courage, dried their tears, and greeted the Disney Princesses with the gallantry they deserve.  I got to see the photos and they were priceless!

It is stories like this that make writing and managing the Williams Family Blog worth it.  Knowing our labor of love has helped someone else discover the magic that is Disney is heartwarming.  We already “get it”;  that Disney offers a special kind of magic that makes so many memories.  Even the “auntie” on her first trip with only one day at the Magic Kingdom could feel the difference; the magic. . . and now she “gets it” too.  And, she’s already dreaming of her next trip!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Be Our Guest Restaurant Ready for Dining Reservations

It’s official!  Walt Disney World guests wishing to dine at Be Our Guest Restaurant, the Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant in the new Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom, will be able to make Advanced Dining Reservations on Monday, August 20, 2012, for dinner beginning November 19, 2012.

The opening of Be Our Guest Restaurant has had fans salivating at the opportunity to eat at the new restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.  Be Our Guest will feature a counter service meal for lunch with china plates—not paper, guest-activated terminals for ordering along with traditional cashiers.  Lunch will be served to you rather than you carrying lunch to your table. 

Dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant is table service with French inspired cuisine and three dining rooms—West Wing (not the White House) with the enchanted rose, the Rose Gallery with figures of Belle and the Beast, and the Ballroom with twinkling chandeliers.

Some speculated that Be Our Guest would offer character dining, but there was no need with the addition of many character meet, greets, and interactive opportunities slated for the new Fantasyland.

Guests wishing to make Advanced Dining Reservations beginning Monday, August 20, 2012, may do so by phoning 407-WDW-DINE.  On-line reservations will open on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.

Will you be dining at Be Our Guest?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mrs. Williams Goes To City Hall

I had my foray into city government the other day.  It seems that two years of research of swimming pools and water parks makes you somewhat of a reference when your city wants to add a lazy river to the local water park/wave pool—something I fully endorse.  Here’s the story. . .

About a month ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper after an op/ed published the day before was somewhat skeptical of the addition of a lazy river to our local water park.  I felt compelled to respond.  The editor of the paper phoned to confirm that indeed it was me who wrote the piece and during our conversation it came up that the Williams Family frequents local pools and that we review the pools on the Williams Family Blog.  The letter to the editor was in the newspaper the next day and the next week there was a feature story about the Williams Family Blog—click here to read more.

Then, last week, there was a notice in the newspaper regarding a public hearing for the lazy river.  Checked the date and time and the schedule.  Yes, I was free at that time and made it a priority to attend.

My plan was to take the “temperature” of the room, sit, watch, and listen.  A few minutes into the meeting, when the public hearing portion began, the Parks Director called me by name to come to the table and address the board.  I swallowed, walked across the room, acknowledged the board, and began to explain the features at other water parks that have added lazy rivers.  Prices, depths, slide towers, tube availability, water features, zero depth entries vs. steps, etc.  I hadn’t prepared any remarks and was peppered with questions, many that I could answer.  Our experiences and research paid off!

A reporter from the local newspaper was in the room, so when I came home from the meeting I told the husband what had happened and that I might be in the newspaper the next day.  Sure enough, I was quoted. 

When I left the meeting I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be the last time I might be in a similar situation.  A friend asked if I was running for City Council.  No current plans, but she did give me her vote!  Steering committee for the lazy river?  Most likely.

You never know when taking a risk, stretching yourself to do something unexpected, unplanned, will lead you.  I learned that in part from our trips to Disney.  Some of our most magical experiences have come from saying “yes” to a new experience, not being afraid or hesitant.  Or getting over and past the knot in your stomach or lump in your throat to discover the thrill and exhilaration that comes from being free of fear.

The husband is very supportive of my endeavors. . . writing, planning, reviewing, adventuring. . . and we have made many of them family affairs.  And, just a note—the title for this post was supplied by the husband.  Well, him and Frank Capra.  

I’m certain there will be more to this story.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Changes in Walt Disney World Leadership May Lead to New Projects

Avatarland?  Cars Land?  Are these projects on their way to Walt Disney World?

Rumors are flying as Walt Disney Imagineering executive Vice President in charge of Cars Land project in Disneyland, Kathy Mangum, is changing positions to become Executive Producer for Walt Disney World and will be in charge of all projects at the resort.  This, combined with the previous announcement of an Avatar themed land already in the works with George Lucas leads us to believe that the area currently known as Camp Minnie Mickey at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be the location for Avatarland.  Space will be tight at this location.  There’s actually more room between “Africa” and “Asia” at Walt Disney World’s largest theme park, Animal Kingdom.

Disney Research also published information about an interactive plant environment—Botanicus Interacticus—“a technology for designing highly expressive interactive plants-both living and artificial.”  Click here to read more.

Botanicus Interacticus along with the “sightline balloons” seen flying at various elevations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom before park opening lead speculators to believe that Avatarland is coming soon.  Camp Minnie Mickey is currently the home to Festival of the Lion King which is rumored to close and move in January, 2013.  Another big clue. 

Cars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?  With Mangum’s move to Walt Disney World just after opening the popular Cars Land in Disneyland, the rumors and speculation are even more rampant.  This may be more of wish than anything, but hey, Disney is in the business of turning wishes your heart makes into dreams come true.

It is evident that Walt Disney World is on the move.  Fantasyland Expansion, Test Track refurbishment, more interactive experiences for guests, Next Generation technology for ticket media and Fastpass distribution, Wi-Fi availability, and the addition of DVC accommodations at the Grand Floridian are all evidence that Walt Disney World is not resting on its laurels and continues to lead in the theme park and vacation destination realm.  Just more reasons that keep us coming back!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ways to Make Waiting Less Painful at Walt Disney World

Heat, lines, crowds.  All words you might hear people say when planning a trip to Walt Disney World, already on a trip, or just returning from a trip.  And, while Disney can’t do anything about the heat, likes the crowds, are they trying to figure out ways to lessen the lines?

Lessening wait times for guests or making the wait times less “painful” means that guests may spend more time in the parks which equals spending more money.  While the “money spent per minute” facts aren’t available for Walt Disney World, they are available for the grocery industry.  For ever minute a customer is in a grocery store, they spend $2.  (You do the time/money ratio the next time you’re in the store.)  So, it would make sense that there is a similar ratio at Disney.  Happier guests means more time in the parks which means more money spent. 

A strategy that is already available to guests to lessen wait times is Disney’s Fastpass.  Guests use their ticket media to obtain a Fastpass at the desired attraction, return to the attraction at the designated time, and bypass the stand-bye queue entering through the Fastpass return and thus lessening their wait time.  Guests also get to take advantage of other attractions and services until their Fastpass return time.  Our family takes full advantage of Fastpass use and can’t imagine a trip to the World without it.  Yet, we find guests still perplexed by Fastpass—think there is a charge, don’t understand the system, etc., and still do not use it.  Pitty.

If an attraction doesn’t have Fastpass or guests don’t take advantage, there are other ways to lessen the pain of wait times as Disney is quickly creating more interactive queues.  The Winnie the Pooh attraction at the Magic Kingdom comes to mind.  While one guest holds the spot in line, other guests in the party, big and little, can play and interact with elements that are themed to the attraction.  Haunted Mansion is another.  We hear Soarin’ has something similar, but have never used the Stand-bye queue for that attraction, so I can’t speak from experience. 

Are more interactive queues on the way?  Test Track is under refurbishment and may have a more interactive queue upon its re-opening.  Pirates of the Caribbean will have a short closing and there are already hints in the queue area for more interactivity.  When Big Thunder Mountain Railroad re-opened after a refurbishment, there were boxes throughout the queue that have yet to be revealed.  More options for interaction while waiting?  The new Dumbo queue features opportunities for guest interaction while waiting.  Are there more to come?

Speculation would make me say yes.  In addition to interactive queues, Walt Disney World is adding more interactive experiences throughout the parks.  The Agent P Adventure has taken over the former Kim Possible interactive experience at EPCOT and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom continues to expand guests’ hunting/finding/interacting experiences.  Will Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom be next?

Heat?  Yes.  Well, except this summer when it was hotter where we lived than Disney more days than not.  Crowds?   You bet.  Lines?  Yes, but not as painful as they could be.  And, that’s without even mentioning Disney’s plans for the Next Generation Fastpass system that allows guests to choose the Fastpasses prior to their park visit.  That is something I want to try!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Is Trip Number 11 On The Radar?

Is trip number 11 to the most magical place on earth in the works?  Yes, it is.  I was happily clicking away on the computer yesterday and thought I would do a price check for a Walt Disney World stay for next summer and was pleasantly surprised, even before any possible discounts.

Yes, it is now more expensive for the boy’s ticket and dining plan, as he will be 10 and no longer eligible for child prices.  But it is offset by the new pricing structure that discounts the Water Parks and More option after you add Park Hopper to your base tickets of vice versa.  That is a good deal.

Also, traveling during the summer gives us more flexibility and we can get in a longer stay, making our park ticket prices less per day.  The travel dates flexibility also allows us to fly during the week-days, which typically means lower fares.  Since week-end nights cost the most at Walt Disney World, we can stay almost two weeks, but only have one week-end in the schedule.

I know, I know, we had previously talked about a visit to Disneyland.  And, that, too, is still a possibility.  There are just some things holding me back. . .

There are only 3 on-property resorts at Disneyland and they are expensive, compared to 22 at Walt Disney World with various price points.  Yes, there are “good neighbor” hotels that offer some of the same Disney amenities and we are checking into those.

We would need less time to explore the parks.  I know, this sounds like a good thing, but is it really?  To get the most out of the cost for our flights, it would make sense to stay longer, do other things, which means car rental and driving.  Two things neither adult in our household wants to do.

Dining plan.  I wanted to say “no dining plan” but in talking with our travel agent, I learned there is one, sort of.  I don’t have all of the details yet, but I was glad to hear it was a possibility.

Either way we decide there will be more Disney dreaming—which is a good thing.  And, more family memories, another good thing.  I’ll keep you posted!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Creative Ways to Save and Spend

With back to school shopping and holiday shopping just around the corner, it’s no wonder our budget feels tight.  The boy’s birthday is also coming soon.  And, we are saving for our upcoming Disney holiday vacation.  This means finding creative ways to spend and save.

Let’s begin with Swagbucks.  Right now, I’m “swagging” my way to a new camera.  Yes, it is neither a back to school basic or holiday gift.  It is for me, well, for the family.  I want an upgraded point and shoot that will go underwater. 

Swagbucks awards it’s users for searching, just like you would if you were searching on Google.  I downloaded the Swagbucks toolbar (I get 1 Swagbuck every day just for having the toolbar) and use the toolbar to do my internet searchers.  I typically get awarded Swagbucks for searching twice a day. . . in the morning after 2-7 searches and again later in the day.  There are other ways to earn Swagbucks such as taking surveys, watching videos, playing games, etc.  There are also Swag Codes that can be found at various times and contests.

The Swagbucks I earn can then be redeemed for various gifts and prices at the Swag Store.  My favorite is to redeem 450 Swagbucks—which you can earn in less than 2 weeks, for a $5 Amazon.com gift card.  The cards are then added to my Amazon.com account and NEVER expire.  Right now, I have earned enough Swagbucks to purchase eight gift cards and have $40 in my Amazon.com account waiting to be used for the purchase of that new camera!

It’s easy to get started with Swagbucks.  Just click here and get 30 Swagbucks for signing up.  Then, happy searching and earning!

There’s another internet application that will let me know when the price of the camera changes without me checking regularly and that is ShoppingNotes.com.  I just create an account using my e-mail, paste in the URL’s of the items I am dreaming of purchasing, and ShoppingNotes.com will continually check the prices and send me an e-mail when the price changes. . . and hopefully goes down!  I have the cameras I’m dreaming of already on ShoppingNotes.com along with a blouse I’ve had my eye on.  The boy wants a Nintendo 3DS XL which is released on Aug. 19, 2012, for his birthday.  Trust me, that URL will go into ShoppingNotes.com to help me find the best on-line price.  ShoppingNotes.com checks prices like Kayak.com checks airfare rates. 

When the price is right and I am ready to purchase, I check to see if the on-line store is on Ebates.com.  Each time I shop on-line at a store on Ebates.com, I get money back.  For example, our computer security software was about to expire and the store that sold the software was on Ebates.com.  I went to Ebates.com, found the store and clicked “Shop Now.”  A ticket window opened—just wait—then the on-line store appeared.  I made the purchase using a 50% code offered on Ebates.com, downloaded the new software right from the site, and got 25% of the price back in cash in my Ebates.com account.  I get a check from Ebates.com four times a year.  So far, Ebates has sent me $92.

Back to school shopping at Target.com?  Go to Ebates first and get money back!  Booking a hotel for a  Labor Day get-a-way?  Go to Ebates first and get money back!  Printing photos at Walgreens.com?  Go to Ebates first and get money back!  Needing pet supplies?  Got to Ebates first and get money back!

So, when the boy’s Nintendo 3DS XL comes on the market, I’ll have ShoppingNotes.com search for prices, then make my purchase through a store on Ebates.com, which will most likely have a discount code and get money back!  Sounds/reads complicated, but it is easy.  Easy, fun, and less expensive!  And, I’m not using my time to search various stores or sites for the best prices or using gas driving from one location to another.  The internet is doing the work for me, for free.

These are just some of the creative ways to save and spend money.  And, yes, I was skeptically at first, too.  But I tried them and they really work without gimmicks or hidden fees.  What’s stopping you?  Get started!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Getting Advice and Tips for a Walt Disney World Vacation

You’re going to Disney World!  You’ve decided, you’ve told people.  And now you are being flooded with advice.  Only the phrase “we’re having a baby” would elicit more advice from friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and complete strangers.

What do you do with all of the advice, tips, hints, and stories. . . of magic or otherwise?

For most, smile, nod, and tell them you are excited and can’t wait.  Act like you’ve got the planning under control and know what you are doing.  Really, you do probably have the planning under control and know what you are doing.

Then, mine for the nuggets.  They’ll be there.  Little hints and tips that can be filed away and remembered.  If something does sound outlandish or potentially rule breaking, double check a guide book, Disney message boards, or internet to make sure it is right. 

For example, if someone says something like if you stay at a Disney resort you can get into the parks early any morning.  This statement is half true, as the person is referring to Extra Magic Hours.  Trust me, we’ve seen disappointed guests trying to enter the park early, while the rest of us wait in line, telling Cast Members that such and such told them they could get in early at any park.  (That’s the other theme park destination across town that offers that for their two parks.)  And, it’s not how Disney’s Extra Magic Hours work, so check it out to be sure.

We are past the advice getting stage.  When people know, hear, or find out that we have 9 trips to Walt Disney World under our belts, the stance goes from advice giving to us to advice getting from us. 

But it didn’t start out that way.  I can recall searching out a colleague who had lots of Disney experience before our first trip.  I had lots of questions and it helped.  I got just what I needed.  I would recommend searching for a friend, colleague, co-worker, neighbor, or travel professional who can answer your questions.  On-line message boards can be helpful, too.

So what happens when the conversation shifts from advice getting to advice giving?  Well, I start with questions.  Probing to find out what the person really wants to know and how much they already know, listening for depth of knowledge and possible misconceptions.  Example, a person indicates that they’ve been to Walt Disney World before.  A question to follow would be, “What park did you go to?”  If this question gets a baffled look, pause, and stumbled answer then I know they only went to Magic Kingdom.  Often first time visitors or day visitors to Walt Disney World only go to Magic Kingdom and it become synonymous with Walt Disney World.  An experienced guest would tell me which of the four theme parks were on their itinerary.  This type of questioning lets me know what kind of advice, tip, or hint to offer.

Are we past getting advice for our Disney trips?  No way!  I learn something new prior to and during each trip.  For example, we discovered the Pepper Market at Disney’s Coronado Springs on our last trip.  What a find!  Our experiences and knowledge certainly enhance our trips and at the same time we continue to learn, discover, and experience new things.  That’s part of what keeps us coming back.

Here are some of the questions we get asked frequently and our short, quick, responses:

Do you stay on property?  Yes.

What’s your favorite resort?  Right now, Coronado Springs.  Port Orleans Riverside before that. 

Where have you stayed?  Caribbean Beach twice, Port Orleans Riverside five times, Port Orleans French Quarter once, and Coronado Springs once and have it booked for our next trip.

Do you go when it’s hot/crowded/busy?  Yes, yes, and yes.

What’s your best tip?  Two pronged—make ADR’s and use Fastpass.

Depending on how people respond to our answers determines where the conversation goes next.

We’re going to Walt Disney World!  Any advice you would like to give us?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Next Phase of Fantasyland Expansion to Open December 6, 2012

Walt Disney World fans have been waiting patiently to find out when the next phase of the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion would be open for guests.  Well, the news is out and on December 6, 2012, guests will be able to ride Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction, eat at Be Our Guest Restaurant, meet Belle at Enchanted Tales with Belle, visit Ariel’s Grotto, get a snack at Gaston’s Tavern, and shop for a souvenir at Bonjour! Village Gifts. 

Disney announced that previews of the above will begin on November 19, 2012.  I’m assuming this means “soft openings.”  Attractions or venues with soft openings means that the hours of availability will be less than normal and the number of guests able to ride/dine/shop will be limited.  This means that guests traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday may get a sneak peek!

Annual Passholders, Cast Member, and Disney Vacation Club Members will be able to get previews even earlier than Nov. 19, 2012.

For fans, this is big news.  Once the fences and walls went up in the Magic Kingdom due to construction the anticipation began and has grown ever since.  Of course, there is even more Fantasyland to be completed even after this phase is open.

What does this mean for us?  Will we be visiting the new attractions?  Not yet.  We would prefer to wait until the next phase is complete, but you never know. . . I’m sure we will hear, see, and read more about the new additions soon!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

American Airlines Offers Baggage Delivery Service

American Airlines is now charging for what Disney’s Magical Express does for free!  Just yesterday, American Airlines began offering a baggage delivery service for customers who checked bags at some 200 airports.  For an additional fee, beyond the cost of checking luggage, American Airlines will transport your luggage to your destination beginning with $29.95 for one bag and an additional $10 per bag up to 3 bags.  The price was $49.95 to deliver 3-5 bags at a destination.

While American Airlines may be trying to set themselves apart from other airline carriers, keeping Enterprise delivery drivers busy is another incentive for the service.  So, is American Airlines in bed with Enterprise?  Car rental, delivery service, and now luggage deliver service!

Would you pay for this service?  Say you were flying to Pebble Beach and checked your golf clubs with a checked luggage fee of course.  And, you didn’t want the hassle of toting your golf clubs to your hotel or wherever you are staying while you are in town, so you pay to have the golf clubs delivered to your favorite golf course.  So, you get to bypass baggage claim, if all of your other belongings were packed in a carry-on bag, and your golf clubs would be waiting for you at your designated course.  Not bad.

I would also say the value gets better with more bags.  Let’s pretend you are a family of five headed to a ski resort.  You’ve been able to secure a transfer from the airport to your resort, but don’t want the hassle of making sure your bags get to your lovely ski lodge.  For a mere $49.95 all of your bags could be delivered directly to the resort.  That, I might take advantage of.

But alas, Disney’s Magical Express gives me the service and for FREE!  That’s right, free!  When I check my bags at the airport prior to a flight to Walt Disney World, I place on the luggage tags mailed to me and wave good-bye to my luggage as the next time I will see them is in my Walt Disney World Resort room.  People look at me with starry eyes when I tell them this service exists and is free.  I think they have visions of by passing luggage claim—so true.  The same is true for Disney Cruise Line if you are flying and sailing the same day.

Did I mention that Disney’s Magical Express not only transports your luggage, but transports you, too!  Not always at the same time, as your luggage may arrive at your resort after you, but for the same fee, which is zero, you and your traveling companions get whisked away to your favorite Disney Resort.  It’s not a bus or motor coach, it’s Disney’s Magical Express Service.  And, they do all of the same on your return trip from your resort to the airport.  Does American Airlines offer a service to pick-up your bags and take them to the airport?  Nope!

I have nothing against American Airlines.  We have flown with then a few times and the boy would say they are his favorite airline.  And, I applaud their ingenuity to think about services for customers that other airlines haven’t considered yet.  It is just that Disney has been offering a similar, yet better service for many years now.  Disney’s Magical Express’ availability is often overlooked as the wonder that it is by guests.

The next time I am on board Disney’s Magical Express motor coach to my resort, a bit of gratitude will wash over me as I recall American Airline’s fee for what I am taking advantage of for free!