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Big Family trip - leave for Disney in 1 wk - last minute tips?

Big Family trip - leave for Disney in 1 wk - last minute tips?

Old Jun 6th, 2004, 09:28 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Big Family trip - leave for Disney in 1 wk - last minute tips?

Hi -
My entire family (16 people!) are going to disney for a week , leaving in about 6 days. (13 adults ages 18 - 68, 3 kids 10-12-13)

We really don't have any set plans for the days, but the closer we get to it , I am thinking we should have a rough plan in place.
We arrive at 11 am on Sat, and fly out around 6 thge following Sat.

We definitely want to do:
Disney
Epcot
Universl or MGM
possibly do some flea marketing
Spend a day driving out to the coast
and possibly do a water park.

Suggestions on order of events? Tips on where to buy tickets?

any help is appreciated
Debbie is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 08:47 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 83
How fun! Disney is one of our favorites--time after time. I would run right out to the bookstore and purchase (or find it in a library) "The Unoffical Guide to Disney World"--it is full of exact itinerary ideas, and very helpful tips that will make your days at Disney more efficient and hopefully more pleasant. Tips include which rides are less crowded at certain times of day, which rides are "slow" or "fast loaders", best places in the parks to view shows, and how to use the fastpass system effectively. We have this guide for both Disney World and Disneyland and think it is invaluable. It was originally recommended by a friend. The fastpass system is also invaluable--know how it works before you go. More info on this if you want...?

I believe you should have a game plan to go to Disney---if you wander around aimlessly, you are more likely miss out on the attractions and shows, or at least use up twice as much time getting here and there. Disney World is a big place, and the park-hopping makes it possible to go to and from the different parks (Epcot, MGM, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom). We did a lot of morning/afternoon in one park and then dinner/evening show in another--you can catch different fireworks/nighttime shows in each. Most of our days follow a general pattern: morning and early afternoon at one park--hotel for a swim/rest--another park for evening and late night--if you have a lot of energy you might do two parks in one evening/night, but I wouldn't recommend this for everyone.
The shuttles worked well for us, as we stayed in a Disney hotel.

Because we stay at hotels in Disney World, we generally get "early admission" days at particular parks, so that actually defined our morning schedules--on weekdays we would go the park with early admission, but on weekends (Friday and maybe even Thursday) we would start in a park without early admission because the early admin park was likely to fill with a lot of early birds quickly. And if you are interested in big and popular rides, getting there early makes more of a difference than walking through the themed areas of Epcot, for instance.

Our family enjoyed all of the parks in Disney World, but for different reasons. Some suggest that Magic Kingdom not be your first stop if you have kids who will from then on just be asking "when can we ride Splash Mountain one more time?" Epcot has some of the better restaurants that we found. MGM is great at night, and movie buffs will enjoy this park. Don't miss the Great Movie Ride for the whole family and the Tower of Terror for those excited to brave the big rides.

Especially in the summer, a water park is a great idea for a break. We choose the Typhoon Lagoon--big hit with anyone who loves water and rides. Not sure how popular this would be with the oldest in your party, but it is very well decorated and pleasant, but would be hot unless you are willing to get wet. You could spend the day at a water park, have dinner somewhere, and then go to a park for the evening/night. Depends on the energy level of your group.

This reminds me of one of our favorite tips from a friend that we now use when we visit in the summer--bring a couple of spray bottles with you to "mist" as you walk through the parks. Animal Kingdom can be especially hot. Try the indoor shows in the heat of the afternoon, or the water ride!

We have spent an entire week just at Disney (went to Kennedy Space Center first)and three out of our four could spend two weeks there. The other wasn't sure he could take many more wake-up calls from Mickey. Generally, I would say (but it depends on personal preference) that five days in the parks is sufficient, leaving you a day at the coast. Where are you staying? That may also define your schedule. If you are on Disney grounds, some in your party may appreciate taking the shuttle back to the hotel in the afternoon (when the parks are most crowded and it's really hot) for a dip in the pool or a nap. Actually, I recommend this for everyone, especially if you are there for any length of time.

If you are AAA members, you might consider getting your tickets from the AAA office before you leave your home town--saves money. Or your hotel may offer deals. Disney Stores also sell tickets, I think? As a last resort, purchase them at the gate--and arrive early so you are not stuck in line to by tickets rather than queued up for a ride! The Park Hopper pass is the way to go so you can bounce between parks.

Hope this helps....
swimmer is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 09:47 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 3,528
check out wdwig.com and disboards.com for info on how to tour. Unofficial Guide is excellent also as stated above.
bennnie is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 10:54 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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It will be a better price deal if you do MGM and a Disney water park. Get the 5-day pass and come and go to all Disney parks as you please.

Plan on starting early each morning, and breaking for an early lunch before the crowds. Then you can head back to the hotel pool from mid-afternoon until dinner-time. Use FastPass whenever possible.

Buy your tickets ahead of time, epecially if you are a AAA member. Bring two pair of very comfortable walking shoes/sneakers/sandals, and wear sunscreen!

And have fun!

Dreamer2 is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 10:57 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 7
Debbie -

Just returned from Disney. In addition to the above excellent advice, if you or anyone in your group are driving and going down I-75, you can also get tickets at the official Disney Visitor's Center in Ocala - no lines and we got a 5% discount on a 2 day pass.


Can't emphasize enough to use Fastpass whenever possible. The only challenge with Fastpass is that it put ashambles our carefully laid out touring plan since you get an assigned window of one hour later in the day to return to ride. That window could start thirty minutes to several hours later, and you only are allowed one fastpass at a time (everyone must use their own ticket too to get the fastpass). Flexibility is thus the key when using fastpass. Get your pass for a particularar ride, then see a show, eat, ride a minor ride, etc in the intervening time. Once your fastpass window opens, you can get a fastpass for the next ride, so do that, then return to the first ride. You'll walk more doing this but you'll hardly ever wait in line to ride anything and will experience much more of the parks. We never waited more than a couple of minutes to ride when we returned with Fastpass, while these rides in both Magic Kingdom and Epcot had standard wait times of 30-60+ minutes. There's a separate fastpass line you enter at your appointed time and you go right up to the front. We were mystifyed why the folks in the long regular lines didn't use fastpass.

One more time - USE FASTPASS!

The summer heat and crowds are a real challenge. Try to alternate between outside rides and inside rides/shows/shops to cool off. That's easier to do at Epcot than Magic Kingdom.

Lastly, arrive early, at the opening or early opening (resort guest or character breakfast will get you in early) and you'll have the parks to yourself for the first hour before the hordes arrive. Use that time to ride your favorite major ride first, you'll have little or no wait and shouldn't need fastpass.

We didn't visit MGM, Univ. or a water park so can't help there.

Cocoa Beach (Atlantic) and Clearwater (Gulf) are closest beaches, about 1 - 1 1/2 hr one way each. We did Kennedy Space Center which was very worthwhile and takes a full day.

Have fun!

Dano
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Old Jun 7th, 2004, 12:11 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 4
Hi Debbie...i know you'll love your trip, it's gonna be fun...1 website you want to visit is wdwig.com (walt disney world info guide); also mapleleaftickets.com for discounted tickets; universalstudios.com then to orlando themeparks as well - they have a great deal on Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure theme park tickets - 5 days for less than the price of 2...you can switch parks every day as well but you hafta buy these tickets online...not at the gate. Older kids would probably prefer Universal/Islands over MGM - mine do and we are disney fanatics...My guys also like the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon vs. the better (extreme) water slides at Blizzard Beach...If you stay @ a universal studios hotel you get front of the line priv. at these parks as well, so you might want to go that route. Previous replies mentioned discount tickets @ AAA but Maple Leaf has more options for Disney tickets. Maple Leaf also has Disney Quest ticket discounts. We also have bought all the guidebooks out there...Official;Unofficial;Passporter etc...you name it...I guess I like the Unofficial as well as any of them but they all have their good points - the unofficial guidebook also lists universal studios/Islands of Adventure and SeaWorld- Have fun.
johns1 is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 12:15 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 306
If there are any places in partcicular you are wanting to eat, make reservations ahead of time.
salgal is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 12:28 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,642
I've been told by a usually reliable source--my mother--that The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) is playing in Orlando at the moment. This is a very funny show, extremely popular with Fodorites who have seen it in London. Highly recommended. Not "serious" Shakespeare At All and for the kids, will give them a lighthearted introduction to Shakespeare (for example, one of Shakespeare's tragedies is presented as a cooking show).
BTilke is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 02:55 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 83
Re: Fastpass System--

The better you know the park before you go, or the quicker you learn about the park once you are there, the more effective the fastpass system can be for you. You might use the fastpass for a particular ride at a particular time of day, but not at other times of day. This changes your touring schedule too, and gives you options for "filler" rides while waiting for fastpass windows at others.

Example: Pirates of the Carribbean is usually not too crowded (and the lines moves fairly quickly) in the morning, even late morning into Noon time, so you might not need a fastpass at this time of day on this ride....but if you want to ride Pirates at 3 or 4, you might go with the fastpass.

A major thrill ride like Splash Mountain or the Dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom might require a fastpass all day long, except first thing in the morning or last thing before closing.

Each ride with a fastpass option lists the times being given at the moment--you can read it on the sign along with the current wait in the regular line. The waits posted are generally longer than they really are--if it's less than 25 minutes (especially on a fast loading ride like Haunted House, Pirates, etc), you might save the fastpass for another attraction. You can hold two fastpass tickets at the same time, and that can be helpful, especially if the rides are relatively close to each other.

Sometimes we will send one group member to fastpass an attraction for the group (must hold all the tickets) while others ride another ride.

Our experience is exactly what others have said---use the fastpass wisely and you will spend very, very little time in a queue!

Have fun!
swimmer is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2004, 03:07 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 102
Have you checked any disney sites? I know that disney echo is a good one and might be able to give you some good tips. The biggest one that i can give is to get some sleep before you go!
Baligirl is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2004, 11:26 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 18
Don't want to be repeating every good suggestion that's listed but I can't stress this enough:

1. Get there EARLY. Before the park opens. Many times they will open a little earlier to prevent "bottlenecking"

2. Use the FastPass

3. If you want to eat at a sit down restaurant, use Priority Seating to lessen your waiting time.

4.Bring lots of water. Bottled water at the parks isn't cheap. At $2.50 a bottle it will add up quick.

5. Go back to your hotel in the afternoon for a rest and swim. You will return happy and notice a big difference in people who have rested and people that are "park commandos"
SuperMom is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2004, 09:57 PM
  #12  
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 335
Well, I am back.
Just wanted to say thank you for all your input.

A quick recap of what we did/learned.
Since we had Mom (66) and Dad(68) we tried to set up our week with some non park days. We did Univeral Studios on Monday, Magic Kingdom on Wed, and Sea World on Friday. This left the other days for the younger people to choose other choices on the off days ( Islands of Adv, Clearwater, Flea Markets)

Tips I can offer:
Bring along some of those big Bandannas ( 94cents at Walmart) - they are great to fill with Ice to cool off fast. Every kiosk vendor was happy to part with a handful of ice to help us cool down. If you buy them there , they are $5 , Walmart less than a dollar.

Bring along a gallon ziploc bag - especially for Islands of Adv - the water rides really soak you - and this will protect your camera / wallet.

I bought a mesh backpack 1/2 way through the week, and this was great for taking through the parks - easy to carry around extra items, yet still breathed - not too sweaty and very lightweight.

If you are bringing Walkie Talkies - they work great - BUT - get the kind with a CODE option. This limits the chatter you hear, because you have to have the right combo of Channel AND Code to hear someone. Ours had 15 channels and 38 codes - we never had interference. TIP : choose a high code number like 26 or 31 - everyone uses the low numbers, you will have less interference with a high number.

Tip for drivers: Have a GREAT navigator. Signs for roads, and entrances to I-4 are often small, to the side and only one in advance of the turn. Also - expect that if the lane you end up in drops you in the left lane, you will need to be all the way to the right , in less than 2 blocks. ( Especially at Univeral Studios)

Downtown Disney - you can park at either the West side or the Marketplace - they are just opposite sides of the same area.

Magic Kingdom - don't miss Mickey's Philharmagic. It was the best 3D we saw. ( Shrek at US was a big disappointment)


UNIVERSAL STUDIOS & IOA - if you are a AAA member - show your card whenever you buy anything ( even in the City Walk) you will get a 10% discount just for showing your card.

YES - FASTPASS is the way to go. We didn't really understand it at US-IOA but by the time we were at U-Studios on Monday we got the hang of it. We did find that each park was a bit different so brush up on the rules for each park , when you get there.


We stayed in condos just off I-4 & Hwy-27. We had 4 units all on the same Cul de Sac. Worked out great and really saved us money (especially since we didn't spend that much time at Disney) We had a 3bd for 7 nights for $586 which I thought was very reasonable. Having a full fridge & stove really saved money on breakfast & dinners ( and beverages) .

One last thing - WEAR A HAT - it makes a big difference - The sun was really brutal.
Debbie is offline  
Old Sep 10th, 2004, 05:53 PM
  #13  
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Followup - after I got back I discovered they DOUBLE CHARGED me for the $21.

It took me 3 months and over 16 different contacts to get it reversed.

Click on my name to find my posting explaining the whole sordid tale, if you want more details.

Debbie
Debbie is offline  
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