Everything Walt Disney World

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Category: How To

Disney Travel Insurance Tip.

I’m not going to go discuss whether or not you should buy trip insurance in this post. For a lot of guests, it makes sense, particularly those with health issues or complicated job situations (for example, my military clients). As a travel agent, I usually recommend it for Disney Cruise Lines (because so much can go wrong getting to the ship) but not for Disney World or Disneyland.  Having said that, I personally hit a little snafu yesterday that I wanted to share with you so you don’t make the same mistake.

Briefly, when you lose your theme park tickets in Disney World and you’ve booked through Disney, replacing them takes just a matter of minutes and can be done 24-hours a day since you’re in their system.  This isn’t the case in Disneyland, where you’re basically out of luck.  For this reason, I bought trip insurance for my upcoming Disneyland vacation.

Fast forward to yesterday:  I was looking on the Disney Vacation Club site and noticed that a room had opened up for my travel dates at the Grand Californian, so I booked it right away–through DVC. DVC, in case you’re not familiar, is not part of the normal booking system, so I knew I’d have to call Central Reservations and cancel my Disneyland stay that I’d booked through them. No problem–I was saving a ton of money by using my DVC points (just indulge my Disney math here, if you will).

Cancelling my reservation was no problem, except that I’d added insurance. Insurance purchased through Disney is always non-refundable, regardless of when you cancel.  So even though my my deposit and the payments that I’d made toward my trip would be returned, I lost $139 of that because I’d added insurance. I’d fallen for a newbie mistake because I wasn’t paying attention.

What I should have done is waited to added trip insurance when I made my final payment, since you can always add it anytime before then.  In this case, that payment wasn’t due until sometime in March. As it is, I am still saving money by using my points, but who doesn’t want all their money back?

So take my advice. Add your insurance when you make your final payment, not before. This is true for both Land, World and Disney Cruise Lines. There’s absolutely zero reason to add it prior to that time since there are no penalties for cancellation until your final payment is due.  Just make sure that you don’t forget to add it at that point because you won’t be allowed to add it after you make your final payment.

Staying Hydrated at the Magic Kingdom

Water is your friend!

Keeping cool and hydrated while visiting Central Florida is important anytime of the year, but especially during the hot and crowded summer months. While soda abounds at the Magic Kingdom, it isn’t always the smartest choice when the weather turns blistering. So, grab your sunglasses, your hat and your sunscreen as we look at some simply ways to stay hydrated.

Ask for Free Water
Any quick service stand or snack cart that sells fountain soda will be able to give you a free cup of water. All you have to do is ask! They will also wet down bandannas and small hand towels to help keep you cool. If the heat gets overwhelming, don’t hesitate to stop a cast member. They can direct you to the First Aid station near the Crystal Palace.

Fruit, Fruit and More Fruit!

Even thought the Nutella Waffle with Fruit might seem a little much on a hot day, it still offers a generous helping of blueberries, bananas and strawberries. You can find bananas, oranges and apples all over the Magic Kingdom at various snack locations but two spots standout for their variety.


  • Cheshire Cafe – fresh fruit, lemonade, slushies and Smart Water.

Liberty Square

  • Liberty Square Market – apple slices, oranges,  bananas, grapes, green apples, mixed fruit, pineapple spear, watermelon and carrot/celery sticks.

Water Misters and Sunscreen…Oh, My!

Everyone has seen those carts parked everywhere selling the spray bottles with the fans on top. You know, the ones that spray the cooling mist of water?
Well, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but the misting fans cause more sunburns than you would think! The water droplets magnify the intensity of the sun and the mist keeps the sunscreen from being as effective. We always recommend that you take a hat of some sort…and that you reapply sunscreen throughout the day.

As a reminder, it takes about 30 minutes for sunscreen to be effective. Applying it and then going into direct sunlight is better than no sunscreen, but it is still not as effective.

Citrus Swirls
Don’t forget to enjoy the reborn Citrus Swirl at the Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland. This creamy and refreshing orange and vanilla treat is a perfect snack on a really hot day. Or course, you are in danger of getting brain freeze as you try to finish the treat before it melts.

How do you stay cool and refreshed at the magic Kingdom?

Parking at Disney: Finding Your Car

This has happened to you, right? You are leaving a Disney theme park late at night. The fireworks were fantastic and you had a great time with your family and friends. Now, you just need to find your car.

As the friendly tram operator reminded you 12 hours earlier, you needed to write down the area and number of where you parked your car.

I have never done that, have you?

I have another solution that is a lot more fun and can help you taunt your friends. When you exit your row, take a photo with your phone and text (or message) the picture to a friend. Not only will you have a photo stored on your phone, but your friend will be able to help you find your car later, if needed. You can also remind your friend that you are having the time of your life at Walt Disney World while all they have is a photo of your parking lot row. I do this to my brother all of the time.

If you do get lost, do your best to signal a roving security truck or see if one of the Disney Security officers in the high-rise booths can help you.

These “Eyes in the Sky” rise about 30 feet in the air and can be helpful when you need to have your car spotted, so to speak. I think they look more like AT-STs from Star Wars.

Do you have any tips for locating your car in a Disney parking lot?

How to: Beat the Summer Heat

Summertime…and the living is easy
I know it’s not even spring yet, but I can’t help but look forward to summer at Walt Disney World. It’s been a very warm winter here in Central Florida so far. Aside from a scattering of days that were quite cold (and yes, it can get cold here), we’ve experienced consistent temperatures in the upper 70’s and low 80’s . There’s also been very little rain. Having such a warm winter makes me think that we could be in for a very dry, hot summer though.
Summer of course also happens to be a time of year when lots of people visit Disney World. After all, the kids are out of school, the parks  stay open later, and it’s traditionally the period people think of when you talk about taking a vacation. If you’re one of those people, here’s some tips on how to survive summer at the parks.
 Dress appropriately
Average highs during June – August are in the low 90’s, but an average humidity around 60% during the same period can cause the heat index (or what a person’s perception of the temperature is) to be much higher, so it’s not usual to feel like it’s more like 98 degrees (or more!) out. This should go without saying, but now is not the time to wear all black clothing and combat boots, while lugging around a backpack so large it comes with its own Sherpa. Light colored clothing, shorts, and t-shirts is the way to go. And don’t forget to wear a hat and sunglasses. This goes for kids, too. Ditch the combat boots, and the flip flops (they won’t give you enough support as you walk through the park, plus you’re just asking for a wicked sunburn on the tops of your feet). And ditch the huge backpacks, too. I’m not saying don’t carry one, but visitors tend to overpack for the parks. Before you head out the door, ask yourself “Will I really need this in the parks today?” If the answer is no, or probably not, leave it behind. Trust me, by early afternoon, you’ll be thanking me.
Sure it’s a nice hat, but I don’t think it’s going to protect you from the sun….
 Use sunscreen
This is another must. I know, lots of people go on vacation and want to get “a little color” to show off when they get home. The trouble is, it doesn’t take long to go from a little color to a bad burn in the Florida sunshine, and you don’t want to be in pain on your vacation after waiting months for your trip to arrive. Use something strong, with at least an SPF of 50 for the best protection, and don’t forget your ears and behind your neck. The goal is to shield your skin, not saute it, so skip the cocoa butter. Parents, make sure your kids wear it too, even if they’re like me as a kid and scrunch up their face and yell as soon as you try to touch them with it. If you’re going to be swimming or at a water park, take the time to reapply it more often than you normally would. Remember that the sun’s rays reflect off the water, so you will burn faster.
Stay hydrated
Aside from all the walking you’re going to be doing, the heat will really take its toll on you, and you’re going to sweat – a lot – so drink plenty of fluids. Ideally, you want to drink water, and not caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, since those will actually dehydrate you more quickly. You can even get a cup of ice water from all counter service locations free of charge, though, to be honest, the water isn’t always that great. Consider getting some bottled water to keep in your room, and keeping it chilled in your in room fridge if you have one, or an ice bucket. 
This isn’t exactly what I meant by “stay hydrated.”
Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours
Whether you use them in the morning, in the evening, or both, these can be a lifesaver during the summer. Roughly 70% of all park visitors don’t take advantage of the morning EMH, so if you’re a morning person and can get to the parks, go! Not only will it be cooler before the heat of midday starts to set in, but you’ll get a lot accomplished in the early morning. And if you’re a night owl, you’ll love summer and the late park hours -imagine being able to stay in the Magic Kingdom until 2 or 3 a.m!   So if your group has the ability to stay out later,  you might relax during the day and hit up the parks at night. Not only will the temperature outside be much more comfortable, but experiencing attractions like Jungle Cruise, Tower of Terror, Test Track or Expedition Everest at night is really different.
Night time is a great time to be in the parks! 

Leave the parks
Regardless of how you tour, you should plan on taking a break during the midday. From about 1-4 p.m., the sun will be at its hottest. It’s no surprise that the hot weather makes people cranky and they start to snap at one another. Don’t let this be you. Go back to your room for a few hours, and take a siesta, or swim in the pool. Then maybe have a nice dinner and head back to a park for the evening. An even better idea? Take a day off from the parks (about midway through your trip) and spend it relaxing poolside, or by visiting one of the water parks. I guarantee you’ll feel better the next day!
Doesn’t that pool look inviting? If the scary clown doesn’t eat you, I mean.

Use Fastpass and a touring plan
No one likes waiting in line for things, and that’s especially true when it feels like it’s 95 degrees out and you’re baking in the sun. Make sure you use Fastpass for the popular attractions whenever you can, and if you aren’t using a touring plan, get one. I can  tell you from experience, they work very well, and can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend in line. 
Better get a Fastpass, or be prepared to wait to ride!
Go for the “cool” attractions
No, I don’t mean cool as in awesome. Do kids even say awesome anymore? I feel old. I mean attractions like Philharmagic, Haunted Mansion, Muppet Vision, It’s Tough to be a Bug, and yes, even the Hall of Presidents. They’re large, air conditioned attractions where you can get out of the sun for a bit. Plus, you can sit down in them, and you can probably even take a long nap without anyone bothering you in that last one. Another good place to come in from out of the heat? The shops. Suddenly, paying $28 for a t-shirt seems reasonable if it means not having to go back outside for 10 minutes.
Bring a poncho
 Summertime in Florida means rain (well, usually). Typically, these storms happen in the afternoon and although they are impressive, strong storms, with thunder and lightning, and can often deliver several inches of rain in a short period of time, they also don’t tend to stick around. Here’s a tip, too -they’ll be lots of people who will leave the parks once it starts to rain; chances are though by the time they get back to their resort, the rain will already be on its way out, so use this time to shop, eat a snack, or experience an indoor attraction. You may just find a much more empty park to enjoy when the sun comes back out.
Serious downpours are part of summer!
What are some of your favorite ways to stay cool in summer at Disney? 

How To: Speak the Language.

Oh, how I love to drive under that gate.

If you’re new to Disney-talk, you’ve probably seen acronyms and strange show business terms and wondered that they meant.  Some of these terms have grown as the Disney online community has grown and become accepted by its members, whereas others are Disney’s own.   Call a Disney cast member an employee and you might hurt her feelings. And if you spend any time at all on Disney message boards, you’ve seen sentences that look like this:  “I’m going to the TTC for my ADR at the MK during EMH.  Will meet you at BTMRR after the MSEP.”  Here’s how to speak the language like a pro.

ADR:  Advanced Dining Reservation. Basically just another name for a reservation, you can start making your ADRs 180-days prior to check-in.  Originally an acronym used on Disney message boards, this term as been borrowed by Disney as well.

AKL:  Common abbreviation for Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Audience:  You, the guest, in any part of the resort.

BTMRR: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Costume: What a cast member wears to work.

CM:  Cast Member.  Individuals who work for Disney.

Dark ride: An indoor ride.

DHS:  Disney Hollywood Studios, known to diehards as “MGM.”

EMH:  Extra Magic Hours.  When a park opens an hour early in the morning or stays open three hours late at night for resort guests.

Face Character: A character who does not wear anything over their face. Think Cinderella.

KTTWC:  Key to the World Card. Refers to your room key, which may also have tickets and dining credits attached to it.

MK:  Magic Kingdom.

MSEP:  Main Street Electrical Parade.

MYW: Magic Your Way, a reference to types of tickets and packages.

On stage:  That part of the resort that you, as the guest, can see. 

Off stage: The part of the resort you don’t see (unless you’re lucky and get a sneak peek).

PoC: Pirates of the Caribbean.

Refurbishment:  A long-term closure for extensive repairs or remodeling.

Rehab:  Short-term closure for routine maintenance.

Resort:  Your hotel or the entire Walt Disney World, depending on how it’s used.

Role:  A cast member’s job.

Show:  What’s going on around you. The entire resort experience is designed to immerse you into “the show.”

TSMM:  Toy Story Midway Mania.

TTC: Transportation and Ticket Center, where you’ll take the monorail or a ferry to the Magic Kingdom.

What about you? Do you have any fun Disney terms or acronyms to pass on?