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Category: Strategies

All You Ever Wanted To Know ( Or Not!) About Love Bugs

Don’t worry, they’re not really this big.
 Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

If you’ve visited Disney World in late spring, or in late summer to early fall, you may have come across hundreds of flying insects that seem to have two heads, and not known what they were. Indeed, it seems every year questions arise from visitors in the parks and on Disney message boards about these bugs and if they should be concerned about them.

Allow me to clear up the confusion and tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the Plecia nearctica, more commonly referred to as the “love bug”, and why you have no reason to fear them.

A popular rumor says that the love bug was the result of a scientific experiment created by the University of Florida in an effort to control the mosquito population that went horribly wrong. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth (I’m thinking a Florida State University graduate started that rumor). The bugs originated from Central America and over the course of the 20th century, have spread steadily over many southern states, including Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

Annually, you’ll see two major flights of these bugs in Florida – once in the spring that happens between late April and May, and again in late summer, somewhere between August and October. The love bugs stick around for about 4-5 weeks, and in my experience, weather can have a major impact. When it’s been very dry, as it has been this year, the number of insects is far less then when the weather has been rainy. 

A swarm of love bugs at a Walt Disney World bus stop in 2006.

Love bugs are not double headed, as many believe, instead, they are just often seen joined together in flight. And yes, they are connected so that they can, ahem, “reproduce.” As an aside, unfortunately for the male love bug, after reproduction takes place, the female will eat him from the inside out in order to provide nutrition for the new larvae. Fellas, let that be a lesson to always treat your woman right. And, should I be reincarnated, please let me come back as a duck at the Magic Kingdom and not as a love bug. 

Despite their often large number and constant presence (they are attracted to light colors, and since many guests wear lighter colors in hot weather, this explains part of the attraction), the bugs do not sting or bite and are completely harmless to humans. There is not, however, currently any type of insect repellent that appears to keep them away. 

One thing they are harmful to, however, is cars. Besides light colors, the bugs are also attracted to exhaust fumes, so it’s common to find them on busy roadways. Of course, insects and vehicles traveling at a high speed don’t mix, resulting in an awful mess on your car. And, the high acidity in their bodies can damage your car’s paint job. So, if you are driving your own vehicle down to Disney World during love bug season, you’ll want to take the time to clean the bumper frequently. While you can buy sprays that are supposed to make it easier to clean up, all you really need is soap, water and elbow grease. A dryer sheet also works well at removing some of the mess. 

Bottom line, while the love bugs are a minor nuisance, they in no way will hurt you, and you shouldn’t let it keep you from enjoying your trip. I’d still take a day full of love bugs over a day at work or school! 

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: Use a Fastpass.

Fastpasses are a great way to save time in the parks and they’re so uncomplicated, they’re practically foolproof. Still, there are a few quirks. Here’s the nitty gritty on fastpasses.

What is a fastpass?

A fastpass is a “ticket” that gives guests access to an attraction at a certain time rather than waiting in the standby line.  Fastpasses are free, so don’t let anyone talk you into buying them off Ebay or Craigslist.  Not all attractions have fastpasses, but in general the ones with the longest lines do. You can usually find the fastpass machine near the attraction but some, such as Winnie the Pooh, are located away from the attraction. 

How does it work?

Say you want to ride Winnie the Pooh but the standby wait time is 45 minutes long.  You’ll simply take your park ticket and put it into the fastpass machine for that attraction. If you look on your fastpass, you’ll see a return time.

That time represents the earliest return time for that fastpass. There’s also a time, at the bottom in the smaller print, that shows you when  you can get your next fastpass. That’s usually an hour or less before you can return to use the fastpass you’re currently holding; if you try before then, you’ll get a ticket that says “Not a Valid Fast Pass Ticket.”   So, in the case above, I can go back to Winnie the Pooh at 4:35 but I can’t get another fastpass until 4:25.  

Currently, Disney does not enforce the return time for fastpasses, but this will change on March 7, 2012. We’ll have more information as it comes out.
How to Use a Fastpass.

This part is pretty simple. Once your fastpass time opens up, you’ll just go into the fastpass line and hand your ticket to the cast member at that line.  There will be a clock near the attraction that tells you what the fastpass return time is, so you’ll know you’re okay to enter. At most attractions, you’ll hold onto your ticket until a second cast member takes it once you’re inside.

Make sure you don’t waste your fastpass on an attraction that doesn’t need it. Some attractions have long wait times all day long, so those are the attractions you’ll fastpass; the others you’ll just ride standby. Soarin’ in Epcot is a perfect example.  At park opening, consider getting a fastpass for Soarin’ and then riding it standby as soon as you get your fastpass, ensuring you a second ride later that day. While you wait for your return time, you could visit other attractions nearby, but a better bet may be to head over to the other side of Future World and ride Test Track since its lines never quite match that of Soarin’.  This way, you’ve gotten the two most popular attractions in the park out of the way first thing in the morning.   For more strategies that will help you reduce your wait times, especially during busier times of the year, check out Touring Plans.

Finally, if you find yourself in the position where you can’t use your Fastpass, there are a couple of things you can do. One, if you have Lines, click on the “chat” option and tell fellow users that you have some available.  Chances are good you’ll get rid of them pretty quickly and it’s a nice way to meet like-minded Disney fans. Or, you could just give them to the next people you see. Most people are pleasantly surprised to receive them.