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INTERCOT > Interactive > INTERCOT Insider Archive > September 2004

Intercot.com INTERCOT Insider
 September 2004 - Edition Two

Brought to you by INTERCOT's network of sites:
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This newsletter and other past issues can also be read online at; http://www.intercot.com/interactive/insider/archive

<< Introduction >>

With Summer gone and Fall quickly underway it brings a lot of us into Walt Disney World vacation-mode. In browsing the Message Boards it's obvious many INTERCOTees, me included (Yay!), are escaping for an Autumn get-away, Happy Holidays Bonanza or even a respite after the New Year. This edition is full of tips to assist you in your trip planning. We've included pretty much everything - right down to individual dining needs. So - put away that winterizing "to-do list" and start taking more fun-filled notes, like what park to visit on what day. Be careful with your "lists" as your spouse might wonder what Dumbo and the Hall of Presidents has to do with raking leaves and storm windows .....

<< Walt Disney World Dining Primer with wendy*darling >>

Planning a trip to W alt Disney World (WDW) can be an overwhelming task… you need to decide when to go, then how to get there, where to stay, what kind of passes to get, etc. Add to that the fact that you can choose from nearly 200 eateries on property, and your head will surely be spinning!!

One of the first things you should decide when planning your W alt Disney World dining is your budget. Depending on the choices you make, you can spend next to nothing each day for food or do some serious damage to your credit line! Take at look in Info Central to see sample menus for many of the restaurants in Walt Disney World -- you’ll not only be able to see the types of food they serve, but also how much money it will cost. A very handy section indeed!.

Let’s look at some categories and your options.

Disney Dining:
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At least in my family it is, but I now there are many people who can’t do more than gulp a cup of coffee before noon. No problem. For the full breakfast fans- you have many traditional sit down restaurants offering a nice variety of breakfast foods. Each resort has something to offer for breakfast. All of the Value and Moderate Resorts have food courts where you can choose as much or as little to eat as you like. Grab that cup of coffee and a danish and head out- or sit down for pancakes, eggs, bacon, fruit, muffins… the whole works. The Deluxe Resorts and Theme Parks all have breakfast offerings as well. Here you can choose from traditional menu restaurants or character buffets. The character buffets are a fixed price, all-you-can-eat meal that offer a huge selection of foods plus one on one interaction with the character at your table. A great alternative to waiting in line in the parks for pictures and autographs. Counter service places abound in every park and resort- where you can pick up coffee or juice and a muffin, bagel or pastry and eat on the run.

My last word on breakfast is packing your own. To save money- bring dry, non-perishables from home- cereal boxes, Pop Tarts, bread and Peanut Butter, etc. and eat in you resort room. That saves tons of money and time. You can eat while getting ready. The space these foods take in your luggage can be filled with souvenirs for the trip home!

Lunch & Dinner:
Options for lunch & dinner run the same gamut as for breakfast. You can grab something at a refreshment cart- like a turkey leg or a hot dog- and eat en route to the next attraction. You can visit a counter service place like Pecos Bill’s in the MK where you can choose from a variety of quick serve meals and dine indoors. Or you can go for a lovely full service meal at one of the many, many excellent restaurants throughout Walt Disney World. Our family favorites are the restaurants in the World Showcase for ethnic variety and buffet meals with or without characters.

Be aware that the table service establishments offer just about the same menu at lunch and dinner, but lunch prices are always significantly lower. If you are watching your pennies (and who isn’t?) plan to eat you big meal of the day at lunch time. You’ll be able to get out of the heat of the day and get a great meal in a cool restaurant and still have money left for some yummy snacks later in the evening.

Remember you can use your meal time as a great opportunity to visit some of the resorts. The restaurants in the deluxe resorts offer some great meals and give you a chance to dream about where you’d like to stay on your next trip. It gets you out of the hectic pace of theme parks for a while too.

Once you make some decisions, pick up the phone and call 407-WDW-DINE to make Priority Seating arrangements (PS) for the restaurants where you really want to eat. You can begin making PS at 90 days before you dine at most of the restaurants in Walt Disney World. See our PS section in Info Central for all the details.

My parting thought for this issue is to take some time to really look at your dining budget and decide what kinds of meal experiences you want to have on your next vacation. I thoroughly believe that our dining choices enhance our trips. They are not merely times to fill up on food- but they give us a chance to sit together as a family, enjoy good food we wouldn’t get at home in a terrific atmosphere.

<< Vacation Planning with faline >>

When we last met we had just completed Step 6 and selected a resort. Now onto Step 7 and Transportation;

Step 7: How will I get to Disney World? Will you fly or drive?
If you plan to fly, it’s time to begin checking airline rates. I’ve used atasoftware.com and AAA to compare the rates of a number of carriers at once. Be aware...these sites are not all-inclusive. For example, you won’t find rates for Southwest on these sites. You’ll need to go directly to Southwest’s own web site for that information. If you find a really good rate, buy the tickets. If not, decide when you need to buy the tickets. I usually set myself a deadline of three months before my trip. If I’ve not already purchased by then, I’ll go ahead and buy at the best rate possible at that time.

For those who are going to drive, you’ll need to consider how long it will take you. If you need more than one day, you’ll need to plan to stay overnight in a hotel along the way. You’ll also need to plan to buy food along the way or pack sandwiches to eat. To figure your driving costs, consider how many miles to the gallon your vehicle gets. Figure how many miles you need to drive. Take the miles you will drive and divide that number by the miles per gallon you get on your vehicle. This will tell you how many gallons of gas you’ll use. Take the number of gallons of gas you’ll use and multiply that by the cost of gas per gallon. This will be your driving expense. Also figure on paying tolls along the way.

Step 8: What sort of park tickets should I buy?
(If you’ve decided on a package which includes your park tickets, skip this step).

The type of tickets you buy will depend upon how long you will be there as well as your touring style. First a quick primer on ticket types:

Premium Annual Passes: When you purchase a new premium annual pass, you will receive a voucher that you turn in for the actual park pass when you arrive at Disney World. This process of turning in the voucher for the pass activates the ticket. For a new annual pass purchase (not a renewal), the pass is good for one year from the date you activate it. If your Disney trip will involve 9 or more days or if you plan to take two trips to Disney within the year that will total 9 or more days, you might want to consider this type of pass. A premium annual pass provides you with access to all four theme parks as well as the water parks, Pleasure Island, and Disney Quest.

Annual Passes: Works just like the Premium Annual Passes except that you can use it for admission to the four theme parks only. If your Disney trip will include 7 or more days or if you plan to take two trips to Disney with the year that will total 7 or more days, you might want to consider this type of pass.

Four or Five Day Park Only Hopper Passes: Allow you admission to the four theme parks for either four or five days, depending upon which pass you purchase. These passes do not allow you to go to the water parks, Pleasure Island, or Disney Quest. This might be a good option for a shorter trip in which you will not have time to do any of the “extras”. Additionally, if you don’t use all the days on your pass, the remaining days will never expire and you can use those remaining days on a future trip.

Five Day, Six Day, and Seven Day Passes with Plus Options: These passes work like the ones above, allowing you admission to the four theme parks for five, six, or seven days developing upon which pass you purchase. The five day pass allows two plus options; three plus options are available on the six day pass; and four on the seven day pass. The plus options allow you to visit the water parks and/or Pleasure Island (but not Disney Quest). If you had the seven day pass with four plus options, you could use your options to visit Pleasure Island four times during your stay. Or...you could go to Blizzard Beach once, Typhoon Lagoon twice and Pleasure Island once. Be careful, though. If you went to Blizzard Beach in the morning and Typhoon Lagoon in the afternoon, you would use two of your plus options. If you go to the Magic Kingdom in the morning and Pleasure Island in the evening of the same day, you will use one park day and one plus option. Unused days and unused plus options never expire. You can use the leftover features on a future trip.

Unlimited Park Hopper: Unlimited park hopper tickets are valid from the time you check into your resort (even if you check in before the “official” 3 p.m. check-in time) until midnight of the day you check out. These passes allow you admission to all four theme parks, Pleasure Island, the water parks, and Disney Quest. These passes are available only to those guests staying in a Disney resort and the cost is based on the number of nights you will be staying.

Except for annual passes, there is a discount for purchasing the other types of tickets in advance of your arrival at Disney. Tickets can purchased through Disney on-line, INTERCOT's newest sponsor, The Official Ticket Center, or over the telephone. They are also available at your local Disney store.

Step 9: How do I get to and from the airport?
(Skip this step if you’re driving)

My favorite way to accomplish this is by using a town car service. For two people, this is a bit more expensive than a shuttle but the convenience is worthwhile for me. As the shuttle charges per person and the town car service charges per vehicle, it might actually be cheaper to use a town car service if you have more than two in your party. I’ve used Happy Limo and have found this to be a wonderfully relaxing way to get to and from the airport. When you book a towncar service, the car and driver are there to provide the transportation only for you and your family. With a towncar service, the driver will generally meet you at baggage claim, load your luggage into the car and whisk you away to your resort.

The most used shuttle service from Orlando airport is Mears. They get you where you’re going but you may not get there as quickly. If you haven’t already purchased Mears vouchers in advance, you will need to proceed to their ticket counter (It’s located in the baggage area). Once you have your tickets and all members of your party, you proceed to the Mears loading area (They’ll give you directions when you buy the tickets). At the loading area, you check in with the person holding the clipboard. They’ll add you to their list and tell you to wait. When they have a shuttle (or sometimes a bus) available for you and your party, you’ll be called and your baggage will be loaded. Several other parties may also be loaded into the same vehicle. You’ll then make stops at whichever resorts or hotels are the destinations of the persons sharing the vehicle with you. Whenever I used Mears, I’ll swear I was always the last stop on the route! This can be quite exasperating when you’re excited and want to start your vacation!

Taxis are also available but will probably cost you as much, or more than a towncar service.

If you decide to use a towncar service, call and book your transportation with them. Happy Limo, like some others, will allow you a free grocery stop on the way to your resort. This will allow you to stock up on snacks, bottled water, etc. that are more expensive once you hit Disney property. With Happy Limo, you need to make arrangements for your free stop at the time you make the reservation.

Step 10: What parks should I visit and when?
And...do I really need to plan this in advance?

Especially if this is your first trip, it is highly recommended that you have a plan before you arrive at Disney. This does not mean you need to plan every minute of your day. Your plan should not look like this:

10:02 a.m. - Enter queue for It’s a Small World
10:45 a.m., move on to Philharmagic.

There are two basic plan methods for tackling the parks.

Option 1: Get up early and take advantage of Extra Magic Hour (if eligible). Extra Magic Hour is available to guests who stay on Disney property. If you’ve decided to stay off-site, this option will not apply to you. Scheduled parks open one hour earlier than usual for Disney resort guests only. The current schedule is: Sunday and Thursday, Magic Kingdom; Monday and Friday, Animal Kingdom: Tuesday and Saturday, Disney Studios; and Wednesday, EPCOT. Many INTERCOTees report that they have been able to cover a good number of attractions during the Extra Magic Hour (particularly at busy times of year). If you choose this option, plan to stay in the Extra Magic Hour park until late morning or early afternoon. Then, either plan to go to a different park for the afternoon or return to resort for some swimming time.

Option 2: Avoid the park which is hosting Extra Magic Hour and venture into a different park for the day.

General tips for park touring: Saturdays and Sundays are always quite busy in the Magic Kingdom. Tuesdays are generally a good day to visit this park. During busy times, return to your resort mid-day for some rest or swimming and then head back to the parks in the late-afternoons or early evenings. EPCOT often doesn’t feel as busy as other parks even during very busy periods of the year.

Once you have finished this step, you should have a plan that looks something like this:
Arrive Saturday: Spend day getting settled in and rested from traveling
Sunday: EPCOT
Monday: Disney Studios
Tuesday: Magic Kingdom
Wednesday: Typhoon Lagoon / Downtown Disney
Thursday: Animal Kingdom
Friday: Magic Kingdom / EPCOT
Saturday: Open for favorite park / leave for home

Step 11: What am I doing in the park once I get there?
After you’ve created the plan which shows which parks you’ll visit on which days, you’ll want to refine it a bit more. Keep in mind that Disney World is so large and offers so much, you can’t possibly do it all in one visit. Now it’s time to go back to those guide books you got back in Step 2. Which attractions do you want to be sure you see on this trip? Which ones do the other members of your family want to see? Does the attraction offer fast pass?

When you know which attractions you want to see, create your must-do list. Note any attractions that have fast pass. Refine the plans you created in Step 10 to include your attractions list. It might look something like this:

Sunday: EPCOT
Mission: Space - get fast pass
Test Track - get fast pass
Spaceship Earth
Living with the Land
American Adventure

What’s Fast Pass? Fast Pass is available on some of the most popular attractions at Disney World. Rather than stand in a long line waiting to get on the ride, you insert your park ticket into a machine near the entrance of the Fast Pass ride. Your ticket will be returned to you along with a slip of paper that authorizes you to enter a separate ride line at a specific time. For example, you might receive a Fast Pass for Mission: Space with a return time of 10:50 a.m. - 11:50 a.m. When 10:50 a.m., rolls around, you’ll be allowed to turn in your Fast Pass ticket to enter the Fast Pass line and bypass most of the standby line. The Fast Pass ticket will also have a notation on it telling you when you are eligible to get another Fast Pass at the same ride or at a different Fast Pass eligible ride.

When you accomplish your list of must-do’s for the park, you can then begin to take advantage of some of the other attractions.

Step 12: I’ve gotta eat! Where? When?
Now it’s time to refine your plan a bit more. Go back to your guidebooks. Are there any restaurants that are must-dos for you and your family? Begin to plug those into your plan. If the restaurant is an EPCOT restaurant, you would want to plug that restaurant in on a day you planned to visit that park.

Many restaurants accept priority seatings 90 days before you dine there. For the more popular restaurants (such as Cinderella’s Royal Breakfast), you’ll need to be sure to call exactly 90 days in advance and promptly at 7 a.m. eastern time. Your plan might begin to look something like this:

Arrive Saturday: Spend day getting settled in and rested from travel - Priority Seating at 5:45 p.m. for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary
Sunday: EPCOT
Breakfast at 'OHana’s at the Polynesian at 7:30 a.m.
Lunch at Garden Grill Restaurant in EPCOT at 11:50 a.m.
Dinner at Le Cellier in EPCOT at 6:50 p.m.
Mission: Space - get fast pass
Test Track - get fast pass
Spaceship Earth
Living with the Land
American Adventure

Step 13: What about everything else in the World?
Perhaps you have your heart set on playing a round of mini-golf? Or mom wants a spa treatment at Disney’s Grand Floridian? Here’s where you begin putting the other elements of your plan in place. Your plan may now begin to look like this:

Breakfast at food court
Dad and kids to Typhoon Lagoon in morning. Mom to Grand Floridian for spa treatment
Everyone meets back at resort room by 1:00
Downtown Disney for the afternoon
Lunch at Planet Hollywood at 1:45
Dinner - pizza in room

Breakfast at Boma’s - 8:10 a.m.
Animal Kingdom
Lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue (whenever we get hungry)
Back to room for swim
Beaches and Cream for dinner
Head over for round of mini-golf

Step 14: There is no Step 14!
You’ve done it! You’ve got a complete plan and I’ll bet you’ll have a wonderful time!

Some general tips:

Be flexible.
If you’re on your way to Test Track and you find a wonderful group performing, stop and listen!
If it rains, put on ponchos and go to the park anyway.
Something didn’t go according to plan? So what? Do something different. You might find that you enjoy it more (or just as much) as what you had planned.
Take lots of pictures but don’t let picture-taking rule your vacation.
Be a kid (even if you’re 60 and have gray hair). Have your picture taken with a character. Go to a character meal. Get some mouse ears!
Relax! It’ll be fine! You’re at Disney World!

<< Off Topic with ChipDale >>

August…the dog days of summer, the kids are heading back to school and we all want to get that last barbecue in. A lot of INTERCOTees were kept up late to tune into the Summer Olympics. We hope that you’re all caught up on your sleep now!

Unfortunately, August also means the start of the hurricane season. Our poor Florida members started their first round of boarding everything up with the advent of Charley. As we all know the worst is still to come in September. All of us here at INTERCOT hope and wish that our members and their families remain safe during this season.

Too early to start talking football? Not according to WDWacky! Wacky started the pre-season topic, which proved to be very popular among our INTERCOT sports fans. The Water Cooler is the place to talk sports and we’ve got a variety of topics going at any given time. Pull up your recliner and join in the talk!

Our resident law enforcement officer SgtTigger reminded us that August 3 was National Night Out Against Crime – did you participate? Thanks for the info, Bret!

Jamie’s Friday parties for the month of August included the Fresh Breath Bash (honoring National Fresh Breath Day), the Double Hurricane Party with Bonnie & Clyde (er, I mean Charley), Olympic Mania Madness and the Rock ‘n Roll Regalia. Come and celebrate Fridays with us in the Cooler! It’s a great way to end your workweek!

We celebrated the following August birthdays: Zippa D Doodah, ShelbyAD, disneydeb, ElenitaB, DizneyFreak2002, Brendansmom, Wishing Star, Disney-4-Me, Deni4000, angel8783, Dopeysfriend, Beach Club Babe, DisneyJim08101963, Jennib, ChesireLisa, Pongo, Hammer, twistedmickey, bywheel, Iago, mono, Lizzy, goudaman40 (Tifany), Piglet822, Tynkerbelle, JerseyMouse, Marker, DisneyDog, Cinderella7299, GBBT, Fantasmic, cjdive, FROGO823, TiggerMania, mickeyd, ShanPooh, DisneyRN, Lindsey, Buzz Fanatic, Disney Addiction, Roland, TiggerGuy. I hope all of you had a great day!

August posting milestones were accomplished by PolyGirl40 – 26,000 posts, WDWacky - 18,000 posts, Melanears – 17,000 posts, Faline – 10,000 posts, MauiMouse – 7,000 posts, Beach Club Babe – 5,000 posts, Pongo – 5,000posts, Goofyfanatic – 2000 posts, Donalds Duckie – 1,000 posts, Cosmic Ray – 1,000 posts,. We have four new Senior Cast Members: JerseyMouse, Mickeymousemom, Nascfan and Chrisx2. Fruitcake made Cast Member status. Congratulations to all of you and keep up the great work!

It’s sad to see the summer end, but we’ve got the beautiful fall colors to look forward to! See you next month!

<< Conclusion >>

That concludes this edition of the Insider. Thanks to everyone that contributed. We'll be back next month with a review of "Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party" from a first-timer's prospective. Linda returns with tips on traveling with children, Ron offers up the latest batch of trivia and much, much more. Stay tuned. Until then, Happy INTERCOTing!

<< INTERCOT Would Like To Thank>>

The INTERCOT Insider and INTERCOT.com are supported by the following sponsors who in turn, help us bring the Magic to you!

Magical Journeys
Magical Journeys is your Disney Vacation specialist. Start planning your Vacation Discount Dreams today!
Website: http://www.yourmagicaljourneys.com/

Radisson Resort Parkway
Right in the heart of action! Only 1.5 miles from Walt Disney World is an oasis of ponds, beautiful landscaping, serene waterfalls and relaxing options hiding in every corner.
Website: http://orlando.guestselectresorts.com?pid=INTERCOTN

All Star Vacation Homes
When you need a home away from home, look no further. From comfort to luxury, All Star Vacation Homes has it all in four series of homes to fit any taste and any budget just moments from the magic of Walt Disney World!
Website: http://www.allstarvacationhomes.com?ovchn=OTHER&ovcpn=Listing+Sites&ovcrn=intercot&ovtac=AD

Happy Limo
Providing ground transportation to the entire state of Florida.
Website: http://www.quicksilver-tours.com

The Official Ticket Center
Walt Disney World’s, Universal Studios and Sea World’s #1 guest service provider for the last 3 years. The Official Ticket Center has been servicing vacationers for more than 7 years now and sells tickets only, at a discount price.

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