Disney World – Logistics

Right, so back at it again.  Been traveling (pictures soon) so I wanted to sit down this morning and get more of this Disney ensemble on the book.  Today – LOGISTICS – how in the world to get around, well, the World of Disney.  Some good, some not so good.

First step, when purchasing tickets to Disney I recommend spending the little bit extra for “Park Hopper”.  This allows you to do exactly what it sounds like.  If you get bored at a park, or it’s just too crowded you can move to another.  Otherwise you purchase tickets for a park on the day(s) you plan to visit.  For us, we love EPCOT and found ourselves there either in the evening (best night show IMO) or for lunch.  Some ticket plans let you print your tickets online – we never use this option.  I prefer an actual printed ticket from Will-Call.  Why?  Because it looks better in a scrapbook AND all the entrance gates can read them.  Only a subset of the gates can read self-service tickets so if you aren’t careful you will stand in a long line only to discover it is the wrong line.

You have your tickets, the parks are HUGE so you want to get there early right?  Maybe not.  Everyone else will have the same thought.  My family is a group of troopers, so I know we will be there until park closes.  Therefore, we sleep in, grab a late breakfast then head to the park.  Generally at this point we can drive in, park, hop right on the tram, and get into the park with low stress.  One thing to note about parking – if you drive – the parking pass will get you into any other parking lot that day.  So, armed with your park-hopper tickets you can grab your car and change parks.  Depending on the destination park, I greatly prefer this to trying to get back to the car at night.  Alternatively a number of parks have interesting connections like the boat ride between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.

You toughed it out, watched that particular park’s finale (EPCOT & Hollywood tied as personal fav) and time to go.  Oh my at the crowds.  Depending on the park you will have a few options to help get out and maintain blood pressure after a long day.  If my car is at the same park I will generally avoid the parking trams and just walk to the car.  For most parks it is not a long walk – obviously if the park isn’t crowded and I can hop right on, I will take the tram.  Magic Kingdom offers an additional wrinkle in that you have to travel via boat or rail to the park itself.  For MK there are two real options – chill close to the entrance and have some ice cream or head for transportation.  Most people opt for either the boat or rail that takes you right back to the parking area.  For us, we walk around the corner and take the rail to the resorts.  The first stop is a resort, the second is the parking lot.  Few people know this – so keep it quiet.  🙂

Finally, a number of off-site resorts and hotels offer shuttle service.  If you are good with a strict schedule and can adhere to their schedules, more power to you.  I deal with schedules enough at the office and prefer to just “roll with it” on vacation.  So, for some those shuttles are an excellent option and can save you the cost of daily parking.

I do not want to leave you with the impression that Disney struggles with moving people, they do not.  Given the volume of people in their parks on a given Summer day – Disney is amazing at managing crowds.

Disney World – Where To Stay

So why not dive right in with the most subjective topic of my posts?  Before I start, just a disclosure that I travel a lot and formed strong opinions about hotels, traffic, beds, staff, and other love / hate facets when living away from home.  So take this for what it is, an opinion – your mileage may vary.  Right away you have two choices 1) in the park or 2) outside the park.  For most people this decision is determined largely by vacation budget.  There are logistical benefits to staying inside the park that I will touch on in a different section that might compel someone to consider in-park resorts.  For the majority of folks or first-timers they will stay outside the park.

Technically there is a third option of RV / trailer, and I know someone who does this annually and loves it.  It’s not for me so I have no advice in this area.

For my latest trip I stayed outside the park and again was confronted with two options either North or South of the park.  In my case, I stayed in both locations.  On the North side of Disney World is a mass of popular hotels and restaurants.  This holds initial appeal due to more well known chain restaurants (Unos, Chilis, etc.) and hotel conglomerates (Marriott, Hyatt, etc.) for road warriors with points / status / miles for free stays.  A tip for those traveling on miles / points with kids – if possible always select FIVE persons when reserving the room.  This will generally prevent you from being stuck with one bed and a fold out for the kids (unless you want that).  Another tip – if your room is not a suite, you can request a small refrigerator for drinks & food for free from most hotels.  They have to provide them for quests who need to keep medication chilled.  So, to the North, the world is your oyster for most folks except for one tiny thing – traffic.  It sucks.  One can expect heavy traffic aournd park open & close times.  At night, it can take almost an hour to get from Magic Kingdom to the Palm Parkway.  Venturing in the general area can be an exercise in frustration due to all the lost tourists driving while staring at their phones wondering where to turn.

To the South of the park you can find a few low-cost (scary) motels but also a few timeshare resorts with open rental apartments and amenities such as pools, golf, etc.  In general they will cost roughly the same as the common chain hotels on the North side of the park.  Some of the decor can be throw-back – hot tub next to king size bed and mirrored walls – but you also get large rooms, full kitchen, and washer / dryer.  The bonus for this area is almost zero traffic at park close.  From car to door in ten minutes.  Also, from a logistical standpoint if you want to leave during the heat of the day and swim / siesta, it’s much easier to do so.  Note – your restaurant selection is quite limited.  You will find yourself either cooking (which is hard to do if you stay late for Disney’s shows) or eating in the park which can either be pleasant and expensive or frustrating and moderately expensive (more on this to come).  There are restaurant options, however, further South on I4 / SR-400.

For me?  If I were staying on points, the North location is a no brainer though personally I might opt for farther away from the chaos.  The closer you get to the park the more limited your room availability for points stay due to hotels being close to capacity.  If I were paying and opted to not stay in the park, the Southern area works for *me* as I don’t care eat at the same locations as home, and I have the option to cook should weather turn for the worse.

Now, would I rather pay inside vs outside the park?  Stay tuned!

Disney World – Multi Post

No, not multi pass, or park hopper, but a multi-part post of my week long trek through Disney World.  A number of people asked for my thoughts on vacationing there and it’s not something I can jot down in a simple email or post – there is too much to say.  Therefore, I decided to break this down a bit logically (to me) and will post sections as I have the time.  I will discuss everything from the park attractions and food to the customer service and surviving the crowds.

So check back from time to time and see where I am taking this discussion.