June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015
10 Mistakes Not to Make at Walt Disney World

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope you had a beary safe and great week. Dab the AIDS Bear is back on the road this weekend doing pride and other events.

So how many of you have been to Walt Disney World? Having grown up in Florida, I have been many times. So let me share today and tomorrow ten mistakes not to do while you are visiting there.

Don’t: Insist on a Disney-run hotel.

There are perks to staying at one of Disney's 31 hotels and resorts, including extended hours and free parking at the parks, one-stop booking, and heavily themed public spaces that will wow the kids. Tempting, we know. What Disney's properties don't offer, however, are the better value, nicer rooms, and tricked-out amenities that you can find elsewhere in town.

Instead: Shop around.

Orlando attracts a lot of conventions, and you'll often find a higher-quality hotel experience at places that cater mostly to conventioneers rather than Mouseketeers. The Waldorf Astoria Orlando, for example, opened in 2009 near Epcot, and rates can be $100 less than at the Grand Floridian (Disney's top-tier resort) and only about half the price at certain times of year. The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott in Grande Lakes and the brand-new Four Seasons Resort Orlando are also good options.

Don't: Rely on Disney buses.

Disney's extensive bus network will get you between its parks and hotels for free, but there is still a price: your time and patience. After a long day of waiting in line for rides and attractions, it's a drag to wait in line for a bus ride — especially one that can be excruciatingly slow and uncomfortably crowded. The bus system locks you into orbiting exclusively within the world of Disney. Sure, you could take a taxi, but the fare adds up quickly.

Instead: Rent a car.

Because of mass visitor volume, Orlando has some of the cheapest rental rates in the country—as low as $25 a day. All of the usual suspects are represented at the airport (Hertz, Avis, Enterprise). Of course, the $17 daily parking fees at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom do add up (parking is free if you stay at a Disney-run hotel). The low rental rates buy you a lot of freedom, though: Having a car lets you visit non-Disney theme parks, explore downtown Orlando's thriving food scene, or even hit the beach.

Don't: Overspend for tickets.

Disney pushes its Magic Your Way tickets, which are one- to ten-day passes valid for the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. Given the steep discounts on multi-day tickets, the impulse is to buy tickets for as many days as you'll be in Orlando. But if you have unused tickets at the end of your trip—say, if a rainy day keeps you away from the parks, or if you decide to do something that's not mouse-approved—you can't get a refund.

Instead: Play it by ear.

Since you can upgrade a Magic Your Way ticket and get the same multi-day discount, it pays to buy conservatively and add more days, if necessary. Note, too, that Magic Your Way tickets only get you into one of the four parks per day. The $54 Park Hopper add-on, which allows you to visit multiple parks each day, is worthwhile for many visitors — especially those who have only a few days in Orlando and want to cover as much ground as possible.

Don't: Wait in line.

Patience is a virtue at Disney, where it's common to wait in line much longer than the ride itself lasts. However, that doesn't mean that you should resign yourself to wasting hours of precious vacation time. Dying to go on Splash Mountain, but not willing to brave the hour-long queue? There is a way around it.

Instead: Skip the line.

Dozens of Disney's most popular attractions are now equipped with the FastPass+ system, which essentially holds your spot in line, leaving you free to explore other parts of the park. You can pick which attractions you want to use the pass for before you even leave home, then proceed there during your assigned time slot to leapfrog nearly to the front of the line. There are a set number of FastPasses per ride per day — and they do run out — so you'll do well to get one for a ride on your must-do list as soon as you arrive at the park.

Don't: Just do Disney.

Disney has anticipated your every vacation want or need — it's part of the magic. It's also part of their genius: The transportation and ticketing systems are designed to keep you, and your money, within Mickey's grasp; you could easily spend a week in Orlando and never see anything without ears attached to it. But getting sucked into the Disneyverse means that you'll miss out on the more than 100 other attractions Orlando has to offer.

Instead: Ditch Disney (at least for a day).

Perhaps you've heard of a little thing called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? To experience the most talked-about theme park attraction of the millennium, you'll have to defect from Disney and visit its rival, Universal Orlando. Potter fans should make a beeline for Universal's Islands of Adventure park, and there's also Universal Studios and Wet 'n Wild. Also within a 15-minute drive of Cinderella's castle is Gatorland, the sprawling reptile farm that put Orlando on the map 22 years before the Magic Kingdom opened. A bit further afield is the Morse Museum, which houses the world's largest collection of Tiffany glass and is a good option when the grown-ups tire of costumed characters and kiddie rides. And the biggest Legoland in the world is just 40 minutes away.

Hope you have a beary safe and great Saturday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab