November 4, 2015

FastPass+: Everything You Need to Know

Have you been to Walt Disney World in the last few years? Chances are if you have, you have noticed their Fastpass system. You visit a ride, put your park pass into a machine and get a slip telling you a time to come back, where you will enter a line with minimal wait time, for free. It is a nice addition, with no additional cost. While the process has changed in the last few years, it is still definitely something to take advantage of. So how does it work? I will spell it all out for you.

Seven Dwarf Mine Train

What is Fastpass+?

Unlike Fastpass (the old system) where you or someone in your party had to be in the park and able to go to an attraction to get a physical pass with a time to come back. Now, it’s all virtual and can be done up to 60 days in advance. There are kiosks in all of the parks, and Fastpass+ is integrated with My Disney Expreience the app, and the website. You can read all about My Disney Experience in this post. A Fastpass+ is a time to ride with minimal wait. You enter a separate line of a queue, and experience the attraction with less of a wait. For shows, you get prime seating and reserved spaces.

How do you get a Fastpass?

You can select a Fastpass up to 60 days in advance when you book a Disney Resort Package (you can read about staying on site here) and up to 30 days in advance with the purchase of a park ticket. You can use My Disney Experience to book Fastpass+ in advance, or at the kiosks in the park. If you want to book a Fastpass or change your selection you can visit the kiosk (you can find the locations on park maps). Cast Members are on hand with the kiosks to help you make your selections. Availability for each attraction is limited, so there is a definite advantage to book in advance! I usually know which park I will be at on which day according to park hours and dining reservations, so it makes it easier to book in advance. If you don’t want to plan your rides out that far in advance, you can use the kiosks the day of, just be aware that not everything may still be available. When using the kiosks to change a selection or make a new one, you can only make selections for the theme park you are in. This is important if you are Park Hopping, and want to change your selections for the secon (or third, or fourth!) park of the day.

It is important to note that Disney has made a smart decision, and “tiered” the attractions at some parks. At Epcot, you can pick 1 from a tier with Test Track and Soarin’, and 2 from the next tier. The same goes at Hollywood Studios, choosing between Rock n’ Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror. It helps to visit the park at opening, and experience the attraction you do not have a Fastpass+ for, with minimal lines!

How many do you get per day?

You are allocated 3 Fastpass+ per day.

Expedition Everest Looms

Can I change my mind?

Absolutely! It helps to download the My Disney Experience App because you can make changes from your phone. The app is laid out and guides you through the process, so it is really easy to use! You can also visit a Fastpass+ kiosk in the park to make changes to your Fastpass+ selections.

Can you get more than 3?

You can get more than three per day, but only once you have used up your original three selections. At this time, you must visit a kiosk to select additional Fastpass+, but hopefully it will be available on the app soon! Once you have used all three of your Fastpass+ *, you can select one additional Fastpass+ using the in park kiosk. When you use that one up, you can get one additional Fatpass+ and so on.

*You must use the Fastpass+, or let it time out. One my trip in February Ethan didn’t want to ride Tower of Terror, and rather than waiting for it to time out before grabbing our Fantasmic! Fastpass+, he had to go through the Fastpass+ line at Tower of Terror, and “use” his Fastpass+ without going on the ride., before selecting his next one.

MISTER SMEE!

MISTER SMEE!

Is it worth it?

Absolutely! It seems crazy to “book” when you ride an attraction 60 days in advance, but with some of the lines during busier times of the year this is a must! On my trip in February the crowds weren’t huge, but I got to experience Seven Dwarf Mine Train with less than a 10 minute wait, rather than a 90+ minute wait. That in itself made such a difference during our trip that I would recommend Fastpass+ to anyone! If you want to take a more laid back approach, you can select your Fastpass+ the day of your visit, just be aware that all attractions may not be available for selection.

Bonus tips!

The park are busiest in the middle of the day, meaning lines are going to be longest during this time. Want to experience more attractions? Book your Fastpass+ during this time!

Want to see a night show? Wishes and Illuminations can be seen from a variety of spots, so a Fastpass+ isn’t a necessity. For Fantasmic!, I would strongly suggest Fastpass+. But here’s a trick: Select three Fastpass+ none of which are Fantasmic, and as soon as they have been used, head to the kiosks by Tower of Terror. Select Fantasmic! as your next Fastpass+, and you are guaranteed a pretty good view. The amphitheatre fills up quickly so I would still suggest arriving 60-90 minutes before showtime to be able to select a great seat!

To follow up with the point above, do not select a Fastpass+ for a fireworks show or parade unless you really want to see the show from the specified location. Using a Fastpass+ for a night show will not allow you to use up all 3 Fastpasses before you can get another. You will have to get your 4th Fastpass+ after the night show, but the parks generally close after the fireworks. To get the most out of a free service, I would suggest avoiding firework Fastpasses.

Distant Tower of Terror

Have you used Fastpass+ before? What are your thoughts on the new system? Let me know in the comments!

As always, thanks for reading!

Kelsey
October 28, 2015

Restaurant Review: California Grill

I have dined at California Grill twice. Once in May 2007, and most recently in February. Ethan had never been there, so I wanted to splurge on a dinner and have a great time. California Grill is located at the top of the Contemporary resort just beside Magic Kingdom. In my opinion, it is worth it just for the view. I figured I would do some restaurant reviews from my most recent trip, to hopefully help those of you looking for where to eat on your Disney vacation.

One of my favourite pictures from the night :)

One of my favourite pictures from the night 🙂

During this trip Ethan and I booked the Keys to the Kingdom tour at Magic Kingdom, so we were there earlier the day of our reservation. We were planning on staying all day so we brought a change of clothes with us for dinner and rented a locker outside of Magic Kingdom. We also put the tripod in there so we could get some great pictures of Wishes! I was really happy we rented the locker because it made it much easier throughout the day. When it was almost time for our reservation, we changed in the Magic Kingdom washrooms and walked over to the Contemporary. It is about a 7 minute walk, but it was definitely nice to escape the busy Magic Kingdom, and it was the closest thing to a break we had that day!

We found our way to the check in desk for California Grill, and were asked if we were celebrating anything. I of course said Ethan’s birthday because it was two days earlier. After just a few minutes of waiting we went into the elevator that took us up to the restaurant. The Cast Member is the elevator mentioned that if you bring your receipt back to the desk, you can go onto the observation decks to watch Wishes at night. Our reservation was fairly early, so we weren’t sure if we were going to take advantage of this. I have seen Wishes from the decks before, and it is nice to have a different view. We were escorted to our seat which was sprinkled with Mickey Confetti! The view was amazing. I am obsessed with the Grand Floridian (I think because that is where the Tanners stay in Full House) and I had a great view.

California Grill

Our server was great, and the food was amazing. They have an in-house sushi chef, so I knew what I was getting. Ethan wasn’t as sure, and ended up ordering a seafood dish, with lobster, scallops, shrimp, rice and sweet potatoes. I had he California Combination Roll. We got bread to the table (always great, I went to chef school and has a sweet spot for good bread). My sushi was delicious, and I ate every last roll. Ethan thought his was good, but not necessarily worth the price. California Grill is expensive (it counts as 2 table service meals with the dining plan) but the view alone is worth it. Once we finished our meals, a complimentary dessert was brought to the table! Remember when I was asked if we were celebrating anything? Look at what we got!

It was free!

It was free!

The dessert was really good, and sadly our meal was over. The servers are great and tell you that you can go out to the observation decks, one at each end of the restaurant. Ethan and I got our cameras out and headed outside. It was so peaceful up there, and so cool to see so much of Disney World. You could easily see Spaceship Earth and Tower of Terror, and even closer you can see all of the mountains of the Magic Kingdom! Seriously, go there to see the view. Even if just for appetizers or drinks! You will not regret it!

Ethan and I took our pictures and headed back to Magic Kingdom, We decided to stay in the park for fireworks, and even ended up staying to see The Kiss Goodnight. Hopefully we will be able to Wishes from California Grill sometime soon.

A Look Over Magic Kingdom

The restaurant has recently received a makeover, and I thought the decor was beautiful. I can’t remember much about my first time there, but I definitely liked the new look. I remember being seated near the Pastry Chef when I went with my family, and it soon became my dream to work there. It only took a restaurant-like exam to change my mind!

I had so much fun going to such a nice dinner with my guy, I hope you liked some of the pictures we took!

As you can see, California Grill is a special restaurant for me, and I love having the chance to eat there! Have you ever dined at California Grill? If not, what is your favourite Disney restaurant? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Kelsey
October 21, 2015

So You’re Thinking About Going To Walt Disney World…

First of all, I’m jealous. Planning a Walt Disney World vacation is so much fun! I just went in February and I already wish I was planning another vacation, it might as well have been a year ago. Not that I didn’t have fun, it just already feels like it was a long time. (The goal for my next trip is November 2016, I just have to convince my family Dad).

There are a lot of decisions to make when booking a vacation to Walt Disney World, and the first piece advice I can give is use the Walt Disney World website. It has the most detailed information and is very helpful when booking a trip!

This post will serve as sort of a dashboard for lots of information you would need when planning a Disney Vacation. All of the things that you need to consider when thinking about visiting Walt Disney World, and links to other posts here on the blog that expand on those topics. I will continue to update this post as other topics are posted so everything is easy to find! Let’s get started!

Length of your stay

There are so many things to see and do at Walt Disney World! That’s why I would suggest dedicating an entire vacation to it, especially if it is your first time! A 5 night, 6 day trip is usually enough time to see most of what Walt Disney World has to offer, but I’ve been seven times and still experience new things each trip! A week is generally enough time, and a lot of deals are geared towards staying this long. It sounds like a long time to be there at first, but once you go you will be glad you were there for a week!

Anyone recognize this carriage?

Anyone recognize this carriage?

Where To Stay

Disney owns a bunch of restarts on property, and I have done a post all about it! You can read that here. I break down everything you need to know about where to stay, and give my opinion on whether or not it’s worth it to stay on site. It is a different decision for everyone, but the post shows where I stand!

Dining Plan

If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can take advantage of the Disney Dining Plan! This post goes through the different “levels” of the dining plan and talks a little bit about if it is worth it or not. During my last trip I did not purchase the Dining Plan, but I have on previous trips so I could compare.

Who would believe this is in Orlando?!

Who would believe this is in Orlando?!

Dining Reservations

Walt Disney World has amazing food! As I explain in my Disney Dining Post, there are two types of food service in WDW. Quick service, where you order at a counter (like McDonald’s) and Table Service meals, where you are served at a table (like Boston Pizza). If you are looking for a sit down meal, you should make a reservation. You can make dining reservations up to 180 days before the first day of your trip if you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. If you are staying off site, you can make a reservation 180 days in advance of the day you are booking for. Obviously Disney gives you a slight “advantage” if you are staying on site, but it is something you should plan for because you need to eat while you are there! Disney restaurants can be found on the Walt Disney World Website and can be made from there as well, or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Trust me, the food in Walt Disney World is different than anything you have had at a theme park!

Disney’s Magical Express

Look for a post all about Disney’s Magical Express coming soon! This service is free, and available to guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels. You receive luggage tags before your trip, and when you arrive at Orlando International Airport you don’t need to pick up your bags! You just head to the bus that takes you straight to your resort an get your vacation started!

Eric's Castle

Park Tickets

There are a few different types of tickets that are available when visiting Walt Disney World. In a future post I will break down all of the different types and which I think are worth the extra money. You have your basic ticket, a special ticket if you want to visit the water parks, and if you want to visit more than one park in a day. You don’t want to be spending money on something that you aren’t utilizing, so it’s important to know the difference!

Which park to visit on which day?

This point applies more to guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels because of Extra Magic Hours, but it is still something to think about when planning your vacation! If you are staying off site but eating at a Walt Disney World restaurant, you are going to want to go to a park on the day with the longest hours, to get the most out of it! Park Hours are available months in advance on the Walt Disney World website, so it is definitely something to check out!

My Disney Experience

My Disney Experience is the dashboard of your vacation. I wrote a post with everything you need to know! Even if you are not staying on site, it’s something you will want to check out! You can read that post here.

The FountainWhat sort of things do you think about when booking a trip to Walt Disney World? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

Kelsey