August 26, 2015

A Complete Guide to My Disney Experience

My Disney Experience is the new platform that was released in 2012 to act as the “hub” of your Disney Vacation. You can access My Disney Experience by logging on to the Disney World website, or by downloading the app to your smartphone. All you need to do to make the most out of your vacation is create an account.

Creating an account is as simple as visiting the Disney World website and in the top right hand corner, hover over “My Disney Experience” and click Create Account. It will take you through all of the steps to link any existing reservations, but you do not need to have anything booked to create an account. You can link reservations once they are booked at any time, and it is really easy. On my last trip I accidentally used two different e-mail addresses, but linked all of our reservations to the same My Disney Experience account.

Seven Dwarf Mine Train

My Disney Experience is awesome because it will show all future plans and reservations, as well as what is going on today. It’s very helpful to glance at your phone before you head out the door to see what time Fastpass+ experiences are, dining reservations, and of course where you are staying that night (if you are staying at a Disney Resort).

Now on to all of the things My Disney Experience keeps track of for you:

Fastpass+

When staying at a Disney resort you can make Fastpass+ reservations up to 60 days before your trip. If staying elsewhere, but you bought tickets through Walt Disney World directly, you can book Fastpass+ 30 days in advance. You will be e-mailed when you can create your Fastpasses, and you will use My Disney Experience to make the selections. I promise, there will be a post all about Fastpass+ soon! Once you have your Fastpass+ booked, these “reservations” will be shown in My Disney Experience, so you can easily see what Fastpasses you have on what day of your trip.

Magicband selection

Again, Disney will e-mail you when you can make your Magicband selection. A Magicband is a bracelet that holds all of your reservation information, and is used as your room key. You press the Mickey Head to another Mickey Head (whether it’s at your hotel room door, when entering the park or when heading onto a ride using Fastpass+). If you live in the United States, your MagicBands will be mailed to you ahead of your trip. If you live Internationally, you will pick up your MagicBands when you check in to your resort. You can choose from a variety of colours when picking out your MagicBand (red, blue, yellow, green, pink, orange, and grey). If you do not pick a colour, the default is Grey. There are accessories available in the parks to add to your MagicBand and make it your own. They are waterproof and are one size fits all (part of the strap can be removed to fit smaller wrists like mine or children’s). Keep in mind that you need your MagicBand to do pretty much everything, so keep it somewhere safe! That includes your children’s bands! If you think they will take theirs off, you should probably hold onto it for them!

Hint: You are going to want to Fastpass+ this ride!

Sharing plans with other family members

With one My Disney Experience account, you can easily add other members of your family, and create reservations for everyone in your party. For parties of 10 or more, Disney suggests calling (407) 939-7771 from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM EST to help create a My Disney Experience account for your party. If you want to create multiple accounts within your party, you can easily send reservation information to those not on your account. Disney really does think of everything!

Dining Reservations

You can very easily use the Disney World website to make dining reservations, and once they have been made, they can be linked to your account! It makes it really easy to see where you are eating, what time, and how many people are on the reservation. Want to learn more about the Disney Dining Plan? check out my post all about it!

Festival of Fantasy Parade

Reservation Information

Lastly, My Disney Experience will keep all of your hotel information in one place. It will tell you which resort you are staying at, and which days the reservations are for, It seems like it might not be needed, but if you are staying at multiple resorts during your trip, you may need to know!

The My Disney Experience App

The App has all of the information you see when looking at your profile through the Disney website and more. I used this app all the time during my last trip. When I was hungry I could see the nearest dining options, and take a look at the menu without having to walk around the park! While in line for one ride we could see what we might want to hit next by looking at the wait time. Need a washroom? You can find out where the closest one was! Forget what time the park is open until? You can check that in 30 seconds! What time was the parade again? Oh right!

Seriously. I loved this app. I still check it once in a while, just if I want to know how long the line is for Space Mountain. You never know when someone will ask you when you’re at home… right? The only complaint I have about the app is that it was sometimes slow. I was using the Wifi in the parks, but I’m sure if you were using a data the connection would be faster. Other than that, it was amazing.

I think that My Disney Experience is one of the many things that keeps Disney above and beyond other theme parks, and they are always on top of the newest technology. My Disney Experience really helps to make your vacation easier, with all of the information you could want at your fingertips.

Expedition Everest

Have you ever used My Disney Experience on the computer or the app? What were your thoughts? Need me to elaborate on anything? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

Kelsey
August 12, 2015

Should I Stay On Site? All About Disney Resort Hotels

Walt Disney World is almost 42 square miles, and holds many hotels in that area. Disney owns 25 resorts, and there are many others within Walt Disney World (not owned by Disney, but on Disney property). So which hotel do you choose? Is it better to stay on or off site? I have done both, but I prefer to stay on site. Before you tell me I’m crazy, let me explain a little.

Finding Nemo the Musical

A Little Background Story…

When My family visited the Orlando area in 2012, we rented a house very close to Walt Disney World and rented a car. We stayed for a week and visited Universal Orlando, Sea World and Kennedy Space Center. For these destinations, it was great. We liked having the room of a house, and we could prepare meals when we wanted. After a week of staying there, we were off to Walt Disney World! We returned the rental car back to the airport, and were off on Disney’s Magical Express (look for a post all about that service soon!). We stayed at a Value resort and took advantage of the Disney transportation.

In the same trip, my sister Alex was feeling under the weather 🙁 but Disney transportation was very fast (they even dispatched an entire bus for the 5 of us to get us to the hotel faster!) It also helps that wheelchairs have priority getting on Disney buses, because they need to be tied down. Being so close to the parks helped in this case, because when she was at a park and wanted to head back to rest, she could easily go with my Dad.

I find that with the size of Walt Disney World it is easier to take Disney Transportation than renting a car, and you can also get the Disney Dining Plan. If you are staying at a resort that is in Walt Disney Word but not owned by Disney, you may be able to get free transportation to the parks. I have never done this, but know that it may be available at some resorts.

Gawrsh!!

Gawrsh!!

The Disney Resorts

The resorts that are owned by Disney in Walt Disney World are split into three categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Value are the least expensive, moderate are in the middle, and deluxe are the most expensive.

Value resorts include Art of Animation, Pop Century, and the All Stars: All Star Music, All Star Movies, and All Star Sports.

Moderate resorts include Caribbean Beach (my favourite), Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Fort Wilderness cabins and campground, and Coronado Springs.

Deluxe Resorts include Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club and Yacht Club.

There are a lot of advantages to staying on site. Disney Resorts guests get access to the parks earlier and later on specific days called “Extra Magic Hours”. I would strongly suggest taking advantage of this if you stay at a Disney resort.

What To Consider When Selecting A Disney Resort

Location! Location can be really important, especially if you are relying on Disney Transportation. In some cases you can even WALK to the parks. Like how friggen cool is that? In general, location can be something to consider. I tend to like resorts in the Epcot area, because they are central, and close to 2 of the 4 theme parks. Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom are somewhat out of the way, so getting to the other parks can take a little longer if you are staying close to a Kingdom park. Location can also be great, like at Caribbean Beach you can see Illuminations from the main pool. At the Contemporary, you can watch Wishes from the California Grill.

The Muppets

Special Offers

Disney usually creates special offers for guests staying at Disney Resorts, by giving you up to 30% off your stay. You should always check, because they are only for certain dates. You can find the information on the offer by visiting the “Special Offers” page on the Walt Disney World website.

A Note About Disney Transportation

Buses only go from resort to park and from park to park. Not from resort to resort! You have to take time into consideration when making reservations at a resort that is not your own. If you are visiting a park that day it won’t be that hard to get there, but getting back can be time consuming. Buses run to Downtown Disney until after midnight most nights, so you would have to take a bus to Downtown Disney and transfer there to the resort you are staying at. It sounds confusing but I hope it makes sense!

Good Morning to you!

It can be cheaper to stay outside of Walt Disney World, but I feel like it is much more convenient and adds to the experience to stay on site. Especially if you are dedicating your entire vacation to  WDW, which I would recommend to get the most of your Walt Disney World experience.

Which do you prefer, staying on site or off? If you like to stay on site, which is your favourite resort and why?

Thank you so much for reading!

Kelsey
July 29, 2015

Dining Plan: Yes or No?

Walt Disney World has so many great dining options to choose from, so is it worth it to buy the dining plan?

I have purchased the dining plan, and paid out-of-pocket. I’ll break down the plans before giving my opinion.

Be Our Guest

Who is eligible?

In order to purchase the dining plan, you need to be staying in a Disney Resort Hotel. The dining plan is a credit system, with the number of credits allocated per night of your stay at a Disney Resort Hotel.  You can purchase the dining plan separately (for example purchasing discount tickets and adding the dining plan later). The Dining Plans are available to guests ages 3 and up.

What are my options?

Like all accommodations and park tickets, the dining plan comes with options. There are five levels of the dining plan: Quick Service Dining Plan, Dining Plan, Deluxe Dining Plan, Premium Dining Plan, and the Platinum Dining Plan. Gratuities are not included with the dining plans. You also get a refillable mug included with the plan to use at your resort for the length of your stay. I have only ever purchased the Regular Plan, and have liked what comes with it.

Make sure to note that not all restaurants take the Dining Plan, so if you are making a reservation make sure the restaurant you are looking at accepts it!

The Quick Service Plan allocates 2 Quick Service meals per day, and one snack.  Each Quick Service Meal comes with an entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage or a combo meal.

The (Regular) Dining Plan gives you 1 Table Service meal and 1 Quick Service meal per night of your stay. You also receive 1 snack. Each Table Service meal comes with an appetizer, entrée and dessert, with a non-alcoholic beverage or a buffet.  Appetizers and desserts are only for lunch and dinner.

The Deluxe Dining Plan comes with all 3 meals at either Quick Service or Table Service Restaurants. You also get 2 snacks with the Deluxe Dining Plan.

The Platinum Dining Plans come with the same meals as the Deluxe Dining Plan (all 3 meals), but with more extras for the rest of your vacation.

Lastly, the Premium Dining Plan comes with the same meal breakdown as the Deluxe and Platinum plans, but with added benefits throughout your vacation.

For more information about what comes with the specific  Dining Plans, visit the Walt Disney World Website.

50's Prime Time Diner

What are the different types of restaurants?

The Disney Dining Plans categorize the restaurants in Walt Disney World. There are quick service restaurants, and table service restaurants. Quick Service Restaurants are restaurants where orders are placed at a window or a counter, and you take your order on a tray to your seat. This would be similar to a McDonald’s. These restaurants do not require reservations. A Table Service meal is just that; one where you receive your service from your table. This is what I call a “Sit Down” meal. These restaurants generally require reservations, which I strongly recommend having. Some Table Service restaurants are worth two dining credits, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, or deluxe resort restaurants like California Grill.

How does it work?

When you book your vacation and purchase the dining plan, you are allocated credits for each night of your stay in a Disney Resort Hotel. Depending on the plan you choose, you will receive a certain number of each type of credit per day. The credits are taken when you sit down for your meal at a Table Service or at the counter of a Quick Service Restaurant.

Credits are automatically loaded onto your MagicBand, and reservations are loaded onto the My Disney Experience App. Credits are not taken when you make the reservation, but when you actually dine.

Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance from the Walt Disney World website, and can also be made by calling 407 WDW-DINE. Reservations generally require credit card information, and can be cancelled at any time. Your credit card will only be charged if you do not show up for your reservation. If you want to change the number of people dining, you do have to call 407 WDW- DINE. It’s a little annoying to not be able to adjust the reservation using My Disney Experience, but hopefully this option will come with time.

Restaurant Marrakesh

Tips for getting the most out of the Dining Plan

If you are going to Walt Disney World when Free Dining is an option, take advantage of it! If booking a trip online you need to go through the Special Offers page to have it become available. The price of rooms generally go up when free dining is available, but it is still worth it!

The Dining Plans come with A LOT OF FOOD! By splitting meals when you can, you can get the most out of your credits. If you use this strategy, you can potentially make a 2-credit meal even more worth it, with credits you have saved by not using them at other meals. Or, if you are dining at a 2-credit restaurant, you can pay out of pocket for another Table Service meal, or pay for a Quick Service meal. You can look at the costs of certain restaurants that accept the dining plan to decide which you would be getting the best deal from, but I would only suggest doing this if you really want to

Generally when I am in Walt Disney World I will purchase something small for breakfast (if at all), and use a Quick Service for lunch and Table Service for dinner.

My Opinion

I have used the Disney Dining Plan during vacations, and I have paid out-of-pocket during vacations. I do not think that you save a lot of money by skipping the dining plan and paying out of pocket. In February we budgeted and kept track of all of the food we purchased to see if we saved money, and while we saved a bit, keeping track of everything was time consuming and took away from the fact that we were on vacation! By purchasing the dining plan, everything is paid for in advance, and you don’t have to think about how much you are spending. You also get more food when purchasing the Dining Plan (like dessert), and while you may not want it if you are paying out of pocket, it’s nice to get a complete meal.

Welcome!

Have you ever used the Disney Dining Plans? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Kelsey