A Walt Disney World Trip Planning Timeline

Planning a trip to a Disney Park can be a frustrating and confusing experience. Part of the reason we started this blog was because we saw others frustration with planning a trip to Disney. Wandering in Disney sadly doesn’t have all of the answers when it comes to trip-planning but we will by the time Star Wars Land is completed (that was a joke). One aspect I do feel comfortable addressing is a timeline for trip planning to both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. The question of when to do and reserve what is a common one as vacationers plan a trip to Disney Parks. In this post, I’ll give an estimated timeline of the most important aspects of trip planning.

Earlier this week I wrote a timeline for planning a trip to Disneyland.  Today we move on to Walt Disney World, a far more complex trip to plan for than Disneyland.  There are exceptions to that, like if you visit Walt Disney World several times a year or are a local who goes all the time.  If you fit into one of those categories then you probably don’t care much about this post.  I’m not sure why you are even reading this.  For everyone else, a trip to Walt Disney World should take some time to plan.

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Why is Walt Disney World so different from Disneyland?  Some of it has to do with Disney wanting it this way.  There was an increased focus on dining (and reservations) and then FastPass+ was implemented.  That led to an increased benefit to planning your trip early.  We could talk about if this increased incentive to planning your trip early makes a Walt Disney World trip better than it used to in a simpler time but… Well, that’s a post for another day.

Another reason Walt Disney World and Disneyland differ is because Walt Disney World has so much more land to offer.  There are four parks in Walt Disney World, hotels that provide transportation to them, shopping and tons of dining.  All of that is on Disney property and makes it so you don’t have to set a foot outside of that property if you don’t want to.  There’s more to do, more to research and more to reserve than at Disneyland.  Not that one experience is better than the other, they are just different.

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World involves several deadlines and dates to look out for.  There are discounts to find, restaurants to reserve and attractions to FastPass.  Unlike Disneyland, advanced planning needs to be done no matter the size of your group. Without further ado, here’s a rough timeline for planning a trip to Walt Disney World.

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5-8 Months Out

  • Decide When You Are Going – Some of your planning will have to do with what time of year you go to Disney World. While this isn’t the post for that, I did write a quick pros and cons of when to go to Walt Disney World a while back. You can check that out here.  Deciding on when you’re going to Walt Disney World should be done at least 4 months out, if it’s a big trip.  You’ll be coming up on some deadlines shortly.  You’ll also generally be able to get better hotel rates if you look further out
  • Decide On A Hotel And Check Rates – There are a number of hotels on Disney property and it will take a while to decide on which one to stay at.  Do some research and find the hotel that fit you best.  Once you decide on a hotel check the rates for the dates (rhyming!) that you are going.  If they seem decent compared to other surrounding dates, go ahead and book.  If not, keep checking and wait for discounts to be offered…
  • Find The Discount That Fits You Best – I plan to write a post covering all of the Walt Disney World discounts in the next few weeks but a quick explanation of this step is in order until that future post is written.  If you’re staying at an on-site hotel during your trip to Disney World there will likely be a discount offered.  There may be even more than one offered.  Get to know these discounts (whether it’s free dining, a hotel room discount, or more of a bundle package) and decide what’s best for your family.  You can often figure out what discount will be offered during your stay by looking at historic dates here.  Discounts are typically released and offered about 3-6 months in advance.  These discounts can really save you a lot of money if staying on site so keep your eye out for them.  If you had already booked a room in advance, you can either call to add the discount to the room (assuming that’s available) or change your reservation to fit what’s offered.  This may be the most important step if you and your family are on a strict budget.  Try to take advantage of the discount almost exactly when it is offered because there will be more availability then.
  • Discuss Where Your Family Wants To Eat – As I said in the intro, dining has become a bigger part of the Disney World experience in the last 15 years.  In our next step we’ll be making dining reservations but before you do that you may want to figure out where your family/friends want to eat.  There are over 100 reservation eligible restaurants to choose from and there are all different kinds of food, themes, and environments.  We have several reviews on Wandering in Disney and if there’s a certain restaurant you’re curious about leave us a comment or Google the restaurant.  There will certainly be a review of it somewhere.

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180 Days Away

  • Make Dining Reservations – I told you it was coming.  180 days from your trip is when you can make your reservations.  For some restaurants, you will definitely need to be on the ball and do it 180 days out.  The most popular restaurants include but aren’t limited to Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Cellier, California Grill, and Chef Mickey’s.  It’s best to reserve everything you want and then you can later change it if you need to.  If you’re staying on-site and have a reservation you can reserve dining 180 days out plus the next 10 days after that limit.  If you are staying off-site or don’t have a reservation yet then you have to make a reservation 180 days out for each day of your vacation.

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80 Days Away

  • Do Some Research – Really, you can do this step anytime but I put it here for a reason that involves our next step.  Start to look at the attractions that have FastPass capability and what interests you the most.  We have FastPass guides that you can check out here.  This is also a good time to check out if there are any tours that interest you or activities outside of the parks (fishing, golfing, shows).  If you do find something that you’d like to do then reserve what is necessary.  Some tours do fill up and need to be reserved in advance.

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60 Days Away

  • On-Site Guests Reserve FastPass+ – Those guests that are staying on-site can reserve FastPasses for three attractions per day of their trip.  Again, check out our FastPass guides for strategy when it comes to this.  Reserving these FastPasses will also cause you to plan your days of your vacation to an extent.  Check park hours before deciding on which FastPasses to reserve and then adjust accordingly.
  • Book Airfare – This is about the time most ‘experts’ tell you to book airfare.  Monitor prices in the months leading up to this

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30 Days Away 

  • Off-Site Guests Reserve FastPass+ – This is pretty self-explanatory and does show part of the advantage to staying on-site.
  • Figure Out The Details – If you haven’t figured this out prior to the 30 days, this is the time to square away transportation, payments and whatever else you haven’t taken care of.  Disney transportation isn’t hard to figure out but getting from the airport to Disney World will take a reservation (or an Uber).

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A Week Away 

  • Plan and Research – Before your trip do a little more research on quick places to eat and when to do what.  I’m not a big fan of planning every single minute of your vacation but I do think having a flexible plan is smart.  I also think that doing research on where to eat can make your trip much better.  Instead of being stuck with greasy pizza or bad cheeseburgers you can have an idea of a place with some better food.  My wife teases me about how much I look at menus of different places to eat in Disney Parks but then thanks me when we get there because I know where to find different kinds of food.  If you’re going to spend money, spend it on food that you actually want because there is good stuff all around Walt Disney World.

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Overwhelmed yet?  If you are, don’t be.  While this seems like an awful lot to do none of these are huge time consumers and most of it is fun if you enjoy the Disney Parks.  If you need help with any of it, please leave us a comment or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  Did I miss anything in my timeline?  Let me know in the comments!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney!

– Andrew

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A Disneyland Trip Planning Timeline

Planning a trip to a Disney Park can be a frustrating and confusing experience.  Part of the reason we started this blog was because we saw others frustration with planning a trip to Disney.  Wandering in Disney sadly doesn’t have all of the answers when it comes to trip-planning but we will by the time Star Wars Land is completed (that was a joke).  One aspect I do feel comfortable addressing is a timeline for trip planning to both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. The question of when to do and reserve what is a common one as vacationers plan a trip to Disney Parks.  In this post, I’ll give an estimated timeline of the most important aspects of trip planning.

Planning a trip for Disneyland and Walt Disney World are very different tasks.  Walt Disney World requires far more planning.  Not only does it take more planning but it also needs to be done further in advance.  In true procrastinator fashion, I’ll write today’s post with a trip planning timeline for Disneyland and then have a similar post for Walt Disney World in the next week.

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Going to Disneyland is much like planning a regular vacation.  There aren’t a variety of different deadlines to meet and wait for.  The planning vibe is much more relaxed because Disneyland is still a big draw for locals.  Thanks to decent offers on annual passes, Disneyland draws many locals throughout the year.  This, in turn, means that there isn’t as much of a demand for a top-tier restaurant.  That isn’t to say Californians don’t love their park and quality additions, they do.  They can just go to them nearly anytime instead of people who travel there that have a tighter window.  This makes almost all aspects of planning a Disneyland vacation easy.

If you are going with a small group (for the sake of clarity I’ll say 5 or less, but that number ebbs and flows) you can probably plan a Disneyland trip on the fly.  There are a bevy of hotels in the Anaheim area and tickets, reservations and flights aren’t hard to get.  For the sake of this post, this timeline will match those who are planning on a taking a Disneyland trip with a bigger group (6 or more).  Of course, locals go on a whim whenever and that goes to show that Disneyland can be done without much planning.  Anyway, here is a rough timeline on how I would plan out a Disneyland trip with a big group.

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3-6 Months Until Your Trip

  • Decide When You Are Going – Obviously any trip planning begins by deciding on when you are going on your trip.  While this post isn’t about that specific topic, I recommend that guests decide on when they’re going to Disneyland at least 3 months out (2 months will probably be fine but probably wouldn’t maximize savings).  Planning a Disneyland trip more than six months out is probably excessive but something I’m completely guilty of.  There is no problem with deciding on when you’re going on a trip well in advance, it just isn’t a necessity.
  • Price And Book Your Hotel Stays – There are so many hotels in the Anaheim area that it can get slightly overwhelming when looking for a hotel.  I recommend deciding what the most important aspect of a hotel is to you – location, luxury, amenities, price, etc. – and narrowing down the hotels that way.  For example, location is the most important aspect of a hotel for me at Disneyland.  With that in mind, I look for hotels within half a mile walking distance to the main gate and then decide between those based on best reviews.  TripAdvisor is my favorite website for reviews, although it does have faults.
    Once you have narrowed down your hotel choices, price out the different rooms and decide what fits your budget.  Depending on the season that you decide to go in, prices will vary.  If you’re going to Disneyland during a busy season (holidays and summer) try to book a hotel as far in advance as possible.  If you’re going during a less busy time then hotels will sometime offer better deals a few months before your trip depending on how much vacancy they have.  The best advice I have to offer in this category is to check prices often.  Check the dates around when you plan to go to see trends and don’t hesitate when you see a good deal.  Most hotels don’t charge for cancelling a reservation.

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2 Months Until Your Trip

  • Book Airfare – There are a lot of theories about when to book airfare.  There are the websites out there that have done the math and figure it out – book on the Tuesday 8 weeks before your trip at 9:58 AM (this is an example, not actually true).  It doesn’t really need to be that complicated.  Like the hotels above, start monitoring airfare about 3 months in advance (or 5 to 6 months if you are going at a busy time).  When you find a price that fits, then go for it.  I would advise to not get within 50 days of your trip without booking airfare because prices can, and usually will, jump in a hurry.  Matrix ITA Software to check airline prices for your dates.  The only major airline that doesn’t include is Southwest and the website offers a clean, easy to read site full of airfare prices for your dates.
  • Decide On Popular Restaurants To Go To And Book Dining – Making dining reservations at Disneyland is extremely easy compared to Walt Disney World.  The demand for the restaurants isn’t nearly as intense.  That doesn’t mean the dining is worse by any means.  Around the two month before your trip phase start to discuss dining with your group.  If it’s a really large group and you know that you want some sit down meals then it’s smart to reserve a few restaurants especially the popular ones.  Restaurants that may need to be booked in advance include Napa Rose, Steakhouse 55, Carthay Circle, Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans.  Again, this isn’t the most urgent part of trip planning but it is smart to get reservations, especially for groups that have more than five people.

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The Month Leading Up To Your Trip

  • Buy Park Tickets – Deciding on what park tickets to get is fairly straightforward.  How many days will you be at Disneyland?  Do you want any rest days or days to do other activities in Southern California?  Consider those topics and then decide on tickets.  I prefer at least 3 days at the parks with a park-hopper but understand that isn’t an option for everyone.  There are many ways to buy tickets.  Go through the Disneyland website, check discounted tickets (mousesavers.com will have some options), or get them at your hotel if you are staying at a good neighbor hotel.  I don’t recommend waiting to get them at the gate because of the long lines.
  • Plan What Else You Want To Do In Southern California – I just mentioned this briefly, but Southern California offers some great activities outside of Disneyland.  Other theme parks like Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm have unique offerings.  There are touristy things to do in Hollywood and LA.  There are great National Parks and beaches to visit in the area.  Check out this post from Disney Tourist Blog for more specific offerings.
  • Make A Gameplan For The Parks – In the few weeks leading up to your trip (or even the night before) make a quick plan of what you want to do with your park days.  This doesn’t need to be a minute-by-minute schedule but instead just an idea of where to use your first few FastPasses and what attractions are ‘can’t miss’.  Here are our FastPass Guides to Disneyland and DCA.  I think it’s wise to schedule out the first hour of your day because that is usually the least busy time in the parks.  Get as much done as possible in that hour and then go from there.  Be aware of what everyone in your group would like to do and then go from there.

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Those are the most important aspects of planning a Disneyland trip.  Did I miss anything?  Let me know in the comments.  If you need help planning your trip please leave us a comment or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.

– Andrew

Question of the Week (6/15/16)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers, enjoy!

Question of the Week: We’ll go off property this week.. Is Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Orlando or Hollywood) the best theme park land you’ve ever visited?

Cassie – First off: I love Harry Potter pretty much more than anything. I think my Harry Potter tattoo speaks to that. However, as fun as WWoHP may be, it doesn’t come close to Disneyland in my book.  Universal doesn’t compare when it comes to 1. Cleanliness of the park 2. Upkeep and maintenance of attractions 3. Nostalgia. I think those three things are part of why Disneyland will always be number one.

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Andrew – I think that Diagon Alley in Orlando Universal is close to perfection, as a land. It’s incredibly immersive and all other parts of the park are blocked off, so the sight lines are impeccable. The only things lacking is rides. I really like Escape From Gringotts but there’s only that attraction in the land and it’s not perfect. That may be a bigger problem with the theory behind lands based off of only one single franchise than just Diagon Alley. Still, I think they did as good of a job with Diagon Alley as possible. Hogsmeade and the castle are slightly less impressive to me (even though the rides are loved more) because you can see other areas of the park and can see some show building in certain angles.

I do think Disneyland holds a slightly better land in New Orleans Square and possibly Adventureland. Cars Land is pretty even with the Wizarding World in my opinion. Over in Walt Disney World I think Liberty Square (MK) and Harambe (AK) measure up to that of Harry Potter. I’d be curious to see how the foreign park’s lands stack up.

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Do you have a favorite Disneyland land that beats WWoHP, Cassie?

Cassie – I think that’s Cars land would actually beat WWoHP. While I was very into Harry Potter world, the fact that I could still see the 101 freeway and see Burbank didn’t quite put me in the world like Cars does. When you are in Cars land you are FULLY in the Pixar world. I also agree with you in terms of the rides. I had a lot of fun on Hogwarts the forbidden journey but it wasn’t close to Radiator Springs Racers. I willllll say, the food at WWoHP was amazing!!! We ate at the hogs head both times I went. Butterbeer, amazing. Steak and Guinness Shepard’s pie, amazing. Bangers and mash, amazing. Pumpkin juice, that’s right…also amazing. I didn’t have a single thing that wasn’t delicious!

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Melissa – I’m with Cassie in that I love Harry Potter! We went to WWoHP not to long after Diagon Alley opened and let’s just say I wasn’t let down. Now despite how much I enjoyed diving into the wizarding world, we haven’t been back or have plans to visit in the forseeable future unlike we do with Disney. Disney keeps drawing us back over and over again despite all the other parks that keep adding attractions. For Universal, I feel most of the reason we aren’t drawn back is because some parts are awesome, other parts leave things to be desired. Unlike Disney, it’s practically perfection in my eyes and does a lot better job of theming the entire park not just one land.

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Have you been to Wizarding World of Harry Potter?  How do you think it compares?  Let us know in the comments!

If you enjoy what you’re reading, please subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. You can also like our Facebook page. All of those things can be done on the right side of this page. If you need any help with trip planning, leave us a comment or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com. We’d be happy to help! Thank you, again, for reading and have a great week!

A Teen’s Guide To Walt Disney World

Many people will say that Disney Parks are only made for families with children. Obviously, since I’m an adult with a Disney blog, I think that is ridiculous. I believe the parks and resorts have attractions that are fit for every age and life style, just some ages and lifestyles are more obvious than others. In Walt Disney World, this is especially true. With four fairly diverse parks, two water parks, an ever-expanding Disney Springs, an array of resort amenities and countless other outdoor activities, Walt Disney World has something for the whole family. And then WDW even has something else for those who aren’t going with family!

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With all that in mind, I’m starting a series of guides about Walt Disney World for each member of the family and then will expand on the series once I’m done with those. In case you missed it, here was my first post in the series all about bringing boys to Walt Disney World followed up by a similar guide for girls.

This guide will be for teens, in case you didn’t see the title… As we all know, teenagers are weird.  It’s not their fault though, we can blame puberty.  The problem with writing a guide for teens is that there are so many different teenage personalities.  I’m not going to write a 6,000 word guide for each one of those personalities so I’ve been trying to think of a common trait in most of these personalities.  Let’s set aside the extremely happy teens who are just pleased to be with anyone and happy for the experience.  Yes, those teens exist.  Just do whatever with them, they’ll be happy or on their phones the whole time!

This guide is focused more on the teens who think they are too good for everything.  Think of that older teenage brother in Jurassic World.  These are the kids that you know would have fun if they let themselves but they definitely don’t want to make it easy on you.  This seems like a common occurrence in teens and really the most difficult part of taking them to WDW.  It also seems that if you can impress these personalities with something in Walt Disney World then they’ll buy in immediately.  If you make them see that Disney World isn’t just a place for kids then they can have the time of their life.

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Naturally, there are plenty of other personality traits in teens.  If you have specific questions for me then please leave them in the comments and I will be happy to get back to you.  Let’s get to the info!

The Parks

As I said, teenagers generally want to make sure that they aren’t perceived as children anymore.  While some teen girls may still love princess meet & greets, most teens will probably want to stay away from meet & greets and will be more interested in the thrill rides.  Fortunately, all the parks have a degree of thrill to them.

More good news is that shows and parades are likely to impress some teens.  I’ll get to some the rankings of the parades and shows after going through each park’s recommended attractions.  Here we go!

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Magic Kingdom

Now, a thrill does have to just come from a ‘thrill ride’.  For a teen this feeling can come just from being impressed.  There is certainly no shortage of attractions and areas in Magic Kingdom to impress them.  I’ll get to the attractions in a second.  The areas that stand out to me are Adventureland and Tomorrowland.  Both of these areas are built on the idea of the unknown and hold some fantastic rides.  I’d never feel bad recommending Liberty Square either.  On to the attractions!

Haunted Mansion

While not a typical thrill ride, no attraction appeals to as many people as Haunted Mansion.  For a teen, they may be able to enjoy the darker aspect of the ride which is the plot.  The ghosts in this mansion are looking for one more ghost to get to 1,000.  They want that ghost to be you, that’s pretty creepy.  If that doesn’t get them interested then the history behind the attraction might or the absurd amount of detail used within the queue.  If none of that works then maybe all those ghosts will do.  To me, this is the most impressive attraction in Magic Kingdom and will probably be enjoyed by your whole family including your teen.

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The Mountains

Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain are the biggest thrills that WDW offers (probably in that order.) Teens and pre-teens have waited their childhood to be big enough to ride roller coasters and now they get the chance.  Most of them will jump at that chance and most of them will enjoy it.  Some won’t but I’ll get to that in a second.  Space Mountain is the biggest thrill due to not being able to see the twists and turns coming your way.  Big Thunder isn’t quite as exciting but it’s still fun.  I would recommend trying it at night.  Splash Mountain has the giant drop that you can either tell your friends you survived or take a ridiculous photo on (which coincidently is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to Disney Parks.)  The mountains are not to be missed, especially with teens.

Pirates of the Caribbean

It feels like I’m just picking the classic attractions, but that’s because they are the most impressive.  Pirates is no exception.  Like Haunted Mansion, this has a darker storyline and if your teen is interested in looking through the details and trying to figure out the storyline let them do it on their own.  Heck, make it a game to see if they can tell you the story each attraction tells after you ride it.  Some won’t be interested but some will enjoy the challenge.  If they do, they may get hooked on theme parks in no time at all.  Pirates is classic Disney and enjoyable to all.

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I’m biased here, I love this ride.  This attraction simply soars above Tomorrowland, showing a little history as it goes.  It is the most relaxing attraction in Walt Disney World.  It also moves suspiciously fast at times.  All of these things add up to a pretty enjoyable attraction.

If your teen does buy in to this vacation then they’ll probably enjoy Fantasyland especially if you grew up watching Disney movies with them.  I’d save these for later in the vacation but if you’re going with a Disney nut then these are obviously a good choice.

Celebrate the Magic

This is technically one of the nighttime shows but it isn’t considered a nighttime spectacular, meaning that it isn’t one of the main shows offered.  This show projects on to the castle and is jaw-dropping with its effects.  If your teen is a theme park newbie then this will stop them dead in their tracks.

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Epcot

For a teenager, Epcot becomes more and more interesting the older they get.  As a kid, Epcot doesn’t offer a lot.  As you get older it shows some history of countries that teens have probably studied.  Foods become more interesting as you get older and Epcot specializes in food.  Now, the attraction lineup is still lacking but Epcot turns from a boring park to something better than that, depending on your teen.

The most obvious area that may be of interest to a teen is World Showcase.  The culture and shows there may be a good stepping stone being entertained by something outside of thrilling attractions.  If your teen likes aquariums then The Seas is a good choice.  The Land houses two of the best attractions in Epcot so that’s not a bad choice either.

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Soarin’ and Test Track

These are Epcot’s two biggest thrills.  They are also probably the best two attractions at Epcot, so be sure not to miss them.  Designing a car and then going really fast in it is pretty fun in Test Track if your teen likes control.  Soarin’ is just a really good ride so there’s not much more to that.

Spaceship Earth

A look through Earth’s history with a somewhat interactive twist at the end.  If your teen is into history then this attraction will be great.  If not, then this attraction will probably just be okay.  If nothing less, it’s housed in Epcot’s icon and that’s pretty cool.

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Jeweled Dragon Acrobats and The American Music Machine

Watching kids do amazing stunts while on roller blades is impressive and cool.  That’s why this show makes the list.  The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats is really well done, full of impressive feats and something everyone could enjoy.  If live music is something your teen enjoys then American Music Machine performs live a cappella takes on both classic and modern songs.  Voices of Liberty are better musically, in my opinion, but they do perform older tunes.

O Canada!

I kind of hate myself for recommending this.  I don’t like the film but it has more jokes than the other World Showcase films.  If your teen is a movie buff then Impressions de France may be more up their alley (it is certainly better) but doesn’t offer the light heartedness O Canada! does.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is a park in transition and may not be worth visiting for the next year or two.  If you decide that it is worth going to, your teen might love you a little more.  While the park is lacking for many of us (myself included), there are some of the best thrills to experience.

Sunset Boulevard is easily the best area for a teen in this park.  The lane down to Hollywood Tower of Terror is the best themed part of the park, which isn’t saying much.  It’s a perfect lead up to the haunted tower looming above.  The area around Echo Lake has some fun theming to it, as well, especially if your teen is in to Star Wars.  Which leads us to…

Star Tours

The beginning of our thrills comes from a trip outside the galaxy.  Star Tours takes you into the Star Wars universe on a crazy chase or mission or something… While I don’t think this will compare to the Star Wars attractions that will be here by the end of the decade in the next five years, I do think it’s a pretty fun attraction.  It’s probably the least of the four attractions I’m about to recommend.

Toy Story Midway Mania

If you have a teen, chances are that they grew up with Toy Story.  That makes adding what is considered more of a kid’s ride to this list an easy choice.  Also, this is a video game and video games are usually geared towards teens.  Don’t tell my wife that.  This attraction is the most fun when you’re with family and friends and you can compare scores.  It can be fun for each generation that you are with.

Rock n’ Roller Coaster

Back to the coasters, and this is the fastest moving one.  If you want thrill, then this is definitely one of the biggest in WDW.  The downside is the ride is about 2 minutes long and usually has long lines but it’s well worth it if your teen loves coasters.

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Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Save the best for last, right?  Tower of Terror is likely the most impressive attraction in Walt Disney World and is sure to wow a teen.  While it scares me, a 25-year old man, most people seem to be able to handle the thrill and enjoy it.  If your teen isn’t buying in and doesn’t seem to be enjoying themselves,  drop them off here and say we’ll pick you up in a few hours.  They’ll have a good time!

With that, we’ve almost completed every single attraction at Hollywood Studios.  Go do Muppet-Vision 3D for me and then ride The Great Movie Ride and call it a day!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom may be the most divisive park in Walt Disney World fans.  It’s critics are very loud and it’s fans aren’t afraid to fire back.  I’m one of the loud supporters as I think Animal Kingdom is full of great detail, the most immersive lands, and some wonderfully unique attractions.  Of course it has its’ faults but I think Animal Kingdom is the 2nd best park in Walt Disney World right now, behind Magic Kingdom.  I also think it has something for everyone, here is where you should start with your teen.

Expedition Everest

Your teen bummed that you’re spending a vacation day at a zoo?  Tell them that it’s Notazu (not a zoo) and take them on the biggest coaster in WDW.  While the yeti is frozen due to a magical strobe light, the ride is still fantastic and the queue is incredibly immersive.  It’s a wonderful ride that pays respect to the park it’s in.

Everest:discovery

Dinosaur

This is another thrill, although not quite as well done as Expedition Everest.  Dinosaur sends you back in time to grab a dino for some research.  The ride uses the same track system as Indiana Jones in Disneyland, although it’s not quite the same experience.  Again, I’m just offering up most of the popular attractions because I think they will be the ones that your teen is most impressed with.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

The most impressive ride there is, as far as scale goes.  If your teen loves animals this will be this will be the holy grail of theme park rides, if not it’s still fun!  This is another attraction that is great for the whole family.

Festival of the Lion King

Festival of the Lion King has a variety show feel with some impressive feats.  There are some childish aspects of the show but the actual acts will impress here.  Just don’t start here, in fact don’t start the day with any show.  Start with the most popular attractions.

Lion King

Tree of Life Awakenings

I’m recommending this show because of the similarities to Celebrate the Magic in Magic Kingdom.  This nighttime projection show is done on Animal Kingdom’s park icon, the Tree of Life.  I haven’t seen it live though so I’m recommending it based off of video and other people’s recommendations.  Because of that I won’t add any other comments until I’ve seen it.

Ranking the Nighttime Shows and Parades for the Unimpressed Teens

dragon

I will leave off Animal Kingdom nighttime shows until Rivers of Light debuts and I get to see it.  On to the rankings…

  1. Wishes (MK) – Wishes is the perfect blend of jaw-dropping and sappy, making even the most cynical person feel joy.  While I do think teen boys are more likely to enjoy Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular more, I think this is a show that everyone will enjoy no matter their interests, gender, or age.  That’s why it gets the top spot, if you missed this show then you’re completely missing out whether with a teen or not.
  2. Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (DHS) – Okay, I’m cheating a bit here.  This show hasn’t actually made its debut but I’m basing this ranking off of the idea, the well received Star Wars fireworks show before this one, and the projection mapping that will appear on the Chinese Theater.  All of this combined will make this fireworks show a must-see.  Star Wars being a big part of pop culture again will most likely make it appeal to teens even more.
  3. Illuminations (Epcot) – After the first two shows on this list, I think there’s a decent sized gap before this one.  Honestly, Illuminations may be a little hit and miss depending on your teen.  It’s different from any other show on this list due to its abstract nature.  I think the fireworks will impress but the actual show (which is great, in my opinion) may not appeal to all teens like Wishes and Star Wars.  If the top 2 choices ranked a 10 on the must-see list (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest), Illuminations would probably come in at about a 7 or 8.  Again, that’s just for teens.  You should go see Illuminations.
  4. Festival of Fantasy Parade (MK) – Parades are so hard to rank.  Allow me to stereotype for a second… Teenage boys seem to despise parades while teenage girls seem to love them.  Quiz your teen on parades before, if you’re leaving parade viewing in their hands.  With all that said, both Magic Kingdom parades offer a little something unique that may appeal to a teen.  Festival of Fantasy has many of the classic Disney characters but with just the right amount of weird to the floats.  While it’s not a perfect parade, it feels a little more artsy than many of its predecessors.
  5. Main Street Electrical Parade (MK) – This parade has a fairly interesting soundtrack that feels old but utilizes little bits of techno music.  It’s different and enough to catch the ear.  Also, everything is better when it’s draped in lights.  America!
  6. Fantasmic! (DHS) – 4, 5, and 6 on this list are interchangeable.  If your teen doesn’t like parades then Fantasmic! ranks far above them.  I ranked it below because I’m always somewhat underwhelmed when watching Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios.  Bringing that back to teens wanting to be impressed, I had to put it in the bottom spot.  There are a few caveats though, most notably if your teen hasn’t seen Fantasmic! in Disneyland then this probably jumps up to number 4 on the list.  If they are fond of stage shows then this makes a similar jump.  Again, I think there is a clear top-3 and then everything else is just a wild guess.

Of course, the parks have much more for teens to do. Make sure to plan in advance and see what attractions you think your teen might be into and then go there. Those were just a few of the attractions and shows that stood out to me. If you have questions about specific attractions then please let me know in the comments and I’d be happy to help.

FoF Croc

The Water Parks

Whether to go to the water parks or not is one of the biggest questions when it comes to a Disney vacation. Is it worth the extra money and do you have the extra time? The water parks can be a blast, it just comes down to a few simple questions involving teens. Most of these are obvious questions – Do they like being in the water? Do they mind that there aren’t many Disney character tie-ins to the water parks?  Would they rather be riding a roller coaster?  Are they confident in how they look to where walking around a water park all day isn’t an issue?  That last one may seem a bit silly but if you’re planning a trip for a teen then you probably know that teens are as self-conscious as you can get.  If they aren’t confident with themselves then that can turn what should be a fun day in the water into a meltdown (pun intended) for the teen.  If all systems are pointing to yes, then I would totally recommend going to at least one of the water parks.  Adding water parks to your Disney vacation does cost extra though, so make sure that you will take advantage of them before buying that feature.

If you decide that you want to go to the water parks, choosing between the two parks may be even slightly more difficult than deciding to go. If your teen loves to swim then they will likely love the water parks. Now, if they get a thrill from swimming and actually being in the water then Typhoon Lagoon might be the place for them. The giant wave pool there is basically one of a kind and is a great place to spend the afternoon. But, if your adventurous teen likes jumping in the pool or has an affinity for slides than Blizzard Beach may be the better choice as it has more slides. In other words, Blizzard Beach has more thrills in the slides, Typhoon Lagoon has more thrills on the swimming side of things.  That wave pool is really incredible.  Of course, you can always go to both water parks.

Both water parks are really fun and will likely be enjoyed by your teen. If you have more than 5 days at Walt Disney World, I’d recommend doing a water park/rest day in the middle of your vacation. Everyone in your family may enjoy a little bit of extra rest and spending a few hours at a water park plus some downtime at your resort is a perfect way to accomplish that. I’ll talk about this more later, but a lot of times the resort pool will be more than enough of a pool to tide your teen over, especially if your vacation is on the shorter side of things. Again, weigh how much your teen loves the water and then decide.

Restaurants

Eating is a big part of Walt Disney World and although that aspect may be more important to adults, teens start to have some strong opinions on food.  Disney World may be the perfect place for a picky eater to try something new, as many of the foreign dishes at WDW are toned down in spice.  This has its drawbacks but it does make it easier for teens that are picky eaters to try something a little more out there. With all that said, I’ll be spending more time on this section in the adult guides.  Still, here are a few recommendations I would make for table-service (sit down) restaurant that a teenager may enjoy.

Via Napoli (Epcot)

Everyone loves pizza!  This is widely considered the best pizza place on Walt Disney World property.  Via Napoli is located in the Italy Pavilion in World Showcase and is a fun place for the family.  The pizza is different (and better) than a pizza chain and they do offer some pastas as well.  It’s a fun meal that is relatively safe.

Boma desserts

Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

Dressed as an African Market Place, Boma is a little less safe than pizza.  This restaurant offers an African buffet to guests.  If that sounds a little frightening, it still has some classics and it’s nice to get to look at the foreign food before putting it on your plate as opposed to reading about it on a menu and then ordering it.  I don’t typically like buffets but Boma does a great job of keep things fresh.  There is such a great variety of food here that even if your teen does get scared off or doesn’t like a dish that there’s plenty of other options to try.

Beaches & Cream Soda Shop (The Beach Club Resort)

This place is a little easier on your wallet than Boma and offers much safer dishes.  Themed like a old-time soda shop, Beaches & Cream offers your basic American Food.  While the entrees are solid, the ice cream and dessert is what really puts this place on the map.

California Grill (Contemporary Resort)

If you’re going to go fancy, California Grill offers good food and jaw-dropping views that will impress any teen.  Many people can say they’ve seen Disney fireworks but not many can say they’ve watched Disney fireworks from on top of Walt Disney World’s oldest hotel.  That’s what this restaurant offers, along with a great steak and some fun desserts.  I will admit that you’re paying for the experience more than the food though.

California Grill steak

Raglan Road (Disney Springs)

Raglan Road is an Irish Pub that has a really fun environment and good food.  The prices aren’t astronomical and there is live entertainment fairly often.  If your teen is more into the loud, exciting places to eat then this is a great spot.  While you may be unsure on Irish food this place offers great dishes and some pretty safe stuff, as well.

There are many more good choices, as well.  If you have questions about a specific restaurant let me know in the comments.  Here are a few quick picks on counter-service restaurants:

Flame Tree Barbecue (AK)
Sunshine Seasons (Epcot)
Contempo Cafe (Contemporary Hotel)

Like the table-service restaurants, there are plenty of good quick-service options at Walt Disney World.  They won’t be as elaborately themed as the sit-down places but some have great detail.  These 3 above are just a few of my favorites that I think would be fun for teenagers.  There are good options at every park (although DHS is a little thin on quality choices) and most resorts.  My best piece of advice in finding a quality counter-service place would be to stay away from the places with generic menu choices.  But, if your teen will eat anything then they probably won’t be too picky here.

Tonga Toast

Resort Amenities 

If staying on-site at Walt Disney World, your resort is likely to have an excellent pool.  The pool might be so excellent that going to a water park isn’t as important.  If a resort’s pool is important to you then take a look at Disney Tourist Blog’s Resort Pool Rankings post.

Resorts also offer walking trails and some areas for sports.  If your teen loves physical activity the on-site hotels will definitely give them room to go out for a jog and will likely have some games.  The hotels also offer movies under the stars, which is a fun thing to do on an off-day but might not appeal to older teenagers.  Make sure to ask your hotel at the front desk what all they offer (or research beforehand) so that you’re aware of what’s at your disposal.

Other Entertainment Options

Disney Springs is a great place for teens who love to shop.  The renovation that they have done for this area was much-needed and has made this a much better area.  There are tons of unique shopping destinations, including World of Disney which is the biggest Disney store you’ll probably ever step foot in.  There are many great food options here, as well.  If you are taking a rest day while at WDW, spending half of it here would be really enjoyable unless your teen absolutely loathes shopping.

For the sporty teens, they might enjoy going out on the lakes around the resorts on a boat or even doing some water sports.  That does cost a pretty penny but if you have disposable income I’ve heard good things about the water sports.  You can find the water sports at the Contemporary Resort, while there are several places to go out on a boat.  There are also some great golf courses and mini golf, as well. Those are things you can do at home but again it’s something fun to do on a night or day you aren’t at the park.

California Grill Fireworks

Walking around different resorts is always interesting to those that have fully bought in to the Disney experience.  Seeing the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge is great.  Watching fireworks from the shore of the Polynesian Resort can be pretty special.  There are all sorts of these little things to do around Walt Disney World and, while they shouldn’t take away from your park time, they can be pretty special moments.

The Boardwalk also offers a few great entertainment options.  In the evening there are some street performers that provide entertainment.  There’s also a few fun shops and restaurants.

Grand Flo

There are certainly even more things to do at Walt Disney World for teens, but this is a start. As I’ve repeated throughout the post, much of what you decide to do comes down to your teenager’s taste. This post will be updated as time goes by to showcase what has been added to Walt Disney World.

I’ll be working on different guides throughout the next few weeks and I’d love some feedback. This post is certainly long, but I was trying to be fairly thorough and didn’t feel as if it should be split in to two. I’m open to suggestions on format and content though. Please let me know what you think (if any of you made it this far, anyway!) in the comments. Thank you for reading!

Top Ten Areas You Don’t Want To Be Stuck In Disney Parks

Disney Parks are places full of immersive details and heart warming moments.  At least they are until your bladder is full and you’re stuck in 95 degree-heat with no idea on where the nearest bathroom is.  Getting stuck in hell (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) is paradise compared to some of the other places you can get stuck in the U.S. Disney Parks.  There in lies the topic of today’s top-ten list.

Of course, this type of post is all in good fun.  I like broccoli, you may find it disgusting; we likely don’t agree on every part of the Disney Parks.  I’ll poke fun at some things that you may like, just don’t take it too seriously.  In the comments you can make fun of things I like and then we’ll be even.

For this post, I’ll try to focus on specific areas instead of general spots.  I may not like Disney’s Hollywood Studios right now but that is too broad for this specific post.  These are areas that I wouldn’t want to be stuck in for more than 10 minutes (or there abouts.)  I’ll be taking into account all 5 senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing, and taste again.  I’ll also consider how well an area handles crowds and heat.  Any questions?  Put your hand down, let’s just get to the list!  These are the places you don’t want to be stuck in the U.S. Disney Parks.

10. It’s a Small World (DL & MK)

Getting stuck on It’s a Small World is a rite of passage for hardcore Disney fans.  For a number of different reasons, people can take a while to get off a boat.  There’s nothing wrong with that but it may cause a severe case of ‘songstuckinheadness’ if you’re behind some of these people.  If you’re stuck sitting in the same room of the ride for 5+ minutes you’ll notice slight chest pain.  Don’t worry, it’s not a heart attack.  It’s simply the many dolls staring holes into your soul.  You’ll escape them momentarily, but you won’t escape them in your nightmares.

Honestly though, I like It’s a Small World and don’t mind getting stuck for a few minutes.  It’s usually nice and cool in there and the song gets stuck in my head no matter if I’m trapped in there or not.  It’s not ideal but definitely not the worst spot on this list.

iasw blog

9. The ‘Brown Path’ in Liberty Square (Magic Kingdom)

Have you ever stepped in dog poop?  It stinks.  Magic Kingdom’s version of stepping in dog poop is walking down a brown path in a wonderfully themed land.  Like nearly everything else, the Disney version is much better.  Liberty Square is a wonderful land and one of my favorite places in Magic Kingdom.  Part of that great theming is that there is a brown path going down the land.  This is to replicate people throwing their waste out into the streets from the top window of their homes, like they did in colonial days.  Now, I have read (and thought I’ve smelled) that this path does have a certain scent to it.  I’ve also heard it’s a crappy scent.  Of course, the scent isn’t as strong as you’ll find in many people’s bathrooms around the country but, depending on who you ask, it does exist.  No one wants to get caught standing in pile of human waste, even if it isn’t actually poop.  Let’s move on before I overuse the bathroom humor.  (Too late maybe?)

8. Big Empty Buildings (Epcot)

Sometimes quizzical theme park fans will walk into buildings without thinking.  Sometimes those buildings are empty and have next to nothing in them except for a bathroom that you saw a sign for outside.  It’s an eerie feeling.  Of course, there isn’t much excuse for getting stuck in here (unless you can’t find the exit.) They are also air-conditioned, and devoid of crowds.  Joy is another thing that they are devoid of and that feeling outlasts the AC.  Wandering through an echo chamber that once housed great attractions is a bummer, and something that is happening all too often in Epcot. Wait, do you see movement? Oh it’s just a meet & greet for a little-known character in one corner of a giant building.  Don’t get your hopes up.  Getting stuck here doesn’t cause panic, it just may lead to Sadness.  She was the character you can see at the meet & greet.

7. Chip N’ Dale Treehouse & Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (Disneyland)

We are nothing if not practical here on Wandering in Disney.  Just check out the hypothetical Questions of the Week and the 2 posts I did on 48 hours in Disney Parks with an unlimited budget and teleportation machine… Anyway, what does Chip N’ Dale’s Treehouse and the submarines in DL have to do with each other?  They’re both in Disneyland, for one.  More importantly for this post, they both are small and somewhat claustrophobic.

Chip N’ Dale’s is a treehouse made for squirrels.  It’s selfish of us humans to think that we should be able to easily fit into their homes.  If for some reason you were to get stuck there, don’t come complaining to us about your neck ache.  Just be thankful that the chipmunks built such a structurally sound treehouse.

Getting stuck on the submarines for a time is a lot more possible than the treehouse.  Like the boats on It’s a Small World, submarines can be difficult to get in and out of for a number of reasons.  That can make the time sitting and waiting in the submarine somewhat unpleasant.  I don’t often get claustrophobic but in these submarines I do.  Unfortunately, it also gets very warm in there.  Otherwise, it’s a pretty interesting attraction.  I just wouldn’t want to get stuck in there for very long.

Voyager submarine monorail nemo_edited-1

6. Leave a Legacy entrance to Epcot

Have you ever seen photos of an old abandoned amusement park?  If Epcot ever became that (it won’t) there is no doubt that the Leave a Legacy entrance would be the creepiest part.  These hunks of metal that inexplicably stick out of the ground remind of a memorial when viewed on their own.  They are also inconvenient, as their isn’t a great way to walk through them.  Since Epcot is supposed to be a look at the future, this is what I picture cemeteries to look like in a century.  Of course, Spaceship Earth right next to this saves the view a little bit and redeems the spot somewhat.  Still, it can be hot and crowded there with a bunch of metal things poking up from the ground.  It’s not ideal.

5. Adventureland Bathrooms & Smoking Areas (DL & MK)

There is a strange memory I have of really not enjoying the bathrooms as you enter Adventureland in DL and Magic Kingdom.  There is a smoking area near that space in Magic Kingdom and maybe it’s just the memory of inhaling smoke that spoils this place for me.  I will say that Disney (and many other places) has done a great job of keeping the smell of smoke down in parks in the last few years.  I used to notice it fairly often but now it’s a bit of an afterthought.  I don’t smoke but I’m curious if anything Disney has done has changed the experience for those who do smoke.  I’m also curious if anyone has experienced these unpleasant Adventureland memories besides me?  Still the smoking area in Magic Kingdom next to the Adventureland bridge makes this a place I don’t want to get stuck.  Plus, it’s hot and often crowded there.  That lands it in the top-5.

Giraffe fence

4. ABC Commissary (DHS)

This place makes the list solely because of the food connected to it.  Sure, ABC Commissary is a decent place to cool off and sit for a few minutes.  The theme is pretty bad, so it basically echoes the big empty building problem that Epcot has except that this place can get fairly crowded at times.  But when you think, “Oh, I might as well have a snack or meal while I sit here” you’re in trouble.  ABC Commissary is my least favorite counter-service spot in a Disney Park because the food is bad and/or uninteresting.  The theme in the building is next to nothing making it a lame spot to sit down and take a load off.  There’s nothing good about being stuck here, you’ll either be bored out of your mind or stuck with bad food.  Probably both! 

3. Waiting to get into Fantasmic! (DHS)

As I’ve already said, I don’t often get claustrophobic.  Usually crowds aren’t an issue to me.  One spot all of that goes to waste though is waiting in line for Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Everyone packs in like sardines on a path leading up to the amphitheater.  Before people can get to their seats, everyone has to wait in a line that has nothing to look at and no source of entertainment.  This is where we learn what life would be like if Disney decided that theming a queue wasn’t important.  It’s bad, hot, and crowded.

In line at A Bug’s Land (DCA)

Most lands based on a single franchise are enticing.  Everyone wants to see the Wizarding World.  Cars Land is beautiful.  There’s some level of intrigue that people want to explore.

“You’ve been shrunk down to the size of a bug and get to explore things that other bugs do.”  Yeah, that’s no good.  I have no affinity for bugs and do not wish to be one.  Here in lies the problem with A Bug’s Land.  There is nothing exciting about being a bug to most people.  The land is also filled with cheap attractions that you could find at a local fair.  That makes standing in line a pain because wasting precious time on a ride that’s back home isn’t ideal at Disney.  It’s also annoying because of heat, crowds and the whole uninteresting land thing.  Don’t get stuck in A Bug’s Land.  No good will come from it.

A Bug's Land

Chester & Hester’s (AK)

Like A Bug’s Land, Chester & Hester’s is just a bad idea.  Located in Animal Kingdom’s DinoLand, Chester & Hester’s is supposed to be a roadside carnival for those who want to tour the dino institute (Dinosaur.)  It’s a decent backstory but think about it logically.  Where else can you visit places with roadside carnivals attractions?  Your local amusement park or fair.  We’ve run into the same problem as A Bug’s Land.

Where Chester & Hester’s really sets itself apart is how ugly it is.  It’s so hot because of the concrete and there not being any shade.  The attractions look thrown together. If I got stuck here for any amount of time, I would always nervously be looking over my shoulder waiting for a clown to pop up with a chainsaw.  Maybe I’ve just watched Zombieland one to many times, but that’s what this place reminds me of.  That’s why it claims the top spot on places you don’t want to be stuck.

Mickey Mouse ears Disneyland Forever_edited-1

Where are some of the places you hate to be stuck in a Disney Park?  Let us know in the comments!

– Andrew