Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Best Times of the Year for a Walt Disney World Visit

Now, as I’ve stated before, I don’t have any kids of my own (just a godson) so when it comes to travel, my DH and I can go pretty much any time of the year...theoretically (DH’s job limits when he can take his vacation due to projects).  And I’ll tell you right up front-the best times of year to head to Walt Disney World are NOT when the kids are out of school.  Because most parents are not willing to take their kiddos out of school for a vacation, families tend to visit WDW during Summer vacation, Thanksgiving break, Winter break and Spring Break-making all of those times of year super busy with huge crowds and horrible lines.

If you have the luxury of being able to travel at any time of the year, here are your top choices for a less crowded, more comfortable Disney vacation:

Fall: mid-September thru mid-November...especially the month of October
As the kids return to school, crowd levels start to drop, and the later into the Fall season it gets, the temperatures start to drop as well.  No, it’s not cold-not even close-but temperatures do start to fall off from the crazy mid-90s that are so common during those crowded summer months.  While September might still see highs reaching up to 90, the average high in October is 84 and in November that drops further to around 78.  Lows are much better as well, falling from the low 70s of the summer to the mid-60s in October and even upper 50s in November.  One of my favorite times of the year is the last couple of weeks in October-cooler temperatures, much lower crowds plus Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is taking place as well as the Epcot Food and Wine Festival so there’s an opportunity to add some extra magic into your vacation!

Winter: First two weeks of December, most of January and the first two weeks of February
The Walt Disney World Resort area cools down even further with highs in the low 70s and lows in the upper 40s to lower 50s in the winter.  Yes, some may think this is a bit chilly for being outdoors in the evening, but it’s a chance to bundle up and cuddle with your sweetie while wandering under the magical lights of Disney.  And with these being some of the drier months of the year, the daytime hours are simply phenomenal with sunshine aplenty and cool breezes without sweating through your clothes.  As far as crowds go, the first couple of weeks in December are pretty nice with low to average crowds.  The later it gets in the month, the more crowded it will get as schools start to let out for their winter breaks.  After the first week in January, crowds go down again and stay low through the first couple of weeks in February.  A really fantastic time of year to go if you can swing it-especially in December while the fantastic holiday decorations are up!

Spring: Late April thru the first three weeks of May
While the weather has started to warm up again, climbing toward the mid- to upper-80s for highs with lows in the mid- to upper-60s, crowds aren’t too bad...though May will be better than April.  Be careful though-rainy season is about to start and sometimes starts to hit a bit early!  A plus for this time of the year? The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival!

With all that said, what times do you absolutely not want to be there?  Most of the summer, particularly the months of June and July, is just stinkin’ hot & humid (can you say 90%+ humidity?  The Florida summer can!) and the crowds are pretty much all over the place.  Especially bad?  The 4th of July and the days surrounding it (but if you are there then, be sure to see the fireworks at Magic Kingdom--totally amazing!).

Another bad time is mid-March through mid-April.  That’s the window for school Spring Breaks and Easter Breaks and since the weather is still pretty nice at WDW then, it’s a popular time for families.

Even more popular and the absolute worst time of year to visit due to wall-to-wall crowds? From about December 22nd thru January 2nd.  Yes, the weather is phenomenal.  Yes, the holiday decorations are sensational.  Yes, there’s holiday parades and lots of fun to be had.  But there will be so many people in the parks, you’ll get hardly anything done.  If you’re just there to soak up the ambience of the season-great.  But if you want to ride the rides, meet the characters and so on--you’re better off picking a different time of year to do it.

While there’s always going to be exceptions with the weather (anyone there January 9, 2010? I did the Disney Half Marathon that day and we had SLEET, snow flurries and very chilly temps--and the next day while clear and sunny, the temps were in the teens and 20s that morning!) and the crowds (you never know when a convention or sports gathering will pop up when you weren’t expecting it), the general guidelines I’ve laid out here are a pretty good gauge for planning your visit dates.  If you are a family and you’re limited by school schedules, try for a Fall Break visit if you have one (NOT Thanksgiving weekend-that’s another crazy busy time!) or as late into August as you can go.

One cool thing about going during an off-peak time of the year?  You’ll most likely be able to score either a discounted room, package or maybe even a free Disney Dining Plan since Disney puts these promotions out to entice people to book during slower times of the year.

Don’t forget-I can help you plan and book your vacation for free!  Check out my website at and use the Get A Quote page to request your free quote.

When’s your favorite time of the year to visit Walt Disney World?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romance on Your Walt Disney World Vacation

It’s not just rides and kids and craziness-yes, you can find romantic spots at Walt Disney World.  Here’s a sampling of ideas for finding romance while vacationing in one of the most magical places on earth...I’ve picked out a few for each area.

Coronado Springs-a sprawling layout with beautiful buildings and landscaping and a 0.9 mile loop trail around Lago Dorado-perfect for a nice long walk together at night around the lake; there’s also hammocks by the beach to share
Polynesian-with it’s lush tropical setting, you can walk along the beach while watching Wishes fireworks
Staying at a Value resort?  Even at Pop Century, you can stroll along the lake down the pathway at night while reading all of the trivia signs.  Pretty much every resort at WDW has pathways that are great for just wandering.

Magic Kingdom-Peter Pan-fly through the air in the night on a ship for two; find an out-of-the-way bench to sit, cuddle and watch the fireworks; Haunted Mansion-cuddle up in your doom buggy for two; how about a nice, slow ride on the Liberty Belle Riverboat?  And if you’re there for the Halloween Party, trick-or-treating together in matching costumes.
Epcot-The Seas-cozy up in a clam-mobile for two for a ride through the dim, underwater world of Nemo and friends; Spaceship Earth-sit back and relax together on your dark journey through Spaceship Earth; and wandering the World Showcase at night is a favorite for many couples.
Hollywood Studios-during the holiday season when the Osbourne Lights are up, stroll hand in hand under the twinkling lights together
Animal Kingdom-meander along the tree-lined paths of Discovery Island hand in hand; check out the hidden trails around the park.  If you’re lucky enough to be at Animal Kingdom after the sun goes down (or at sunset), the entire park is a romantic place to be with all of the trees and low lighting.

Downtown Disney-Fulton’s Crab House-delicious food on a replica riverboat; request a seat by the window, or outside if the weather’s nice (beautiful at night when the boat is all lit up)
Grand Floridian Resort-Victoria & Albert’s-the ultimate in luxury dining-you even have your own maid and butler for the approximately 2 to 2.5 hour meal.  V&A’s is a AAA Five Diamond award recipient and the cost is a reflection of the exceptional evening-anywhere from $135 per person for the main dining room up to $210 per person for the Chef’s Table--which MUST be booked the moment your advance dining reservation window opens if you have even a sliver of hope of eating there.  Oh, and bring your dressy clothes-there is a mandatory dress code (men must wear dinner jackets with dress pants, women a dress or dressy pant suit, no exceptions).  A huge splurge, but if you’re going all-out, V&A’s is certainly a must do.
Epcot-Mexico’s San Angel Inn-try for a table next to the water, then you’ve got the dim lighting, water view plus the volcano in the distance as you dine under the starry sky.
Epcot-Coral Reef Restaurant-try for a table next to the aquarium at a late seating (kids like to wander over to see the fish so a later seating=less kiddies).
Disney's Hollywood Studios-Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at DHS-sharing a seat in your drive-in car in a dimly lit room while watching cheesy B-movie clips in the glow of the dashboard lights...quite romantic indeed!
Magic Kingdom-Dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table-if you can score a table by the window, even better.  For the ultimate "pop the question" evening, Disney even has an engagement package available here.

And more
-How about a horse-drawn carriage ride? They are available at Fort Wilderness and Port Orleans-Riverside and cost $45 for a 25-minute ride...advance reservations are recommended, though you may be able to just walk up and score a ride if a carriage is not already reserved during slower times of the year.
-Walking the Boardwalk at night-the lights, the ambience...and don’t forget the Boardwalk games where you can try and win a prize for your sweetie.  For a nice LONG walk together, after a day at DHS, take the pathway from DHS to the follows along a waterway, then up toward the Epcot resorts and the Boardwalk.  Very romantic at night!
-Taking Disney transportation?  Whenever possible (especially at night), take the boats and sit in the back, outside (if it’s a boat with an inside to it).  A couples’ favorite is the ride from Downtown Disney to Port Orleans-Riverside down the Sassagoula River, again especially at night.
-Did you know Disney has their own florist?  You can have special gifts delivered to your room for your sweetheart!
-There’s always spa treatments for two...time for that couples massage!
-The Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party at the Magic Kingdom-scrumptious desserts laid out in a buffet for this separately-priced ($35.99) event held most nights that the Wishes fireworks display is shown at the Magic Kingdom.  A limited number of tickets are sold (and they sell quickly!) for this intimate party with a prime viewing location for Wishes.
-Feel like splurging?  Try a specialty cruise, whether it’s a fireworks cruise or just to celebrate a special occasion with your sweetie.  You can do these as a group or if you really want to splurge (to the tune of a few hundred dollars), get a boat all to yourselves.  These are available for Wishes (on the Seven Seas Lagoon) or Illuminations.

These are just a sampling of ideas for romance while at Walt Disney World.  All of the parks are wonderful to walk through hand in hand at night when everything is lit up so beautifully.  Be sure to explore those pathways in each park or resort that you think go nowhere-most are quiet and very lightly traveled so you have a good chance of having them to yourselves...and even if they do go nowhere, you’ll probably find a good place to hang out alone for a bit.  And remember-take your time, enjoy your surrounding and just relax-after all, you're at Walt Disney World with your special someone.

What do you like to do for romantic activities while in the World?
Want to plan your own romantic Disney getaway?  Check out my site, where you can get more information on Disney vacations and request a quote!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Traveling to Walt Disney World in the Fall is a great time of year. Temperatures and humidity start to drop (well, at least a bit) making it less of a sweat-fest (especially at night) there’s all sorts of fun events going on. My favorites are The Epcot Food and Wine Festival (which I’ll post about soon) and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom (MNSSHP for short). This year, the Halloween Party is being offered on select nights between 9/11/12 and 11/2/12. On nights the party is held, the Magic Kingdom closes early to regular guests, then from 7pm until midnight opens for party guests to enjoy the festivities. *TIP--as long as you have your MNSSHP ticket with you, they’ll actually start letting you in as early as 4pm!

MNSSHP is a separately ticketed event so it is not included with your regular park admission. Depending on when you go, tickets will cost anywhere from $50.95 plus tax for ages 3-9/$55.95 plus tax for ages 10 and up up to $64.95 (3-9)/$69.95 plus tax (10 and up). The earlier in the season you go, the less expensive it will be...the closer to Halloween, the more expensive. Halloween night itself is the most expensive night and always sells out ahead of time...sometimes quite early! If you buy your tickets in advance, it is cheaper for almost every single date as compared to buying them at the park. I do recommend buying ahead of time as many dates do tend to sell out--there are a limited number of tickets available for each party so the park doesn’t get too crowded. After all, that’s one of the perks-smaller crowds so you can have plenty of time to enjoy all of the rides and entertainment!

So what’s there to do during MNSSHP? In addition to the park being decorated for the occasion, how would you like to trick-or-treat your way all around the Magic Kingdom? Candy stations are set up throughout the park, and they even give you a trick-or-treat bag when you enter the party to collect all your loot! And from my experience, the cast members are pretty generous while filling your bag. Run out of room in your bag? They’ll give you another! And you can go through the stations as many times as you’d like.

There’s also the “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade. The parade is shown twice each night...I would recommend the second one since it’s usually much less crowded--you should be able to easily get a curbside spot for the second showing. Of course the parade is Halloween, all of the characters are dressed in costumes! Be sure to keep an eye out for the grave diggers!

An added bonus...preceding the official parade start (for both showings), the Headless Horseman rides down the parade route! I do lament, though, the early days of the party when he would actually ride through at a gallop. Now he comes through at more of a trot...I’m guessing there must have been some safety issues that came up and so Disney made the change.

Of course, what would a Disney holiday party be without a special fireworks show? The regular Wishes fireworks display is replaced during the party by the Happy HalloWishes fireworks show. If you though Wishes was amazing, well...think again. *Viewing tip-don’t sit directly in front of the castle as it will block some of the fireworks that go off lower in the sky. Try to find a spot toward the right side of the circle that’s in front of the castle instead.

There’s also special music and lighting throughout the park (be sure to check out Main Street later on in the evening), plus lots of character greetings. And since it’s a special party, you’re going to see characters you would not normally see during a typical day at the Magic all seven dwarfs at the same time (a very rare occurrence!), Gaston, Lotso, Jack Sparrow(!). Also, there are dance parties at different locations in the park.

And don’t forget--you CAN dress up in costume, and in fact a large portion of the guests who attend the party do dress up. It does add to the fun!

The big question everyone asks-is it worth it? To me, most definitely! Even for me as an Annual Passholder who lives just a few hours away (so I can pretty much visit whenever I’d like), I love going every year. Lower crowds, unique entertainment just for the Halloween holiday, trick-or-treating through the park, special photo opportunities with seldom-seen characters...for me it’s a no-brainer. If you’re heading to WDW for vacation and looking for something “different” but don’t want to miss any time in the parks, this is a great option. You could even save visiting the Magic Kingdom for just the party and not use a day on your park passes--after all, if you get there at 4pm when they usually start letting party guests in and stay until close, that’s 8 hours of time in the park! Best advice--go during the week if you can--weekend parties are a little more crowded and remember, the closer you get to Halloween, the more crowded the parties get.

Don’t forget, if you’re a DVC member, Annual Passholder, etc--check to see if there are advanced-purchase discounts. They usually do offer them each year for the party.

Additional tips:
-Keep checking the weather report for your planned party day. While it usually is still warm at that time of year, you never could wind up being a bit chilly or hot and humid--so especially if you’re dressing in costume, make sure you are prepared (including a poncho if it looks like rain is a possibility)
-Whatever you plan to do during the day, make sure you take a break in the afternoon to rest and relax so you can enjoy the entire party--the longer you can make it during the party, the more you’ll be able to do (without crazy lines!). I usually sleep in a little, maybe visit one of the other parks for a couple of hours, have lunch and a nap (or maybe some time in the pool), a leisurely dinner and then head to the party
-Eat dinner before you head to the party. While several of the restaurants will be open during, why waste time in them when you’re paying extra for the party?
-If you want to get pictures with the Seven Dwarfs, get in line early---like before 6pm. Their line will probably be over an hour long ALL night as it is almost impossible to find them all together at any other time. Jack Sparrow also has long a long wait, though sometimes late in the party as people start to leave you can get lucky with a shorter line.
-As mentioned before, the second parade will be less crowded--a lot of families, especially those with very young children, will leave after seeing the first parade and fireworks show.

If you do go, don’t forget to bring your camera. Between the decorations, parade and characters, there’s lots of great shots just waiting to be taken. The Disney PhotoPass photographers will be available at the party as well.

And most importantly if you decide to go---HAVE FUN!

Have you ever been to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World? Do you plan on going this year?