DW Dads Best of 2013: My Disney Bucket List

Happy Holidays!

As we wind down 2013, we are taking a look back at some of our most popular articles from the past several months. Over the next couple of weeks, we will re-share these tips and tricks, so our newest fans can check them out, or so those of you who have been with us from the beginning can check them out again!

Today’s article comes from October 29th and it covers what every Disney fan can admit he has: a Disney Bucket List!

This coming weekend (November 1-3) is the first weekend in an often-mentioned, but rarely understood week at Walt Disney World: Jersey Week.

Every year, New Jersey teachers have a conference in early November that takes place during a Thursday and Friday. This offers the families of New Jersey school students a mini-vacation that’s not during a holiday; it’s a perfect time to visit Disney World! Over the years, however, Jersey Week has developed a reputation for being a busier-than-average week to visit the parks.  While it is probably an exaggeration to think that New Jersey visitors alone could effect park crowds all that much, there may be some other contributing factors to this being an out-of-the-ordinary week to visit.  That’s why Jersey Week isn’t a week that I fear going; contrarily, it is item number one on my Disney Bucket List.

Disney Bucket Lists. All Disney fans have them; many contain similar items. Most rely on repeated and frequent trips to Disney World and Disneyland (and, more than likely, other parts of the world). Some items probably rely on more than a sprinkling of pixie dust. Regardless of its contents, a Disney Bucket List offers the regular Disney visitor a focused set of vacation-oriented goals; how many other travel destinations can claim that??

My list includes:

Visit during the first week of November

This year’s Jersey Week happens to fall during the first week of November (it usually does, but doesn’t have to).  But it’s not the “Jersey Week” part of this week that lands it on my list; it is the FIVE Disney special events that take place in a 10-day span!  This is the perfect storm of Disney events. If timed properly, a visitor during the first week of November can accomplish all of the following:

  • Visit the last Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (This year it is taking place on Friday, November 1)
  • Visit the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (November 8)
  • Experience the Epcot Food and Wine Festival (runs until November 11)
  • Visit the Festival of the Masters, an outdoor arts festival at Downtown Disney (November 8-10)
  • Run in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon (November 9)

Whew. For most of us, going this week would help us cross off several of our Bucket List items in one visit!

Four Parks, One Day

There are many online reports from others who attempted this unofficial Disney World game: visit all four parks in one day, making sure to complete a set number of tasks at each park.  These tasks usually include a certain number of attractions and meals.  This seems like a difficult task for those of us with young kids, or those of us who are only in the parks for a regular vacation and would prefer to not spend one of our days running around like a madman.  My hope is that the right trip will come along, and I’ll be able to finally try my hand at this Disney Fanatic’s ritual.

Stay at every Disney World resort/Visit every Disney Park in the World/Go on every type of Disney vacation (cruise, Adventures by Disney, Aulani)

These items are all pretty similar and basically require two things: time and money.  For a while, we weren’t really considering a bucket list when it came time to book the next Disney vacation; we would stay at a resort that fit our budget and that we were familiar and happy with (usually Pop Century); but things have changed.  We have several Disney vacations in mind for the next few years, and if all goes as planned, we’ll be able cross a couple of new resorts off our list.

Club 33/Cinderella Castle Suite/Walt’s Apartment

These are all items that require a little (or a whole bunch) of pixie dust.  Club 33 is an exclusive, members-only restaurant that is in Disneyland.  This one is manageable, since you can get a reservation if you know a member who is willing to help you out,  Walt’s Apartment is located above the Fire Station in Disneyland, and it is actually included in some tours, so this one is also attainable.  The Castle Suite is the ultimate bucket list item.  As of now, Disney claims there is no way for a regular guest to stay in the suite (although, like most things, money talks).  I probably won’t spend a lot of time thinking about this one, but it still deserves a spot on the list.

Be the Mayor of Main Street

OK, world wide web, it’s confession time.

When I retire, I would like to move to Orlando and be the Mayor of Main Street. This is a streetmosphere character who walks around Main Street and greets park guests, shaking hands and taking pictures.  To me, it sounds like the perfect way to spend your golden years.

Photo0357

{sigh}

If there’s one thing a Disney fan can do, it’s dream.

So, what’s on your Disney Bucket List?

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DW Dads Best of 2013: The Importance of Rope Drop

Happy Holidays!

As we wind down 2013, we are taking a look back at some of our most popular articles from the past several months. Over the next couple of weeks, we will re-share these tips and tricks, so our newest fans can check them out, or so those of you who have been with us from the beginning can check them out again!

Today’s article is from September 10, 2013 and it discusses the value of getting to the parks at opening time.  Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, I claimed to offer you the most important packing tip you’ll ever hear.  While that may be true, that tip will probably not have the kind of overall effect on your vacation like today’s tip will.  Today’s tip, though, is not without its detractors.

Rope Drop is Disney-speak for the opening of a park (for most parks, that is 9:00 AM, but it may vary by day and park).  It refers to the act of “dropping the rope” that holds back the morning crowd, something that only sort of happens anymore.

Getting to a Disney Park in time for Rope Drop can seriously increase the amount of time you spend riding and can eliminate some major standing-in-line time. The problem may be that you need to be willing to do something many people just refuse to do when they are on vacation: set your alarm.

First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!
First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!

Here is one example of what you would need to do to get to the park in time for Rope Drop. Of course, depending on where you are staying and how you are getting to the park, your experience may differ slightly.

1. Set your alarm for 6:30.
2. Shower and dress and be out of your room by 7:00.
3. Breakfast at the resort and out to the bus (or other mode of transportation) by 7:30.
4. Arrive to the park entrance by about 8:15.

This can be, admittedly, a lot of work. It can be particularly hard to pull off if you stayed out late the night before or if you have a big family all trying to get out the door by 7ish. If you can do it, however, you will be rewarded. Here are some of the advantages of Rope Drop:

1. Various Opening Shows

The Magic Kingdom has a Welcome Show that everyone should make an effort to see at least once. It takes place on top of the train station and starts about 15 minutes before park opening.  I don’t want to spoil the details, but I will say it is a perfect way to start a Disney day.  Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom also have small opening ceremonies, but none are worth getting out of bed for.  They are not, however, the most important reason to make it to Rope Drop. That would be…

Magic Kingdom Welcome Show
Magic Kingdom Welcome Show

2. Low Crowds

You know how you are sitting there thinking, “OK, but I don’t want to wake up early on vacation.” Well, most people actually on vacation think that too.  So, while they’re sleeping in, those of us who got up early are riding the most popular rides with a fraction of the crowd that will show up by lunchtime.  Don’t get me wrong, the crowd isn’t non-existent, but it really is nothing compared to how crowded it may get later in the day.  Our family has had no problem knocking out every ride in Fantasyland within the first hour in July. To put that into perspective: There is a high likelihood that later in the day, one of those rides (Peter Pan’s Flight) will have a wait of almost an hour by itself.  This same thing can be said for all of the parks.

3. Get the FastPasses you want…for now

While the current FastPass system is still in place, Rope Drop is the only time to get some of the most popular passes.  Toy Story Mania, in Hollywood Studios, can run out of FastPasses by late morning. Get there at Rope Drop, and you’ll be riding with Buzz and Woody by the time the sleepyheads are pulling into the parking lot. The same thing can be said for Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure.

My suggestion is to try it once and see if it is worth it for your family.  Don’t try to get to the park for Rope Drop everyday; there is a good chance you’ll be miserable after a few days of answering the alarm during your vacation.  Then again, it may be a small price to pay to avoid the lines that’ll appear later in the day.

Save an Extra 10% on Every Disney Vacation

Frequent Disney travelers have become accustomed to Disney running regular special offers throughout the year.  With the right amount of planning, patience and luck, most visitors will not need to pay rack rate for their vacation. But, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to save a few extra bucks? Here is a relatively easy way to save an extra 10% on your Disney vacations.

The key to your savings is that you live near a Target store.  One of the items that Target sells by the registers is Disney gift cards; they are usually sold in $50 and $25 amounts.

disneygiftcard

These cards can essentially be used for anything related to Disney, including at the Disney Store, Disney World, Disneyland or Disney Cruise Line.  Since Target technically categorizes these as “entertainment” cards, there are a couple of discounts that can be used to purchase them:

1. Target REDCard 5% Discount

REDcards

 

If you use a Target REDCard on any purchases at Target, you get an automatic 5% discount.  The REDCard is available as both a Debit card and a Credit card, and you can use it as soon as you apply in store for it and are approved. While this 5% discount does NOT apply to Target gift cards, it will apply to the other gift cards (“entertainment” cards) that Target sells, including the Disney cards.

EDITED – Target still allows the 5% discount using a REDCard, but has changed it’s policy regarding the Pharmacy Rewards Coupon, originally posted below.

2. Target Pharmacy Rewards 5% Coupon

hero1

Target runs a Pharmacy Rewards program that offers an additional 5% savings, if you’ve earned it.  To earn the 5%, you must enroll in the program and get 5 prescriptions filled. Once your fifth prescription is filled, you will receive a coupon for 5% off a shopping trip.  This coupon can be combined with the REDCard discount, effectively saving you 10%.

Since the cards are in $50 increments, you will need quite a few to pay off an entire vacation.  While it is certainly possible to purchase thousands of dollars worth of these cards, it may require several trips to Target, which in turn would necessitate several pharmacy reward coupons. So, it is best to give yourself plenty of time to purchase all the cards.  Then, it’s the fun part: paying for your trip with dozens of gift cards.  Disney cast members will sit patiently on the phone with you while you read each gift card number, but here’ s a better idea: let DW Dads book your trip and we can take care of this part for you!

There are certain risks associated with this plan. For example, while you should be able to return the gift cards (as they are considered merchandise), you will have abide by the Target return policy.  If you are outside of the return window, and you have to cancel your Disney trip, you may be stuck with hundreds or thousands of dollars in Disney gift cards.  Some guests have started small, only buying enough gift cards to pay for souvenirs and food.  Even that is a great way to save a little extra money on your next Disney vacation.

My Disney Bucket List

This coming weekend (November 1-3) is the first weekend in an often-mentioned, but rarely understood week at Walt Disney World: Jersey Week.

Every year, New Jersey teachers have a conference in early November that takes place during a Thursday and Friday. This offers the families of New Jersey school students a mini-vacation that’s not during a holiday; it’s a perfect time to visit Disney World! Over the years, however, Jersey Week has developed a reputation for being a busier-than-average week to visit the parks.  While it is probably an exaggeration to think that New Jersey visitors alone could effect park crowds all that much, there may be some other contributing factors to this being an out-of-the-ordinary week to visit.  That’s why Jersey Week isn’t a week that I fear going; contrarily, it is item number one on my Disney Bucket List.

Disney Bucket Lists. All Disney fans have them; many contain similar items. Most rely on repeated and frequent trips to Disney World and Disneyland (and, more than likely, other parts of the world). Some items probably rely on more than a sprinkling of pixie dust. Regardless of its contents, a Disney Bucket List offers the regular Disney visitor a focused set of vacation-oriented goals; how many other travel destinations can claim that??

My list includes:

Visit during the first week of November

This year’s Jersey Week happens to fall during the first week of November (it usually does, but doesn’t have to).  But it’s not the “Jersey Week” part of this week that lands it on my list; it is the FIVE Disney special events that take place in a 10-day span!  This is the perfect storm of Disney events. If timed properly, a visitor during the first week of November can accomplish all of the following:

  • Visit the last Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (This year it is taking place on Friday, November 1)
  • Visit the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (November 8)
  • Experience the Epcot Food and Wine Festival (runs until November 11)
  • Visit the Festival of the Masters, an outdoor arts festival at Downtown Disney (November 8-10)
  • Run in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon (November 9)

Whew. For most of us, going this week would help us cross off several of our Bucket List items in one visit!

Four Parks, One Day

There are many online reports from others who attempted this unofficial Disney World game: visit all four parks in one day, making sure to complete a set number of tasks at each park.  These tasks usually include a certain number of attractions and meals.  This seems like a difficult task for those of us with young kids, or those of us who are only in the parks for a regular vacation and would prefer to not spend one of our days running around like a madman.  My hope is that the right trip will come along, and I’ll be able to finally try my hand at this Disney Fanatic’s ritual.

Stay at every Disney World resort/Visit every Disney Park in the World/Go on every type of Disney vacation (cruise, Adventures by Disney, Aulani)

These items are all pretty similar and basically require two things: time and money.  For a while, we weren’t really considering a bucket list when it came time to book the next Disney vacation; we would stay at a resort that fit our budget and that we were familiar and happy with (usually Pop Century); but things have changed.  We have several Disney vacations in mind for the next few years, and if all goes as planned, we’ll be able cross a couple of new resorts off our list.

Club 33/Cinderella Castle Suite/Walt’s Apartment

These are all items that require a little (or a whole bunch) of pixie dust.  Club 33 is an exclusive, members-only restaurant that is in Disneyland.  This one is manageable, since you can get a reservation if you know a member who is willing to help you out,  Walt’s Apartment is located above the Fire Station in Disneyland, and it is actually included in some tours, so this one is also attainable.  The Castle Suite is the ultimate bucket list item.  As of now, Disney claims there is no way for a regular guest to stay in the suite (although, like most things, money talks).  I probably won’t spend a lot of time thinking about this one, but it still deserves a spot on the list.

Be the Mayor of Main Street

OK, world wide web, it’s confession time.

When I retire, I would like to move to Orlando and be the Mayor of Main Street. This is a streetmosphere character who walks around Main Street and greets park guests, shaking hands and taking pictures.  To me, it sounds like the perfect way to spend your golden years.

Photo0357

{sigh}

If there’s one thing a Disney fan can do, it’s dream.

So, what’s on your Disney Bucket List?

Top 5: Reasons Disney World Veterans Will Love Disneyland

If you’ve spent any considerable amount of time visiting Walt Disney World, the thought has likely crossed your mind of visiting the original Disney Park, Disneyland, in California.  Like others, you may be hesitant to make the trek out West. Maybe it seems too far, maybe it seems too small to be worth the effort, or maybe you are simply too comfortable at Disney World and you don’t want to feel out of your element.

I’m here today to tell you: stop making excuses and start planning your Disneyland trip.  It will be every bit as magical as the Disney World vacations that you cherish. Here are a few reasons Disney World frequent visitors will love Disneyland.

DSC_0715

5. The California Weather

California July weather calls for sweatshirts in the morning (whereas Florida July weather usually calls for an I.V.).

California July weather calls for sweatshirts in the morning (whereas Florida July weather usually calls for an I.V.).

My family usually has to visit the parks in the summer.  Anyone who has visited Florida in the summer knows how hot and uncomfortable it can be.  Even at rope drop, you’re likely to be sweaty and in need of air conditioning. This is not the case in California. When we visited in July, we needed sweatshirts in the morning and evening and just t-shirts during the day.  It is amazing how much energy you have for touring when you’re not being taxed by the heat.

4a. Disneyland Attractions That Are Also in Disney World

They said: "Disney characters in small world? Blasphemy!" But, it's fun and the characters look great.

They said: “Disney characters in small world? Blasphemy!” But, it’s fun and the characters look great.

There are a number of attractions that both coasts share, such as: Pirates, Haunted Mansion, small world, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, and several others.  And these are just the attractions in the Magic Kingdoms.  The thing is, many of these are slightly (or, in some cases, more than slightly) different from their East Coast alternative.  You’ll still prefer the WDW versions of some of these, but at least you’ll be able to be part of the debate of which doppelganger is superior!

4b. Disneyland Attractions That Are Unique To Disneyland

This nice family has taken the matching t-shirt tradition to a new level.

This nice family has taken the matching t-shirt tradition to a new level.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland. There are many attractions that can only be found in California, so why wouldn’t a Disney junkie like you want to experience them all?

4c. Disneyland Attractions That Were Once In Disney World, But Are Gone Now

DSC_0727

I’m talking specifically of one attraction and one land: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Toontown.  Mr. Toad holds a special spot in the hearts of many Disney fans, so it is nice to know you can still experience his Ride somewhere in America.  Toontown in Florida may have never been anyone’s favorite land, but the Disneyland version will illustrate how great that land could have been.

3. California Adventure is Actually Pretty Great

DSC_1069

This was not the case a few years ago, but things have changed since the re-imagining of the park. Buena Vista Street is probably the best “main street” besides Main Street, USA; all of your favorite Disney World rides (Soarin’, Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania – with hardly a wait!) are all within walking distance of one another, and a whole lot of new attractions are there for you to experience.  And The World of Color is about as perfect as fireworks over the castle as a way to end your Disney day.

2. Cars Land

This is really reason enough to want to visit DLR.

This is really reason enough to want to visit DLR.

Even though this one could have been included above, it deserves its own category.  Cars Land is the greatest accomplishment to come out of Walt Disney Imagineering in years.  You’ve heard others say it, so let me echo their thoughts: walking into Cars Land is like walking into the movie, and Radiator Springs Racers may be the perfect Disney attraction.

1. It’s Walt’s Park

DSC_1096

This has become a bit of a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Disneyland is the only park that Walt actually experienced, and that is palpable when you are touring the park.  Furthermore, California Adventure – especially Buena Vista Street – also emphasizes the connection between the man and our happiness. I’m not going to go as far as to say that a trip out west is a pilgrimage for Disney fans, but…

Well, maybe I am saying that.

Disney Touring Tip: The Importance of Rope Drop

A few weeks ago, I claimed to offer you the most important packing tip you’ll ever hear.  While that may be true, that tip will probably not have the kind of overall effect on your vacation like today’s tip will.  Today’s tip, though, is not without its detractors.

Rope Drop is Disney-speak for the opening of a park (for most parks, that is 9:00 AM, but it may vary by day and park).  It refers to the act of “dropping the rope” that holds back the morning crowd, something that only sort of happens anymore.

Getting to a Disney Park in time for Rope Drop can seriously increase the amount of time you spend riding and can eliminate some major standing-in-line time. The problem may be that you need to be willing to do something many people just refuse to do when they are on vacation: set your alarm.

First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!

First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!

Here is one example of what you would need to do to get to the park in time for Rope Drop. Of course, depending on where you are staying and how you are getting to the park, your experience may differ slightly.

1. Set your alarm for 6:30.
2. Shower and dress and be out of your room by 7:00.
3. Breakfast at the resort and out to the bus (or other mode of transportation) by 7:30.
4. Arrive to the park entrance by about 8:15.

This can be, admittedly, a lot of work. It can be particularly hard to pull off if you stayed out late the night before or if you have a big family all trying to get out the door by 7ish. If you can do it, however, you will be rewarded. Here are some of the advantages of Rope Drop:

1. Various Opening Shows

The Magic Kingdom has a Welcome Show that everyone should make an effort to see at least once. It takes place on top of the train station and starts about 15 minutes before park opening.  I don’t want to spoil the details, but I will say it is a perfect way to start a Disney day.  Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom also have small opening ceremonies, but none are worth getting out of bed for.  They are not, however, the most important reason to make it to Rope Drop. That would be…

Magic Kingdom Welcome Show

Magic Kingdom Welcome Show

2. Low Crowds

You know how you are sitting there thinking, “OK, but I don’t want to wake up early on vacation.” Well, most people actually on vacation think that too.  So, while they’re sleeping in, those of us who got up early are riding the most popular rides with a fraction of the crowd that will show up by lunchtime.  Don’t get me wrong, the crowd isn’t non-existent, but it really is nothing compared to how crowded it may get later in the day.  Our family has had no problem knocking out every ride in Fantasyland within the first hour in July. To put that into perspective: There is a high likelihood that later in the day, one of those rides (Peter Pan’s Flight) will have a wait of almost an hour by itself.  This same thing can be said for all of the parks.

3. Get the FastPasses you want…for now

While the current FastPass system is still in place, Rope Drop is the only time to get some of the most popular passes.  Toy Story Mania, in Hollywood Studios, can run out of FastPasses by late morning. Get there at Rope Drop, and you’ll be riding with Buzz and Woody by the time the sleepyheads are pulling into the parking lot. The same thing can be said for Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure.

My suggestion is to try it once and see if it is worth it for your family.  Don’t try to get to the park for Rope Drop everyday; there is a good chance you’ll be miserable after a few days of answering the alarm during your vacation.  Then again, it may be a small price to pay to avoid the lines that’ll appear later in the day.

Insider Tips: Making Soarin’ Even More Magical

You are probably already a hero in the eyes of your child or grandchild, and taking them to Disney World just adds to that status.  In this series, we will give you a few insider tips and tricks that we have learned from our Disney friends. These will instantly increase your hero status and add to the magic of Disney attractions for your little ones.   Some of these tips require some planning prior to your trip and, depending on the child’s age, may be difficult to pull off, but the magic you will create for your child will be well worth it.

Catch a Golf Ball – Soarin’ (EPCOT and California Adventure)

Before your trip:  Obtain a white golf ball (1 for each time you intend to pull this off) and fill in three of the dimples with a black marker to make a Mickey head in the ball like this —V1241431_10151692258452912_1672996461_n

In the park: Make sure the ball is in your pocket (cargo shorts are great for this) as you board the ride.  When the ride is in progress, make sure you have the ball palmed in your hand (just after the hang glider is your cue) and when the golf ball flies past, (8:23 mark of the video below) reach up “catch” the ball.  The second time around I had to be even more convincing so I shouted – “I caught it again.”  After the ride is over, hand the ball to the child and the rest takes care of itself.  It was even magical for other kids who asked my son to see the ball and he explained how he got it.   To this day he still asks to see the “golf ball Daddy caught” whenever we are talking about rides in Disney.

IMG_1096

For months Jack said the ride where Daddy caught the golf ball was his favorite ride and to this day, I still have “rock star” status for catching this golf ball.