Disney! Help me survive this level of Hell please!

Ok all, with the summer and free money from Uncle George, the family and I are all heading to Disney in a few weeks. Since I haven’t actually seen one of these threads recently I thought I’d ask the Dopers what may be new, broken, not open yet, or any other advice.

A couple of specific questions:

Is there a web site out there that has all the rides listed with height restrictions? I know I can go to the Disney site and click on each and every single ride at each park, but that gets old.

We’re probably going to do the Park-hopper passes, as that gives us the ability to go back and look at Cinderella’s Castle every night (can you tell I have a little girl?). Any suggestions on getting the best deal for my money?

We’re staying off site, so it’s too late to look into Disney properties, unless somone knows a deal or code or something that gets us a great room. There will be 4 adults and two children. Right now we’re in at Homewood Suites for $99 a night. True we need to rent a car, but I’d probably do that anyway. I like having the freedom to go where I want to if the mood strikes.

I’m still on the fence for taking our side-by-side stroller, or just renting one at the park. Any pros or cons to that? I like the one we have, but I’ve been through Orlando airport several times. It’s hectic as all get out, and a double wide stroller may be too big a pain in the rear.

Any other words of advice or suggestions?


Which Disney? California or Orlando?

Sorry, meant to put that. Orlando. I can never keep straight which is Disney World, and which is Disney Land.

Pick up the “Unofficial Guide to ___”, whatever park you’re looking at, at the bookstore. It’s developed with all this sophisticated queueing theory - tells you what to do when so you stand in less lines, and it goes through each ride and discusses things like height rules and if even the line area is scary for kids. Absolutely a necessity, IMHO.

Have you checked out their “value” hotels? They’re on Disney property, but way out, so there’s a bus that comes around to take you to the parks.

At this time of year, rooms are $109…that’s more than your Hilton hotel but with the price of gas and the cost of a rental car, you might end up saving money.

I’ve stayed at these hotels twice and they’re perfectly good. Each one has a pool and a gift shop - perfect for kids :slight_smile:

Park hopper is where it’s at. Young kids may end up hating Epcot and insist on going back to Magic Kingdom. You really have to have that option.
**Rent the stroller at the park! ** It’s more wagon-like in most of the parks and, if someone takes it, you’re only out the tiny deposit (under 5 bucks, which, btw, they give you back in Disney dollars which, in all my visits, I still don’t know what that really is) and you don’t have to schlep. They have singles and doubles and, for slightly older kids, they don’t feel babyish.

I would only ever stay on Disney property personally. I’ve stayed at the Grand Floridian twice, the Contemporary and the Polynesian once each and the Carribean Beach twice. I thought not being on the monorail like I was with those first three hotels would be a pain, but bus service is very reliable. You can use Disney transportation to go park to park even if you aren’t staying on property.

The rides that have a serious height requirement are very much in the minority. Mostly the scary rides have one. You won’t find it for any of the real classics. They also have a system for passing kids off without losing your place in line.

Eat at the buffet in Animal Kingdom. It’s called the Tuskar House and we just loved it this January.

I second this. I haven’t read the books myself, but we recently went with someone who had studied and used their methods religiously and we had a great time with very little waiting. (Except for when we were evacuated from the Pirates of the Caribbean, but that’s another story.)

I second the recommendation of the “Unofficial Guide”. It’s huge, but you can ignore a lot of it (descriptions of on-site and off-site hotels, info on Universal Studios, etc.) Just concentrate on the details of the parks, attractions and tips on how to make the most of your time.

For height requirements, I found this link which, once you enter your kid’s height, will give a list of all the attractions they can ride.

The main reason to take your own stroller, as much of a hassle as that is, is that renting them at the parks has recently become ridiculously expensive —$15.00 for a one day rental of a single or $31.00 for a double, a bit less if you get a length-of-stay rental.

ETA: Take advantage of the Fast Pass system! Some guests think you have to pay extra or stay on-site to use it, but it’s for everyone, and can be a fantastic time-saver.

Have fun!

You may save by staying on the grounds and avoiding parking fees, but check and see if there’s a cost to the shuttle. I stayed at the Shades of Green (on the grounds) a couple months ago and was shocked to learn it was $10 or $15 per adult–don’t recall if that was round trip or not, but does it matter? Parking at the park was free, though, and I had a car, so I went the obvious route.

We also rented a stroller at the park, and I’m pretty sure it was more like $15 vice $5 for a single. They offered nothing upon return of the stroller (and I asked). But I have to say, that money would have been well spent had I flown! But that’s for a single… for a double, I’d be considering checking the thing.

I also recall my wife and I being a bit disappointed at how many rides DID have a height restriction. Our young one was at the time a bit under 2, and we were turned away from two or three rides (and we only tried to get on a handful of rides).

[unrelated] I learned never go to a Disney Park on a weekend day. From now on, it’s weekdays or not at all. Hopefully it won’t be mobbed when you go! [/unrelated]

The most incredibly wonderful thing about staying on property is the ability of the group to split up and go back to the hotel room on different schedules. Sometimes adults (and children :slight_smile: ) need a nap or just a relaxing dip in the pool. Our touring plan usually involves getting up early, enjoying the parks until 11 when they get C R O W D E D, then going back to the hotel, swimming, relaxing, then head back to the parks in the evening. If we had a rental car, everyone would have had to keep to the same schedule. Using Disney transportation, we could come and go at different times.

You might like to check this out: RideMax.com. It does cost a little bit of money, but it’s supposed to be well worth it–you put in all your requirements and it spits out a schedule for you that will take advantage of the best times to ride things and so on. I haven’t used it, but have heard that it’s really helpful to save time and get the most out of the day.

If you like I will ask my wife to write up a responce and post it for you. She is a Disney World Fanatic/Expert. We are headed back again at the end of August.

I was at Disney less than two months ago. Did all four main theme parks in four days (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom).

I believe others have already provided links to online ‘ride height restrictions’ places.

Yes, the Park Hopper will be your best bet IF you really have to back to the MAgic Kingdom to see the Cinderella Castle every night. However, as I think you are already aware, this is a long way from the most cost-efficient way to see the Disney parks. Disney charges a lot extra for the right to visit more than one park per day. Are you aware that there are big, fantastic shows in the evening at three of the parks (at least)? Sure, the evening parade and fireworks in the Magic Kingdom (based around Main Street and the Cinderella Castle) are great. But so is the evening firework-on-the-lake show at EPCOT, and the evening show at Disney Hollywood Studios. Your little girl may think she wants to see the same show in the evening at Magic Kingdom, but she may enjoy these other light and sound shows just as much. If you can arrange things so you only need to visit one park per day, you’ll save a lot of money.

I think staying at one of the Disney resorts/hotels is a good idea. It’s true they may seem more expensive than some of the options outside. However, there are advantages that I believe justify this (and no, I don’t belong to Disney). It makes travelling and transportation a lot easier and more flexible, and it’s all clean, reliable and free. It also means you have some opportunities to get into the parks earlier than outsiders, or stay later. Plus the hotels under the auspices of Disney are damn good hotels. I was staying at one of the cheaper ones (the Swan) and it was truly excellent. If this option still interests you, the simplest way to find the best deal is to call one of the travel agents that deal exclusively with solving Disney accommodation problems and letting them do the work for you.

Stroller… it’s more convenient to use Disney’s, but more expensive. Tough call. Sorry I can’t help.

Send me a PM if you want any more input.

I’m afraid I have to offer **a dissenting opinion about the ‘Unofficial Guide’. **The authors (one of whom posts here) are great, full of good intentions and very helpful in real life. But I bought the book, and didn’t think much of it.

Here’s why I didn’t like the book. For a start, did you know it runs to over 800 pages? It’s not a book, it’s a brick. Fine, people say ‘refer to the bits you find useful and ignore the rest’. This is far easier said than done. I found that the time it took me to wade through the book and try to find the information I wanted was far, far more than the time that the information I was looking for might, hypothetically, save me. In other words, it was like buying a ‘10 dollars off’ coupon for 20 dollars.

I also think the book is very badly written. If I give you three useful pieces of helpful information, I’m helping you. If I bury those pieces of information in the middle of 20,000 other facts you aren’t interested in, I’m not helping you, I’m just adding to whatever problems you started out with.

The book also contains incorrect information. Let’s consider the relatively basic issue of choosing some Disney accommodation and booking it. The book recommends calling a particular phone number within the Disney organisation. This was a wasted phone call for me because you have to enter a lot of data before you can talk to anyone, including which US state you live in. I don’t live in a state, I live in England. The book doesn’t tell you that if you are calling from outside the US this phone call will be redundant. So, thank you Unofficial Guide, I just made a very expensive transatlantic phone call that was no help whatsoever. (The book is on sale in the UK; it does not say it is exclusively for US residents). After this fiasco, the book (and the author, trying to be helpful) referred me to an online site where I could book my accommodation. This didn’t work either, because the site was only for bookings more than two weeks in advance, which ruled me out (no mention of this restriction in the Guide, and no awareness of it from the guy writing the guide who recommended the site, and who knew I was travelling within two weeks).

As a test of ‘information retrievability’, I handed the guide to a very literate and intelligent friend of mine and invited him to look up information on a particular Disney restaurant that we happened to be sitting in at the time. It took over five minutes. This is pathetic for a supposed reference book.

The book is full of information that it doesn’t need to include, very badly organised and poorly written. Its explanation of the Fast Pass system will leave most readers more confused than they were to begin with. It contains countless pages of restaurant reviews, which for most visitors most of the time are pointless since, obviously, you just go to the best of whichever eating places happen to be most convenient for you. It is also full of information that you can pick up more quickly and easily once you are inside the Disney empire itself: just ask any Disney employee or your hotel concierge.

The book is mainly intended to frighten you into thinking that you need a Touring Plan, so that you will go to the Touring Plans website, which is a commercial operation, run by the people who wrote the book. In my experience, this is abject nonsense. I went to all four major theme parks in four days (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney Studios, Animal World). Never bothered with a Touring Plan, never had any problem seeing everything I wanted to see or ride on. Here’s everything you need to know about Touring Plans for free:

  1. The earlier you get there in the morning, the less of a problem you’ll have waiting in line.

  2. Get in early, aim for the headline attractions as fast as you can. If there are any you don’t get on, use the Fast Pass system and come back later.

  3. To state the obvious, if you make more than average effort, you’ll suffer less than average lines. So, when a park first opens, if you walk to one of the headline attractions farthest away from the entrance, you’ll be less prone to a long wait in line than if you aim for one of the nearest ones. Most people, most of the time, take the laziest option. If you work a little harder, you’ll suffer less from long waits.

  4. Er… that’s it.

I also found the Touring Plans website to be bug-ridden (often hanging or only coughing up the secod half of a plan, missing the first) and to be just as bloated and confused in concept as the book.

At every one of the main parks, there are very clear maps available for free everywhere. It’s really easy to pick up a map, aim for one of the headline attractions, and take it from there. You don’t need a Touring Plan, and they won’t really save you any time anyway.

Strollers just got REALLY expensive at the parks. You’ll also pay $11 a day to park that rental car - which might be the difference between offsite and on.

www.mousesavers.com for links to discount tickets (there are no GREAT deals, but there are some better deals that gate price). www.allearsnet for everything else.

I live in Orlando and have been to the various Disney Parks over 30 times in total. I have a yearly pass so it costs me very little to go.

If you would like your own personal doper tour-guide, just shoot me a PM. I’d be delighted to help y’all out.

One thing I’ll recommend right now is to try and see if you can reserve room on the “Keys of the Kingdom” tour. They go underground the Magic Kingdom and show how the park operates. It’s very cool. There are also other tours from what I hear.

Let me offer the following stroller-theft-prevention system. Place a clean diaper in a ziploc bag. Pour some Coke (or your brown soda of choice) into the bag with the diaper. Seal bag. Leave on stroller seat while in the ride. Trust me… It looks repulsive, and no one will touch it. Old Disney-veteran trick.

If you go to Animal Kingdom, I recommend the Dinosaurs ride and the Festival of the Lion King live show. I can’t handle roller coasters, so I have no opinion on Expedition Everest, but it’s supposed to be good. We liked the Kilimanjaro Safari tour and It’s Tough to be a Bug show along with Kali River Rapids (although you’ll get wet during that one).

I think Hollywood Studios is less appealing for kids, but the Star Tours ride and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular were good. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is supposed to be good as well (but again not for me).

At Epcot, our favorite was the GM Test Track ride although Soarin’ was good. And depending on the ages, you may or may not enjoy the World Showcase.

Meeting the characters was fun, especially for the kids since my niece was collecting autographs. The weird thing was that Cinderella’s evil stepsisters were the most fun to meet. (My sister-in-law heard another woman mutter something about how rude they were, not realizing that they were entirely in character.) I think the whole pin-trading thing was a scam, but it might appeal to you. And if you need more opportunities to buy Disney-themed merchandise (as if there aren’t enough in the parks) go to Downtown Disney.

In Epcot, do Soarin’, but get there early and go straight there. The lines are terrible for that ride year round, but in the summer they’re particularly awful. The fastpasses run out pretty early for that one, too.

A good piece of advice is that if you have kids, don’t go to the Magic Kingdom the first day. It’s the most kid-oriented park; if you go there first, your kids will think it’s great but after that, they’ll be comparing the other more adult-oriented parks like Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and they’ll find them a disappointment. If you take the kids to Epcot first, they’ll think it’s great and then when you take them to Magic Kingdom afterwards, they’ll think that’s even better.

Thanks for all the replies suggestions.

From the looks of it, I think we’ll be taking our own stroller. It’s already going to be chaos at the airport, what’s a little more?

I do think that we’re going to wait on the Magic Kingdom for the first few days. Not only because of your advice Nemo, but because Pirates of the Carribean will be closed for the first few days. Plus I’m hoping that maybe the Caspian ride will open a bit early.

Staying on Disney property really isn’t in the works. I see the point about allowing for more freedom to go your own way, but since the kids are 3 and 1, they don’t really have a say in the matter. And if the Grandmothers get tired, they can always just go sit someplace quiet and relax. We all have phones so we can meet up later.

I need to relook at the Fast Pass option. I was watching a TV show the other day and it looked like the rules have changed. The last time we went, you could get a FastPass for a ride, but you couldn’t get another FastPass untill you were within an hour of the first Pass’s time. Is it true that’s changed?

Thanks for the advice ianzin I might check at the library and see if they have a copy then skim and see if I find anything that jumps out at me. Although to be fair, a lot of guidebooks are that way. When we used to travel more, I would end up getting 4 or 5 different books for each location just so I could wade through them all to get a complete picture.

And thank you for the link to the ride restriction site. That helps a lot with pre-planning.

Thanks all, keep 'em coming!

edited to add

Ohh…just remembered another question. Anyone know of good “Let your toddler loose to play” areas? I know there’s a bug sort of thing by the Muppet Show at HollyWood Studios, are there similar places in the other parks? I would like to have at least one place we can take him at each park where he can just sort of roam around and play.