Pet Travel News: A handy app, a Disney resort, and more
Good news for folks who consider their pets part of the family. The Mo's Nose app—based on a children's book series of the same name—is your go-to guide for pet-friendly travel. This GPS-enabled tool helps you sniff out everything from groomers, dog parks, and kennels to hotels that welcome canine guests. Does your pooch have a deep dark secret you can't wait to crack? Oddly enough, you can even search pet psychics across America. Released on August 19, this app is compatible with iPhones and iPod Touch and can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store.
This week also saw the opening of Walt Disney World's Best Friends Pet Care, a 17,000-square-foot luxury pet resort. Just like their owners, pets can stay in a wide range of rooms, from the budget to the swanky. Accommodations start with 32-square-foot indoor rooms and move up to 226-square-foot Very Important Pet suites, which come equipped with televisions and private backyards. Amenities include a nature trail for relaxing walks with owners and a splash-around pool. The property welcomes more than just dogs—it boasts a Kitty City pavilion, as well as boarding areas for birds and small mammals. Hamsters love Mickey, too!
As much as I loved my cat and rabbit growing up, vacation time was a human-only affair. All this talk of pet travel got me wondering: Do Americans really take their pets with them on vacation, or is this a niche market reserved for spoiled pageant dogs and cat ladies?
Let us know—have you ever traveled with a pet? What kind of pet did you take? Where did you go? And did your dog watch television while you were there?
How many rides do you ride on a day at Disney?
The number of rides enjoyed by the average Disney park visitor may seem surprisingly low. So what's the average? Nine rides. In a whole day. Considering that a one-day adult ticket costs $87 and change, and entrance for a child age 3 to 9 is $78.81, this means typical visitors are paying roughly $9 or $10 per ride. A recent New York Times story highlights Disney's secret strategies for shortening the lines at park rides, and these efforts -- which include starting parades to draw park goers into less crowded areas, and sending out a Jack Sparrow actor to amuse folks in line at Pirates of the Caribbean—have sometimes been able to inch the average number of rides to 10 per person per day. Though some Disney enthusiasts enjoy shopping, parades, and other aspects of the experience just as much as the rides, the cost-per-ride ratio still strikes us as pretty excessive. What do you think? Is a three-minute Disney ride worth the equivalent of $9 or $10 a pop? For that matter, if you're an avid Disney visitor, do you tend to hit more or less than 10 rides in a typical day? If so, would you care to offer tips for newbies who are trying to get the most ride-age for their dollars? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Confession of a Disney Cast Member Ask Trip Coach: Walt Disney World Whose Disney World is it? Do you like the idea of a day with no kids at the Disney parks?
Rollercoasters Get 'Super-Sized' for Overweight Theme Park Guests
Are some theme park guests too big to ride rollercoasters safely? For obvious reasons, rollercoaster seat harnesses and straps must fit snugly over riders. That's a problem for riders who are too tall, too broad, or just plain too large to squeeze into the seats and safety equipment. Increasingly, though, adjustments are being made to rollercoasters so that riders of all size can enjoy the thrills. The UK's Daily Mail reports that Thorpe Park, in Surrey, is adding larger seats to its Nemesis Inferno ride, and it plans to introduce seats and harnesses specially designed to accommodate larger guests on other rides as well. Thorpe Park's Mike Vallis told the newspaper: "The reality is that we are super-sizing - and that's a fact we're embracing. Why shouldn't people be comfortable when they are enjoying a day out with their friends or family?" The supersizing of coasters may have made news, but it's not necessarily new. Many rollercoasters in the U.S., in fact, already make special accommodations so that the obese and oversized can ride. Robert Niles, who edits Theme Park Insider and wrote "Confessions of a Disney Cast Member" for Budget Travel, tells USA Today that most roller coasters built in recent years have been designed to somehow allow overweight guests to ride safely and comfortably: "Every new coaster I've seen in the past several years either has special seats or rows for larger riders, or extension options so that the restraints can hold larger riders." This is only smart business: If a large portion of the public is banned from many of a theme park's best rides, fewer people will bother paying the price of admission. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 10 Must-Ride Theme Park Attractions 8 Record-Breaking Theme Park Thrills 5 U.S. Theme Parks Under $50
Is Disney's New Disability Policy Fair?
Remember being outraged at the news that some wealthy vacationers were taking advantage of Disney World and Disneyland's disability program? Back in May, it was revealed that some deep-pocketed parents were ponying up five figures to hire disabled guides to get their kids to the head of the lines at popular Disney attractions. (At the time, Budget Travel responded to the nasty news by offering The Right Way to Cut in Line at Disney World and Other Theme Parks.) This fall, Disney is rolling out a new program intended to continue helping guests with disabilities enjoy the parks, but hopefully limiting the opportunities for abuse. In a statement last week, Meg Crofton, president of Disney's parks and resorts, said, "Unfortunately, our current program for providing access to attractions for Guests with disabilities has been abused and exploited to such an extent that we are no longer able to effectively sustain it in its present form." Back in May, when the "scandal" broke, I pointed out here that Disney's FastPass program already offered great line-skipping access—for free—to any guest who wanted it. Turns out Disney's new program for guests with disabilities is quite similar to its current FastPass program: Guests with disabilities will be issued a Disability Access Card, allowing them to obtain tickets marked with a "return time" when they can enjoy an attraction with a shorter waiting period. TALK TO US! We want to know what you think of Disney's new disability policy. Will it provide guests with disabilities with the same TLC they once had? Or have a few bad apples spoiled the program for everyone?
If you've got young daughters, granddaughters, or nieces in your life, it's a safe bet that you can sing at least one verse of "Let It Go," the super-catchy hit song written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Lopez-Anderson for the smash Walt Disney Pictures animated musical Frozen. "Let It Go" is sung by the film's troubled young queen, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), who is wrestling with how to come to terms with her awesome, but frightening magical powers. The song has become something of an anthem for young girls (including my seven-year-old!) wrestling with their own awesome powers. Frozen is that rare blockbuster that is actually superbly crafted and strikes a legitimate, non-sappy chord with its audience. With zeitgeist like that, could a theme park attraction be far behind? Disney has announced that it will, indeed, build a Frozen attraction at Epcot's Norway Pavilion. As with other movie-based attractions at its parks, guests will be able to re-live scenes from the film, and even "meet" Princess Anna and Queen Elsa in a "royal greeting location." The ride is probably more than a year from completion, but, like Diagon Alley, inspired by the Harry Potter series, it will be preceded by months of fan buzz and the purchase of airline tickets, hotel rooms, and Walt Disney World tickets. We'd love to know: What's YOUR favorite movie-inspired theme park attraction?