"Disney Dweebs" David Koening and Jim Hill answer your Disney questions
David Koening: Greetings, all! This is David Koenig, author of the world's best-selling theme park book: "Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland," which has just been released in a fancy new special edition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Happiest Place on Earth.
I'll be at answering your Disney-related travel questions for the next half-hour and then infamous Disney blogger Jim Hill will take over.
So, fire away!
Chaska Minnesota: I am getting married for the 1st time at age 48 and we are going to Disneyworld for our honeymoon....I love disney but would like a romantic place for dinner at least once during our stay....it can be on disney property or not....I love themes and atmosphere!
David Koening: Congratulations, Linda!
I'd suggest considering the upstairs French restaurant in Epcot. Assuming the menu looks appealing to you, the place can't be beat for mood and as much intimacy as you could hope for in the middle of a bustling theme park.
I'm sure Jim Hill has a suggestion or two as well. Disney World is for us big kids, too!
New Brunswick, NJ: We are taking a family trip (8 adults and 6 kids - 6months- 5 years) in November. 90 days before the trip I tried to get reservations for the Princess breakfast at Cinderella's castle -- it was sold out in an hour. Any hints about getting reservations to the popular character meals?
David Koening : If you stay at a Disney-owned hotel, you can reserve a "Priority Seating" for Cinderella's Royal Table 100 days in advance instead of 90. If that's not an option, call EXACTLY 90 days in advance, as close as possible to when the phone lines open (7 a.m. EST). As you've seen, they do fill up quickly.
Houston, TX: I'm an adult who LOVES Disney World! As I am getting older though, I am finding I want to add a little more "adult" like activities in my Disney World trip (i.e. spa, adult restaurants on DW property, resorts, etc . . .). Is there any activities or places you would recommend for adults who would like to get away from the kiddies for a while and enjoy adult interaction?
David Koening: Yes, hit the spas! The Grand Floridian and Saratoga Springs resorts, in particular, can meet all your spa'ing needs.
And, of course, there's kiddie-free Pleasure Island, with its fun mix of discos, cantinas, a comedy club, and the very unique Adventurers Club -- a very unique, very Disney yet adult-oriented experience.
Dallas, Oregon: I will be in Orlando for business on Oct. 28 and plan to stay an extra day to enjoy epcot. what are the highlights for an adult, and what area should I try to stay in that can get me to epcot quickly (not car) (and doesn't cost more than $100 per night)? Thanks!
David Koening: There are five fabulous Disney resorts alongside Epcot that allow you to reach the park in minutes either by boat or by foot--The Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin. The bad news: you'll be hard pressed to get a room at any of them for under $100 a night. (Although, since the Swan and Dolphin are actually owned and operated by another company, they do offer some nice discounts if you look hard enough.)
To avoid using a car, you'll have to rely on Disney's transportation system (buses, boats, monorails), which means you must stay on Disney property. The only Disney-owned resorts that retail for less then $100 a night are the economy h(m)otels--The All Stars and the Pop Century. But there are also a half-dozen Hotel Plaza hotels on the edge of the Disney property that also are served by the Disney buses, and most can be booked in your price range.
Chatsworth, CA: David, any chance that you and Jim will work together in the future? I loved the column about the two of you and feel that your styles compliment each other well.
Jim Hill: Jim Hill here. We're actually waiting on David right now. So I thought that I'd jump in and start answering a few questions 'til Mr. Koenig gets here. Actually, in the past, we have talked about collaborating on a book or two. But I'm awfully busy with running JHM and David's still working on his WDW book ... But who knows? It may happen yet.
Pittsburgh, PA: Just curious about the majority of hotels in Disney World and nearby (3-mi. radius), do most hotels offer shuttle service from the airport and back to customers? We don't want to rent a car if it's not necessary. We're retired and don't need the extra expense nor the extra stress of driving if not necessary.
David Koening: Most, but not all, of the really close hotels offer free shuttle service. Make sure you confirm this, however, when you make reservations with an individual hotel.
East Harwich, MA: We're planning to take the grandkids (ages 2-7) to Disney World over Thanksgiving 2006. I know Disney goes into their Christmas theme that weekend, but I've heard there is a special Invitation Only kind of event in the evening. How do we get tickets?
Jim Hill:: There's actually a couple of these. The candlelight procession (which is held over at Epcot) as well as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party. Of these two, Mickey's is the more exclusive event. Which (if you really want to attend) is why I suggest that you contact WDW guest relations ASAP and inquire about tickets.
severna park, md: It appears that to stay at a disney property, there is not a discount available, the way there is with off site lodgings. Can you offer any suggestions about how to get a "deal" on site?
David Koening: Disney doesn't like to offer discounts--or at least loudly advertise the fact. You can get a good price by buying a package deal through AAA, or percentage off rooms if you buy an annual pass (but annual passes are only a good deal if you plan on visiting the parks more than 10 times over a 12-month period).
Better discounts can be had at the on-site hotels owned and operated by other companies--the Swan, Dolphin and Hotel Plaza hotels (Courtyard, Grosvenor, Best Western, Doubletree, Royal Plaza, Buena Vista Palace). Several of these also participate in Priceline.com.
But my best tip of all: Rent "points" to stay at one of the incredible Disney Vacation Club resorts (Beach Club, Boardwalk, Wilderness Lodge, Saratoga Springs, or Old Key West). They're larger than standard hotel rooms, some have separate kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, and even laundry rooms. In addition to selling use in them as part of the DVC point-based timeshare, Disney also rents the rooms out--but at outrageous prices ($700 or so a night for a 1-bedroom, depending on the season). But Disney also allows individual members to rent their points out and book rooms for others, so--depending on time of year and day of week--you can get rooms for under $100 a night. There are a few "DVC point rental" boards out there, such as on www.disboards.com to find someone who wants to rent their points (average price is $10 per point). It takes time, patience and trust, but you'll stay at huge, incredible accommodations, in the heart of the World, for a sharply discounted price.
Sheldon, Iowa: Disney Dweebs,
We are considering a trip to Disney World the first part (5th-10th) of August 2006. We would like to fly and stay on Disney campus. Can you tell us the secret to taking a family of 6 (kids ages, 16, 13, 11 and 7) and staying on property without spending hundreds of dollars per night? I'm told to expect to pay over $600 per night (that was the cheapest) if we are all together. Another option is to get two rooms and divide. What would be the cheapest option and where? Surely there are many families like mine that are faced with this obsticle.
Any insight would be appreciated!
Jim Hill: With a group your size, I might suggest renting one of the cabins over at Fort Wilderness. Admittedly, this resort is kind of remote and transportation can also be a hassle. But -- on the other hand -- you'll be able to fit the whole family into one unit. More to the point, there are lots of kid-friendly activities to be found at Fort Wilderness. So why not give that WDW resort some thought?
Millbrae, CA: We are having a family reunion at Disneyland this October. We will have five kids between the ages of 9 months and 7 years old. Are Fast Passes still available? What about "Stroller" passes for parents who need to take turns watching children? What is the best way to take advantage of the full benefits of these services?
What is the best pricing combo for multiple day passes up to 3 or 4 days? We will staying in a local home.
Jim Hill:Yes, FastPasses are still available. Though the Walt Disney Company seems to have lost a lot of its initial enthusiasm for this virtual queuing system. As for "Stroller" passes ... I think what you're referring to is the Child Swap. Which allows parents dealing with small kids a way to more efficiently move through the lines, deal with waiting, etc. Check with DL Guest Relations for the exact procedure, okay?
san francisco, ca: Along with Disneyland, I, and several of my friends are turning 50 this year. Because I've been to Disneyland on most of it's important birthdays, and because it's my favorite place in the world, I want to celebrate my birthday there. My birthday is December 8, and I would like to be there that day. Does Disney offer any special packages or options for grown up kids celebrating 50th birthdays with the park?
David Koening: Nothing that I know of especially for 50th birthdays. However, I suggest anyone celebrating a birthday at Disneyland to head for City Hall on Main Street and break them the news. You'll get a "It's My Birthday" sticker to wear for the day, which seems to get you extra-friendly service from cast members and an occasional unexpected discount or dessert from restaurants. You also can get a special congratulations phone call from Goofy.
Bronx, NY: What is the best Disney Hotel to stay in for adults only or is there such a thing? Is there a time of year when the Disney Cruise line has less children on board?
David Koening: There are no adult-only Disney resorts, but it does seem that certain ones have a higher percentage of children than others. Lots of kids: All Stars, Pop Century, Boardwalk, Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge. Fewer kids: Dolphin, Swan, Grand Floridian.
Disney Cruises during off-peak weeks (when many children are in school) also seem to have a lower percentage of kids. Just make sure you get the second seating for dinner!
Jonesboro,AR: When is the best time of year for two.....ah, adults, yeah sure!,to go to Disney World??????
David Koening: There's plenty to do all year round for adults. The highest adult-to-kid ratio is probably in October during Epcot's Food & Wine Festival and in the spring during Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival.
And, again, to avoid children, go during off-peak hours.
Gaithersburg, MD: The last (and my first!) time we went to Disney World, we went with my sister-in-law, who has very expensive taste. The trip was fun, but very pricey. Now that our family is even larger, we'd like to plan another trip...but without breaking the bank. The kids' ages range from high school, middle school, elementary school and preschool, so we're limited to dates when they're not in school.
David Koening: Karen, unfortunately there's no such thing as a truly cheap Disney vacation. You certainly can do it on a budget, but it's still Disney. I'd look into the new package deals Disney World has begun to offer, such as through AAA, that include park admission, on-site lodgings, transportation to and from the airport, and (in some cases) all your meals!
There are some decent prices, especially if you're content to stay in one of Disney's economy resorts.
Bethlehem, PA: I am planning to bring my family to Disney in April. We would like to do 10 days and include all of the WDW parks, at least 1 day at Universal and Sea World and take a day trip to Daytona. We want to know what the best passes would be for all parks and where a party of 8 (6 adults and 2 children - 1 is 3 and the other is 12)can stay inside the park where the cost would not be outrageous. One room preferably, but not at the All Star Resorts or Pop Century. One day would be spent at one of the water parks. I am really confused about all of the new "ticket" offerings. Also, understand that there is a new meal plan...is it worth it to use this???
Thanks for your help...S. Karonias
David Koening: Disney's new "Magic Your Way" tickets are improvements financially (although a heckuva lot more complicated) for visitors who want to spend a long time on Disney property. Basically, the more days you spend at Disney parks, the drastically cheaper the price per day. Each day is also a little more expensive if you want to add on a water park or two, want to hop between parks in the same day, and/or want any unused days not to expire. (My family, for example, is buying the 10-day no-expiration pass for a five-day trip next summer, and we'll use the other five days the following summer. It's cheaper than two five-day passes.)
The meal plan can be a great deal, especially if you like three full meals a day. I'd pass if you're content to eat a granola bar for breakfast in your room and other meals on the run.
Lake Placid, Florida: You guys are great! I love Disney as much as you, and visit VERY often! Where do you both live? What is your favorite Disney place to be?
Jim Hill: I actually live 'way out in the woods of New Hampshire. In a teeny tiny town called New Boston. As for my favorite Disney place to be, that would have probably be a tie between the original Disneyland and Disney/MGM Studios. Interesting bit of trivia: The Imagineers modeled the front half of the studio theme (I.E. from the size of its buildings to the distance from its entrance to the Chinese Theater) on the front half of Disneyland (I.E. The Main Street U.S.A. area right up to Sleeping Beauty Castle).
englishtown nj: we have 2 adults ,2 seniors and 2 children between 3 and 6 yrs old. we are going to orland in last week of april 2006 and would like to say inside disney world (fla)we are looking for a place to stay that has a pool.the price we are looking for is mid range
David Koening: All the Disney World resorts have beautiful, well themed pools. The three "middle range" Disney hotels are Caribbean, Coronado and Port Orleans themed.
David Koening: Thanks so much for having me! I've enjoyed being had. If you have additional questions for me, you can find me at MousePlanet.com. Now, here's....Jim!
Appleton, WI: When is the best time to take a Disney Cruise and how/when can we get the best prices?
Jim Hill: Actually, for the very best information on the Disney Cruise Line, you really need to pick up a copy of Jennifer & Dave Marx's excellent book, "The Passporter Field Guide to the Disney Cruise Line." Jennifer & Dave do an excellent job of breaking all that info down (I.E. The best time of years to go, the rooms that you want to try & reserve if you really do want to save a few bucks, etc). The third edition of this book was just published back in May of this year. So the info's still really timely. I'd suggest you pick up a copy today to begin the research phase of your next trip.
St. Louis, MO I would like to know if Disney has any special rates for Disney World for groups of 10-17 people.
Jim Hill: To be honest, I believe that Disney only gives group discounts if the group numbers 25 or more. Soooo ... I don't suppose that you have a few more friends that you could invite on your WDW vacation? Sorry that I couldn't be more helpful, St. Louis.
Grand Rapids, MI: What's the VERY BEST secrets you have on lowest price airfare, hotels and tickets into Disney WORLD? We're talking mega, mega discounts you know of.
Thanks so much guys!
Ron and Paula VanHofwegen
p.s. My husband Ron lived in Pasadena about 35 plus years ago and has visited Disneyland over 40 times!
Jim Hill: To get the lowest price airfare, it obviously helps to hammer down your travel plans months in advance. So that you can then take advantage of any airfare price wars that happen between now and then. If you want deeply discounted hotel rooms at the resort and/or tickets, find out if any of your friends or family know of anyone who actually works at Disney World. Cast members who work at the parks can often book rooms at the resort at low, low prices. They're also occasionally given free tickets to the park. So try a little networking, Paula, and see what happens.
Just so you, we've just done the hand-off here. This is Jim Hill now. The other author of that "Disney Dweebs" article. I'm the webmaster of the website with the not-terribly-humble sounding name, JimHillMedia.com. JHM updates five days a week and we regularly feature stories about all aspects of the Walt Disney Company. With a particular emphasis on the behind-the-scenes stuff at the Mouse House.
I'm also a Pisces who enjoys long walks on the beach and ... That's probably too much information ...
Anyway ... I'll be answering your questions for the rest of today's live chat.
Wellsville Kansas: Is there a better time of the year to travel to Disney World for smaller crowds and cheaper prices? Is it better to stay at one of the Disney resorts to cut out parking and to get in the park earlier?
Jim Hill: The fall still tends to be a fairly good time to visit the WDW resort. The parks are a lot less crowded then, and you do often find discounted packages offered at some of the resorts. But the downside is the theme parks tend to have much shorter operating hours from early September to mid December. Then -- when you factor the weather wild card (EX: Just today, we've got another hurricane bearing down on Florida) -- it can be kind of a crapshoot.
Lakewood, Washington: We are planning a trip to Disneyworld in
April 2006. Where is the best site to look
for a Condo and most direct flight to Orlando
from Seattle. There will be 14 family members ages 17, 20's 40's 50's 77 & 79. Are
there group airfaires?
Jim Hill: Actually, if you're looking to stay on property with a group that size, it might be worth giving the Disney Vacation Club a call to see if one of their larger units was available to rent during that period. Also -- given the airfare wars that are going on now -- there's really no better time to buy your tickets. So my advice is to start shopping NOW.
Nashua N.H.: My wife and I(2 seniors) are heading for Orlando the last week in November.We would like to stop and see Epcot only.I heard there was a parking lot closer than having to walk thru the park to get there.Any info would be greatly appreciated
Jim Hill: I think what you're talking about here is either the parking lots at the Boardwalk and/or the Yacht & Beach resorts. Which are that much closer to Epcot's backdoor (I.E. That theme park's International Gateway. Which is located between the France and U.K. pavilions in World Showcase). Please understand, though, that this entrance is only a shortcut to the World Showcase lagoon area. If you plan on visiting any of the attractions in Epcot's Future World section, you're still in for quite a hike.
Boston, Ma: jim, when are you gonna finish all those wonderful historical series on your site? I love them!
Sonny Wireman Esq.
Jim Hill: Lord knows, I'm trying. But -- what with the day-to-day hassles of keeping JHM updated, sometimes those history series fall by the wayside for a while. But not to worry. I will eventually complete them. Otherwise Cory Mitchell (I.E. JHM's managing editor) will send me to sleep with the fishes.
Auxvasse, Missouri: What is the most practical place to stay on Disney World in Florida? The cheap places sound too cheap all round. Would
be interested in a few more services but don't want to pay a
fortune for them. Have always stayed off Disney in the past
because of this.
Jim Hill: Look, I think the key thing here is to be honest with yourself. Are you going to Disney World to spend 90% of your time in the theme parks? If so, then it doesn't really matter if your on-property room is somewhat small and kind of on the cheap side. A bed's a bed. If -- on the other hand -- you're looking to spend some time by the pool and want a little atmosphere during your on-property vacation, then you should admit that. Then give some semi-serious thought to staying at either the Caribbean Beach and/or Port Orleans. Both of which are mid-range WDW resorts that are long on great theming & design.
San Jose, California: My husband loves D'land at the holidays, and I want to take him this year.
When does the park put up its Christmas decorations?
Jim Hill: Actually, though you'll see some seasonal decorations sneaking up in mid-to-late November, Disneyland doesn't officially begin its "Merriest Place on Earth" celebration 'til Thanksgiving weekend. So if you want to wait to see all the lights & tinsel, I'd wait 'til late November / early December.
Pensacola, FL: Which is the best day of the week to visit the Magic Kingdom? We are traveling to Orlando the week of 01-08 Oct 05. We typically go to the Magic Kingdom on the first day after arrival (Sunday) and have large crowds, but hear people say it wasn't crowded at all yesterday. It seems like whichever park we choose on any given weekday we are in synch with the crowds. Is there a strategy that will expose us to shorter crowds? We are very familiar with Fastpass and rarely wait in lines, but it would be nice to visit on a less crowded day. Thanks.
Jim Hill: Historically, Monday is the most crowded day of the week for the Magic Kingdom. The weekends tend to be the days when Central Florida locals tend to take their family out to that theme park. So -- when you add them in along with all the guests on property -- that's why Saturday & Sunday seem to feel so crowded. So -- to be honest -- if you want to beat the crowds at the Magic Kingdom, I'd make a point of starting my visit to that theme park early on a Tuesday morning. You should virtually have that place to yourself.
Portland, OR: Can you recommend a good place to shop for the best deal to Disneyland in CA? Hotel, air package for 2 adults and 1 junior.We can be flexible as we go into Oct. 2 or 3 days would work as it is a birthdy gift.Thanks
Jim Hill: Have you checked out Mousesavers.com yet? They're a website that continually keeps track of what's going on at the various Disney resorts, with a particular eye toward trying to save folks big bucks on their next trip to see Mickey. I checked this site out earlier today. And -- as I recall -- there was some info in there about a "Get One Night Free" package. So go check it out.
Austin, TX: We are planning a trip to Disney the week of Feb 20. When do we need to book it by. Will WDW be much busier because of President's Day?
Jim Hill: If we're talking about trying to get low airfares, I'd book those now. The airlines are really hurting for passengers at the moment and -- as a result -- there are some ridiculously low prices out there. As for traveling to WDW in February, you need to keep in mind that the Presidents Day weekend is a particularly busy time at Disney World. So plan on encountering crowds as well as paying top dollar for an on-property hotel room.
Paragould, AR: I am planning a family trip to Orlando, Disney and want to know what is the best website to go to for planning AND saving money. This would be for a family of at least 4 to 6 and we want park passes as well. We would like to fly and then not have to rent a car. Not necessarily interested in staying on Disney property as I know it is expensive. As long as we can stay where they offer free transportation to the parks.
Jim Hill: There's actually a couple that I can suggest that you check out: The above mentioned Mousesavers.com. Plus Allearsnet.com and Mouseketrips.com. Each of these websites brings something different to the table. Why don't you give each of them a try and see which seems to be the best fit when it comes to helping you nail down your vacation plans?
Jim Hill: Thanks for all your questions today, folks. I really enjoyed live-chatting with you.
And -- beyond that -- I guess that David & I will see you other Disney Dweebs around the web.