My Disney Experience: The FastPass Selection Process

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My Magic +

My Magic +

Guests staying onsite at a Walt Disney World Resort are now wearing bracelets called MagicBands that act like a room key, theme park tickets and dining passes ( if you have added dining plans to your stay). We officially hit the 60 day mark of our Disney vacation countdown the other day, which meant that it was time to select the FastPasses that will be added to our MagicBands.

If you are unfamiliar with FastPasses; they are a way to schedule a ride, character meet and greet or a live show time so you do not have to wait in a lengthy queue. Guests arrive at a designated time (an hour increment) and wait in a much shorter line or get priority viewing at a nighttime spectacular…thus freeing up more of your day.

The new MagicBand technology allows guests to add FastPasses to the bracelet…so no more walking around with paper passes that could get lost in your backpack. Gone are the days of running to a FastPass kiosk in the morning to score those coveted gems. Guests are now scanning their MagicBands at the rides and experiences during their FastPass timeslots.

How does the new process work?

On your 60 day mark (or shortly thereafter), log on to the My Disney Experience site. Under the “Plan and Manage” section, select “FastPass+”.

You will select your vacation dates, park you will be attending each day and make your ride selections. Disney also asks you to list the priority for each ride, in order of most important to the least important to you. There is a limit of 3 FastPasses per day.

The Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom group their selections into one category from which you make your selections. Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot have separate categories since some of the rides in the parks are significantly more popular.

Here is the current breakdown of the selections for each park. They are subject to change as the FastPass process progresses.

Magic Kingdom

Select 3 from this group:

  • It’s a Small World
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyears’ Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Ariel Meet and Greet
  • Cinderella Meet and Greet
  • Mickey Mouse Town Square Meet and Greet
  • Rapunzel Meet and Greet
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain (currently closed for refurbishment)
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Under the Sea- Journey of The Little Mermaid

Epcot

Select 1 from this group:

  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth
  • Maelstrom
  • Epcot Character Spot Disney Pals Meet and Greet
  • Soarin’
  • Test Track Presented by Chevrolet

Select 2 from this group:

  • Captain EO
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Spaceship Earth
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Select 1 from this group:

  • Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic!
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!

Select 2 from this group:

  • Disney Junior- Live on Stage
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
  • MuppetVision 3D
  • Star Tours
  • The American Idol Experience
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Select 3 from this group:

  • Dinosaur
  • Expedition Everest
  • Finding Nemo- The Musical
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Disney Pals Adventurers Outpost Meet and Greet
  • Primeval Whirl

 

The system will give you several Fastpass options and will specify if there is a conflict with a dining reservation. Once you make your selections, the FastPass times will be added to your daily itinerary. Guests must manually make selections for each day of their trip.

If you wish to change the times of your FastPasses, you can easily go into the itinerary and make the corrections. The system will even allow you to choose a timeframe if you ask to see all of the available timeslots.

Are there any drawbacks?

While selecting our FastPasses, I noticed that the system tended to plan most of the passes for the morning hours. When vacationing, we really like to take our time leaving the hotel and are not at the park as soon as it opens. There were several occasions when it gave us evening hours; however some of the times conflicted with our dinner reservations. Disney should consider allowing guests to select the times that work for them, prior to offering choices of timeslots.

After choosing the FastPasses, I continued to get a “Server is Busy” screen during every selection. It said that the system was down and suggested to try again later. Upon checking the itinerary, the FastPasses were indeed scheduled, so this is obviously a glitch they need to fix.

This new system does not take into account if the guest is park hopping between two or more parks a day. Your FastPasses can only be scheduled for one park per day.

With the introduction of any new process, snags and issues are to be expected.  While I encountered several situations that will surely require some adjusting, overall the process will simplify our days in the parks.  It will be nice to be able to use the My Disney Experience app on our phones to view our daily itinerary and note the FastPass times, rather than relying on my paper lists of the past.  While spontaneity is lost with this process, it will be nice to know we won’t be standing in hour long lines for our favorite rides.

Do you think this process will make your vacation more magical? Do you like being able to schedule FastPasses before your trip?

 

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Disney Surprise!

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Let's Go!

Let’s Go!


Many of us have probably seen the videos online of the elaborate ways that parents tell their children that they are going on a Walt Disney World vacation. Some tape their child’s reaction as they reach that famous entry gate, others plan for a magical reveal at home. Surprise vacation announcements can be a fun part of your Disney Vacation planning process.

Here are some of my suggestions for a Magical Disney Vacation Announcement:

  • Have a “Foods That Are Shaped Like Mickey” dinner theme. Arrange your dinner foods in the iconic Mickey ears shape and listen to Disney tunes as you dine. For dessert, bring out a cake with writing that announces your upcoming trip.
  • Pick up your children from their activities or school with a car sign that reads, “We are going to Disney World!”
  • Write and mail an invitation to Walt Disney World from your child’s favorite Disney character.
  • Plan a treasure hunt in your backyard. Make a map with instructions and hide clues that will eventually communicate the big news.
  • On a dry erase board, reveal one word a day;
    Monday “We”
    Tuesday “are”
    Wednesday “going”
    Thursday “to”
    Friday “Disney!”
  • Order some personalized Mickey ears or customized t-shirt and leave them on the dining room table for a Good Morning surprise!
  • If you want to make your announcement on the day of your trip, lay out a Disney Princess dress or pirate outfit and explain the occasion for the fancy dress up.

You can even plan your vacation announcements around birthdays, holidays and special family events. However you decide to make your announcement, be sure to capture the moment on video so that you can enjoy it for years to come!

Have you ever surprised your family with a magical vacation announcement?

Happy Birthday, Mickey

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Happy Birthday Mickey

It was on this day in 1928 that “Steamboat Willie ” was released and starred our favorite cartoon mouse.  This seven minute Walt Disney masterpiece was the first cartoon with a synchronized soundtrack; making it a pioneer in the movie industry. Although “Steamboat Willie” was not Mickey’s first short film appearance, it is considered to be his film debut since the other shorts were not widely distributed.

I want to wish Mickey a very Happy 85th Birthday! Hoping that Minnie and the rest of the Disney crew have something fun planned for him today!

Free Customized Disney Park Maps

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Plan your Disney Day with your free customized map. Source: Disney.go.com

Plan your Disney Day with your free customized map.
Source: Disney.go.com

Did you know the Disney website has a fantastic mapping tool that helps with planning your days at the Walt Disney World Resort parks?

Knowing the layouts of each park is essential to ensure that you are getting the most out of each day of your Disney vacation. You can decide in advance which rides and experiences are right for you and your family and get to your selected dining experiences on time. By using Disney’s customized mapping tool, you are able to familiarize your family with the parks before you leave for your trip and get an incredible memento for free!

How does it work?

Click here to go to the Walt Disney World customized maps site and select Let’s Get Started. You will be asked to log in to your Disney account. If you do not have one, simply follow the instructions to set up a free account.

From there you will be given the option to select the ages of the members of your family for suggestions on age appropriate activities. Choose the rides and experiences that interest you and continue to follow the directions to highlight the places that you wish to visit. You will make these selections for each park and customize your trip.

At the end of your map planning session, you will be given the option to decide the theme of your maps; with the options being a classic fairytale style or a character theme. You can choose to have the maps mailed to your home, or print them out on your personal printer. The maps mailed from Disney are printed on a high quality paper and make a great scrapbook addition or could be framed when you return from your trip!  Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery if you select this option.

Once you receive your maps, review the layouts of each park and note the locations of restroom facilities, restaurants, rides and shows. We generally take our maps along with us on the trip to review before we leave the hotel room. Once we are in the parks, we reference the MyDisneyExperience app to locate everything we wish to see that day.

Knowing the layout of the parks can save a lot of time and get you to your destinations faster than you can say, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

Do you use the customized maps for your Disney vacations?

Cinderella’s Castle Holiday Ornament

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Cinderella's Castle Ornament

Are you looking for the perfect gift for your favorite Disney fan? Want to add some Disney magic to your holiday display? You may want to run…and I mean RUN….to your local Hallmark store and pick up the new Cinderella’s Castle ornament.

This little beauty is a model size of the iconic castle at Walt Disney World. Press the button on the side and, “When You Wish Upon a Star” plays while fireworks light up the background.

I am really impressed with this ornament…so much so…that I cannot stop pressing the button.  The sound quality is incredible and the fireworks are really something else.  This will delight any Disney fan, no matter their age!

The ornament retails for $24.95 and can be found in Hallmark retail stores. Unfortunately they are not available online though the Hallmark website. Be sure to call your local Hallmark store to make sure that it is still in stock. You can locate the closest Hallmark retailer by clicking here.

If you want to see the ornament in action, take a look at this YouTube clip:

Disney Firsts

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Do you remember the first time you saw the castle? Photo Credit: Julie K.

Do you remember the first time you saw the castle?
Photo Credit: Julie K.


We can all probably think back and remember the feeling of our first Disney vacation. The moment we entered the gates, stepped on to Main Street, U.S.A. and caught a glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle in person. That iconic scene that we viewed countless times on television was right there before us!

Disney Firsts are moments that we can remember for a lifetime and make great photo opportunities.

My suggestion to Disney travelers is to space out your Disney Firsts. Don’t try to do them in one vacation, but plan your firsts over several trips to get the most out of the wow factor. Too many “wows” in one trip can be magic overload; so plan accordingly.

Here are my suggestions for some Magic Kingdom Disney Firsts for your next trip:

1. First Ear Hat– This is a milestone for any fan of Disney. Getting your first ear hat is equal to officially joining the club. There are several locations to purchase personalized Mickey ears in the parks. My personal favorite is Sir Mickey’s in Fantasyland; however, I am only partial to this location because the store can be found in the shadow of Cinderella’s castle.

2. First Haircut– If you have a little one who is due for their first haircut, consider making an appointment at the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, U.S.A. Cast members make this experience incredibly memorable by presenting your little one with a certificate and ear hat to mark the occasion! The first haircut package is currently $18. Call 407-WDW-DINE to make your appointment.

3. First Character Experience– Does your first time WDW traveler have a Disney favorite? Character meet and greets can be found in all the parks and photographers are on hand to catch those special moments. Plan accordingly because the wait times for the popular characters can be long during peak park days.

4. First Mickey’s Premium Bar– This Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream is one of the most sought-after food items in the parks. Purchase one and get that camera ready (and some wet naps) because this magical moment can get messy.

5. First Rides On Dumbo and Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel (formerly Cinderella’s Golden Carousel) – These rides appear on many Disney ads because they are some of the most family-friendly experiences in the parks. One member of your party can be appointed the official photographer to capture the smiles and giggles of the first timer!

Are there any other Magic Kingdom Firsts that you recommend?

The Jungle Cruise Gets Into The Holiday Spirit

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Backside Ornament1

The Disney Parks Blog announced yesterday that the Jungle Cruise will get a makeover for the holiday season. The beloved Adventureland classic will have a new storyline featuring Skippers who are missing being home for the holidays. In an effort to cure those home-sick feelings, the Skippers will decorate the boathouse, rename their cruise vessels and bring some holiday cheer in the form of jokes…..oh, those infamous Jungle Cruise jokes!

This new holiday-themed cruise sets sail at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in early November and is sure to become an instant classic.

Will you be going “cruising” for the holidays?

Holiday Shopping at Walt Disney World

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Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

There is nothing like spending the holiday season at the Disney Parks. The decorations, the music and the SHOPPING! Speaking of shopping…if you are traveling to the Walt Disney World resort prior the holidays, it’s the perfect opportunity to get all of your shopping done for everyone on your list.

Create a Shopping Plan

Just like Santa, you will want to make a list of all the people who you are shopping for and come up with a plan. Make sure to decide in advance a general idea of what you are purchasing, so you are not spending your entire vacation in the retail stores. Also keep in mind that if you are flying, you will want to purchase items that pack and travel well without taking up a lot of space in your bags.

Disney’s website has a search tool for finding the stores that sell the items on your list. Simply type in the item that you are looking for and all of the stores that carry the item will be listed.

Here are some ideas of simple and easy gifts for everyone on your list:

Ornaments

Every one could use one more ornament on the tree, right? This is an item that receivers can use year after year. They are both inexpensive and travel very well, so they are the perfect gift for anyone on your list!

Disney has entire walls dedicated to Christmas decorations in several stores as well as specialty Christmas shops in two locations; Disney’s Days of Christmas in Downtown Disney and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom.

T-Shirts

T-shirts can be found in many stores in the parks. When deciding to buy shirts or any type of clothing, be sure to check on sizes and ask recipients about their favorite Disney characters before your trip. This will simplify your shopping and cut down on those calls back home.

Jewelry

Disney trading pins make excellent gifts for the collectors in your life, and they are really portable. Retail locations throughout the resort also offer necklaces, rings and bracelets adorned with your Disney favorites. Add a little Disney “bling” to someone’s life!

Toys

There are thousands of toy options to choose from at Disney; from light up swords to Legos, you are sure to find the perfect gift. Stuffed animals are wonderful presents and knowing that they came from the resort, makes them even more special.

Mugs

One of the easiest and most cost-effective gifts is a Disney-themed coffee mug. They come in all shapes and sizes and are adorned with almost every Disney character. They are portable and make the packing process a breeze.

Global Treasures

For the world-traveler in your life; think about visiting the shops within the World Showcase at Epcot. Items from each highlighted country can be found in their resident shops. You will find jewelry, art, housewares and even apparel items that are specific to each country. Plan on at least an afternoon exploring each country and their corresponding retail shops.

What About All Those Bags?

While staying on the Disney property, there is an option to have your purchases sent back to your hotel room, so you aren’t walking around the parks lugging bags. If you are staying at an off-site resort, purchases can be sent to a location at the front entrance of the park. You can pick up your merchandise when you leave at the end of the day.

“The Deals”

If you want to go offsite during your stay, the local Orlando outlets can be a nice place to visit for some deals. The Character Warehouse is Disney’s outlet shop and offers some discounts on clothing, accessories and toys. The stores can be found in one of two Orlando Premium Outlets; International Drive near Universal Studios and Downtown Disney. Something to consider: If you have a car, this may be a way to save some money on merchandise, but when taking a taxi or paying for a shuttle, the cost of the trip may outweigh your savings.

The Disney Store

Souvenir shopping can be effortless if you wish to purchase items before you leave for your Disney vacation. Select Disney Parks Products can be found on the Disney Store.com website. Sales on the site occur often and free shipping options are available for purchases of $75 or more. Have the items shipped to your home and save them for your return. This could save a lot of time in searching for those perfect gifts in the parks.

To “Wrap” This Up

Planning ahead for your Disney souvenir shopping could potentially save a lot of time and money…and allow more time for magical memories.

Do you plan to do your holiday shopping at Disney? Have any tips or tricks?

The Magic Kingdom Rope Drop

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Good morning, good morning, to you!

Good morning, good morning, to you!

Every morning prior to opening the Magic Kingdom, a rope drop ceremony occurs to welcome guests.  Ten to fifteen minutes before the scheduled park opening, the Magic Kingdom presents a fun music-filled celebration.  The “Good Morning” song made famous by the film, “Singing in the Rain,” is played as cast members acknowledge your arrival at the park.

The star of the show is the Magic Kingdom steam-train that pulls into the Main Street U.S.A. station with some of your favorite Disney characters. Guests are asked to count down from 10 to open the park. This is truly a must-see experience for any family and allows you to get into the park right at opening. It is a great opportunity to run to your favorite ride or grab some FastPasses!

Tip:

Make sure to get to the park entrance at least 30 minutes in advance. Plan your timing according to which method of transportation you use; both boats and monorails are available from the Ticket and Transportation Center. If you are staying onsite, you will want to leave at least an hour ahead of your expected arrival since the rope drop is a popular show.

For a glimpse of what to expect click on this link to go to a Youtube clip submitted by DVCRental.

Will you plan to attend the rope drop the next time you go to Walt Disney World?