By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor







Category — p. News and Changes

Free Dining and Other Disney World Deals

The last two years, Disney World’s most anticipated deal, Free Dining, was released in late April–April 25 in 2016, and April 27 in 2015.

In the hopes that Free Dining will be coming again, maybe even in three weeks or so like the past few years, Kelly B, my friend and the travel agent from Destinations in Florida dedicated to this site, composed the following thoughts to help people understand Disney deals and how to get them!!

Kelly has saved my readers tens of thousands of dollars…so I’d give her thoughts a read!

All About Disney Discounts from Kelly B

What is the most sought after “prize”….Grammy, Oscar, Super Bowl ring…….Nope it’s the coveted and often misunderstood Disney World Vacation Discount.

You’re planning your vacation and see a social media ad, TV commercial, or even get a special discount offer in their mail.  With excitement you get online or call your favorite Travel Agent ( WHAT? You don’t have one!?!?!?!?! Don’t worry, call Kelly B – Destinations in Florida’s designated travel agent for yourfirstvisit.net – at 980-429-4499 or email me at KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com), only to find nothing is available or you only saved $25. How can that be?

Well, I’m here to explain a bit more about Disney Vacation Discounts and how they work. So sit down, put on your Mouse Ears (if you don’t own any yet, don’t worry, you’ll be able to get some on your next vacation), get comfy and learn all about the best way to save on your next magical vacation to Walt Disney World.

Types of Discounts

Let’s take a look at the actual discounts offered.

There are two common kinds of discounts offered when Disney releases a standard promotion – room only discounts and package discounts. What’s the difference?

  • “Room Only” discounts require only booking a room, and do not require any other components (tickets, dining, etc.) to be included (they can be added, but are not required
  • “Package” discounts usually have other components that are needed, most commonly a minimum number of days of park tickets.

We’ll explore “Room-Only” discounts first. These offers are discounts on the previously posted prices for the room portion of your vacation.  Typically, Each level of resort has a different discount. For example

  • Value resorts may have up to 15% off
  • Moderate resorts may have up to 20% off
  • Deluxe resorts and Villas may have up to 25% off

Did you notice anything about these offers?  The words “Up to”. The discounts range in amounts and go “up to” the discount being given with a particular promotion. It also depends on the specific resort, the room category (often these days, the least expensive room types—typically “standard” views in areas of the hotel that are not “rpeferred”—have little availability) and dates.

The other type of discount of discount is the “Package Discount”.

These discounts come in all shapes and sizes, and change from year to year. They include everything from getting a free day of tickets to the coveted FREE Dining deal, which gives you one or another version of the Disney Dining Plan for free. (While one of the best discounts, smaller parties staying in one of the more expensive resorts—like two people in a deluxe—often do better with room only discounts than with free dining).

These package deals usually come with requirements.  There may be a minimum number of nights you must stay, a minimum number of ticket days you must buy, etc.

What, Where, & Why Discounts Available

Now that you know about the kinds of discounts, let’s talk about getting one. One of the biggest misunderstandings about Disney discounts, is that many people believe if a discount is offered for their vacation dates, they will automatically get it.  Unfortunately, this is NOT true.

When you originally book your reservation (and it is always best to book as soon as you can commit at current prices–resort availability goes fast., and if you wait, you could miss out on a favorite resort or the view or room type you were dreaming about), unless you booked a deal you will be booked in a non-discounted room.

Then Disney World starts planning for a discount.  They contact each of the resorts (each run by its own management team, sometime shared across nearby resorts) with the discount information. Disney takes a look at current availability. They decide how many rooms, what room categories, etc. they will release in the discount.

It’s basically booking trends viewed through the lens of supply and demand.

  • If certain rooms (like Little Mermaid standard rooms at Art of Animation) are booking quite well at undiscounted rates own, they aren’t included.
  • If other rooms have a lot of availability (Like Pirate rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort) it’s an easy decision to include them in the discount.
  • Some resorts may have availability for some dates of the discount, but not during other dates, or be excluded entirely—common circumstances at Port Orleans French Quarter

As much as Disney World is a magical place that I’ve come to call my second home, it’s still a business.  And they are in the business not only of making magical family vacations, but doing so at the highest profit that they can. We can believe the discount is created just to sprinkle some pixie dust on our vacations but we need to understand the reality is to fill rooms and draw in more guests. How does Disney do this? They release a discount to fill resorts and rooms that are empty.

How to Get a Discount

There are two ways to obtain a Disney discount, the hard way and the easy way.

The hard way is to book your Disney vacation on your own. Then check every morning to see if a discount came out. Then if you see one has come out, you can try to change it online. Often the system will crash from so many people being on it so you’ll need to call instead. But hold times can be hours long. And I’m all about Disney hold music, but about the 10th time you listen to Heffalumps and Woozles – well every Disney fan has their limits.

What is that EASY way to book a Disney discount I spoke of?  Book through a travel agent that specializes in Disney like me, KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com!

Before the discount is projected to be released, I’ve already booked your reservation, sent you multiple emails (including signing you up for Destinations in Florida’s FREE weekly MOUSE PERKS). I’ve sent you a form to fill out that goes over any changes you’re willing to make to your reservation to get the best discount.  The day of the discount release I am up early (like it’s still dark out that the roosters are still sleeping, early) checking on your reservation online. Looking at your answers to the form, I’ll make changes to your reservation and apply the best discount based on availability. As soon as the phone lines open, I’m in the hold queue waiting to make changes I couldn’t online.

You’ll sleep in, snuggled under the covers, dreaming about enjoying a Dole Whip while you watch the fireworks. No stress. No lost sleep.  Just savings.

And remember, all of my services are FREE.  Free dining planning.  Free FastPass+ planning. Free itinerary planning. Plus, by letting me know you found me on yourfirstvisit.net – I’ll send all qualified Disney vacation packages a FREE copy of Dave’s latest easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Vacation.

Why You Didn’t Get A Discount

When the craziness of Disney Discount Release Day is over, there is still a chance you may not have gotten the discount you were hoping for–wheter you or someone like me was doing the trying.  You’re left wondering what happened. A few different things may have happened:

  • Your resort was not included in the discount
  • Your resort was included in the discount, but your room category was not. You would have had to upgrade into a higher-priced room, and the new price ended up costing more than the discount.
  • Disney puts only some of the rooms in the offered resorts int the deals. Even with all the best planning and work, sometimes there just isn’t enough availability for everyone to get the discount.
  • Because you know it’s best to book as early as possible you did.  BUT since the time you booked, other prices increased. Tickets went up around 10% in February, so if you booked a room and tickets before then, the difference from your discount might be very small or it might actually cost more to add the new discount.
  • Disney only allows one discount per reservation. If you applied a previous discount to your reservation, that discount could be a better savings than the new one—especially if prices have gone up since you applied it.

Don’t give up.  Many guests place reservations on hold that include the discount. If they do not book, that means their discounted room could become available. Disney may release more availability. And sadly (for them) some guests do have to cancel a planned vacation. I know that when I book a client’s vacation, I continually check for the best option.

Some Parting Words On Disney Discounts and Planning Your Vacation

When planning your Disney vacation don’t count on a discount to make your trip affordable. Plan a vacation you can afford, and think of discounts as a cool thing if they happen. Getting a discount is never guaranteed.  Disney has changed options, dates and availability with each new release. If you are sprinkled with pixie dust and do get a discount, that’s great.

Ultimately a trip isn’t about getting a certain discount, or obtaining that hard to get dining reservation. You’ll spend hours planning, working, packing and traveling, creating the “perfect” Disney vacation. And when you return, someone asks your 5 year old what their favorite ride was and they say “the bus”. You just know that mid-afternoon rain shower ruined the day.  But ask your 3 year old what they liked best about Disney World and their answer is “I got to jump in the puddles”. Ask your teenager daughter what she like best about staying in a Polynesian Studio. Was it the gracefulness and beauty of the resort??  Nope “We had TWO bathrooms”.

Ultimately it’s not about how much you spend. Or about what level of resort you stay at.   Enjoy each moment – big and small. Let them ride Dumbo or Expedition Everest 5 times. Stand in line to meet YOUR favorite character. (Doesn’t matter how old or young you are. I do it every time.  Ask Russell). Take pictures. Try something new. Enjoy yourself and your family. Ultimately – It’s about making memories to last a lifetime.  – KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com

April 6, 2017   No Comments

Disney World Discounts for Summer 2017 Released

DISNEY WORLD DEALS FOR SUMMER 2017

This morning, Disney World announced a new room rate deal that covers stays from May 28 through August 31. It needs to be booked by July 14.

Savings range from 10-25% off at the hotels included, and there’s as many as three different discount levels depending on when in the summer you go.

If you book your vacation through partner and friend of this site Kelly B as your travel agent, she will get the best deal for you!! Contact her at Kelly@DestinationsInFlorida.com!

DISNEY VALUE RESORT DEALS

Value resort deals exclude–as usual–Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation.

DISNEY MODERATE RESORT DEALS

Port Orleans French Quarter is excluded from the deal among the moderates, and deals at Riverside are slender.

DISNEY DELUXE RESORT DEALS

All of the Disney deluxes are in the deal, and savings range from 15% of to 25%.

DISNEY DVC RESORT DEALS

Bay Lake Tower and the Villas at the Grand Floridian are excluded from the DVC resorts on offer, as is the new (opening in July) Copper Creek Villas at the Wilderness Lodge. At the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, only Studios are in the deal.

At the rest, saving vary from 15% to 25%.

 

For detailed reviews of every resort hotel  option, see this or get a copy of my book.

For more on the deal that came out today, see this. Or, if you sign with Kelly B as your travel agent, she will figure out the best deal for you!! Contact her Kelly@DestinationsInFlorida.com!

The 2017 easy Guide

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March 27, 2017   2 Comments

March Update to The easy Guide

A few days ago co-author Josh and I published an updated version of our guidebook, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017.

We pride ourselves on writing the best-reviewed, most accurate and most up-to-date Disney World guidebook series ever, and part of keeping it up to date is revising it several times a year.

Our latest revision included more than 60 pages of changes. Key changes are below.

CHAPTER 1: HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

Chapter 1 includes three things: guidance on how to use the book, boiling down our recommendations—especially for first timers–by chapter; and “what’s new” for returning visitors.

The key changes are in “what’s new,” and point out

  • The loss of the evening parade at Magic Kingdom
  • The new show Happily Ever After, which will replace Wishes in May
  • The new evening attractions at Animal Kingdom, and the late May opening there of Pandora: World of Avatar
  • The projected end of the Wilderness Lodge refurb, and the beginnings of major refurbs at Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs
  • The ticket price increase of February 2017

CHAPTER 2: WHY AGE AND HEIGHT MATTER and CHAPTER 3: HOW LONG TO STAY

These two chapters saw only minor changes.

  • In Chapter 2, we added the new rides to open at Pandora: World of Avatar to our summary table about the appropriateness of rides for folk of different ages, and to the ride height restrictions chart table
  • In Chapter 3, we updated some ticket price material

CHAPTER 4: WHEN TO GO

In Chapter 4 we sharpened up material for which dates are now firm—or more firm–including

  • The opening of Pandora May 27
  • The kick-off of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in August and its last day of November 13
  • The possibility that Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will begin August 25

CHAPTER 5: WHERE TO STAY

Most of the changes in Chapter 5 were from or about resort refurbs

  • The opening of the Copper Creek Villas at the Wilderness Lodge in mid-July, and other refurb-related WL items
  • The already-started demolition, construction, and room refurbs at Coronado Springs
  • The beginning-in-May replacement of the food, shopping, and bar at Caribbean Beach with temporary facilities while new constructions launches
  • The refurb at Pop Century that kicked off earlier this month
  • Minor updates on refurbs at the Dolphin and the Yacht Club

CHAPTER 6: HOW TO SPEND YOUR TIME

Chapter 6 is the heart of the book, and saw 22 pages of changes from us—well, actually, almost entirely from Josh.

Just a few highlights of the updates here include:

  • Substantial revisions to the Animal Kingdom guide and cheat sheet, especially the touring plans, principally based on the effects of Rivers of Light on priorities and touring. (Our update for Pandora will come out once it is stable, likely in late June; see both of our sites for FastPass+ and touring plan advice well before then.) The new Animal Kingdom material of course includes an all-new review of Rivers of Light
  • Updates on the changes to the park opening procedures and minor changes to the Epcot touring plans—mostly cleaning up typos
  • In the Hollywood Studios section, updates on the changes to the park opening procedures and more detailed reviews of the two daytime Star Wars shows, and a revised approach to seeing Fantasmic and the Star Wars fireworks. No significant touring plan changes, other than even more emphasis than we already had to keep refreshing for new FastPass+ opportunities.
  • Updates on the changes to the park opening procedures and evening offerings at Magic Kingdom, and minor changes to the Character-Centric Touring Plan, Morning Day 2

CHAPTER 7: WHERE TO EAT

Like Chapter 6, Chapter 7 saw dozens of changes

New or completely redone reviews include

  • Paddlefish
  • Planet Hollywood Observatory
  • Las Ventanas

Other changes included

  • New character breakfast with Rapunzel, Flynn, Ariel and Eric
  • Shift of the characters at Hollywood & Vine at lunch
  • New Dining Plan prices

CHAPTER 8: WHICH TICKETS TO BUY AND HOW MUCH TO BUDGET

Disney raised ticket prices in February 2017, so all our pricing material has been revised. One ticket form is gone, a new one has been added, there’s now a penalty for not buying in advance, and a new expiration policy is in place—we cover all of these.

CHAPTER 9: HOW TO SET EVERYTHING UP AND GET EVERYTHING DONE

In Chapter 9, we made no substantive changes, but rather only cleaned up some awkward wording (the 90,000 other instances of awkward wording in Chapters 1-8 remain).

*  *  *  *  *

The easy Guide is the only Disney World guidebook to offer free updates to the current year edition.
We sent out emails last week to those already on the update list.

To join our list—you’ll get the latest update, plus we’ll do at least one more update to this edition, after Pandora opens (after then, we’ll turn to the 2018 edition)– just follow the instructions below!

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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March 26, 2017   2 Comments

FastPass+ for Pandora: World of Avatar Can Be Booked Beginning March 24

Those staying in a Disney-owned resort or the Swan and Dolphin can begin booking FastPass+ for Pandora: World of Avatar, which opens May 27, on March 24, 2017. (Other guests should be able to book 30 days later.)

Avatar has two new rides, Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage. Only one can be booked each day.  I’ve posted revised Animal Kingdom itineraries for those using my High Crowd Itinerary here.

It’s unclear–today–if other rides will go into the same “only book one per day” of the two Avatar rides.

But my new itineraries have you seeing at the two rope drops several of the likely candidates for such tiering (Kilimanjaro, Everest, DINOSAUR)…and if some other rides for which I indicate FastPass+ (Rivers of Light, Kali River Rapids) go into the “one per day” box, then I’ll revise the revisions!!

The 2017 easy Guide

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March 23, 2017   No Comments

Revised Animal Kingdom Touring Plans Incorporating Pandora: World of Avatar

FastPass+ for Avatar: Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey will become bookable March 24 for those visiting Pandora: World of Avatar after its opening May 27 (and staying in a Disney-owned resort or the Swan or Dolphin).

Revised Animal Kingdom suggested FastPass+ bookings and touring plans for those following my FastPass+ High Crowd Itinerary–which covers arrival dates from May 27 through August 5–are below.

FIRST SUNDAY ANIMAL KINGDOM DAY 1

MORNING PLAN

Book FastPass+ for Na’vi River Journey (10-11a), Finding Nemo: The Musical (noon show), and Rivers of Light (first show)

  • Arrive 40 minutes before open
  • At open, head to and ride Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • See Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
  • See Na’vi River Journey (FastPass+)
  • Have lunch
  • See the noon Finding Nemo: The Musical (FastPass+)
  • See the Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • See the 1.30 Flights of Wonder
  • See it’s Tough to Be a Bug
  • Head back to your hotel for a nap and dinner

EVENING PLAN

  • Be back in the park by at one hour before Rivers of Light
  • See Rivers of Light (FastPass+)—be in the FastPass+ line 30 minutes before show start
  • Explore Tree of Life Awakenings and Pandora: World of Avatar after dark
  • Ride, if you wish, Expedition Everest and/or Kilimanjaro Safaris after dark
  • Head back to your hotel

SECOND SUNDAY ANIMAL KINGDOM DAY 2

Book FastPass+ for Avatar Flight of Passage (9.30-10.30a), Festival of the Lion King (11a show) and Kali River Rapids (11.45a-12.45p or later, given your travel schedule)

  • Arrive 40 minutes before open
  • At open, head to and ride Expedition Everest
  • Ride DINOSAUR
  • Ride Primeval Whirl
  • Ride (if desired) Triceratops Spin
  • Ride Avatar Flight of Passage (FastPass+)
  • See the 11a Festival of the Lion King (FastPass+)
  • Fit more exploring of Avatar: World of Pandora and seeing Maharajah Jungle Trails around your Kali River Rapids FastPass+

The 2017 easy Guide

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March 23, 2017   No Comments

Review: Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

RIVERS OF LIGHT AT DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

Rivers of Light is the new, much anticipated evening show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It opened in mid-February 2017, and I had the chance to see it in early March.

Combining floats, boats, colors, water, lasers, fire, music and song, Rivers of Light is not as dramatic as the evening shows at the other three parks, but much lovelier, and I consider it a must see.

It is currently showing four times a week—Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. On April 8, it shifts to being on every night–at least through the summer–and some evenings will have multiple shows.

Start times vary depending on the time of sunset. Over the next few months and the summer they range from 7.15 to 9.15p. The second show, when available, begins 75 minutes later. A delightful pre-show begins 15 minutes before show start.

It occurs in a lagoon between Expedition Everest and Dinoland.

While there are a few small areas from which you can get off-center views elsewhere in the lagoon, the best views and all seats are in a dedicated amphitheater that Disney has built along the shore here.

The amphitheater seats about 5,000 of the 30,000 people in Animal Kingdom on an average day—a number that will likely go up quite a bit this summer after Pandora: World of Avatar opens.

Half of the amphitheater (on the Expedition Everest side) is dedicated to FastPass+…

And a fair proportion of what’s left goes to those who have booked special Rivers of Light dining packages at Tusker House or Tiffins.

As a result, even on nights with two shows, fewer than 5,000 people will be able to see Rivers of Light via the stand-by line. So FastPass+ or the special Rivers of Light dining package (which guarantees you nice seats on the Dinoland side) will be by far the best choice for most.

Those on a one-day visit to Animal Kingdom—especially after Pandora opens in late May 2017—will be best served by buying the dining package.

This is because you can’t add FastPass+ until after you used all the ones you pre-booked, and you will use your FastPass+ for Rivers of Light so late that little or nothing will be available after it ends.

Those with two days in Animal Kingdom should get a FastPass+ for Rivers of Light.

My co-author Josh has more info on the dining packages for Rivers of Light—plus much better pictures of the show—on his site easyWDW.com here.

The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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March 9, 2017   No Comments