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 — zzz. Stuff No One Cares About but Me

Testimonials and Puffery

Since it opened, this site has helped more than 10 million people. Among the reactions:

  • “This site is astonishingly helpful…Highly recommended!” –Lee Cockerell, Former Executive Vice President, Operations, Walt Disney World® Resort, and author of Creating Magic
  • “The premier website for first time visitors to Walt Disney World!” –Steve Bell, webmaster, MilitaryDisneyTips.com
  • “The most valuable Disney World site on the web!”—Lee
  • “This website is a staggering achievement!” —Jeff
  • “The best Disney website that I’ve ever found!” – Brie
  • “This site is amazing!!!… there is nothing else like it! Great job!” –Fiona
  • This site ROCKS! Thanks thanks thanks for the great advice!” —Eva
  • “Brilliant website! The most informative website I’ve seen on Disney!” –Chris
  • “If it weren’t for this site, I think we really would have messed this trip up!” —Mary Beth
  • “The bestest blogger ever!” –Sara M
  • ”Your site is brilliant! I’ve used you for the last three years to plan our holiday. You’ve become part of the process, nothing happens until I’ve checked out your site!” —Alicia
  • “I go to WDW about once a year, know the parks like the back of my hand, and have a system for planning our trips. Even so, there’s a LOT of useful info on here, even for me. AWESOME site! Thanks!”—Debra
  • “I’ve been going to WDW with the kids for over 15 years now and still found this site helpful! Great, I repeat great site!” — Carolyn
  • “I’ve been to Disney World every year for almost 20 years and have always done it a certain way. Your suggestions were eye-opening. After a flawless vacation, I will be “doing it your way” from now on! Many thanks!!” –Brandon
  • “I’ve been to Disney World over 40 times and I still find tons of great tips and information from your site! This is a must-stop web site for anyone heading to Mouseville! Nice job and thank you!” –Adam
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  • “This site is a miracle!” —Carol
  • Dave, I love, love, love your site! I can’t tell you how much it has helped my family plan our Disney World vacations. You are a God in the blogging world for WDW.” —Alex
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  • “I swear you are the Disney Angel. Thank you oh so much!” –Sami
  • ”You are the Yoda of Disney!” —Stefanie
  • “Thanks for being a Disney Mastermind!” —Jennifer
  • Thanks! Around our house, you are known as ‘Dave the guru.’” —Wendy
  • “Dave, you have earned a galaxy of stars in your crown in Heaven for helping so many people have a great time at Disney World!” – Ted
  • “I wish I had found this site last January. It would have saved me so much time. You really are the best. Ever think of running for President?” —Patricia
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  • “Your ideas are genius! Unbelievably helpful!” —Tara
  • This site is TERRIFIC! We’d been to Disney World a few times before, but our latest trip was light years better because of your wonderful advice! Using your recommendations, we had much smoother days, experienced far lower crowds, and had a much more enjoyable time. I’m recommending your site to everyone I know!” –Katie
  • ”I’ve been going to Disney World every year, and thought I had a pretty good plan, but we just re-planned our entire trip thanks to this site. We added 6 people to our usual group, but still we saved $1,600 and found a less crowded time!! Thanks Dave for this great, unbiased site!” –Steve
  • Thank you so much for your fabulous website! We almost completely planned the trip based on your site, and our trip was amazing and everything flowed so well!” –Michelle
  • “This is awesome! Where was this site when I had to figure all this out for myself?” —Cindi R
  • “WOW – I am SO impressed with your fact based approach to Disney – so awesome and refreshing.” – Danielle
  • “As a four-time Disney veteran, this website is awesome! I wish it had been around ten years ago for our first trip!” —Chris P
  • “Having done the trip 6 times, I really wish the site had been around when we started! What a great idea!” —Joan S
  • “I think you should re-name your site ‘(notjustfor) yourfirstvisit.net.’!
    I am a frequent visitor to the “happiest place on earth”, and have become very knowledgeable about planning, visiting, eating, avoiding crowds and lines, how to use EMHs to our advantage, etc, and know the parks like my own neighborhood.
    Nevertheless, I am finding so much information here that is helpful even to a seasoned guest like myself, especially the detailed info regarding best and worst weeks to visit. LOVE your rankings, all the great advice, and the links to extra info.” —Gramma Kaye
  • “Great, right-to-it information, very quick to access. ” —JuneChickie
  • “Dave, what a great site! I love how quickly and easily you can get to the information you need!”—crazycatlady
  • “Dave, your site is so to the point! I love it!” —momma2minnie
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  • Short, sweet, and to the point. Love the charts too!” —katepass72
  • This site is a one-click shot! It’s all figured out…a great help!” —Jen
  • “As a Disney Travel Specialist, I have assisted thousands of guests with their Disney trips. First time guests are very often overwhelmed with planning their vacations to Disney. Your site is a great source of straight to the point information which will be helpful to many!” —Kerri G.
  • “Dave you have done a wonderful job…thank you for sharing all this great information! ” —Damien2213
  • “Dave—your site is wonderful, I only wish I found it sooner!” —brooklynbrenden
  • “Wow, Dave! What a great site! Now I have a great site to send to people who ask about what to see and do their first trip!” —momimouse27
  • The information you provided is priceless; a simple thanks does not do any justice; I have to find a new way/ word to thank you. You are really awesome!” —Mahe
  • “I’ve been to WDW 55 times, but still found this site so helpful!” –Kerm
  • “This site is by far the best I have ever run across regarding Disney!!” –Kim
  • “The best Disney site on the web!” –Lisa
  • “By far the most informative and best WDW website for ALL visitors!” —Mark
  • “I’ve been looking at Disney World sites for years, and this is the best I’ve ever seen for planning a Disney vacation!” —Alicia

The 2017 easy Guide

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January 8, 2017   No Comments

The Sailor is Home from the Sea

Just a note that I’ll be quiet here for a while, as my Dad–to whom I owe everything–passed away yesterday.

dad-off-the-korean-coast-on-dde-3611

This is him during the Korean War, when he was younger than my sons are today…

me-and-my-annoying-sister-out-of-school-and-at-disneyland-a-long-time-ago1

…and he’s behind the camera–as he usually was–in this shot of my sister and me at Disneyland. We were with him when he died.

His obituary is here.

I will keep up with the comments as best I can, but may be a little slower than usual. And other than the “Next Week at Disney World” and “Fridays with Jim Korkis” series, I won’t be posting much on the site for a couple of weeks.

 

The 2017 easy Guide

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November 4, 2016   12 Comments

The Lovely Curves of Twilight in Orlando and Animal Kingdom Operating Hours

Some rather curious articles lately, especially one in Motley Fool, have suggested that Disney is backing away from its new evening program at the Animal Kingdom and “taking the night off.”

I think this comes from

  1. Lack of familiarity with the Animal Kingdom’s common past operating hours, which typically showed 7p or 8p closes the busiest times of the year, and 5p and 6p closes the rest of the year (that is, no one who knows Disney operations well would have expected 11p closes at Animal Kingdom in later September), and
  2. Lack of familiarity with how Disney for a while now has been under-gunning operating hours in its calendar releases until the final update it does a couple of weeks before the affected month starts.

I have great sympathy for this, as Disney World is about the hardest trivial topic there is to master, with the possible exception of fantasy football.

COMPARED TO PAST PRACTICES, ANIMAL KINGDOM IS OPEN ONLY ABOUT 45 MINUTES LESS IN SEPTEMBER THAN IT WAS IN THE SUMMER

This summer through Labor Day, the Animal Kingdom is open until 11p. This is three to five hours later than the old typical close.

This September after Labor Day the Animal Kingdom is open until 9p every night through September 29, and until 8.30p on September 30. In 2015, in contrast, Animal Kingdom closed at 5p almost every night. This 2016 schedule is, on average, about four hours later than the old typical close.

The average difference between the extended hours of the summer of 2016 through Labor Day and September 2016 after Labor Day is 45 minutes. Hardly “taking the night off.”

To get to this, let’s look at some data, starting first with sunset and twilight to set the context.

THE CURVES OF SUNSET IN ORLANDO

The chart below shows the times of sunset (the lowest line), full dark (the highest line) and the three intervening periods of twilight for Orlando in the summer.

Summer Sunset in Orlando from yourfirstvisit.net

I’ve explained the twilight times elsewhere, but think that explanation was too technical.

So let’s try again–imagine me piloting a small sailboat on the Potomac, as I did in my teens, dealing with three types of the fading of the day:

  • During civil twilight, the details of objects are still visible, so I could clearly see what I was about to run into. You would not do an evening show during civil twilight.
  • During nautical twilight, it’s dark enough that most stars are visible, but light enough that you can still see a clear horizon dividing the earth from the darkening sky. Sailors would use this period of nautical twilight to measure the angle of specific stars from the horizon as an aid to navigation, hence the name. You can’t see details, but masses of objects may still be visible, especially early in the period, and later if they are occluding the horizon, so I’d likely see what I was about to run into, at least at the last moment. This is a fine time for an evening show.
  • Astronomical twilight is the period between when the horizon disappears and full dark. You can’t really see anything, so I’d know I ran into something only from the thumping and sea-muffled screams, perhaps my own. This period is so close to full dark that I wonder if it was just made up by Astronomics so that they could get their names in the paper.

The next chart layers on 2016 Animal Kingdom closes (the top green line) and 2015 closes (the bottom purplish line, with the dotted purplish line showing the average 2015 close up to Labor Day, and then after Labor Day).

It also adds as red dotted lines the 2016 9p and 10.30p times of the Jungle Book show, which is not scheduled after Labor Day—at least so far; most people think it will be over then and dark until Rivers of Light opens.

Animal Kingdom 2015 vs 2016 Summer Closes from yourfirstvisit.net

Three things are especially worth noting:

  • Disney routinely kicked off the Jungle Book show in later June and earlier July at the beginning of nautical twilight
  • After Labor Day, the park is not open deeply into full dark the way it was in the summer
  • However, if you compare the green line to the purplish line, you can see that post Labor Day hours are still quite extended compared to 2015.

The next chart makes this last point more explicit by showing the difference between 2015 and 2016 operating hours and hours open after the end of civil sunset.

The top blue line is extra hours in 2016 by day compared to the same date in 2015, and the black dotted line within it shows the average extra hours up until and then after Labor Day.

Animal Kingdom Specific Added 2016 Summer Hours from yourfirstvisit.net

In the 2016 summer up until Labor Day, the Animal Kingdom is open on average just a little more than 4.5 hours extra compared to 2015, and after Labor Day it is open on average just a little less than four extra hours.

The difference of the two averages is 45 minutes. So your headline could be “Animal Kingdom Open Almost Four Hours More in September 2016 than 2015” or it could be “Animal Kingdom Open 45 Minutes Less in Later September than in Earlier Summer 2016,” but “Animal Kingdom Taking the Night Off” is a goofy response to the data.

The bottom orange line shows a more significant difference.

It depicts the hours after civil twilight ends that the park is open, with averages up until and then after Labor Day shown in the red dots.

Up until Labor Day the schedule has at least 2 hours of park open after civil twilight, while after Labor Day there’s only at least one hour of civil twilight—with a 75 minute difference between the averages.

So there is less time in later September to experience Animal Kingdom in the dark. There’s enough, if no Jungle Book, but much less than in the earlier months.

Right now for most of October Animal Kingdom is showing 7p closes. (A few are later). As the table below notes, civil twilight ends at ~7.30p at the beginning of the October, and 7p late in the month.

Twilight-in-Orlando-from-yourfirstvisit.net_

Given this and the pattern of September, I expect Animal Kingdom October closes to be extended to 8.30p early in the month and 8p later if Rivers of Light is not open then, and to have either yet another hour of opening added after the end of civil twilight if Rivers of Light is open, or the scheduling of a second Rivers of Light half an hour after park close, as commonly happens with the second Fantasmic show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Updated hours? What’s that? Well, that’s the second topic on which the articles about the Animal Kingdom “taking the night off” are a bit goofy.

DISNEY ROUTINELY UNDERSTATES EVENTUAL OPERATING HOURS

The same articles displayed a certain level of conviction that the closes Disney is currently showing for October and after will be maintained. But for quite a while now Disney’s operating calendars have shown shorter hours than what it often actually eventually opens for.

For example, Disney is showing 9p Magic Kingdom closes for the incredibly busy later March spring break weeks.  Not gonna happen—final closes will be much later than that.

The Animal Kingdom in fact may close at the times after September currently indicated on the calendars. But no experienced Disney World watcher would bet on that.

The calendars for a month don’t get real until about two weeks before the month starts. After that update is the only time you can treat them as data. Until them, they are interesting tales about minimum hours, but not indicative of actual hours.

(Sunset and twilight data from this handy link—click at the bottom for different months)

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August 23, 2016   No Comments

Meet Josh and Dave 8/28 at Epcot or the Magic Kingdom

My co-author Josh of easyWDW.com and I will be somewhat awkwardly meeting our fans and random passers-by who mistake me for a character on Sunday August 28 at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.

  • At Epcot we’ll be outside and to the right of the Pyramid entrance in Mexico from 1 to about 2p.
  • At Magic Kingdom we’ll be in Tortuga Tavern, which is back towards the Frontierland end of Adventureland, from 4 to around 5p.

Meet Me and Josh Sunday 8-28 at Epcot 1p and Magic Kingdom 4p

We’ll sign pretty much anything you stick in front of us, including small children, but will get a special frisson from signing the latest edition of our top-reviewed guidebook series, the just-released The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017.

Note that if you are already in Orlando that Amazon will deliver a copy to your hotel, in conveniently anonymous plain brown packaging. Call your front desk to get the right shipping address.

And make sure you save your confirmatory email from Amazon, as we have a new way to get you free updates! A screenshot from the 2017 edition:

Updating your easy Guide

We will be joined by friends from the travel agency I work with, Destinations in Florida, and between us will likely have some fun giveaways as well.

You should also feel free to wish me happy birthday, as that date is six days after my actual 8/22 birthday!

The 2017 easy Guide

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August 19, 2016   7 Comments

New Disney World Online Check-in Forms Allow You to Request “Connecting Rooms (guaranteed)” Even When They Don’t Exist

New Disney World Resort Online Check-in Procedures and Options from yourfirstvisit.netDisney World recently released a new approach to making room requests via its online check-in process.

I’ll get to the process in a minute, but will first some note some of the new options…and some problems with them.

In most cases new options have been added, including “Adjoining Rooms (no connecting door),” “Connecting Rooms” and “Connecting Rooms (guaranteed).”

See, for example, the new form for Family Suites at Art of Animation:

Family Suites at Disney's Art of Animation Resort Online Check-in from yourfirstvisit.net

I’ve spent my spare time the last few days (I do have a real job, after all) taking screenshots of the new options, pasting them to PowerPoint, cropping and recombining the new options, and putting them in my Disney World resort reviews.

This was kind of a pain, and has resulted in a 128 page PowerPoint document and a cluttered Pinterest feed (page down on Pinterest to find all the new online forms, or see this board for the values forms, this for the moderates, this for the deluxes, and this for DVC; while there, follow me on Pinterest!)

And I’m hoping I have to do this all over again, as there are some goofy features to the option sets. For example, there ARE no connecting rooms in the Family suites, so a family clicking “Connecting Rooms (guaranteed)” is both wasting a request and also setting themselves up for disappointment.

There’s basically three problems.

One is not having separate forms for clearly distinguishable room types, and that’s the issue with Art of Animation, where both Little Mermaid Standard rooms (where you can get connecting rooms) and Family Suites (where you can’t) are both covered by the same form.

You’ll find the same problem at many other resorts with very different rooms or areas, for example

  • The Contemporary (where both Garden Wing and Tower rooms use the same form, meaning some Tower guests will be clicking for non-existent ground floor rooms)
  • Saratoga Springs (The Treehouses and the main resort use the same form, good luck getting that “Downtown Disney view” from your Treehouse)
  • Port Orleans Riverside (five person Alligator Bayou rooms, four Person Magnolia Bend Royal Rooms, and four person Magnolia Bend standard rooms all use the same form–if you reserve a room for five people three and older, a “Mansions area” request is wasted)

The second problem is some unclear or incomplete options. Many (but not all!—one that needs it the most, Caribbean Beach, does not) moderates and deluxes now show the option of “2 Queen Size Beds” and, elsewhere on the list “King Size Bed.”

These queen bed options should be expanded at those deluxes and moderates that hold five so that they include the ability to select the third sleeping spot. The “King Size Bed” should be relabeled for clarity and completeness as “1 King Size Bed” and/or “1 King Size Bed plus daybed” as appropriate.

The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort Online Check-in from yourfirstvisit.net

The third problem is a purer form of goofiness, perhaps best illustrated by the form for the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. At these cute stand-alone Cabins, we see the same option for non-existing connecting rooms, and even more goofiness:

  • There are no elevators, no upper floors and no lower floors, so why on earth are they in the form?
  • You can’t put tents on Cabin sites, so why the option to rent as many as five of them?

These forms need several different types of changes:

  • Corrections so that only actually possible options are shown for a purchased room type, even if this means even more distinct forms, and I have to redo all my screenshots…
  • Expansions so that the full array of major sleeping options is selectable
  • Grouping of like topics, so that all the view options are grouped together, all the bed options grouped together, etc. There’s some of this in the forms, but they need more.

I’d gladly spend a couple of days helping Disney with this, since at least based on the usability of these forms I seem to know more about its resorts and their rooms than it does itself.

DSC00423

I do know a bit about these rooms…having stayed in 129 different rooms, suites, studios, villas, cabins and campsites…as attested to by my MagicBand Lamp…and my book.

I’d even donate my time for free—if Disney flew me down and back, put me up in a renovated Bay Lake Tower two-bedroom lock-off (I need updated photographs of one), and threw in the Deluxe Dining Plan.

HOW TO DO ONLINE CHECK IN AFTER THESE CHANGES

You can do online check-in starting 60 days from your arrival date. Go to My Disney Experience, click “My Reservations and Tickets” in the drop down on the right, wait for your reservation to load, and click the online check-in option.

Alternatively just go here.

If you book your room within the 60 day window, your final booking screen will give you the option to do online check right away:

New Disney World Resort Online Check-in from yourfirstvisit.net

If you have more than one room booked, then you will click the radio button of the room you want to check in to:

New Disney World Resort Online Check-in 2 from yourfirstvisit.net

A screen will open. Look for the area that says “These Details Are on File”–even though they aren’t, yet–and click “Show Details”

New Disney World Resort Online Check-in 3 from yourfirstvisit.net

Then click “edit” on the next screen across from “Room Location Requests”:

New Disney World Resort Online Check-in 4 from yourfirstvisit.net

This screen, where you actually make your selections (up to two), will then open:

New Disney World Resort Online Check-in 5 from yourfirstvisit.net

The two drop down menus are the same–you make one selection from one, and another from the other.

I’m sorry to see the unnecessary problems with these new forms, but hope that the drop down layout is easy to edit, and that Disney fixes the problems here. As noted above, I’m glad to help!

The 2017 easy Guide

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August 13, 2016   17 Comments

Complain to Me in Person Saturday at 1p in Mexico at Epcot!

Like everybody else including Disney, I missed my crowd forecast for the week of April 2. What I (and everyone else) expected to be a fine week turned out to be pretty miserable.

There were two reasons for this.

  • One was more people in the parks than anyone, including Disney, had forecast—about 25% more, which is not a huge amount—well less than Thanksgiving, for example—but enough to stress the systems, especially at the Magic Kingdom, which saw some days 35% more people than Disney expected. (How I build my crowd calendars and ways I can get my forecasts wrong are here.)
  • The second reason was reduced operating hours, staffing, and capacity on Disney’s part. Much of the available capacity was given out to FastPass+, so almost all the extra demand went into standby lines, where it faced reduced numbers of ride vehicles, half of various rides shut down, not enough staff to load, and other problems. As a result, waits skyrocketed. Nobody knows quite why Disney is cutting back, but there’s some interesting hints here.

Josh (from whom I got the numbers) has multiple posts about what happened in the parks that week starting here.

(easyWDW image, used with permission but defaced as I chose)

(easyWDW image, used with permission but defaced as I chose)

But the cool thing is that you can complain to me in person!

The main opportunity will be Saturday April 23rd from 1p to 2p in Mexico at Epcot, where Josh and I (co-authors of The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, where we also got the crowd forecast wrong) will be doing a meet and greet, giveaway, and book signing. See Josh’s post here for an image of the exact location.

Bu I’ll be around before then, so hunt me down to complain in the most convenient setting!

Wednesday after I arrive I’ll be checking out some current or just completed refurbs at Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, the Wilderness Lodge, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.

Then it’s off to the Studios to check out the new Storm Troopers Procession and Star Wars stage show.

Then I’ll check in to my refurbed Studio at Jambo House to test it for an updated review. I’ll likely end the evening at the great Animal Kingdom Lodge bar the Victoria Falls Lounge watching the Cavs.

12799400_1275614845786494_1831677055186865190_n

Thursday Josh and I have a business meeting to work on the changes for the 2017 edition of The easy Guide, then in the evening I’ll be testing just how many Magic Kingdom attractions I can do between 7p and 2a, courtesy of the Disney After Hours thingy. Battery permitting, I’ll be tweeting my experience via @yourfirstvisit.

Amy Girl

Friday lovely wife Amy Girl arrives, and after I sleep in we’ll likely hang at the Animal Kingdom Lodge pool and the Animal Kingdom itself until we go to dinner at Capa at the Four Seasons, for a review and date night. We’ll check into a one bedroom villa at Jambo to continue the tour of the refurbed Jambo House Villas.

Saturday is the big meet up at Epcot, and we’ll be at Epcot before and after too!

So lots of places for you to yell at me about blowing that week’s forecast. And I am, indeed, sorry…

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April 19, 2016   3 Comments