By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Category — zz. Even Geekier than Usual

Most Relevant Disney World Ticket Prices Increase 8-12%

As expected, on February 12, 2017 Disney World put into place new ticket prices.

There’s a couple of new twists to the ticketing model, too—multi-day tickets now have an expiration date (12/31/2018 at the moment) and those buying three day and longer ticket options will pay an extra $20 if they do not get their tickets in advance and online.

The full set of new multi-day Disney World ticket prices is here.

A couple of observations about this latest price increase:

  • While short non-hopper tickets showed some price stability and even decreases, four day and longer non-hopper tickets—the sort most will buy—went up 8% to 11.5%
  • The biggest driver of this is a major increase in the cost of the fourth ticket day, which for those 10 and older went from $346.13 to $372.75 (up $26.63).
  • On top of this increase to a four day ticket, Disney World increased the cost to add days 5 through 7—from $15.98 a day to $21.30 per day, or an increase of $5.33 per day.

Here’s a chart of the increases in prices compared to the last set of prices by length of ticket in days for non-hopper tickets. Price increases for tickets for those 10 and older are in blue, and kids 3-9 in red.

Disney World 2017 Percentage Ticket Price Increases from

In addition, Park Hopper prices went up more than $10 for tickets longer than three days, so Park Hopper tickets show as a result an increase in four day and longer tickets of 9% to 12%.

I had expected Disney World to shift to seasonal pricing for multi-day tickets in this round. Instead, the main package change is the new expiration date. This date of course allows it to enforce seasonal multi-day prices later. (The price of totally unused expired tickets can be credited towards the price of new tickets.)

These price increases are quite steep. In business terms, they allow Disney to recapture the value of the investment it is putting into the Animal Kingdom park, with Pandora opening in late May 2017, and into Hollywood Studios, with Toy Story Land there perhaps opening in 2018.

It also creates headroom for when, and if, it changes multi-day tickets to seasonal pricing, allowing “value season” dates to show little increase…at least the first year…

My friends at the Official Ticket Center likely will have tickets at the older price levels available for a bit.

The 2017 easy Guide

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February 14, 2017   No Comments

November Twilights and Rivers of Light

Disney World extended November Animal Kingdom operating hours by a bit in its latest schedule update.

As a result, the park is open between an hour to an hour and a half after civil twilight ends.

This provides plenty of scope for two showings of Rivers of Light, one at the end of civil twilight, and one an hour and a half later. Until November 5th, potential times could be 7 and 8.30p, and after daylight savings ends, 6 and 7.30p.

From an operational point of view, Rivers of Light has been ready to go for a couple of weeks now. Guesswork around when it will actually open seems to fall into 1) late October and 2) next year.  A third camp votes for in between. My money is on the third camp.

Here’s the chart of November 2016 Animal Kingdom closes (dashed red line), sunset (yellow line) and end of civil twilight (gray line):


(The blue line is the end of nautical twilight, and the black line the end of astronomical twilight. All this stuff is defined here, but the key point is that the end of civil twilight (the gray line) defines “dark enough.”)


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October 17, 2016   5 Comments

October Twilights and Rivers of Light

As predicted, Disney extended the operating hours at the Animal Kingdom in October to 8.30p closes, going deeper into the evening by an hour early in the month and by an hour and a half later in month.

Closes now range from an hour after civil twilight early in the month to an hour and a half after civil twilight later in the month. (For why the end of civil twilight matters to Rivers of Light and other evening shows, and other definitions, see this.)

This gives plenty of scope for two shows of Rivers of Light—apparently nearing dress rehearsal—the first at 7.30 or 7p and second at 9 or 8.30p (an evening show after park close has been common practice at Disney World for years, at the Studios).

See the image.


  • The top dotted red line is the updated 2016 Animal Kingdom close (average October 2015 close is the bottom dotted green line).
  • The sloped lines are, from the bottom up, sunset (gold), end of civil twilight (red) and the ends of nautical (grey) and astronomical (black) twilight.

As you can see from the distance between the sloping red line and the dotted red line, open hours after civil twilight range from about an hour earlier in the month to an hour and a half later in the month.

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September 24, 2016   3 Comments

Bus Spotting

A guidebook that I generally quite respect (except for some of its material on the resorts) recently warned visitors off Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort based on its reader survey results that highlighted “transportation, food court, and distant lobby” as distinct issues.

bus-spotting-from-yourfirstvisit-netThe problem with such survey results, of course, is that they are often used to help choose among alternatives, when those responding to the survey aren’t actually comparing the alternatives, but rather reporting on a singular experience.

Your best bet for help in choosing among alternatives is to pay attention to survey results or reviews from people who have recently stayed in all the relevant choices—but of course, other than the reviews in the book I co-author and on this site, you simply can’t find those.

I’ve stayed at the traditional moderates 27 different times, so here’s my take:

  • It is certainly true that the check-in building at Caribbean Beach is awkwardly distant, especially for those without a car, but it hasn’t moved recently…so there’s no real need for a new warning based on its location.
  • The food court at Caribbean Beach isn’t materially worse than those at the other traditional moderates—and other than the simplification of both the check-out process and the menu at the food court at Coronado Springs (a change this particular guidebook missed, it seems, leaving in a reader comment about the now-disappeared “ticket stamping”), the food courts at the traditional moderates have not changed much recently either. (Port Orleans French Quarter’s food court is currently under refurb—we’ll see if anything interesting comes out of that.)
  • And it is true that the sheer number of bus stops (seven) at Caribbean Beach is an annoyance. In terms of time wasted getting around a resort and stopping at all the stops, Caribbean Beach is the worst of the traditional moderates, with Port Orleans Riverside next worst, then Coronado Springs, and Port Orleans French Quarter best. But something that people sometimes miss in the discussion of the number of bus stops is that more bus stops can mean shorter walks within the resort. At Port Orleans Riverside, the longest walk from a room to a bus stop is more than a quarter mile; at Caribbean Beach the longest walk is less than half of that.

Moreover, it’s always possible that better management, or something, results in one resort of the same price class getting materially better bus service than another.

Demonstrating this requires comparative data, not survey opinions.

To make an illuminative stab at this because I am such an utter geek to help my readers make good choices, I spent four mornings in late August and early September sitting at bus stops in Port Orleans Riverside and Caribbean Beach timing the arrivals of 139 buses. (Sunday the 28th of August through Tuesday the 30th, and again on September 1; each resort was observed one morning from 8-9.30a and another morning from 8.30-10a.)

I then tossed everything but buses to the four theme parks and then calculated the time between arrivals for buses to the same theme parks. I analyzed the resulting data both in traditional ways (mean and standard deviation) and graphically.

The results of this limited sample show that waits for the next bus were largely similar at the two resorts for most guests, but in every way that they were not similar, Port Orleans Riverside had better service. When you add to this that there are fewer stops at Riverside, transportation on the days I sampled was clearly better at Riverside than at Caribbean Beach.

The mean wait between buses to the same theme park at Caribbean Beach was 13 minutes, with a standard deviation of 8.2 minutes. At Riverside, the mean wait was 12 minutes and the standard deviation was 6.6 minutes. As we will see in a minute, the longer mean wait and much larger standard deviation at Caribbean Beach were driven by several excessive waits.

Here’s the graphical depiction of waits at Riverside:


And at Caribbean Beach:


In each graphic the dotted line is the average interval between arrival times for buses to the same park, the red line the 50th percentile wait, and the gold line what percent of buses come in at 20 minutes or fewer.

You’ll note that the biggest difference was in the longer waits–at Riverside, almost 90% of arrivals were 20 minutes or fewer, and the longest interval was 25 minutes. Caribbean Beach saw almost twice as many buses with >20 minute waits, and its longest wait was a stinky 34 minutes.

Something I did not adjust for in my analysis was the effect of buses to the same park that came one right after another.

For example, during one period at Port Orleans Riverside, Magic Kingdom buses came by at 9.18, 9.22, 9.23, 9.44 and 9.45a, for intervals of 4 minutes, 1 minute, 21 minutes, and 1 minute. The average wait time among these four intervals was 6.75 minutes.

But practically speaking a bus that comes one minute after another bus to the same park is of next to no value, as the arrival rate of people at the bus stops means that no or next to no incremental guests will be served by the bus arriving a minute later. Treating the two one minute waits as though they did not help any incremental people, we get 12.5 minutes as the average wait—almost twice as long.

Note in the graphics how many buses came by with a five minute wait or less (20% of them at Caribbean Beach, and 25% at Riverside). Guests would be better served if these buses were re-routed before their first stop to whatever park was fourth on the list of most recent buses…

To illuminate the impact of this, I redid the waits showing the exact same arrival times, but a steady progression of buses to the four parks so that none was repeated before all four had been served.

Here’s the results:



The effect was to add wait time to the left sides of the curves and remove it from the right sides–essentially moving time from artificial short waits from the left side (artificial because few or none would benefit from them) to reducing waits on the right side where they actually created value for people. (t statistic = “Mister.”)

How about it, Disney?

The traditional moderates are the hardest to distinguish among for recommendations. Each is at the top of some important criteria and at the bottom of others.

This means that either you should not sweat the difference among them, or that you should deeply research them to find which is exactly the best fit for your family.

But one thing that has always been true is that the total Disney transportation experience is worst at Caribbean Beach. If that’s your single concern, then that guidebook is right, and you should avoid Caribbean Beach.

You’ll find a more nuanced discussion of the moderates in my guidebook, and if you want to deeply research them, my reviews of each begin at the following links:

The 2017 easy Guide

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September 12, 2016   11 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.


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 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

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

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

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.


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.


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

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

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

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.


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.


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

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

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

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

New Disney World Resort Online Check-in 4 from

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

New Disney World Resort Online Check-in 5 from

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