By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.



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



Category — zzz. Stuff No One Cares About but Me

How the Disney World Week Rankings are Built

I rank the weeks of the year for first time visitors to Disney World who might not be able to ever return to Disney World on this site—the 2017 Disney World week rankings are here, 2018 Disney World week rankings here, and draft 2019 Disney World week rankings are here.

 

(These same rankings also inform the guidebook I co-author with Josh of easyWDW.com, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit.)

Here’s an example, for 2018:

These rankings are meant to guide first timers who can never return towards better weeks, and away from bad weeks. They incorporate crowds and prices, as you might expect. But because they are meant for people who might be able to make only one visit, they also particularly downgrade the weeks of January and early February when rides are more commonly closed for refurb, and also view skeptically the weeks when the hurricane season is at its peak.

Both of these periods contain good weeks for returning visitors who might care less about these risks. So for this reason, I both include the crowd and price data in the chart, and also mark in green at the far right edge of the chart weeks that are good for returning visitors.

That way returning visitors can use the chart to pick their weeks, too—or they can simply focus on my crowd forecasts and price information. Disney World crowd forecasts for 2017 are here, 2018 here, and draft crowd forecasts for 2019 are here. Disney World resort pricing for 2017 is here, for 2018 is here, and draft price forecasts for 2019 are here.

Besides deprecating the ride closure and peak of the hurricane seasons, I also promote the lower-crowd part of the Christmas season, because it is such a magical time at Disney World.

So with that as the background, here’s the technical approach I take to ranking the weeks of the year for first time visitors.

HOW THE DISNEY WORLD WEEK RANKINGS ARE BUILT

First, I take the ride closure season weeks, and give them the lowest rankings of the year (because if you can only come once, why come at a time when some great rides predictably will be closed?)

In every grouping, including these weeks, higher crowd weeks get the worst ranking, and within equivalent crowd rankings, higher prices break the ties. This involves a bit of judgment, as the deluxes work to a different price seasons than the other resorts from July into the fall, and the moderates don’t show as much price variation over the year as the other price classes do. So if you are committed to a certain resort type, note also the price levels of your resort type among these weeks.

Next to be ranked are all the remaining higher crowd weeks, with the worst rankings going to the highest crowds, and ties sorted by prices.

Next to be ranked is the remaining weeks in the peak of the hurricane season. I have taken a lot of grief over the years for deprecating these weeks, as, like the January and early February weeks, they include a number of lower crowd and lower price dates:

After the past two years, however, I expect people to hold off a bit on the “hurricanes never affect Disney World” claim…

This leaves a group of moderate and lower crowd weeks of various prices that are in neither the ride closure season nor the peak of the hurricane season. The moderate crowd weeks get ranked by crowds the prices, in the usual fashion.

Then the remaining low crowd weeks get ranked the same way, with the expectation that the Christmas season low crowd weeks get privileged rankings. This set of weeks become my “Recommended Weeks”—usually 13 to 15 a year. (The number has narrowed over time as October has gotten more crowded; in any given year, an early Thanksgiving might add a fourth December week, and an early Easter might add an extra April week.)

The rankings are fundamentally based on crowd forecasts and actual or forecast prices.

The crowd forecasts are based on my actual experience—I’m in the parks 30-60 days a year over six to ten visits.

For example, in 2017:

This experience is supplemented by extensive analysis of school breaks—here’s an example from my analysis of spring breaks in 2018:

The prices are based on actuals for 2017 and 2018, and on forecasts based on recent Disney practice for 2019. I’ll be revising the 2019 rankings as necessary after the actual 2019 prices come out, likely in the summer of 2018, and based on a full analysis of 2018-2019 school year breaks, also in the summer of 2018 (too many districts don’t publish their calendars for the upcoming school year until May or June for me to do this earlier).

So that’s how the week rankings are built!

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October 9, 2017   3 Comments

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
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  • Thanks! Around our house, you are known as ‘Dave the guru.’” —Wendy
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  • 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
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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)

The 2017 easy Guide

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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

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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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