Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is a Disney Trip Becoming Too Much Work?...

Ummmm…. YES!!!!  

Every time someone tells me they’re thinking about scheduling their first Disney trip and ask me for some pointers, they inevitably get the deer in headlights, overwhelmed look on their faces after just a few minutes.  In fact, some of them have thrown their hands in the air and told me they’re going to put it on the backburner for awhile.  Why?  The answer is always the same.  A Disney trip is a lot of work.  All they had in mind was getting on some rides and having the kids meet Mickey. 
If only it were that simple…

My first few trips to Disney in the 80s and 90s were just that kind of trip.  Simple.  Although, I will admit that I never got to meet Mickey.  But I easily got on the rides and had no problems with dining, even though I did have to wait quite a long time for some of those meals.
By the time I planned a return trip in 2010 with my husband and our daughter, things had changed.  A lot.  We now had to contend with ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations), and FPs (Fastpasses) were now available at the parks.  Luckily, I had my cousin to explain all of it to me, as well as The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Walt Disney World by Doug Ingersoll which was a very enjoyable and informative book.

Once we decided to go in May 2010, we chose our restaurants, and our travel agent made our dining reservations 180 days prior to our travel date.  I did moan and groan a bit about having to choose where to dine so far in advance, but we were ultimately happy with all of our choices.  We never did get around to getting any FPs in the parks, though, but we were fine without them.

Our following trips in 2012 and 2013 were pretty much the same – we never got FPs in the parks, and I made our own dining reservations online 180 days prior to travel.  Again, the process was pretty smooth, and we were happy with our choices.

This upcoming trip, however, is completely different.  And way too much work.

This time around, not only are we dealing with dining reservations 180 days prior to travel, but now Disney has come out with FP+ (Fastpass+).  That means that, 60 days prior to travel, at midnight, you can go online to MDE (My Disney Experience), and pick three FPs per day of your trip.  In my case, that was brutal.  As I’ve written about in previous posts, I wouldn’t have gotten any FPs if it wasn’t for my wonderful travel agent, who was up, above and beyond the call of duty, at 1:00 a.m. to help me. 

As I’ve mentioned before, I HATE FP+!  I really, really hate it!  Don’t believe me?  Ask my agent!  She’ll tell you!!!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, now there’s one more layer to the work – Disney is constantly testing the FP+ system on a weekly basis trying out different things.  A couple of weeks ago, they randomly decided, with no advance notice, that there would be no standby line for Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios, so, if you didn’t have a FP for that ride, you didn’t get to have that experience.  Let’s not even get me started on that…

Last week, it was confirmed that, if you don’t have a FP reservation for lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant (BOG), you’ll be unable to dine there because they removed the standby option.  How do you get a FP for BOG?  The only way to get one of those is to receive an email invitation from Disney between 27-30 days prior to travel.  By 6:00 a.m. that morning, you literally have to jump on that invitation or lose it – first come, first serve. 

Oh, and you have to be a Disney resort guest in order to receive one. 

Well, I’ve been waiting…. and waiting….and waiting. 

And, so, there’s yet another layer of work for this Disney trip. 

Now, I not only have to monitor and babysit my daughter, I also have to monitor and babysit a dining invitation…. Oh, and by the way, after all that waiting, I’m told this morning that resort guests are randomly selected for those invitations, so not everyone will get them… Are you with me?

Remember those people I mentioned earlier who have asked me for first trip advice?  Yeah, their heads would explode just about now.

I’ve never minded figuring out where I might possibly want to eat six months down the road, but this new Disney regime is absolutely ridiculous!
Vacation is supposed to be relaxing and mostly somewhat spontaneous; you should feel free to do as you please.  Okay, so I’ll be the first one to admit that Disney isn’t exactly the most relaxing vacation (that’s probably why I always refer to it as a trip).  There’s lots to do, and we’re usually on the go, but we do take the time to enjoy the pool and take a nap every day.  

But, now, there’s just an incredible amount of work that goes into planning a Disney trip:  Deciding when to go; picking a travel agent (well, that one’s actually easy – just contact me, and I’ve got someone you’ll love); booking your trip; deciding where you want to eat 180 days prior to arrival; book FPs 60 days prior to arrival (and then monitor those in case you can get a FP for a ride or attraction you weren’t able to get at 60 days); and start monitoring 27-30 days prior to arrival to see if you were one of the lucky ones to receive the coveted invitation for a BOG FP.  That certainly is a LOT of time invested into that vacation, all without a guarantee that you’ll get what you’ve been hoping for. 

I can honestly say that I’ve never worked this hard or stressed this much over a Disney trip.  Hopefully, our next trip will be easier.  But, I’ve heard travel agents say that clients who take yearly trips to Disney have actually become turned off to the point of not going this year because it’s just turned into too much work. 

Even I mentioned in a recent post that I was becoming turned off – that says a lot! 

Come on, Disney – get it together!  I know you have a history of listening to your guests and revisiting what they’re unhappy with, so let’s not give that up now.

Let’s get back to the way things were.  Those paper FPs that people got at the parks worked just fine – for them and for those of us that never used them.  So, why fix what wasn’t broken? 

I propose that we reset and go back to what worked really well for everyone involved so that we can go back to enjoying our Disney trips without the need to eat, sleep, and breathe our plans for the 180 days leading up to the actual vacation.     

So, let’s go to it, Disney!

Until next time, remember to keep the Mouse in your house.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Come On, Disney - You're Killing Me!!!...

I love Disney, no doubt about it.

But, that doesn't mean Disney can do no wrong.

So here goes:   Disney - what are you doing?????

I'm currently getting ready for an upcoming trip with extended family - including my niece and nephew who have never been to Walt Disney World before.  I want to make sure these children have a wonderful time and get to enjoy the magic and all that Disney has to offer as much as possible.

I will tell you this - I have NEVER put so much work and effort into a Disney trip!

Why you ask?  The answer is simple:  FastPass+ (FP+).

Never before have I used FastPass (FP).  Ever.  We've always walked freely around the parks, getting into whatever standby lines we wanted to whenever we felt like it.  We came and went as we pleased, never having to be at any particular ride or attraction at a set time.  This approach worked wonderfully for us.

Last August, we easily got into all of the rides and attractions we wanted.  The only rides we had long waits for were Peter Pan's Flight and Toy Story Midway Mania, which we expected and were okay with.

And then came the Magic Bands and FastPass+....

Now, one year later, everything is in chaos.

Sixty days prior to travel, I dutifully waited until midnight hoping to grab my FastPasses (FPs) online on My Disney Experience (MDE) - especially for the Anna & Elsa Meet & Greet at the Magic Kingdom. After having been on MDE all day, when midnight arrived, I couldn't log in. Ughhhh!!!!!  All of a sudden, it no longer recognized my log-in information.  

So, in other words, when midnight came, and I could finally set up my FPs, I didn't even stand a chance to get a FP for Anna & Elsa which means either the kids won't get a chance to meet them, or we might have to wait in line for hours - literally.  To say I was furious was an understatement.  

Thankfully, my awesome travel agent, Dina, was diligently working on her end until past 1:00 a.m. to grab a few FastPasses for us - fortunately, one was for Toy Story Midway Mania. Why is that fortunate? Because Disney keeps testing FP+ on a weekly basis.  Just this past week, if you didn't have a FP, you couldn't get on that ride - they did away with the standby line for the duration of the week.  Not good for all of those guests without a FastPass who had no idea what Disney was going to do.  I would have hated to be a parent trying to explain to my child why he or she couldn't ride.  Not good! 

Did those guests not pay top dollar to be at Disney???  To just pull the rug out from under them like that was just plain WRONG!!!  
Why the big deal? Because Toy Story Midway Mania is one of the most popular rides at Hollywood Studios, and people can literally wait for a very, very long time on line to get in.  Last August, my husband and daughter waited well over one hour to go on it.  

But, it doesn't stop there.  

Now, Disney has gone further.  The next target is Be Our Guest Restaurant (BOG) which is extremely popular and very difficult to get into.  

I will just mention here that last August, I not only easily got a dinner reservation at BOG 180 days prior to our trip - that's when resort guests can start making their advanced dining reservations (ADRs) - but I was also able to get into BOG for lunch after about a 10-15 minute wait on the standby line.  In essence, we bookended that trip with BOG dining - we had a wonderful dinner there on our first night, and we ended our trip with a wonderful lunch there on our last day.  

Well, unfortunately, this year I'm finding it extremely difficult to even get one meal there.  I was unable to get a dinner reservation, although I'm still going on MDE at random times to see if anything opens up.  At this point, I'm hanging my hat on the hope that I'll get an email invitation from Disney to get a FP for lunch there.  

On the other hand, this is what I'm hearing with respect to that:  After calling Disney, they tell me that all resort guests will receive a FP invitation up to 30 days prior to travel.  Unfortunately, what I'm hearing and reading from other sources state that, although you will get a FP invitation, there are no FPs actually being given out.  On top of that, I'm now reading that, if you don't have a FP, you won't be able to dine there at all because Disney has currently done away with the standby line. 

And... here we go again!  

Come on, Disney!  You're killing me!...   

I'm the type of Disney goer that is very methodical in preparing for our trips.  

First, I pick our travel dates, flights, and resort.  

Then, I find out which parks are having extra magic hours (EMHs) on which days which, for us, determines what days we'll be in which parks.  
Once that's set, I pick which restaurants we'll be dining at.  

When I have all of that worked out, I make up our itinerary.  Yes, I have an actual itinerary - a chart reflecting which park we're at for each day and all of our ADRs.  I do that every time, and it helps to keep me organized.  

However, not anywhere on that itinerary do I ever put down specific times when I have to show up to ride an attraction.  

Can you sense where I'm going with this?  I'll make it clear:  

I HATE FP+!!!!!!  Yes, I do!

For the first time ever, I'm actually dreading a trip to Disney and having to deal with all of this.  Take a moment to let that sink in... When a person with a Disney addiction, not to mention a blog, Facebook page, and Disney website, says she's actually dreading an upcoming trip to Disney, that says A LOT... 

For the first time in forever (did you catch the Frozen reference?), I'm actually dreading reading anything further on the latest Disney news or listening to a podcast for fear of hearing what Disney is up to next.  

Not to mention that Disney has now closed down, just in the last couple of weeks, quite a few rides and attractions, including Maelstrom, which our family will miss, to make room for a Frozen attraction (which really shouldn't be in EPCOT, in my opinion - but more on that in a later blog), and The Backlot Tour, which I haven't yet had a chance to experience.  Guess that one's off the list...

So, once again, I have to ask:  Disney - what are you doing?????

Please, please, please stop this FP+ craziness!  

So, Disney, here are my suggestions, and I'm sure many fans would agree, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the first to propose the following:

I know you've invested $1 billion on the Magic Bands and obviously you're not going to let that investment go to waste.  I completely understand.  

So, why not use the Magic Bands for everything they do now - entry into the parks, unlocking guests' resort room doors, etc. - and forget about FP+?  Why not return to the legacy FPs (the paper ones traditionally used in the parks prior to FP+)?  

Many have suggested that Disney uses FP+ for marketing purposes such as observing what guests purchase, what attractions they ride, where they eat - basically, knowing everything a guest does and everywhere a guest goes.  They obviously have the technology - that was demonstrated during our lunch at BOG last year.  We ordered our lunch, they handed us a plastic rose, we sat wherever we wanted, and our lunch was delivered right to us.  

So, if Disney takes that one step further, wouldn't it be terrific to use all of that technology and have, for example, the face characters at the meet and greets call your child by their name?  I'm sure little girls (and boys) would just love for Anna & Elsa, for example, to greet them by their names - they would make their trip! 

In my opinion, this would be a much better use of the Magic Bands.

I hope you take this in, Disney, and give it some thought.

And please, please, please, get things back to normal before our trip!

How does everyone else feel about FP+?  Make sure to check out my Facebook page at Mouse In Our House Blog and share your experiences with us so that everyone can participate in a discussion about this.

Until next time, please remember to keep the Mouse in your house!



Saturday, October 11, 2014

They've Done It Again - Fast Passes Only for Lunch at Be Our Guest...

And here they go again...

This week, rumors began that Disney is now only allowing guests who have a FastPass+ reservation to Be Our Guest Restaurant to dine there for lunch.

So, for now, you can no longer stand in line and wait to get into BOG for lunch.

And the only way to get a FastPass for BOG is to receive one via email invitation about 30 days prior to your travel date if you're staying on property at one of the Disney resorts.

This is not good news for a lot of people, as I'm hearing that, once you try to schedule your FastPass per your invitation, no FastPasses are available.  Go figure!

Again... Not good, Disney.  Not good at all!...


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Toy Story Midway Mania - Only Accessible by FastPass This Week

It seems that Toy Story Midway Mania is the latest victim of Disney's FastPass+ testing. This week, guests will not be allowed to use the standby queue or use the Disability Access Service (DAS) to ride this attraction.  To add insult to injury, Guest Relations cast members aren't even being allowed to pacify any unhappy guests during this time.
Apparently, the logic behind this is to see if they can successfully eliminate long lines by making the attractions accessible only to guests with FastPass+ reservations.  In other words, if you don't have a FastPass, you don't get on.
Tests similar to this have been taking place over the last several months at several attractions, but never before has an attraction been completely off limits to anyone without a FastPass.
Not good, Disney!...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Start of My Disney Addiction

In my first post, I mentioned how I became really passionate about Walt Disney World in 2010, when we took our daughter on her very first trip.  But, my love affair with the World started long before then...

It was a summer in the early 80s - 1983 or 1984 - and I was probably between 10 or 11 years old.  My dad packed up the family - my mom, two younger sisters, and me - into the green Chevy Impala, and off we went on a road trip down to Florida.  

A few things stand out in my mind about that never-ending drive down:  The incessant billboards featuring Pedro and his quest to get you to visit the South of The Border amusement park (he was successful - we stayed overnight); stopping at Denny's for every meal (it was awesome - my first real foray into restaurant dining!) and living on their meatballs and spaghetti; and wondering where we were going and why it was taking so long to get there.

I don't think I really knew what Walt Disney World was, but I do know that, whatever it was, it sure was taking an incredibly long time to get there!  It didn't help that my sisters kept up a constant chorus of "Are we there yet?".  

We finally arrived.  We didn't stay on property, but, then again, I knew nothing about such things at the time.  We stayed for two days, then headed off to other parts of Florida.  Two days were enough back in those days, since there were only two parks - The Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.

I don't have a lot of memories about the parks, but what I do remember is very vivid in my mind.  

Our first day was spent at The Magic Kingdom.  I remember walking onto Main Street and just taking it in.  To this day, a trip to Walt Disney World doesn't begin for me until that first step onto Main Street. The shops, the windows above the shops, Town Square, and the view of Cinderella's Castle - I'm always in awe of it.

Cinderella's Castle was amazing!  I specifically remember walking through it and really taking in the murals on the walls depicting the story of Cinderella and her Prince Charming.

To this day, I still laugh whenever I come across the picture of my younger sisters with the three little pigs, which are now considered "long lost friends".  I won't post it here, since my sisters will kill me if I do!  

The Pirates of the Caribbean quickly became my favorite ride (until I finally rode the Haunted Mansion in 2010!), and I explicitly recall getting very dizzy on the Mad Tea Party.  

Other favorites were It's a Small World, Mickey's Toontown Fair (which was taken out last year to make room for the new Fantasyland Expansion), and Carousel of Progress.  

The second day was spent at EPCOT, and I loved it.  My favorite part was the World Showcase.    

I remember particularly enjoying the Mexico pavilion with its indoor marketplace and the Rio Del Tiempo ride.  It was a family favorite.

All of the countries were beautiful, and I felt like I was touring the world.  

And, of course, who could ever forget Spaceship Earth?  

I've always looked back fondly on that first introduction to Walt Disney World.

Since then, I had the opportunity to travel back to the World twice in the 90s, and the love affair continued.  It captivated me more and more each time I was there. When I visited in 1993, MGM Studios had since opened, but I have to admit I wasn't in love with it, although I like it better today in its present form.

Once our daughter was born, I couldn't wait to take her to Disney, but it turned out to be so much more than I expected.  

So much had changed at the World, and everything was continuing to evolve.  I was thrilled that I was able to take our daughter to visit Mickey's Toontown Fair before they tore it down a few weeks later.  

Getting the opportunity to watch our daughter interact with the characters and excitedly ask for their autographs was an amazing feeling - I was truly living those moments through her eyes.  

And that's the magic of Disney.

So, now, the love affair not only continues, it's grown into passion and addiction.  

And it all began with a drive down to Florida in a green Chevy Impala.  

I hope you get the chance to begin your own love affair with Disney very soon.  

Until next time, I hope you remember to keep the Mouse in your house.