Saturday, June 26, 2010

How to Clobber Crowds and Cut Lines at WDW

 Select attractions, like Expedition Everest, offer single-rider lines to minimize the wait.

A lot of us love Walt Disney World, but there are setbacks to it - there's less vacation time for that, it's too expensive, and of course, there are always long lines to attractions. For the latter, long waits waste your time and you won't get to experience much of the magic if you stand behind many people for hours on end! Well, there's help for those of you who are suffering from long-line-impatience, and if you take it to heart, you'll get more of the Disney magic than ever before!

Know When to Go
The secret of visiting any given Walt Disney World park is knowing when is the right time to go in terms of crowds. Obviously, the three major crowd-drawing holidays are Christmas, Easter, and Independence Day, mainly because a lot of families out-of-state flock to the park and because the kids are out of school. Summer not only draws the mentioned types of people, but it draws those legions of South American teens guided by adults holding flags known as turismos (Argentinean youth herds and Brazilian tour groups). Some of the best times to do Disney are in the fall after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving, Monday after Thanksgiving and a week before Christmas, and between Spring Break and Gay Days. (If you want details on how months affect crowds, read my guide, "The Many Months of Disney Crowds.")

Arrive at the Parks Before Opening
Whether you're going in the turismo-filled, hot summer or in the fall, head to the parks at least a half hour before opening. You'll save yourself a lot of grief than going to, say, Epcot, an hour after.

Head to the Less Crowded Areas First
Many people want to go the big rides, and they do it first. That's fine, but if you want shorter wait times, head to the less dense (in crowds) area first. I neither care if you really hate stage shows because your family member drags you to one because you have a daughter who loves the Disney Princesses nor if you don't like a ride that is considered "kiddie" because your wife forces you to ride with your little son, but that's how to kill time by avoiding the larger crowds on one side. It also works when the season is right for a huge turismo turnout, because the flags that stick out of the crowd make it easier for you to go the other way.

Use FASTPASS Effectively
The best way to cut wait times in half is to use the FASTPASS system, which is complementary with your ticket. Simply insert it in the slot (only once) in the kiosk, and claim it. Then, return to the designated line for that (Keep it on hand at all times!) between the hour noted - it's as simple as heck! Oh, and because there's always large families who come to the parks any time of year and turismos that do so likewise twice a year who take advantage of it, grab your FASTPASSES as early as you can.

Go During the Parades and Nighttime Shows
If you think that the parade is too cheesy or you think that the nighttime spectacles are not too spectacular enough, take the opportunity to catch them while lines are shorter! For example, you can ride Astro Orbiter in the Magic Kingdom during the fireworks and get a good view of them on-ride!

 Now who would want to wait that long for Soarin'?

Take Advantage of Single Rider Lines
With the exception of the Magic Kingdom, the parks offer at least one attraction that enables single riders to lessen the wait. Epcot has one on Test Track, Disney's Hollywood Studios has one on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and Disney's Animal Kingdom has one on Expedition Everest. If you're doing Disney solo, do the single rider lines so that you won't have to face many a large family cutting you.

Take A Breather and Arrive at A Later Time
Crowds usually peak at midday or early afternoon, so it's a good idea to return to the nearby place you're staying at (the hotel or friend's condo) and do something there, like edit your theme park pictures, take a nap, or cozy up to a good Disney film - you can always do the parks at a later time. That's especially true if you're staying on the resort's hotels (even the campgrounds), because you'll take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (the evening ones) that will enable you to get back to the park as the general public crowds thin out.

A lot of you hate the long lines Walt Disney World is so famous for - large families and/or turismos cut lines for rides and other attractions to rejoin their parties, ruining your days. But by planning ahead and following my advice, you can let go of the crowd hassle and enjoy Walt Disney World without much grief.

Related: Don’t Mix Ride Long Lines and Amusement Parks!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to Enjoy Walt Disney World's Parks - in Adulthood

Some adults (and older children) equate Walt Disney World strictly with children. They complain that none of the rides are catered to their age group, the theme parks are too childish, and they would rather prefer to spend four days at rival Universal Orlando Resort (which has two parks), which has more adult appeal (that's perfectly fine with me as long as they keep it to themselves). If you're an adult who is skeptical of vacationing there, take note of Walt Disney's words:

You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.

Walt Disney World is not only meant for little kids willing to meet Mickey Mouse - it's designed to cater to all ages. The meddling turismos (teenage and adult South American tourist groups like the Argentinean youth herds and Brazilian tour groups) can enjoy the carousel as much as the little kids do, and they enjoy watching the parades just like about anyone else. Don't think of the resort as a Juvenilepolis - think of it as a shrine for the young at heart and the Disneyphile.

The Magic Kingdom
Many people think the Magic Kingdom is just a neo-Kidieland - bright happy colors and juvenile rides. I hope that you get over that misconception because there's an ample amount of thrill rides to offer. If you are a big coaster fan, check out Space Mountain (recently updated) in Tomorrowland and then ride a runaway train on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland. Water ride lovers can enjoy the Southern charm and rustic flavor of Splash Mountain. If you're single and at least 52 inches tall, ride the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway and race against your friends in separate cars. Not into thrill rides? I dare you to take a breather at "it's a small world" - those who love riding it can marvel at all the happy dolls, but most of you will get a taste of heck thanks to this repetitive song. If you love taking pictures, grab a seat for the parades and snap photos of interesting dancers and your favorite Disney Characters. Oh, and catch the fireworks show if you can - if you want a time and place for a kiss, it's the perfect moment for that.

Believe me, Epcot has been my favorite park for years - adult-oriented, school-friendly, and updated. Future World boasts three great thrill rides - the flying stimulator Soarin', the spinning and non-spinning versions of the stimulator space-flight ride Mission: SPACE, and the automobile test in a ride form Test Track. (You get to see the latest GM models after riding the latter, if you love cars and SUVs!) Comedy fans can experience and get a laugh out of Ellen's Energy Adventure and those who love gardening for food can sail on a boat on Living with the Land. Don't forget to experience World Showcase - the sundries from the shops in the countries and the varied cuisines will tempt you. One of the best attractions there for adults is the Maelstrom - think of it as Pirates of the Caribbean that teaches about the history and folklore of Norway. At night, marvel at the laser/water/firework spectacular Illuminations!

Disney's Hollywood Studios
The most dynamic park for teens and adults alike, Disney's Hollywood Studios offers thrills and fun. Roller Coaster fanatics will dig Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, in which they'll launch from 0 to 60 MPH in just a bit short of 3 seconds (2.8, to be exact). Drop 13 stories tall some random times on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. If you're a fan of Pixar, go head-to-head with friends in Toy Story Mania. On select nights, watch Mickey Mouse defend his dream against the Disney Villains in Fantasmic! - cameramen should watch for Steamboat Willie near the end with all the characters waving streamers (sorry to spoil you).

Disney's Animal Kingdom
Fans of the great outdoors or animals in general should add Disney's Animal Kingdom to their itineraries. Dinosaur lovers can either experience dark-ride dynamics as they rescue an Iguanodon and themselves from a destructive meteor shower and a hungry Carnotaurus in DINOSAUR or travel back in time in a spinning wild-mouse coaster on Primeval Whirl. Brave the heights as you encounter the Yeti on Expedition Everest (another roller coaster) or encounter rainforest destruction on Kali River Rapids. If you want to take pictures onride, check out Kilimanjaro Safaris - you may want to snap photos of an elephant doing a deuce. (Oops - sorry to gross you out!) When you need a breather from all the rides but don't want to leave, explore the animal exhibits - The Oasis Exhibits, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, and Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Who says that doing Disney is just kids' stuff? The parks have a lot to offer for every age in the range - from gentle rides to thrilling coasters. Forget those who believe that you should bring your young'uns to Walt Disney World; you can enjoy it even without them!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tantrum-Taming at Walt Disney World 101

Walt Disney World and children go together just like peanut butter and jelly. Kids love riding Dumbo, enjoy the Character parades, and marvel at the fireworks. They love seeing Mickey Mouse and all the princesses they can think of (Mulan included). They are a match made in heaven - well, add in the infamous tantrums and it's a match made in purgatory for you.

I have to admit that my least favorite park is the Magic Kingdom. Sure - it has a lot of places you can meet and see your favorite Disney Characters, watch your neighborhood high school bands play before the big parade, and marvel misty-eyed at the beautiful fireworks, but the screaming children densely populate it than anywhere else (in terms of theme parks) in the resort. But are Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom free of banshees? Of course not - you can hear them flail near Kali River Rapids, cajole their parents near Tower of Terror, and whine near Innoventions.

Parenting experts say that the culprits of tantrums are often hunger and tiredness. If a child is hungry and wants to have a Mickey bar when you refuse to buy it, he kicks and screams over it. Crankiness is another factor in a tantrum - there's so much to see and do at Walt Disney World. The over-stimulation - the heat, bright colors, bustle, and chanting turismos - can wear him out, and if he's autistic, he can melt down in a heartbeat. At the whole resort, there's more to the gists of many tantrums. Rides that seem or sound scary can cause them, since you're forcing a child to try something he doesn't like. The same is true with Characters, especially all fur Characters in general (because their faces are hidden by a mask or a helmet, like Eeyore) and face ones who wear too much makeup.

What's a parent to do when a tantrum starts? Don't spank your child in front of a place that is notable - doing so in front of Cinderella Castle just ruins the magic that Walt Disney World is meant for. (If you still want to spank him, take him to the bathroom, in the stall, and do it.) If on a line for some ride, distract him by playing a game about the surroundings or have him play a handheld video game console. If they have a long day, take them out of the park and return to your hotel to have them settle down before going there again. If he has a long string of tantrums for one day, take away privileges, such as a viewing of a show, for example.

The best way to lessen the screaming children is to have parents prepare ahead of time. Before going on vacation to strictly do Disney (or do Disney and visit other Orlando-area locations), plan your trip with the kids. Booking one is important, but kids need to get the idea of what the resort looks like. Have them go online to look at pictures and/or videos, order the Vacation Planning DVD, and borrow Disney cartoons or movies - it's especially true with autistic children, who can't handle most transitions easily.

Once at the resort, arrive 30 minutes prior to opening. Grab FASTPASSES early because there are many large families and turismos using them too. To ease your children's hunger while saving money, pack healthful snacks filled with fiber and protein with discretion. If they want something from the store, set a budget for them and convince them to spend within their ranges.

I don't hate kids, but I love them if they are well-behaved. It isn't fair to ban all of them out of Walt Disney World because it wouldn't have the same magical touch it's known for. By preventing and easing tantrums, parents and childless adults alike can enjoy the joys of the resort.