Windsor Hills Luxury Villa

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Tip, tricks and advice on making the most of an Orlando vacation with a definite focus on Walt Disney World.  

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Minimizing the time you spend in lines

Posted on March 2, 2012 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the questions I am often asked is "How do I maximize the time I am on rides and minimize the time I spend in lines?"  It's really quite simple and can be summed up with two easy rules:  arrive early and use fastpasses.  The reality is that most people don't want to get up early on vacation.  As a result, they arrive at the parks an hour or so after they open (depending on the time of year) and get into the now huge line for their top attraction.  The smart traveller arrives at the park about 30 minutes before the official opening and makes a beelines for the big rides when you are let in.  Yes, this does mean getting up a little earlier than you'd probably like to, but the pay-off is enormous.  If you know the couple of mega-attractions in each park and hustle to do them first, you will save yourself hours of time waiting in lines.


The second key is Disney's fastpass system.  For a handful of popular rides in each park, Disney has introduced a system that allows you to get a ticket to ride that ride at a specified time and avoid the line.  The key restriction is that you can only have 1 fastpass at a time unless 2 hours have passed from when your fastpass was issued. If the wait for a fastpass ride is 30 minutes or less, I suggest you simply ride the ride.  If it's longer than that, get a fastpass and move on to the next attraction.  An alternative strategy for those that like to ride more than once is to get a fastpass for a ride even when it has a short line, wait in line the first time, and then use the fastpass to ride a second time.


If you have small children who can't ride a mega attration, an extra trick you can use for riding multiple times is to get fast passes for everyone (even the non-riders) and use the extra fastpasses to ride additional times without waiting.  Combine this with switching off (which I'll cover in a seperate post) and you (or your older kids) can ride the big rides a bunch of times without much of a wait.


Finally, if you are really into minimizing wait times, when you exit one of the big rides, have an adult march ahead to the next big attraction and obtain fastpasses either to use then or later in the day.  You will discover that the adult can move much more quickly than your entire family can.  The perfect example of this is Epcot.  The 2 big rides you need fastpasses for are TestTrack and Soarin.  Our strategy is to have me race ahead at the opening and get fast passes for TestTrack.  I am usually done just as my family arrives.  We then get in line to ride and use the fastpasses to ride a second time.  Then, while they get a snack and take a bathroom break, I race over to get soarin fastpasses.  When I return, we ride Mission Space (next to TestTrack) and other rides in this area until it's time for our Soarin fastpass.  Then, before getting on Soarin', we get another fastpass to ride it again later in the day.  By using this strategy, we get to ride the 2 biggest rides in the park with very little waiting.  Since lines for these 2 rides are typically well over an hour, you have saved yourself almost half a day of waiting in line.


Tips for Each Park


Magic Kingdom

 

  • Head for Space Mountain.
  • Get a fastpass, but ride using the regular line
  • Head for Buzz Lightyear and get a fastpass.  If the line is short, ride it twice.  If not, use your fastpass for Space Mountain and come back to Buzz when your fastpass time is available.
  • Have a parent head across the park and get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain.
  • If the line is short for Thunder Mountain Railroad, when your family catches up, ride that first.  
  • If not, ride some of the other attractions until your fastpass time and then get a fastpass for Thunder Mountain.


Epcot

  • See the advice earlier in the article

Animal Kingdom

  • Have an adult head for Kilimanjaro Safari and get fastpasses.
  • When the family catches up, get in line to ride.
  • Ride twice if you want or save your fastpass for later.  Another little known trick is that you can use fastpasses after their expiration.  It's possible you might run into a cast member that says no, but I've never had that happen.
  • If the day is incredibly hot, ride Kali River Rapids and get a fastpass for later.
  • If not, have an adult trek to Expedition Everest and get fastpasses.
  • If the line is short, ride twice.  Otherwise, ride other things until your fastpass time and then get a second fastpass for Everest before riding.

Hollywood Studios

  • Have an adult head for Toy Story Mania for fastpasses.
  • Get in line and ride once the family arrives.
  • Ride a second time with the fastpasses if you wish or save them for later.
  • Have an adult get fastpasses for the rock n roller coaster.
  • If the line is short, ride twice.  If not, see if Tower of Terror (next door) has a short wait.  
  • If so, ride it first.  If not, get a fastpass for this and maybe see Beauty and the Beast while you wait for your fastpass time.  

If you are someone who really likes to plan, a great site to help is called touringplans.com.  While I have never decided in the end to follow one, they seem to be well regarded.  

 

Disney Tickets and Ticket Pricing, a Simple Guide

Posted on February 21, 2012 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the biggest costs of a Disney vacation is the admission price to the parks.  However, with a dizzying array of options, it is also one of the most confusing things to figure out.  The goal of this post is to demystify the process and help you save some money.  In reality, there are just a few key decision you need to make.


How Many Days?

The first decision to make is how many days you want to go the parks.  Disney tickets are priced to penalize people who want to visit other attractions and only go to Disney for a handful of days.  Almost all of the costs you will pay are incurred in the 3 day pass.  Adding additional days typically costs only a few extra dollars and in some bizarre instances can even be less when you find the right discounts.


Visiting Multiple Parks in a Day

The next decision to make is whether you want to visit 2 parks in the same day.  Disney calls this Park Hopping.  It can be added to any pass for the cost of $55 + tax.  While this is clearly a personal preference, my advice is not to do it.  It's a fairly costly option and you lose a lot of time moving between the parks.  If you don't want to spend a whole day in a park, use that as one of your "break days" or combine it with a trip to Downtown Disney or a waterpark.


Do You Want to do the Water Parks?

Another option Disney provides is called Water Park Fun & More.  Like Park Hopping, this option costs $55 + tax.  The rule of thumb here is if you want to go to a water park more than once (or combine a water park with a trip to Disney Quest, basically a huge arcade), this option is a pretty good value.  Otherwise, skip it.  Because the water parks are much smaller and have shorter hours, they make for a great "rest day" between parks or a nice combination with an evening at a park.


The "No Expiration" Option  

Disney gives you the option to keep your unused days forever.  In general, I do not recommend this option.  There are 2 reasons for this.  One, they have greatly closed the price gap that use to exist, so you aren't saving much money by pre-paying.  Two, the stats show that most people lose/forget about their unused days.


Where to buy your tickets?

The best place to buy tickets is undercovertourist.com.  From my research, their prices are consistently the lowest and they are a legitimate operation.  If you are a real saver, you can sign up for the newsletter at mousesavers.com and use a secret link in the newletter to save an extra few bucks per ticket off of undercovertourist's already low prices.

Our New Windsor Hills Vacation Rental

Posted on February 19, 2012 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to the blog for our brand new vacation rental home.  After years of going to Disney, we finally took the plunge in mid-November and purchased a local rental property.  Now, 3 months later we are getting our web site off the ground.  We couldn't be more excited. We love Disney and we love the area.  It's with good reason that Orlando is the vacation capital of the world.


Before I dive in to why we've decided to add a blog, let me say a few words about the house.  First, it was very important for us to buy a property in Windsor Hills.  There are a few reasons for this.  One, it is the most convenient resort community to Disney.  From our personal experience, the average time getting to and from the parks is as good if not better than when we've stayed on property.  Most Disney properties are really good for one park and really mediocre for the others.  Our home is no different, but even the furthest park, Magic Kingdom, is only about a 10 minute drive from the house.  Beyond location, Windsor Hills has the nicest community facilties in the area.  They are, in a word, awesome.  You can check out the Windsor Hills link on our website to get a lot more details on the amenities.  Finally, the properties themselves are very new (buil int the past 10 years) and are in fabulous condition.  Whether you are travelling with your extended family or some other friends, you simply can't do better than a rental home in Windsor Hills.  


Once we picked the community, the next step was selecting a house.  What we love about our home is its location.  It's a couple houses down from the main "castle" park.  If you have young children, this will be a god-send for you.  We are also within easy walking distance of the main community pool and facilities.  Finally, one of our key learnings during the buying process is that rentals come fully furnished when you buy them, and there is a huge difference in how homes are appointed, even in a luxury community like Windsor Hills.  While we have updated a few things, we were very pleased to acquire a property that was very nicely decorated and well maintained.    


Now, on to the point of the blog.  My hope is to use this blog to share some of the things we've learned over the years to make the most of an Orlando vacation.  While we certainly wanted a property to visit  ourselves when in town, we also wanted to share our love of Disney and Orlando with others.  From experience, I can tell you that knowing the ropes makes a huge difference in the quality of your vacation experience.  In that vein, check out my next post on how to select tickets to the parks and get the best price.  


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