Magical Blogorail: Adventures by Disney

A D V E N T U R E S    B Y    D I S N E Y  –  England and France

Welcome to those of you joining me from IN THE MOUSE HOUSE and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.

… and France!

Although I was born in Canada, my parents and entire extended family pretty much hail from over the pond in bonny ole England. I’ve been there only three times in my life, but each time I was only a child, the last time being when I was just 14-years old. So returning as an adult and sharing my heritage with my wife certainly appeals to me!

I’m not so much interested in the usual landmarks: Big Ben (you know that is the name of the bell and not the tower, right?), Piccadilly Circus (which isn’t an actual circus), Buckingham Palace (where it would be a rare day to see any Royalty anyway), or the like. But I would rather tour the little towns and pubs and the seaside resorts. I feel that is where the real character of England, and of France, would be found. Having a pint with the locals and hearing their stories would be a real treat! However, you don’t get to choose what you see, so here is what Disney has in mind for you if you choose this Adventure:

  • Climb aboard an iconic red double-decker bus for a private tour of London with an elevated view of Westminster Abby and Buckingham Palace.

  • Delight in the splendor and serenity of the English countryside during your 2-night stay in a 19th-century manor house.

  • Walk among towering stone blocks that have stood for millennia at Stonehenge. Explore the mysteries and legends surrounding the construction of this timeless monument.

  • Discover how kings and queens lived during a privately guided visit to Windsor Castle, current home to the British royal family!

  • Journey to the top of this 1,063 foot (324 meters) — tall structure and get ready for one of the most magnificent views in Paris — or anywhere in the world!

  • Marvel at the gargoyles of Nôtre Dame Cathedral. Then, as the adults follow a local expert to view some of the world’s greatest masterpieces in the Louvre, Junior Adventurers discover famous art works on an interactive scavenger hunt.

What I like about the idea of touring these destinations with Disney is the safety factor. I’m not a big world adventurer and don’t like being in situations where I don’t have control. This may curtail a certain amount of fun, but at least I arrive home alive after each of my vacations! And I’m sure a Disney Tour Guide could add a few Disney details to the locations visited.

France appeals to me because of the architecture and art scene, and of course, Disneyland Paris!

So my dream Adventure by Disney would be first to connect with my English heritage, and second, to explore the beauty and Disney Park fun of France. Now if I can just come up with about 6,000 US dollars I’ll be on my way!

Check out this link: England and France Tours for full details.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is MANDA’S DISNEY BLOG. Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ Heidi’s Head – Southeast Asia

2nd Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney – Norway

3rd Stop ~ In the Mouse House – Ecuador & the Galapagos

4th Stop ~ Cool Nouns by Lee Beatens – (you are here)

Final Stop ~ Manda’s Disney Blog – From Home to Afar

High Disney Expectations Can Make or Break Your Vacation

You’ve dreamed of it for years. You’ve planned it out for months. You’ve been packing for days. Now it is time. Your trip to a Disney Theme Park is about to begin!

Will it live up to your expectations? (Photo from Disney PhotoPass CD)

Disney is probably one of the most talked about, and hyped, vacation destinations of all time. We all know someone who has been. We have all seen advertisements for the latest promotions. In one way or another, we have all built up a bias as to what we expect.

Is this true of you?

If so, perhaps you were influenced by the Internet. It is filled with Trip Reports. This is when a person visits one of the Disney Theme Parks and then takes the time to tell the world how it all went. They list what they liked. And they list what they didn’t like.

One Trip Report that was posted on the MSN homepage did just that. But what stood out to me was one assessment about a certain attraction. It is called Soarin’, and is found in EPCOT at Walt Disney World. This ride simulates hang gliding over California. They said, basically, that it was a disappointment because their children thought that they would be really flying. When it turned out to be only a simulation, they called it lame.

And therein lies the problem with basing our perception of a Disney Park on what other people experienced: their experience was tainted by expectation. Would we fail to enjoy Soarin’ too because it is a simulation, and not the real thing? Possibly. And yet Soarin’ remains one of EPCOT’s most popular rides. So who is right? It is impossible to say.

What we can say is that we are more likely to enjoy our visit to The Happiest Place on Earth if we just go and take it for what it is, and not what someone else expected it to be. A Disney Park offers something for everyone. Yes, you may not enjoy Soarin’, but you will definitely enjoy some other ride. Overall, you will have things that you liked, and things that you didn’t like. Just like everyone else.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t read Trip Reports? Of course not! These can sometimes be informative, and provide a basic guideline for planning our trip. But should they be used to make a final decision about a ride, attraction, or Park? By no means.

I had just one expectation when I planned to visit Walt Disney World back in 2005. I expected to have fun. And I did! Some things weren’t what I thought they’d be. Other things were. Did this make or ruin my trip? No!

The point: Don’t expect your expectations to turn out the way you expected! But of course, that’s just my opinion.

Magical Blogorail: Top Disney Resort Swimming Pools

Welcome to those of you joining me from  In the Mouse House and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.

I can swim. I don’t like swimming. So I don’t usually hang around the pools while on my Disney vacations. However, I do enjoy the theming and so usually end up taking dozens of pictures for my ever-growing photographic collection. But don’t worry, I don’t take pics of people in the pools! That would just be creepy.

I wondered what I could contribute to this topic when it first came up, but then remembered a special moment my wife and I had while visiting the gift shop at The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. This is what I saw out of the side window near the rear of the store:

    

Just tipping to just finishing up…

This splash pad, themed after Alice in Wonderland (hence the big hat), was pretty cool (pun intended). It took quite some time to fill up, but when it did:

  

Slash down!

It was a cooler day so not many kids braved the deluge and chose to watch the big splash from a safe distance. But I think it’s clear that if someone did stand underneath the hat when it tipped, they’d get very wet!

This fun spot opened in September of 2012. The splash area features several waterfalls, two slides, and a central play area for the kids. Some of the special water effects take place on a timer, while others are operated by kids pulling on pull-cords and turning valves. In traditional Disney style, the design of the playground is highly detailed with images of Alice, the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and friends. There are various tea cups and tea kettles spraying water, and the Mad Hatter’s hat turns over periodically to dump its contents onto the unsuspecting children playing below. Thanks to DisZine for this little synopsis.

So if jumping into a pool isn’t your thing, why not try a good old fashion soaking courtesy of the Mad Hatters 10/6 size hat!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is The Disney Mamas.

And here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you have missed a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ DISTherapy: Nanea Volcano Pool at the Polynesian 

2nd Stop ~ Heidi’s Head: Port Orleans Riverside

3rd Stop ~ In the Mouse House: Stormalong Bay 

4th Stop ~ Cool Nouns by Lee Beatens (You are Here!)

Final Stop ~ The Disney Mamas: Disney Cruise Ship Pools

Disney Vacation Planning for Canadians and Others

If you don’t already know, I am Canadian. And although my country isn’t exactly The Great White North anymore due to weather pattern changes, it still does get cold enough in winter to make Florida look awfully good. And warm!

On the Road: What I’m leaving behind for every Disney vacation

And to this ‘Snowbird’ it’s just a no-brainer to head to The Vacation Kingdom for that hot and sweaty two weeks of winter vacation time. But perhaps your dream vacation involves Disneyland.

Before my family’s first visit to Walt Disney World in 2005, however, we had some big decisions to make. Decisions that would apply regardless of your final destination:

  • What help was available to plan our vacation?
  • How would we travel from Canada to this U.S. destination?
  • How long would we stay?
  • Would we stay on property, or off?
  • Was there anything else we needed to know before making our final decision?

So many questions, but at the time, so few answers! So this article is intended to help my fellow Canadians, and perhaps by extension other foreigners, to plan their next Disney vacation. I’ll walk you through each of the above questions by giving you the solutions I found to create many successful visits.

What help is available to plan your vacation?

For my first visit, I used a Travel Agent. I would recommend this to anyone who is unfamiliar with travel or booking procedures. For my wife and I, it took all of the worry out of the planning stage. We merely told our Agent what we wanted to do and when, and she did the rest. Today, there are many Official Disney Travel Agents (one is attached to this site) who are experts at planning a magical visit with Mickey Mouse. We also used CAA (AAA) when we were members, and this too proved to be a fine planning resource.

    

You can also phone Disney directly and they will plan everything for you.

In my opinion, if you try to go it alone, you are likely to miss out on many things. The sheer amount of decisions needing to be made is staggering! So perhaps a final tip is to do as much research on the Disney destination of your choice as you can. I recommend buying Birnbaum’s Official Guide, or some similar publication, well in advance of your planned vacation.

How should you travel from Canada to the States?

For our first trip, to Walt Disney World, my wife and I flew. Any Canadian airport will fly you directly to the Orlando International Airport. However, at the time, we lived only 30 minutes from the Windsor/Detroit border, and so had friends drop us off at the Detroit Metro Airport. From there, it took only two hours of flying and very little time was wasted on the ground or in the air. We were able to minimize the time spent in Customs and endured lessened security checks, so keep this point in mind: The events of 911 have made travel between Canada and the U.S. more inconvenient for Canadians, so you will be subjected to more delays and stricter security measures if you leave for Florida or California from a Canadian Airport. Thusly, I recommend that you travel by car across a land border, use Park and Fly, and fly from State to State to minimize this problem.

The other option of travel is to drive. I much prefer doing this, as you can stop along the way and enjoy more of what the U.S. has to offer in the way of attractions and sightseeing. But your distance from Florida or California will determine if this is feasible.

If you will be driving to Florida, I recommend picking up a copy of Along Interstate I75 by Dave Hunter. He and his wife have made hundreds of road trips along this route and have included every, and I mean every, possible point of interest along this highway! Plan an extra day or two to stop and enjoy the culture and friendly people of each State you cross.

How long should you stay?

Up front, you should know that you have no hope of covering all of Walt Disney World in a month, let alone a week or less. So don’t worry about figuring out how many days you’ll need to cover everything. It ain’t gonna happen! So pick the number of days you will need to wind down and relax, but not so many that you will miss home and your regular routine. Remember: Next year will bring another vacation!

Should you stay on property or off property?

If you are going to fly, staying on property makes the best sense. Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up at the airport and drop you off when it’s time to leave. You just sit back and let them do the driving! Disney will even pick up your luggage at the airport and place it in your room upon arriving at your resort. Now how convenient is that? If you are planning to drive, then either option is feasible. But keep in mind that parking fees at Walt Disney World (and presumably Disneyland) can add up quickly, but can be avoided if you park at your on property resort and use Disney transportation.

Staying off property makes sense if you intend to visit several other Orlando or Anaheim attractions, such as Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farms, or Legoland. Choosing a spot at a central location to all of your intended destinations just makes more sense time wise and financially.

What else do you need to know before making your final vacation plans?

Plan ahead. Keep your eye on the exchange rate between the Canadian and U.S. dollars. One year you may find things at par, while another year can see Canadians losing over 25 cents on the dollar! This can severely impact your spending power on vacation. So if possible, watch the fluctuating rates, and buy your American currency when values are closest to par.

Research on Internet sites and Blogs (like this one) all of the current and upcoming discounts and promotions being offered by Disney. Again, if you’re not into spending hours on the Internet, letting your Travel Agent do the work may be best.

Be aware of attraction refurbishments and closing schedules as well as Park renovations and expansions. The Parks have many closures, especially during the off-season. Currently, both Walt Disney World and Disneyland have construction under that may limit the ‘curb appeal’ of the Parks.

DL: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train construction (2013)

My last tip is the simplest and perhaps most enjoyable: Talk to your Disney friends! They may just be the best resources you have about the Parks and how to make the most of a Disney vacation.

So now I hope you’re ready to plan that big Disney vacation. Just remember what Charles Muntz always said: “Adventure is out there!” But maybe I could add that more adventure is possible if you plan well.

I’ll see you at the Parks!