Jeffrey – Chip and Co http://www.chipandco.com Disney Theme Park & Movie News, Disney World & Disneyland Planning Tips, Disney Dining Reviews and More! Fri, 09 Dec 2016 00:43:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 http://www.chipandco.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/512-icon-54ced060v1_site_icon-32x32.png Jeffrey – Chip and Co http://www.chipandco.com 32 32 7800472 The Joys Of Online Check-In http://www.chipandco.com/joys-online-checkin-82090/ http://www.chipandco.com/joys-online-checkin-82090/#comments Sat, 08 Sep 2012 18:00:35 +0000 http://www.chipandco.com/?p=82090 Counting down to your Disney vacation is part of the fun of going. As the anticipation builds we all get more and more excited to finally GO and it gets harder and harder to focus on work or school or other day to day concerns. Disney understands, I think, and offers us something useful to […]

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Counting down to your Disney vacation is part of the fun of going. As the anticipation builds we all get more and more excited to finally GO and it gets harder and harder to focus on work or school or other day to day concerns. Disney understands, I think, and offers us something useful to do during our countdowns — Walt Disney World’s Online Check-In service.

Online Check-In becomes available ten days from your arrival date, and a helpful reminder will pop up at the top of your reservation page on the Walt Disney World website to tell you so. Simply click on the link and you’re taken to a page where Disney asks for your estimated arrival and departure times, names of the guests in your party, a credit card for “incidentals,” your address and a phone number where you can be contacted while traveling. There is also a spot on the web page to enter room requests which varies by resort as to what options are offered.

The idea of Online Check-In is to speed up the actual check-in process when the big day arrives and you finally walk into your Disney resort‘s lobby. There will be a line designated for Online Check-In users and this is theoretically shorter and faster moving than the tradition check-in lines. Disney explains it by saying it gives the Cast Member working with you more time to “focus on providing helpful information and answering your questions.” In any case, if the desk is busy, there’s a good chance the few minutes spent on the website doing online check-in prior to leaving will save you at least that much time during your actual check-in.

Having said that, is Online Check-in worth the time and effort? I’m going to say yes, mainly because it in fact takes so very little time and effort. It’s not a perfect system. I completed my online check-in at the Caribbean Beach Resort yesterday and found two problems. It would not accept the credit card I tried to change to for “incidentals” and it would not accept any room requests. The credit card thing may just be because the new one was a debit card and it didn’t like that, who knows? It will add a minute to the check-in on arrival day, but that’s not a big deal. The room request thing is a little more frustrating. Why ask for requests if the system can’t take them other than by a phone call? Again, though, it’s not a huge deal, I’ll just call and that won’t add any time to my check-in desk experience.

The main benefit of Online Check-in, in  my opinion, isn’t so much in speeding up the process when you get to your resort as much as it is psychological. Checking into Disney a full ten days before actually getting there is a bit of a thrill. It made me feel like I was already checked in, already on vacation, mentally at least. And that will make the last days of my count down go that much easier.

  • Top 10 Pet Peeves at Walt Disney World (chipandco.com)
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Dinner and a Fireworks Show at Walt Disney World http://www.chipandco.com/dinner-fireworks-show-2-75435/ http://www.chipandco.com/dinner-fireworks-show-2-75435/#comments Sun, 01 Jul 2012 18:50:40 +0000 http://www.chipandco.com/?p=75435 Two of my family’s favorite things about a Walt Disney World vacation are the wide variety of great food choices and the fact that every night can end with a party, complete with fireworks. While we really do love standing with the crowd while everyone enjoys Wishes at the Magic Kingdom or IllumiNations at Epcot, […]

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Two of my family’s favorite things about a Walt Disney World vacation are the wide variety of great food choices and the fact that every night can end with a party, complete with fireworks. While we really do love standing with the crowd while everyone enjoys Wishes at the Magic Kingdom or IllumiNations at Epcot, sometimes it’s fun to be able to enjoy the show in a little more comfortable surroundings and off your feet. Having a plate of some wonderful Disney fare in front of you at the same time can make for a truly terrific experience. So, here are a few places where you can enjoy dinner and a show, Disney pyrotechnics style.

‘Ohana at the Polynesian Resort – this family-style restaurant features flame-grilled meats at dinnertime, and a perfect venue for catching the Wishes fireworks show over the Magic Kingdom‘s Cinderella Castle. When the fireworks are about to start, the dining room’s lights are dimmed and the show’s music is piped in to complete the experience. For a nine o’clock Wishes show, we like to ask for eight o’clock dinner reservations and request a table by a window. You won’t always get your window seat, but you will enjoy the show in any case. ‘Ohana is part of the Disney Dining Plan and requires one table service credit, fireworks included!

California Grill at the Contemporary Resort – High atop the Contempary Resort, the 15th floor to be exact, is the California Grill. This restaurant is much more “upscale” than the family-oriented “Ohana. While it is on the Dining Plan, California Grill will use two of your table service credits. The menu changes weekly, but always offers delicious foods made with the freshest ingredients. This is also arguably the very best place in the whole of the Walt Disney World Resort to view the Wishes fireworks show. As an added bonus, the more intimate Wine Room, while not facing the Magic Kingdom, offers a somewhat distant view of Epcot’s IllumiNations show. It’s a twofer!

Casey’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom – Casey’s Corner is an old-fashioned hot dog stand situated at the castle end of Main Street. Casey’s Corner’s seating is largely outdoor and makes for a perfect spot to sit and eat a dog or a brownie and watch Wishes without wearing out your already tired legs. It will take some luck finding a seat, but it’s certainly worth a try. Casey’s Corner counts as one quick service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party – the Dessert Party doesn’t exactly fit in with the other entries here, but it’s too cool not to discuss. It won’t get you off your feet as it’s a standing room only event, but it does offer an exclusive viewing place and some scrumptious treats to snack on while waiting for Tinkerbell to FLY RIGHT OVER YOUR HEAD! The Tomorrowland Terrace restaurant is closed for this event, and in place of noodles, a dessert buffet is on offer. The event is NOT on the Dining Plan and requires an extra fee and advance reservations. The cost is $15-$35.99 per person and reservations can be made by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Rose and Crown Dining Room at Epcot’s World Showcase – This pub-style restaurant offers patio seating on the World Showcase Lagoon that is the perfect spot to view the IllumiNations fireworks and laser show. Rose and Crown is on the Dining Plan, so one table service credit will set you up with fine pub fare. What could be better than some fish and chips and a cold Guinness while you watch the show? Reservations are accepted and highly recommended.

La Hacienda de San Angel – If margaritas are more your style than a cold Guinness, this is the place for you. With a menu featuring creative Mexican dishes and back tables right on the World Showcase Lagoon, La Hacienda de San Angel would make a great spot to end your day at Epcot. La Hacienda is one table service credit on the Dining Plan and reservations are recommended, especially if you want to see the IllumiNations show.

 

 

  • Fireworks Light the Sky for Fourth of July at Walt Disney World Resort (chipandco.com)
  • Events & Details: 2012 Fourth of July at Walt Disney World Resort (chipandco.com)

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Diving at Walt Disney World http://www.chipandco.com/diving-walt-disney-world-74542/ Tue, 19 Jun 2012 21:00:32 +0000 http://www.chipandco.com/?p=74542   Being hours from the nearest body of salt water doesn’t mean Disney can’t offer some incredibly fun and educational diving and snorkeling experiences. I mean, it’s the most magical place on earth, right? So for all you divers and Jacques Cousteau wanna-bes, here are some opportunities to “get wet” and swim with the fishes […]

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Being hours from the nearest body of salt water doesn’t mean Disney can’t offer some incredibly fun and educational diving and snorkeling experiences. I mean, it’s the most magical place on earth, right? So for all you divers and Jacques Cousteau wanna-bes, here are some opportunities to “get wet” and swim with the fishes in Walt Disney World.

Epcot Divequest DiveQuest is a SCUBA experience open to guests 10 years old or older with a SCUBA certification. The program lasts three hours and includes a 40 minute dive in the 5.7 million gallon The Seas With Nemo And Friends saltwater tank. If you’ve visited this attraction or eaten in the Coral Reef restaurant, you may have seen these tours in action. Aside from the dive, which offers a chance to interact with tons of fish without the bother of actual ocean currents, guest tour the massive backstage area where the tanks are controlled and their inhabitants cared for. This tour costs $175 per person and all equipment is included. A park admission ticket is not required.

Epcot Seas Aqua Tour This tour also allows guest to swim with the fishes in The Seas With Nemo and Friends’  big salt water tank, but doesn’t require a SCUBA certification. Instead of diving, you will use a supplied air snorkel device to swim on the service and view the sea life below you. The tour lasts two and a half hours with a half hour swim in the big fish bowl. The Seas Aqua Tour is open to guest 8 and older, but guests under 12 must be accompanied by a paying adult. The cost f this experience is $140 per person and park admission is not required.

Shark Reef at Typhoon Lagoon — One of Disney’s two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon, offers more than just water slides, a wave pool and a lazy river. Shark Reef is a snorkeling experience included in the water park’s admission, and it’s really fun. Guests done mask, snorkel and a life vest and paddle around a salt water tank filled with colorful tropical fish, stingrays and even SHARKS! Yep, real, live bonnethead and leopard sharks are swimming freely in the tank with you and your family. They are harmless (this IS Disney), but it is a really fun experience, especially for those who don’t get a chance to see such things at home. While Shark Reef snorkeling is included with Typhoon Lagoon admission, guest can rent Supplied Air Snorkeling systems from Hammerhead Fred’s Dive Shop for an additional charge if they want to spend more time under water than their lung capacity will allow. All age swimmers are welcome to Shark Reef, but those under 10 must be accompanied by an adult.

Have you ever dived at Disney World? What did you think? Let us know in the comment box below.

 

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Top 5 Ideas For Going Beyond the Attractions http://www.chipandco.com/top-5-ideas-attractions-72503/ Mon, 21 May 2012 18:00:21 +0000 http://www.chipandco.com/?p=72503 Walt Disney World is one of those vacation spots we feel like we can visit again and again. Not everyone understands that, of course, and we Disney addicts get questions along the lines of “But weren’t you just there?” all the time. What those people fail to understand, and what we Disney addicts love so […]

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Walt Disney World is one of those vacation spots we feel like we can visit again and again. Not everyone understands that, of course, and we Disney addicts get questions along the lines of “But weren’t you just there?” all the time. What those people fail to understand, and what we Disney addicts love so much, is how different the Disney parks are from other theme parks. Sure Disney has great rides and shows, there is something for everyone, from Expedition Everest to It’s A Small World, but the parks offer a lot beyond the attractions. This fall our family is headed to Walt Disney World for an 8-day trip, our longest in quite a while. Our son will be almost 13 and a Disney veteran. We are of course looking forward to all our favorite attractions, but this year and on future trips we will take the time to explore the parks a little deeper. Here are our Top 5 Ideas For Going Beyond the Attractions.

Imagineering –There are tons of books about Disney Imagineering. I’m working my way through the four Imagineering Field Guides, one for each park, and can’t wait to try to spot all the little details these books point out. The Disney parks were built to be immersive experiences and to tell stories. The imagineering team takes a lot of tricks from cinema to pull this off, such as using forced perspective (building the top of a structure smaller in scale than the bottom) to make structures seem taller than they actually are. They designed the transition areas between the “lands” of the Magic Kingdom to be smooth and not jarring to visitors. They use landscaping and architecture and art and technology in subtle ways to make the guests at Disney parks feel like they are inside another world. These things are meant to be unobtrusive, but we are planning to seek them out and learn a little about what makes the magic work

Hidden Mickeys — These are perhaps the worst kept “secret” in Disney world.  There are books and web sites devoted to the search for these sets of three circles resembling in various degrees the familiar head and ears of Mickey Mouse. They can be found all over the place, from the attractions to the restaurants to the resorts. Most are intentional and some are coincidence, but the search is fun either way.

Disney Benchmarks — Surveyors and architects use certain fixed points of reference to help in their design and construction work. Many times, these are brass disks a few inches in diameter set in sidewalks and walls. Disney’s designers use these benchmarks as well, but in true Disney style, theirs are just a bit cooler. There are benchmark disks all throughout the Disney property featuring a stylized globe with Mickey ears and the words “Walt Disney World Survey Marker.” Finding these little disks is tricky as they tend to be in seemingly random places and crowds are usually walking right over them, but there are a few websites that can help. Patty Winter’s Disney Benchmark Pages offers either a latitude and longitude for the benchmarks she and her readers have discovered, or sometimes just a general description of the location. We plan to bring our handheld GPS unit loaded with the coordinates, but most smart phones have a working GPS feature which will make hunting these benchmarks much easier. And we hope to find some not on the page so we can add to the list.

Funky Photography — Everyone gets the obligatory shot of the family at the end of Main Street in front of the Cinderella Castle, right? But the Disney parks offer so much more to even the most amateur photographer if you look hard. Disney is all about detail, the names of imagineers and others on the windows of shops on Main Street and the funny tombstones in the Haunted Mansion queue are just a couple ideas. There’s a lot to see and to photograph in about all the queues for Disney attractions, actually. How about the topiary, or the flowers or the fountains? Looking around you with a careful eye instead of rushing from one ride to the next can be a lot of fun, and who knows, you could end up with some new artwork for the living room to remind you of your trip.

Behind The Scenes Tours — Sure it’s fun to research the hidden side of Disney and then go look for it yourself, but for a true look at what goes on “behind the curtain” you’ll want to try one of Disney’s behind the scenes tours. Disney offers a wide range of tour experiences, allowing you to do everything from get a glimpse into the utilidors under the Magic Kingdom to swim in the dolphin tank at Living Seas. There’s a tour that explores the steam trains, one that focuses on the gardens, one that takes you across a rope bridge over crocodiles and one that takes you behind the scenes at all four theme parks in one day. Some of these tours require park admission and some don’t. Some have age requirements as well. We are looking forward to the big behind the scenes tour ourselves, but need to wait a few years as guests must be at least 16 to participate and our son is only 12.

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Cruising The Waters Of The World http://www.chipandco.com/cruising-waters-world-72049/ http://www.chipandco.com/cruising-waters-world-72049/#comments Mon, 14 May 2012 17:00:40 +0000 http://www.chipandco.com/?p=72049 My favorite thing to do at Walt Disney World outside the parks, and now my son’s favorite, was always renting one of the little two-person boats for a cruise in one of the property’s many waterways. The “water mice” of my childhood have been replaced by Sea Raycers designed specially for Disney by Sea Ray. […]

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My favorite thing to do at Walt Disney World outside the parks, and now my son’s favorite, was always renting one of the little two-person boats for a cruise in one of the property’s many waterways. The “water mice” of my childhood have been replaced by Sea Raycers designed specially for Disney by Sea Ray. These little 10 foot beauties zip along powered by a 9.9 horsepower outboard engine and are tremendous fun!

You need not be a resort guest to rent a boat, so you can pick and choose where you’d like to take your cruise. Our favorite location is Bay Lake, which is accessible from  all the Magic Kingdom Resorts including Fort Wilderness. The Sea Raycer is a great way to go have a look at the old River Country or Discovery island sites and view all the monorail resorts from the water. Chasing after the ferries is great fun as well,  just don’t get in the way.

For a different experience, you can try renting at Port Orleans Riverside. From there, you boat in a river/canal rather than a lake. There are all sorts of wildlife to see and if you go down river a bit you can check out the Treehouse Villas, which are really cool.

Sea Raycers are available to rent at the Caribbean Beach Resort, Port Orleans Riverside, Beach and Yacht Club Resorts, Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian Resort, Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, Old Key West Resort, Fort Wilderness and at Captain Jack’s Marina in Downtown Disney Marketplace.

Renters must be 18 year of age or older, but children as young as 12 can drive as long as they are at least five feet tall. My son turned 12 since his last trip to Disney, so you can bet a Sea Raycer cruise is high on his list for our next trip. Rental rates are as follows:

$32+tax for 30 minutes

$40+tax for 45 minutes

$45+tax for 60 minutes

Two people may ride together as long as their combined weight is less than 320 pounds, but we find the boats go faster with only one rider, and that makes it a bit more fun.

As a kid, I was convinced the Contemporary Resort had the “best” water mice ( the predecessor to the Sea Raycer). Do you think one of the resorts has the “best and fastest” Sea Raycers? Do you have a favorite spot to cruise? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

  • 10 Free or Cheap Things to do outside WDW Parks (chipandco.com)
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How Soon Should You Start Disney Planning? http://www.chipandco.com/start-disney-planning-71339/ http://www.chipandco.com/start-disney-planning-71339/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 21:00:10 +0000 http://www.chipandco.com/?p=71339 I’m not a planner in my “real life.” I don’t know what I’ll do at work tomorrow, what I’ll have for dinner or even who is picking my son up from golf practice. Tomorrow is plenty of time to work that out. But I DO know that more than six months from now, on September […]

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I’m not a planner in my “real life.” I don’t know what I’ll do at work tomorrow, what I’ll have for dinner or even who is picking my son up from golf practice. Tomorrow is plenty of time to work that out. But I DO know that more than six months from now, on September 19th at 7:05 pm I will be at Epcot’s Coral Reef restaurant for dinner. Disney is different. Disney requires planning far ahead of time if you want to get the most out of a trip. Luckily, even for the planning-averse such as myself, Disney planning is actually fun. Figuring out when to go, where to stay, what to eat and what to do during your trip takes time and effort, but also helps to build up the joy and wonder and magic of a Disney vacation. But what planning should you do when? Here is a rough timeline that works for me, and I hope it helps you.

The Dreaming — It’s never too early to start dreaming of Disney. Even if you know you won’t be able go for a few years, it is fun and helpful to start perusing the Disney fan sites like Chip And Company. You should set up an account on the official Walt Disney World  website as well, and start playing around with the online reservation system. Order the free vacation planning dvd and the free customized park maps. Not only are these things lots of fun to have and to look at, but ordering them will put you on Disney’s radar as a potential guest and they may start sending you special offers and pin codes.

Resort Reservations and Park Tickets — The Disney online reservation system seems to let you book a stay as far out as you like. The trouble is that you won’t know what the rates, for both rooms and park tickets, will be beyond a certain point. Rates for a new year usually are released in the early summer. For instance, the 2012 rates were released  on June 14th of 2011. Special promotions like discounted room rates and free dining can come out at any time, but they can be applied to an existing reservation easily, so there is nothing wrong with booking as soon as you know when you can go. Disney only requires a $200 deposit with the balance due 45 days prior to your arrival.

Dining Reservations — Disney calls them Advanced Dining Reservations, or ADRs, and they are important if you want to eat at specific table service restaurants. You can walk in and probably eventually get a table at most places, but making ADRs will ensure you eat where you like and when you like. The trick is, you need to decide where and when that is far in advance. Disney will accept ADRs 180 days out, and if you are staying on property, you can cheat a little. Resort guests can make up to ten days worth of ADRs 180 days out from their arrival day, which gives you a leg up on off property guests. That can be important, as some meals at some restaurants, like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Chef Mickey’s breakfasts, will fill up within hours or even minutes of the 180 day window opening. Online reservations can be made starting at 6:00 am Eastern time and the phone reservation system opens at 7.

Special Events — If you plan to attend any special events, like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you’ll probably want to buy advance tickets. While tickets for both are sold up to and including the day of the event, they do sell out and you don’t want to be disappointed. This can present a problem when your 180 day mark is coming up for making ADRs, but the dates of the parties have not been released.  Luckily, you can cheat. Disney’s park hours are released 6 months ahead, and the two parties begin at 7 pm. So, when you look at Magic Kingdom hours and see the park closing at 7 pm, you can be pretty sure that is a day for either MNSSHP or MVMCP and plan accordingly.

Rides? — Coming soon, perhaps, is a system that will allow Disney guests to schedule Fastpass times for certain attractions from home months in advance. The next generation Fastpass system is rumored to be going into testing this summer and may make planning a Disney trip that much more interesting. While picking which rides you will ride at what time months out won’t appeal to all guests, it will likely make the lines more manageable for everyone, whether they take advantage of the new Fastpass system or not. We’ll just have to wait to see if another opportunity to plan makes the process more fun or more of a hassle. My guess is Disney gets this one right.

 

Do you have any planning tips to share? If so, leave them in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

  • Now Open Tutto Italia, Tutto Gusto at Italy Pavilion at Epcot (chipandco.com)
  • 2012 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Schedule (chipandco.com)

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You should check out The Disney Wilderness Preserve http://www.chipandco.com/disney-wilderness-preserve-71195/ http://www.chipandco.com/disney-wilderness-preserve-71195/#comments Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:00:25 +0000 http://www.chipandco.com/?p=71195 Walt Disney World is a wonder of human invention and innovation, of “Imagineering” in Disney terminology. But what did that piece of real estate Walt Disney turned into his vacation dream land look like before the Imagineers got a hold of it? Constructing Walt Disney World impacted the environment drastically, and in the early 1990s […]

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Walt Disney World is a wonder of human invention and innovation, of “Imagineering” in Disney terminology. But what did that piece of real estate Walt Disney turned into his vacation dream land look like before the Imagineers got a hold of it?

Constructing Walt Disney World impacted the environment drastically, and in the early 1990s the Walt Disney Company partnered with the Nature Conservancy to mitigate some of that change by turning a huge swath of undeveloped land at the headwaters of the Everglades into a nature preserve. Today the original 8,500 acres donated by the Walt Disney Company has grown into 12,000 acres of wilderness filled with wildlife. The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve is just a 28-mile drive south of the resort entrance and provides an interesting side trip for environmentally-inclined visitors.

The site of the preserve was once heavily logged and used as ranch land, but it has been restored to near pristine condition as described by the first Spanish missionaries to visit what is now Florida. Many species of birds have returned to the area, including bald eagles and sandhill cranes. Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom has partnered with the Nature Conservancy to monitor one of the nation’s largest rookeries of wood storks as hundreds of mated pairs arrive each spring to nest among the bald cypress. The preserve also is home to big-eared bats, gopher tortoises and indigo snakes. The occasional Florida panther has even been seen passing through!

A hiking trail leaves the visitor center parking lot and offers a view of Lake Russell, with one of Florida’s last undeveloped lake fronts, along with an optional 2.5-mile loop showcasing more of the area’s unique plant and animal species.

For a little break from theme parks, or just to see some of what nature has to offer, visit the Disney Nature Conservancy at 2700 Scrub Jay Trail in Kissimmee. Hours are Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except major holidays. You can learn more by calling the Nature Conservancy visitor center at (407) 935-0002 or visiting the web site here.

Jeffrey is a father, husband, Disney fan and refugee from the real world. While planning his next Disney trip, he enjoys bringing the Magic into his life in all ways possible, including his personal blog, Pooh Sticks.

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