Trip planning: Phase 1


As usual, the planning for my 2010 trip started before my 2009 ended.  While staying at Pop Century in Sept 2009, I booked what is called a bounce back offer.  While still a registered guest of Disney, if you book another trip, they gave me free dining again, so I booked a 6 night 7 day package again at Pop Century which included the basic Disney dining plan, which for every nights stay, you get a table service meal, a counter service meal, and a snack.


With this done, nothing really to think about till I am close to the 6 month mark.  Right before the 6 month mark, Disney releases the parks operating times.  Once I know the operating times, I can choose where I want to eat and make my adr’s (advance dining reservations).


Disney offers free dining during the slow time of year, mid August to the end of September.  Kids go back to school and its Hurricane season.   The last part is always a concern.  Some years ago, due to a approaching hurricane traveling up the east coast, Amtrak canceled train service for a day, the first day of my traveling, which pushed back my whole vacation by one day.  I always seemed to be playing catch up with my activities.  This was the vacation that I started one morning at Hollywood Studios to just ride Toy Story Midway Mania, Walked to Epcot, then ate lunch At the Grand Floridian Café, and spent the rest of the day at the Magic Kingdom.  Lots of traveling to do in  just one day.


Now I get basic dining for free, but I enjoy being seated and served my meals, as I eat fast food most of the year and eating a cheeseburger meal isn’t a vacation for me, so I upgrade my meal plan to the deluxe dining plan.  For the extra cost per nights stay, I think its about $30 0r so, the counter service meal can now be a table service meal, and I get a 3rd meal, plus another snack per night, plus my resort refillable mug too.  I felt this is the best value, and as long as you can afford the time it takes to eat a good meal, this is good.  Especially for me, since I tend to gobble my food and being served allows me to take a break from running around.


When traveling by myself, Amtrak is the preferred method of traveling to Florida.  I can always get to Penn station without relying on others to help.  And I like the train, almost if not more then going to Disney world.  For my Sept 2009 trip, Amtrak sent me a survey about how I liked the trip. Well, I had some issues and included a letter too.  For my troubles they sent me a voucher for use on future trips.  I think it was like for $40, don’t remember exactly.  So in March, I made it official that I was going, booked the train again and put in for vacation time.


The loss of the day always bothered me on future trips.  Normally, I take the train going to Florida that starts on Saturday, gets me there on Sunday, check in on Sunday, stay till Saturday, take the train back to New York on Saturday, getting me back to New York on Sunday, back to work on Monday.  For this trip, as added insurance, I added a day on the start of the trip on both the start and end.  Just in case my trip is delayed again, I can still have a nice trip.  So instead of leaving on Saturday, I would leave on Friday, getting to Orlando on Saturday.  And I would check out and board my train the following Sunday, getting back to New York on Monday.  The extra vacation time isn’t a problem. 


So I changed my Disney reservations to 8 nights, 9 days with the Deluxe dining plan.  Since I booked the train tickets so far in advance, I got the best price and reserved as usual, the first room in the sleeping car.


With this part of my trip planning done, the next wait is for my 6 month plus a week mark, so I can start phase two, what theme parks to visit on what days, and where to eat.



Trip planning: Phase 2


My basic planning for what parks I will visit on what days is simple, avoid the Magic Kingdom on the weekends, and visit the park the day after they had EMH (Extra Magic Hours).  The Magic Kingdom is always crowded on the weekends, and since people rarely visit the same park two days in a row, and since people will visit the park with evening EMH, I figure that park will be less crowded that day.  These strategies usually worked well for me.


Years ago, I did the math about paying extra for the deluxe meal plan.  Without going through the numbers, I need to book at least two table service meals per day and eat one counter service meal.  Anything less, it goes into Disney’s favor.  Past years, I usually just have a counter service meal at my resort before I rush to a theme park.  But this year, with the extra days, I want to try some restaurants that are near the theme parks to have a nice breakfast at.  I look at the menus and see some have steak and eggs for breakfast. I am psyched, just like our astronauts. J


Having to find two restaurants for lunch and dinner, I choose my usual places, Le Cellier, Coral Reef, and Grand Floridian Café.  These places I will have two meals at, one time for lunch and once for dinner.  I will also eat at ‘Ohanna for dinner and Crystal Palace for lunch one day.  If I can book the Fantasmic dinner package at Hollywood and Vine, I will do that for a late lunch, early dinner.  I will do a meal at Kona Café, lunch most likely.  Cape May Café is ok, but not my first choice for dinner, but I need someplace to eat, and I plan to book it.  I want to try Whispering Canyon Café, but keep having doubts about it.  For those who don’t know, it’s a themed restaurant, your part of the entertainment.  I don’t want to be part of the entertainment, I just want a decent to good meal and relax, not be made a subject of ridicule.  For those who don’t know what I am talking about, well, not going to ruin the fun for those who don’t know.


For breakfast, I normally do a early breakfast at Crystal Palace.  For those who don’t know, you can enter the Magic Kingdom before 9, official park opening, and walk down Main Street practically empty.  I also will try the following places for breakfast, The Wave (Contemporary) Captains Quarters (Beach/Yacht Club), Kona Café (Polynesian), and Kouzina (Boardwalk).  Kouzina replaced Spoodles. 


A week or so before my 6 month window opens, Disney released their park operating hours for September.  Two things to look for, nights when they are showing Fantasmic and if they are having Mickey;s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) event while I am there.  Even though they won’t announce not so scary for months yet, a night when they are closing the Magic Kingdom before 9 PM is a good indication that they should be having not so scary that night.


So this is my plan,  I arrive Saturday, have lunch at Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom, then have dinner at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Sunday, spend the day at the studios, doing Fantasmic that night.  Monday is Magic Kingdom day.  Tuesday is Magic Kingdom Day, Wednesday is Epcot, Thursday is Epcot, Friday morning is Animal Kingdom, evening is Epcot, Saturday is Magic Kingdom.


After doing Fantasmic that Sunday,  I plan on going to the Magic Kingdom, since MK has evening EMH till midnight.  But wont commit.  I figure I will be exhausted as the excitement of going to Disney world will keep me up late the friday night before, if I can even sleep.


Now as everyone should know, getting adr’s at some places are more difficult then others, so I break out my plan that I will book my harder to get adrs first, not on the order of the days, so here is what I booked at my 180 day window.


Sunday  Fantasmic dinner package at Hollywood and Vine, 3:35 pm

Tuesday  ‘Ohana at 6:10 pm

Friday  Le Cellier at 5:35 pm

Wednesday Le Cellier at 1pm

Saturday  Boma at 5:40

Monday The Wave at 9:25 am

       Kona at 2 pm

        Whispering Canyon Café at 6 pm

Tuesday Crystal Palace at 8:20 am

       Grand Floridian Café at 12:35 pm

Wednesday  Captains Grille at 10 am

        Coral Reef at 6:30 pm

Thursday  Kouzina at 10 am

        Coral Reef at 12:45 pm

       Cape May Café at 6:30 pm

Friday Yak N Yeti at 1 pm

Saturday Kona Café at 9:15 am

         Crystal Palace at 12:40

         Grand Floridian Café at 6:15 pm


I called up to book Fantasmic starting at 7 am, and booked the rest online while on hold.  To book Fantasmic, you need to use a credit card to hold the reservation, in case you fail to show up and don’t cancel 48 hours prior to eating there, they will penalize you.


Now I started to tweak my plans, changed times, because I realized I was eating some meals too close together, and changed places as Whispering Canyon Café was worrying me.  This is what I changed.




Wednesday changed my adr time at Le Cellier from 1 to 2:05 pm


Thursday  Coral Reef adr time from 12:45 to 1:55 pm

       Cape May Café from 6:30 pm to 7 pm


Wednesday changed adr time for Coral Reef to 7:05 pm


What to do about Whispering Canyon Café.  Should I book ‘Ohana instead? I enjoy ‘Ohana like I enjoy other places I eat at more then once, what to do, I finally decided, cancel WCC, book ‘Ohana instead, so one more change.


Monday canceled Whispering Canyon Café, booked ‘Ohana for 7


Then I realized that I am doing ‘Ohana two nights in a row, the Monday and Tuesday.  So I book Whispering Canyon Café for Tuesday at 5 pm, but didn’t cancel ‘Ohana, as I didn’t know which I want to do.


Disney also clarified the dates of not so scary.  It would not be held while I am there.  The Friday the Magic Kingdom is closing early is not for not so scary, but night of joy instead.  Disney also extended Wishes Dessert Party while I am there, so I book that for Tuesday.


I do all the changes from the 180 day mark for the next several months.


The next milestone I wait for is the 10 day online check in. I am done with my dinning planning.  Not perfect, but good enough.


10 day mark to leaving


For this trip, I have a new Android phone.  As what I try to usually do, make real time updates to a couple of yahoogroups through email.  But the Android allows me to update photos through Twitter, and even something else, doing live broadcasting with Ustream. I cant wait to try broadcasting live with Ustream the nightly events like parades and such.   I hit a couple of bumps with Twitter a day before leaving, but looks like it will work out ok.  Also I have a Virgin broadband to go modem to use with my laptop while on the train and once at Disney to help with email and such.


At the 10 day mark, I go online and do the online check in.  That goes smoothly.  But something else is going on.  My worst fears is happening.  It seems one hurricane after another is forming off the Africa coast and is heading towards Florida before heading north.


As my trip is getting nearer, there is one storm that is worrying me, a hurricane called Earl.  I leave Friday.  From like Wednesday on, it seems I am checking weather and Amtraks website every couple of moments on my cell phone. is saying it will miss the coast and hit the eastern park of Long Island, missing the city, but this is less then 100% certain.  It all depends on how a front heading from west to east can push the storm and keep it out to sea.


Amtrak’s website is already talking about canceling some service in the Carolinas on Thursday, but other service is still running, but CSX, the owners of the tracks that Amtrak runs on, is constantly monitoring the storms track.  My trip seems to be on a collusion course with another storm.  This is driving me so crazy that I am ready to push my trip back another day, just to make what I feel is inevitable is going to happen.


From Orlando train station to my resort, I hired Sunray.  Just in case, I emailed Bob at Sunray, what to do, in case my plans change the last minute.


Finally a glimpse of good news, Amtrak stopped talking about service south of New York, but started to talk about service between New York and Boston.  So it seems Amtrak is no longer concerned about service south of New York, but north.  Not home free yet, but the first good news I have in a couple of days.


I go to bed the night before, ready to go, hoping for the best.  I guess I really am going to Disneyworld in the morning J