Monthly Archives: January, 2014

FastPass+

For those of you who aren’t up to speed with Walt Disney World’s recent changes, they have made a major alteration to their FastPass system. In the old system, any park guest was able to go to a machine outside of a ride and, depending on availability, use his/her park ticket to retrieve a FastPass which would give the person a window of time during which he/she could come back later and ride with little to no wait. Another FastPass could be obtained at the start of the current Fastpass ticket’s return time or after two hours, whichever was earlier. The new system that is being rolled out allows ONLY Walt Disney World Resort on-site guests to book three FastPasses per day up to 60 days in advance. You can only use your FastPasses in ONE park per day, and the experiences are tiered ( if you are visiting Epcot, you can’t get a FastPass for BOTH Test Track and Soarin’, for example). Non-resort guests will be able to make same-day FastPass+ bookings using kiosks located at the parks. The old FastPass machines have been phased out of Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom already, and by the end of the month, they will be gone from all four parks.

The nature of our stay provided us a unique perspective from which to view FastPass+. Bear with me as I attempt to explain the details, because this might get a tad confusing (as if it wasn’t confusing enough already)!

About a year ago, we knew we would be headed down for Marathon weekend, so we purchased our tickets in advance through The Official Ticket Center. They have a deal to get a 5th day free when you buy a 4-day park hopper. When it came time to book a hotel, we chose the Dolphin. We wanted to be in the Epcot area for the weekend, and with the teacher discount, the price could not be beat. At the time of booking, we only planned to stay Thursday to Sunday because we had no idea what our schedules would be like. As the Swan and Dolphin are not Disney-run hotels, they were not participating in the Magic Band testing phase. Guests of Swan and Dolphin were, however, allowed to make same-day FastPass+ reservations using kiosks at the parks. As we got closer to the trip, we decided to extend our stay, and chose to take advantage of a cheap rate at All Star Music. Because a part of our stay was now at a Disney resort, we received Magic Bands after all. In order to make our FastPass+ reservations for the second part of our stay, we had to link our park tickets to the band.

Yes I fell for the MagicBandit money grab, but only to support The Muppets.

Yes I fell for the MagicBandit money grab, but only to support The Muppets.

Before we delve deeper into the details, I’d like to point out that since our physical tickets from Official Ticket Center were the old style with no RFID chip, we decided to use our bands for park entry, now that the tickets were linked. We were NOT eligible for advanced reservations for FastPass+ but could make same day reservations at the kiosks by showing a Swan/Dolphin room key. While we weren’t looking particularly hard, we didn’t notice a kiosk until our 3rd day, and chose to use the old “legacy” FastPass system with our hard park tickets. Since we left our bands on after using them for entry, it may have appeared to some that we were double dipping (meaning using both the old and new FastPass systems). My husband was even given a hard time by a cast member at Tower of Terror over this. Soon, all parks will be FastPass+ only and this won’t matter, but I just wanted to note that there are exceptions. Just because someone who has a band on is also getting a physical ticket does not necessarily mean they are working the system.

Our first real experience with same day FastPass+ was when we went to Animal Kingdom. We found the kiosk near the entrance, and waited in line. There were about four people in front of us. There were two physical kiosks and a cast member who had an iPad. She was the one who ended up helping us. She was able to link everyone in our party together, and make us reservations for Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safari, and Primeval Whirl. This took a little bit longer than it really should have. We wanted to be out of Animal Kingdom by 1pm. The major flaw in the system is that you cannot input what times you want. You have to first select the “experiences” you want. After that, it requires some finagling to bump up the times, and sometimes, earlier slots just aren’t available. Luckily for us, the Cast Member was very helpful and after a few minutes of tapping buttons, she was finally able to get us exactly what we wanted.

We had a less successful experience at Disney Hollywood Studios. We had booked FastPass+ for Star Tours, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania. When we got to Star Tours shortly after the park opened, it was a walk on. Just like with the old FastPass system, we thought, “Why would we waste a FastPass on a walk on?” So we rode the ride twice using the regular line. We tried using the My Disney Experience app to switch Star Tours to something else, even a later Star Tours ride, but we weren’t having much luck. We found the FP+ Kiosk and waited in the line. This wait took a little longer than the one at Animal Kingdom and the cast member was not able to help us this time, so we just decided to forego using the last Fast Pass since we had plans to head to Epcot soon.

We happened to be in the Magic Kingdom on January 14, the day FastPass+ went live. On this day, you would have to be blind to miss a FastPass+ Cast member or kiosk locale, as they were swarming everywhere, along with plenty of Disney “suits.” We were approached multiple times and asked whether or not we had been able to make our selections for the day. There were no obvious issues from what we could tell, but the park was practically empty. Case in point: we had a private ride on Dumbo the Flying Elephant about 20 minutes after park opening.

Nobody else in sight

Nobody else in sight

Our Own Private Dumbo Ride

Our Own Private Dumbo Ride

We chose Big Thunder, Peter Pan, and Space Mountain as our FastPasses (Splash Mountain was closed for refurbishment). I’m very glad that we did choose those rides, because again, everything else was a walk on. This leads me to another point- Don’t trust Disney’s posted wait times. They were wrong more often than not. One time we got in line for Pirates of The Caribbean with a posted 45 minute wait-it only took 10 minutes to get loaded onto the boat. Under The Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid was consistently listed as 20-25 wait, but was a walk on both times we rode it. Because of the low crowds, we got to ride everything we wanted to and most things multiple times, but I’ll be interested to see how this all pans out during more crowded days.

The biggest PRO of the FastPass+ system is clearly not having to run around the park like a mad man collecting FastPasses. Once everything is set, the new system works out rather nicely on low to medium crowd days. Those are the nicest things I can say about it.

The CONS outweigh the PROS for us at this point. The MyMagic+ app is very buggy and can be frustrating to deal with when you have an issue or need to make a change. The limit of 3 FastPasses will be tough on busy days for those who have learned how to maximize the old system, and that doesn’t even touch on the fact that you are limited to one park in which you can book FPs AND that the experiences are tiered. Lines at Guest Relations are longer than usual, and each guest is taking a long time to get his/her problem resolved. My husband asked a CM at one of the kiosks if they are having a lot of issues with FP+ and guests being confused and he said “yeah… kind of…” His partner CM was quick to whisper “Job security!” to him and then she went into a spiel about how great everything is. Many people will be duped into wasting FastPasses on rides that are walk ons to begin with. At Spaceship Earth, we overheard a cast member calling out “Don’t use your FastPass! It’s a walk on.” I could go on and on but this post is long enough already.

Have an opinion about FastPass+? Leave a reply!

Minnie 10K Race Day!

I have a history of having trouble getting to sleep early. I have always been a night owl. Especially now that I have a job that requires me to work mostly later in the day, I rarely wake up before 9AM if I don’t have somewhere to be. So going to bed early enough to be rested for a race that was requiring me to wake up at 3:30AM to ensure I had enough time to get ready, grab a bus, and warm up before settling into my corral by 5:15 was a bit daunting. I had some initial trouble falling asleep due to thin walls at The Dolphin. While we were thrilled with our upgraded king bed balcony rooms, the locale left something to be desired. Throughout the evening, loud revelers would come stumbling off the elevator, laughing at the top of their lungs, and chatting right outside before their compatriots went inside and slammed the door shut. Not fun. Eventually I did fall asleep, only to be awoken by the FIRE ALARM going off at 1am! The front desk didn’t help much when my husband called:

Front Desk: Hello Mr. Morrison, how may we help you?
John: Uhhh… yeah… there’s a fire alarm going off and we don’t know whether we should actually evacuate or if it’s a false alarm. We are running the race tomorrow and just want to get some sleep.
Front Desk: Yes, Mr. Morrison, there has been a report of a fire incident and the authorities have been notified and are on their way. In the meantime if you are hearing the evacuation signal, you do need to evacuate for your safety.

So, we throw on non-pajama clothes (John actually put his race clothes on since that’s what was out) and he knocked for his brother and sister-in-law staying across the hall to come out. By the time I got down two flights of stairs, the alarm had stopped. Back to bed everyone!!!

Needless to say it was difficult calming down and getting shut-eye after that incident, and 3:30am came fast! Before we knew it we were dressed and ready and on our bus, headed to our first DISNEY race! The butterflies were flitting around in my belly. I was anxious in both good and bad ways. But now that they day was finally here, I just wanted to get started!

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The pre-race stuff is fun, I guess, but when we were in our corral it was hard to hear and see exactly what was going on. I must’ve made four nervous runs to the port-a-potty just to be safe, (And even had to make one stop during the race, but it didn’t hold me up too much). The race started at 5:30am. We were in corral D, and it was about 6am when we finally got to start.

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Mostly everyone in our Corral was doing some version of run/walk. It could get a bit crowded at times but never out of hand. Everyone seemed to be pretty good about paying attention to his or her surroundings. The worst were the large groups who took walk breaks and walked shoulder to shoulder. When the course was narrow, it was hard to get around them. John stuck close to me, always trying to stay a little bit before or behind. We had a good signal system going on. The only minor mishap came when some other chick in a lime green shirt whizzed by him. He thought it was me, so he started to run again. I had to call out to him to get him to realize I was still walking behind him! Generally, people seemed to be having a really good time. We thought we might stop for characters, but when we were in the heat of the moment, there really wasn’t anyone we wanted to stop for, and the ones that may have been worth it had really long lines.
We saw:
Hook and Smee on I4 in an elaborate setup with sand and treasure and the whole nine yards
Mushu in China
Genie in Morocco
Goofy in Football gear outside of ESPNZone
Green Army man as we re-entered EPCOT to run through future world area
Chip and Dale in Future World
There were also big light-up figures of Genie and Lumiere towards the end.

We did stop mid-way to get a sweaty selfie with Spaceship Earth.

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Throughout the race I fought off various ailments- tight cramps through the first mile gave way to a stitch in the side in the 2nd an 3rd. The stitch disappeared with more water and an energy boost. Seeing the INTERCOT crowd that came out to cheer by Jellyrolls, and also my sister-in-law who was just a minute down the road from them, really brightened our spirits; nevertheless, even with my inhaler, I was starting to lose breath control just about halfway through mile 5.

We took some slightly longer walk breaks because I really wanted to finish strong, and I did! We ran the last half-mile or so straight through and crossed that finish line. I was wheezing away but never felt so proud of myself for accomplishing something I’d never thought I had the ability to do. I can only imagine how first time ½ marathoners and marathoners feel.
We took some pictures and I cried just as I said I would. Walking around the post race area I started noticing pain in my feet. I tried to ignore it, figuring I’ll just ice them when we get back and I would be fine. I wanted to get on with the rest of the day and celebrate our achievement with my in-laws! More on that later… for now I’m just re-reveling in that post race high! Oh, and my official RunDisney Finish time was 1:24:34 with a 13:37 pace. Right around where I thought I’d be.

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runDISNEY! The Night Before the Minnie 10k

Our most recent trip to Walt Disney World Resort gave me my new found inspiration to finally get my blog up and going. My first two trips to WDW were with my parents in 1995 and 2002. While on that 2002 trip, I spent many hours laying in a hammock on the beach at the Polynesian, talking to a boy I had just started dating. A boy I would marry 8 years later. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. John and I took our first trip to WDW together (without parental supervision) in 2004. 10 years later we found ourselves on our 9th WDW trip together (not counting one jaunt over to DL), planning to do something we’d never done before: Participate in a runDISNEY event! We’ve visited WDW in December (x2), August, May (x2), June (x2), and October, but we’ve never visited for Marathon Weekend before. Inspired by a meet planned by our very favorite Disney site, INTERCOT.com, our original intention was to run the Family Fun Run 5K with a bunch of fellow INTERCOTees who were all using this as an excuse to get in shape. Boy did it work! So many of us took up the challenge to make better choices in our lifestyles and embrace running. After my husband and I successfully completed some local 5Ks, we decided to go big and jump on the opportunity when Disney Announced its INNAUGUAL Minnie 10K. How much fun would it be to push ourselves even further and participate in a race the very first year it was run?! So, we decided to go BIG and train for the 10K. The following is a little piece I wrote the night before the race:

Training wasn’t a bed of roses, as neither of us is the poster child for a healthy young adult. But we’ve soldiered on through our various conditions and ailments and I am confident we can finish, even if it isn’t pretty. Growing up with exercise induced asthma, I generally just shied away from the activities that would exacerbate my condition (namely, running of any kind). As an adult, I have been diagnosed with full fledged asthma, and exercise still causes flare ups. Nevertheless, the appeal of participating in a runDisney event is quite strong, so I began jogging using the couch to 5k program last January. As my husband saw my determination increase, he joined my efforts to get in shape and before I knew it, he had surpassed me by leaps and bounds, losing 60lbs in the process. There is no secret to his transformation; he simply counted calories, ate healthier foods, and ran his butt off!

I haven’t been quite as successful in shedding and maintaining the pounds, but I have been fairly dedicated to the training and have noticed some changes in my body along the way. I will never be someone who can “run” a race straight through, and following Jeff Galloway’s method of run/walk/run has been an invaluable confidence booster. At times it can feel like quitting or cheating when you take those walk breaks instead of soldiering through, but they do give you the energy you need to tackle the next interval and the average pace at the end speaks for itself. I’m sure some distance runners roll their eyes at people who have to use a run/walk ratio for 5 and 10ks but there are many more supportive people who recognize that for people like me, this is a huge achievement. As this is the night before the race, I am nervous as heck. However, I know I have it in me and when I cross that finish line and receive my medal I will have tears in my eyes and pride in my heart for BOTH of our achievements. I am so happy to be running this race with such a supportive husband who could easily leave me behind in the dust, but instead will stay by my side the entire time and finish together what we started together a year ago.

Minnie Nais!

Minnie Nais!

Ready to go the night before the 10k

Ready to go the night before the 10k

The Journey Begins.

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That’s me on the left, my husband on the right, and our two pals Mickey and Walt in the middle.

I have always loved to write.  Throughout my time as a student of history, I’ve had to write more papers than I can even begin to count. My Masters Thesis was about the history of Catholic education in Philadelphia. Why?  Because my major is “History for Educators,” I used to teach in a Catholic school, and I am from Philadelphia.  Makes sense? Good.

In June of 2012, the school I was teaching at sadly closed. I decided to concentrate on finishing grad school while working a part time job, but now that I’ve finished my Masters’ degree, I have to admit to feeling a bit lost.

I don’t know when I’ll find something full-time again, or even if I chose the right field to major in, and if I didn’t choose the right field, then what the heck am I going to do?? and, AND, AND …and instead of worrying about things I can’t control (which is pretty much what I do 24/7), my husband suggested I get a hobby.  So, I chose writing.  This blog will be my “fun” hobby, since I spent so much of my time writing about serious things.

I came up with the idea for this blog  a year and a half ago (August 2012), after we returned from our Grand California Adventure.  Obviously, since it is now January 2014, I never got around to publishing anything. I had hand-written some reviews on the plane ride home, and then quickly typed them, but never got around to editing them for publishing.  Then, in December, my dog jumped up to say hello to me, which caused me to knock a glass of wine onto my brand new MacBook Pro, and, long story short, the files were lost forever.  Writing a blog was placed in the background of my mind as I focused on other things.  Then, suddenly, the writing bug bit me again. With my new-found enthusiasm, I dusted off my hand-written notes, re-typed the first review, and was oh-so-proud of myself… until I somehow managed to save it to the Twilight Zone, placing me back at square one.

The old me would take all of this as a sign that I’m not supposed to write this stupid blog, but the new me won’t take no for an answer (at least not until it happens again, then I will probably give up).

  • I will talk about all the fun (and not so fun things) that my husband, family, friends and I have done in the past at not only Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, but on other trips we have taken as well.
  • I will discuss planning for future trips, visits to zoos, museums, restaurants, and probably my dog.
  • I have no children, but I do have a dog. A crazy, anxiety-ridden, allergy-laden, yet oh-so-loveable cockapoo (that’s a cocker spaniel/poodle mix for everyone who’s giggling out there), named Clark.

Here’s your first look:
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If you’ve made it this far in reading this boring introductory post, I hope you will join me on my journey to explore not only the World of Disney, but the World* as a whole.

*I’ve only left the U.S. once, to go to England in 2005. My husband is afraid of both flying (although he fights through it), and cruising (but thanks to Carnival, I may never get him on one now). International travel is also quite pricey, so unless we hit the lottery, there probably won’t be any “worldy” posts for a while. But some day there will be.  Some day.