Friday, August 26, 2011

The Price of Entertainment

Every time I talk about Disney World with a novice traveler (novice in terms of Disney), there’s always someone telling me something about “how expensive that is”.  Most of the time, I don’t bother to correct them.  These are the same people who won’t think twice about spending gobs of money to go to a pro League sporting event or a music concert.  I think people have a misunderstanding of costs, or it’s about priorities for them.  It’s more important for them to have season tickets to a sporting event rather than take a Disney World vacation.  That’s fine, but don’t tell me you don’t go to Disney World because you know it’s too expensive.  Be an educated consumer.  I’m a penny pincher by nature, but Disney doesn’t phase me.  Why is that?  It’s not just because I enjoy the parks and that’s my priority, I also see the value that I’m getting while I’m there. 
I recently ran across an online article on a budget travel website talking about the high cost of theme park admissions.  Of course, on the top of their list was Disney World at a whopping price of $90.53 for a one day park ticket.  This really bugs me.  Not the price, but the figure quoted.  While this figure is true, what they forget to point out is that per day park ticket pricing goes down as more days are purchased.  What they also fail to point out that Disney World is typically not a one-day park for travelers.  With 4 theme parks and variety of attractions, you really need to go multiple days to get the most of out of the parks.  If you pay for a one day ticket, it’s really about you paying for the convenience to go to the park for one day only.  Disney World’s pricing model is based on multi-day passes.  Kind of like buying in bulk.  You can buy one roll of toilet paper for a dollar or 12 rolls for 6 dollars.  And when you think about it, would you travel to Breckenridge just to ski for the day?  No, you’d probably get a multi-day lift ticket.  So, Disney World being set-up as a multi-day experience is not unique.
Right now, a single day adult non-hopper park ticket is $90.53 and a 10 day adult non-hopper park ticket is $309.92.  That’s $30.99 per day!  Now, I know most people don’t or can’t go to Disney World for 10 days or want park hoppers which increase the cost of tickets.  But just for ease of computing, let’s use a trip of say 5 days/4 nights.  Non-hopper tickets for 5 days comes out to $53.46 per day.  What does the average adult get for $53.46 a day?  A lot when you think about it!  For starters, access to one of four theme parks for up to 12+ hours (depending on park hours, season of the year, and extra magic hour resort guest benefit), an assortment of rides, attractions, performances, parades, shows, and magnificent fireworks displays.  But my point here is not to tout the variety of entertainment options Disney has, but rather to discuss the value Disney has to offer when compared to other activities.  Let’s run the numbers:
Disney World 5 day ticket
$53.46/per day
Assuming a 12 hour day, that is $4.46/per hour
Movie admission
Assume 2 hour movie, that is $4.88/per hour
Ski Lift Ticket, 3 day pass
Average price $250
$83.33/per day
Assuming you ski for 8 hours each day, that is $10.42/per hour
Laser Tag game admission 
Assuming a 30 minute game (I’m being generous!), that is $14.00/per hour
On a per hour basis, the numbers aren’t bad.  And we haven’t touched on quality.  I’d rather set foot in any Disney World bathroom before I venture into my local movie theater bathroom at the end of the day.  Also, I didn’t mention Disney World’s generous policy on bringing food into the parks.  Yes, you can bring a bottle of water in with you and it will not be confiscated by the security guard!  If fact you can bring snacks and drinks, as long as they are kept in smaller containers with no alcohol or glass.  I believe it’s a very reasonable policy.  Ice water is also free at all the counter service restaurants.  Just ask.  I really like this, because you shouldn’t be forced to pay $4 to hydrate yourself at a park just because their policy is no food or drink carried in.  In Florida, it’s important to stay hydrated.  By the way, a bottle of water in the parks is $2.50.  Compare that to a bottle of water at a sporting event which can run upwards of $4.00.  
But I didn’t talk about lodging or food?  No, I didn’t.  I could and maybe I will one day.  I think I can weave a comparison story with those items as well.  My example is here to show that a vacation at Disney World isn’t as expensive as most people think or are lead to believe by the media.  You know those commercials where the family sees they can take a Disney World vacation for less than $100 per person, per day, lodging and park admission included.  It’s true!  And if you time it right, you might be able to find additional promotions and offers.  Our 10 day summer trip this year to Disney World came to $95.00 per person, per day, with park admission, lodging and dining plan.  I venture to say that I couldn’t have gone anywhere else and gotten the same amount of entertainment for that value.  
The one caveat to my example here is that I, nor Disney World, has control over is airfare prices or gas prices.  So, getting to the resort from a remote destination could prove pricier than other vacation destinations.  Also, I'm not implying that going to Disney World is a cheap vacation.  Even being frugal, you can drop a substantial chunk of change on the trip. In these slow economic growth days, families may opt to skip the Disney vacation and go for something close to home and more reasonable.  However, if you are picking and choosing vacation options, it's definitely not fair to put Disney World in the "too expensive" category when lined up with other vacation options.  I think Disney gets unfair billing sometimes because of perception.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

40 Days to 40 Years

Welcome to 40 Days to 40 Years presented by Donna at DISTherapy!  Take a stroll down memory lane as Disney fans from across the web come together to countdown to Walt Disney World's 40th Anniversary.  I'm very excited to represent a year in the countdown.  My year is 1972.  Hopefully, you will link over to DISTherapy to check out each new year and a new blogger sharing their most memorable Disney moments.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Figment, oh my!

We were watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks a few days ago and the song "Substitutiary Locomotion" came on.  My husband looks at me and says "does that sound like the Figment song?".  I don't know who was more excited - my husband that he made a Disney reference in conversation; or me knowing that he made that connection!  I know it drives him crazy when I come up with obscure Disney references.   I think I must be rubbing off on him. 

But back to the topic.  See for yourself.  

My husband so proud of himself until I pointed out that ''One Little Spark,'' was written by the legendary Disney composers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman for the attraction's original opening and they also wrote the Bedknobs and Broomsticks 1971 soundtrack.  I'm not surprise they don't sound similar.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Grand Gatherings Going Away

Disney announced last week the discontinuation of Grand Gathering experiences after January 28th, 2012.  While I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in a Grand Gathering experience (Illuminations dinner/dessert reception, safari celebration dinner, etc.), I have had several opportunities to travel as a Grand Gathering.  Disney World considers any group traveling with 8 or more, a Grand Gathering.  Since our group didn’t partake of any of the specialized experiences for large groups, about the other thing a Grand Gathering served for us was the ability to deal with a Cast Member at booking who was familiar with booking multiple rooms, linking reservations and the like.  

I do like that Disney puts groups traveling with more than 8 in their party in a special category and feel like there should be more done to enhance the group’s experience outside of special offers like the dinners and cruises.  Large groups have unique logistics that should be accounted for in order to ease some of that travel burden; after all, groups require more rooms, meals, tickets, etc. racking up higher costs.  Right now, groups of 8 or more have their reservations linked in the system, but there is no guarantee of getting rooms in proximity to each other.  “Request” is the term use.  At times, I’ve been next to other members of our party.  Sometimes, down the hall or another floor.  It’s hit or miss.  Another place that could cater more towards large groups is dining reservations.  Sometimes groups sit together, sometimes not.  I understand the system is a give-and-take between accommodating these large groups and smooth operations, but if Disney is listening for improvements, that would be an area to focus on.    

Traveling with a large group or multiple family units has its challenges.  It can be the best vacation every, or the worst depending on how you plan it.  Here are some tips that I would offer:
  • Designate a “planner”.  Groups are notoriously bad at making decisions.  You need a leader and a plan.  Best to have that plan laid out before you arrive.  Poll your group, get their input into what they’d like to see and do, where they all want to eat.  Take into account any special needs.  
  • Write the “plan” down and give everyone a copy.  This way there is no confusion when to be where.  
  • Make sure everyone has everyone else’s contact information.  In this day and age, most everyone has a cell phone.  The cell phone is the life-saver of the large group.  If you get separated, or plan to split up, use text messaging to coordinate a meet up time.  I once got lost from part of my group at  “The World of Disney” in Downtown Disney (it's a BIG store!).  I walked and walked around that store but could not find them.  Finally, texted my sister-in-law and turns out they were right near me.  I just couldn’t see them over the displays. 
  • Split up.  Yes, I know you came all the way to Florida to be “together” but sometimes it’s easier to navigate the park in smaller packs.  If you have grandparents with you, give them dedicated and focused time with each grandchild.  Establish a plan to meet up for lunch or dinner, or a show.  
  • Understand your groups’ “problem children”.  You know…that cousin who doesn’t get a along with everyone else, the grumpy uncle, or the moody teenager.  Don’t let them bring you down.  Expect that drama will happen, and move on.  It may be billed as the “The Most Magical Place on Earth” but crowds, waits, heat, rain, and just too much family time can bring out the worst in people.  I’ll admit I’ve had a few mini-meltdowns at Disney World because things were going my way.  People are people and they don’t change just because they are on vacation.
  • Designate a meeting time/location in the mornings.  Listen people, you got to make rope drop, and you will not if someone is taking too long to blow dry their hair.  Yeah, yeah…I sound like a drill sergeant, but the point is that it’s no fun waiting around for someone.  Be on time and be courteous.  If you can’t make it, text someone and catch up with the group later. 
  • Wear matching or bright shirts.  You laugh at those people with the matching shirts, but let me tell you from experience, if your entire group is a wearing bright yellow shirt, you will not lose each other in crowds.  

Traveling with friends and family can be an extremely rewarding experience.  I hope you all get to experience it, at least once.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Memorable Character Experience

Welcome to those of you joining me from Unknown Magic Within Walt Disney World and those of you just hopping aboard.  I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

My memorable character experience comes from Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Not your typical character meet-and-greet, this is more of a highly specialized interactive character experience.  I’m talking about the infamous Jedi Training Academy, where your little Youngling can apprentice under the best Jedi Masters around.

The Jedi Training Academy takes place on the stage located in front of Star Tours.  Kids, ages 4 to 12, learn to become a junior Jedi Knight.  Approximately 15 Padawan participants can register to be part of each 30 minute show.  If your little one is a big Star Wars fanatic, then this is a must-do at Hollywood Studios.  Be sure to arrive early to sign up to participate.  Showtimes vary, be sure to consult the daily guide for performance times.

Each participate dons a brown robe, receives a lightsaber and pledges the sacred Jedi Oath in front of a real Jedi Master.  Under the supervision of the Jedi Master the participants learn and hone their battle skills using age-old Jedi techniques.  Once these junior Jedis become proficient, they’ll be challenged by the Dark Side, culminating in a one-on-one dual with the Darth Vader himself (on occasion Darth Maul makes an appearance instead of Lord Vader).  

My son got to participate in the Jedi Training Academy in 2009 when he was 6, which is the perfect age for a boy’s love of Star Wars.  He’s now 8 and Star Wars has lost some of its appeal.  The costumes worn by the characters, the music, and the sound effects are truly authentic.  It was a highlight of the trip.  I can only image the thrill he felt in battle with Darth Vader.  The video below is his experience.

May the force be with you!

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

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

3rd Stop ~ The Disney Chick
Final Stop ~ Mommy Mouseketeer

Friday, August 5, 2011

Enchanted Tiki Room returns August 15th

This is news to most Disney fans' ears!  We have been anxiously (and maybe not so patiently) waiting for news of the future of the The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management.  From what we hear, Iago and Zazu have received their eviction notice, effective August 15th, and the original hosts, Jose, Fritz, Michael and Pierre, are coming back to roost.  The Enchanted Tiki Room (as it will now be called) will be reflective of the show at Disneyland.

News of this story broke back in May, while The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management was closed due to a fire in the Attic space early in 2001.  It seems the fire was the perfect mechanism was Imagineers to change up the show in response to a non-pulsed audience for many years.

The original show that open with the Magic Kingdom in 1971 was called The Tropical Serenade.  It was a virtually identical copy of the show from Disneyland.  The show featured a cast of over 150 talking and singing birds, flowers, tiki drummers, tiki totem poles, and a magic fountain.  The shows signature tune, "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" and "Lets All Sing Like the Birdies Sing" was composed by the Sherman Brothers.  The finale had every audio animatronic figure performing a rousing version of "Hawaiian War Chant".  Tropical Serenade was replaced in 1998 with The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management, featuring Iago and Zazu.

I guess what's old is new again!   And just in time for the Fall.

Enchanted Tiki Room: Classic Attraction Transforms This Summer

Monday, August 1, 2011

Solo Trip

Here I am, on a plane to Orlando, but alas no trip to Disney World for me.  I'm traveling for work and don't you know that I tried to figure a way to get to WDW on this trip, however, it just wasn't in the cards this time.  I travel for work not frequently, but about 3 or 4 times a year.  This trip got me thinking about a solo trip to Disney World, something that I've thought about for a long time.  It's not that I don't want to vacation with my family.  I do, and there is nothing better than sharing the joy of Disney World with your kids or spending special quality time with the one you love most at your favorite place in the world.  It's just that I would like to have the opportunity to tour the World, just way...under my schedule.  I don't think I'd need more than two days or so, else the mommy guilt would take over.  A solo trip to Disney World is definitely on my bucket list.

What would I do for two days, just me?  Well, the question is not what I would do, but what I wouldn't be able to do.  There is just too much.  I think my highest priority would be to seek out those hidden treasures and take time to soak up the atmosphere.  As much as I love the Magic Kingdom, I don't think I'd go there.  That is best left to enjoy with the family.  Epcot for sure and maybe Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom.  Of course, I could spend and entire day resort hopping, as well.

So, while I dream of my solo trip, I'll settle with listening to park ride-thru music on my iPod ("drink up me hearties, yo-ho").  How do you feel about a solo trip?  Have you ever done one?

The good news story of this trip is the potential to get work in the Orlando area, which would mean more trips to Florida and, maybe, that opportunity for a solo trip the world!