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Thursday, September 25, 2014

{ Disney World Tips- Post 1 }

You knew it was coming, didn't you?

After I posted my Magic Kingdom and Hogsmeade trips 2 years ago and my Diagon Alley post a couple weeks ago... you had to know it was coming. Clever Hobbitses.

As I mentioned in my Diagon Alley post, I decided to keep my big camera at the hotel for most of the trip. A few of these photos will be from my DSLR, but most are from my iPhone 4s. Leaving my camera behind? Great idea. No regrets!


We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside (POR). It is a very nice resort. Quiet, pretty grounds. But. And yes, there is a but. It is GINORMUS. It's so very big. If you decide to stay there, request the preferred rooms. They are much closer to the Lobby/giftshop/restaurants. If you don't ask for the preferred rooms, be prepared to do a lot of walking, which is something you may not enjoy after long days at the parks.

There are two sections of POR. Magnolia Bend (aka mansion rooms) and Alligator Bayou. Within Magnolia Bend there are 4 - 3 story buildings of mansion rooms. Acadian House, Magnolia Terrace, Oak Manor and Parterre Place. Oak Manor and Parterre Place contain Royal Rooms (or Princess Rooms). These are styled in a castle type motif. You all know by now that I met up with my BBF, Darla, at Disney World. Darla stayed in one of the Royal Rooms. It's very sweet and has a lot of awesome details. The normal mansion rooms are decorated in an Old South type style. Clean and elegant.

We stayed in the Alligator Bayou section of POR. The nice thing about Alligator Bayou is that they have a Murphy Bed so that you can fit at 5th guest. We took Bean's girlfriend, who is a tiny little thing, and she slept on the Murphy Bed. She said it was perfectly comfortable.

The Murphy Bed IS small though. It is 63" inches long, so it is definitely suited only to children or small teens/adults. When not in use and folded, this is a padded bench. The Alligator Bayou section of POR has a rustic look to the rooms with wood log type furniture. The standard size beds in both sections of POR are Queen. This is designated as a Moderate resort (there are also Value Resorts and Deluxe Resorts on Disney property). All of the rooms at POR have a small dorm sized refrigerator.

Since we stayed in the two different sections of the resort, our room was VERY far from Darla's room. It had to be at least 3/4 of a mile to 1 mile away. We very much would have enjoyed spending some time together, perhaps in the lounge at the lobby or whatever, but again, it was such a long walk we never really met up anywhere at the resort except to eat.

There are several pools scattered about the resort. There are 3 in Alligator Bayou, 2 in Magnolia Bend, and the main resort pool, just behind the lobby, is called Ol Man Island. It is very large, has a waterslide, and also has a wading pool and a hot tub. All pools at Disney World are heated to 82 degrees year round.

Along with the pools you can also go fishing at POR, there are carriage rides (for a fee), and a water taxi that will take you to Downtown Disney and back (for free). There are also nightly Movies Under the Stars at Disney Resorts.

There are two restaurants at POR: Boatwright's Dining Hall which is a sit down restaurant, or in Disney terms- a Table Service restaurant, and Riverside Mill food court which is a counter service/cafeteria type (or Quick Service in Disney terms) restaurant. We ate at Riverside Mill several times. It has been voted Disney's #1 resort quick service. We found it very good. We did not eat at Boatwright's.

Upon our arrival we found the much talked about "towel art".

Sadly, it was the only one we saw all week. I've heard people say they got new creations every single day. We didn't. And yes, we did tip our Mousekeeper. Our Mousekeeping was generally not great the entire trip though.

You can find a lot of detailed info on Port Orleans Resorts at this link: Port

Overall, I think Port Orleans Riverside is a nice resort. It's definitely not outstanding, but it's nice. Clean and quiet. Too big though, far too big. Our last night there, we traveled to the sister resort, Port Orleans French Quarter. It's much smaller and I think I would stay there before staying at Riverside again.

Disney Meal Plan:

Please note for 2017 that the Dining Plan will be changing somewhat in format. See info here.

The Disney Meal Plan is a program where you basically prepay for your meals. There are three levels of the plan. Quick Service Dining, Regular Dining, and Deluxe Dining. 

The Quick Service Plan -per person per night: 2 counter service credits and 1 snack credit per day.

This covers any quick service location. For each dining credit you get 1 entree and side, 1 drink, and 1 dessert. Plus one snack credit per day. 

Regular Dining -per person per night: 1 counter service meal, 1 table service meal, and 1 snack credit per day.

You get 1 counter service meal- 1 entree and side, 1 drink, and 1 dessert. Table Service allows you to eat at the sit down restaurants. You also get your entree and side, drink, and dessert. All Character Meals are table service, so if you plan to do these, this is probably your best bet. You also get one snack a day on this plan.

Deluxe Dining- per person per night: 3 meals (table or counter), 2 snacks a day 
You also get appetizers at sit down restaurants on the Deluxe Dining plan. 

Here is a great breakdown of the Dining Plans for you.

Personally, I'm torn. We did the Quick Service plan. It was super nice to just tap our MagicBands and pay. You can pick whatever you want off the menu, price doesn't matter. However, every meal comes with a dessert, which we probably wouldn't order normally. A lot of the meals are large enough to share. You can also get free water at counter service restaurants, so you wouldn't always need to buy a drink. We had a hard time using up all our snack credits too because we were always so full from the large meals and desserts with every meal.

If you want to do a lot of character meals and a lot of sit down meals though, you might price that out. They are very high and you might come out ahead with the Regular Dining. Please note that tips are NOT included in the dining plan though. If you have 6 or more, they will add 18% automatically as well.

Every meal you get a receipt, at the bottom of the receipt it will tell you how many dining credits you have left. This makes it easy to keep on track.

Here is a very cool Dining Plan Calculator to help you decide.

At certain points in the year, they offer the regular dining FREE. This is usually a slow times in the park. This is a MASSIVE value if you can get it.

Snacks are available at almost all eateries on Disney property. In order to use a snack credit, the item usually has to be $5 or under and will be marked with this insignia

This is also an awesome resource for learning about the dining plan: Maximizing Disney Dining Plan Credits.

For most character meals and sit down restaurants it is VERY important to make reservations. If you are staying on property you can start making these at 180 days before your trip. It is very often impossible to walk up and eat at a full-service restaurant at Disney World.


MagicBands are given to all Disney Resort guests. If you aren't staying on property, you can still use them, but you will need to purchase them. They are around $13. 

I both loved and hated the MagicBands. It's VERY cool that everything is tied to your MB. Your park tickets, your FastPasses, your dining reservations, your meal plan, your band IS your room key, and you can tie a credit card to your band as well. You just tap your band to the reader for all of these things. For any purchases, dining plan or anything you want to charge to your credit card, you will have a PIN number that you set up on check in. This keeps your information safe, if you lose your band no one can use your credit card or dining plan.

Sounds great, right? Why did I hate it? Well, they aren't very comfortable. They are kind of bulky and not fabulously bendy at the front. They get pretty sweaty and gross underneath in the Florida heat as well. They do sell covers for this reason, but they are kind of high and kind of weird looking. LOL.

If you lose your band (happily, that didn't happen to any of us), go to Guest Services at the parks or the concierge at your hotel and they can get a new one for you. 

FastPass and FastPass+:

If you are staying on Disney property, each day you are allotted 3 FastPass+ (FP+). This is 3 total, not 3 per park, so if you are planning to Park Hop in one day, you'll have to choose which park you make the FP+ for. You can make your FP+ reservations 60 days in advance, and like the dining, it's advisable to do so to get good fast passes.

Fast Passes allow you to skip most of the line. You are given a one hour allotment of time. As long as you are there between the two times, your FP is valid.

You must use ALL of your FP+ reservations before returning to the FastPass kiosks in the park to make more. We learned this the hard way. We had 2 morning FastPasses and our third wasn't until the afternoon. When we tried to set up another at the kiosk in the meantime, weren't able to make another until our afternoon FP was used.

Here is more info on the FastPass+ system:  FastPass+ Overview, Tips, and Advice
Quick Tips: 

Orlando water is pretty horrible. Sorry, Orlando! I bought Brita filtered bottles. I bought the children's size because they are so much easier to fit in a backpack than the regular sized ones. They do have kind of childish designs, but that didn't bother me.

All bags (purses/backpacks) WILL be searched upon arrival at all parks. To make things quicker for everyone,  consider unzipping your zippers (careful you don't lose anything out!) before the security guard gets to you.

WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. Disney isn't the place to try out cute new shoes. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and broken in. I've tried an assortment and still get blisters. This time I ended up in Crocs (that my friend Lori overnighted me from Amazon! Yes, you can have packages delivered to your hotel) and wicking socks. I didn't even care because they didn't bother my old blisters and I got no new ones!

If you are on the dining plan, always order a large drink. It comes with the meal but they will generally give you the regular size if you don't ask.

Find dining plan desserts that will travel, like cookies, brownies, and krispie treats. Carry a few ziploc baggies with you for this and snack on them when you get hungry.

I like using a small sling backpack or a crossbody bag. Regular backpacks are a pain to take on and off to get things out. The slings and crossbodies are easy to access because you can get into the bags without having to remove them first.

This is an itinerary that I made prior to leaving. I just folded it up and kept it in my backpack. It was handy to remember times and highlight certain things to do. You can do one like mine, a fancier one, or even just plain text. It was very helpful to have.

I bought Frog Togg chilly pads (Amazon/sporting good stores) to take. They are a towel that stays cool as long as they are wet. I kept them in a ziploc baggie. They are quite big (long), and easily cut down. Use these to wipe down when it is 110 degrees in the shade (and it was!).

I always recommend taking over the counter medication, Advil, Pepto (tablets), etc. Also, band-aids and moleskin for blisters. Precut the Moleskin in your hotel room, it will not tear. There are first aid stations around the parks too in case you need them.

I bought a portable charger before leaving. It's called Anker (I bought mine on Amazon). It's slightly bigger than my iPhone (but fatter). My phone has a terrible battery, so this was a great resource for me. Since I was using my phone for the main part of my photos, it was extra important to make sure it didn't die. I charged it before we left home and it lasted all the way until Saturday night (a week later) with it being used many, many times throughout the week (at least daily).

Orlando is notorious for rain. It rains pretty much daily, but it normally doesn't last long. I bought ponchos at home for $1 each. They are thin, clear, and since they are only $1 you can pitch them and not have to worry about folding the wet thing back up and carrying it all around.

We meant to get the "Mickey's Pants" sundae at Magic Kingdom, but totally forgot. So, later in the week we made a special trip to Beaches and Cream to get it there. We did NOT. While they lowered the insane price of $22.99 at Magic Kingdom to $14.99 (still $3 more than Disneyland), they did NOT lower the price at Beaches and Cream. It is still $22.99 there. So, we passed on that. Exact same sundae both on Disney World property with a $8 difference. No thanks.

The best food I ate all week was at Wolfgang Puck's Express at Downtown Disney.  I got the 1/2 chicken and mashed potatoes and the Creme Brulee which was DE.VINE. The portions are HUGE (far too much, honestly).

Character meals can bring out the kid in teens and big kids. The two 17 year olds I was with were WAY more excited to meet the characters than I thought they'd be.

 Then there was Darla.

If you don't do a meal, at least try to seek out the one character that stands above all others for your party members. For Bean that was Woody, but we were at Hollywood Studios at the wrong time. He got his Toy Story fix though by riding the two Toy Story Rides (Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Sping-Magic Kingdom & Toy Story Midway Mania- Hollywood Studios) and eating at Pizza Planet (Hollywood Studios)!

For Darla, it's ALL about Donald. She was super excited to meet several others, but Donald is her main squeeze.

For the girl, it's the practically perfect Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins is her favorite, favorite, favorite! So, we kept it a super secret that Mary was even available. We took her without her knowing and made her stand in line. When she caught sight of Mary.. well, to say she was excited was an understatement! (FYI, Mary is at a character spot in the UK in Epcot's World Showcase).

Since this post is so long winded- I'm going to be posting a follow up dealing with EPCOT! Look for that very soon!

Have a magical day,


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