Should I get a Walt Disney World annual pass?

Yes. Maybe.  It depends.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me this question…  They’re going to Walt Disney World for a certain amount of time, and are wondering if they should spend the money on an annual pass instead of whatever ticket they were going to get.

For most visitors to Walt Disney World (who aren’t from Florida or DVC members), a Disney Platinum Pass is going to cost you $779.  (as of posting this: May 1st, 2017)

If you are going to WDW for one week, a park hopper ticket (allowing you to go to multiple parks per day) is $485.  So when you compare the two, it’s about $300 more to get the annual pass.  Why would a person pay that much more money for one?   Well, there are some reasons, which when put together, may make sense.

1 – You think you may come back within 12 months.  If you’re going to come back for 3 or more days ($349), the annual pass is worth it.   So if you take a trip about every year or so, plan your trips accordingly.  One year, go August 15-22.  The next year, go August 7-14.  You get two trips out of one annual pass.  It pays for itself and saves you plenty of money.
2 – You brought your own car and you’re staying off property.  Parking costs $20 a day at Walt Disney World, so a week of driving in will be an extra $140.  The Disney Platinum Pass gives you free parking for the entire year.
3 – You love the Photopass pictures and on-ride pictures at the parks.  You can pay $149 for Memory Maker, unlimited photos during your stay.  The Disney Platinum Pass gives you free photos for the entire year.
4 – You do a lot of dining or shopping, or have a large group that will spend a good amount of money on food and souvenirs.  The Disney Platinum Pass gives you a discount of 10-20% off at a good number of restaurants, and 20% at a LOT of merchandise locations.
5 – You’re thinking of doing a tour or sports recreations at Walt Disney World.  The Disney Platinum Pass gives you a discount of 15% on many tours, including Behind the Seeds, Keys to the Kingdom, and on mini-golfing, spas and other recreations.
6 – If you’re planning on staying onsite at a Walt Disney World resort, having an annual pass can save you quite a lot on your resort room.  Staying for only 2 nights, depending on the season and resort, can make the Disney Platinum Pass worth it, and staying for even longer can save you hundreds of dollars.

Many of the discounts can be found on the Disney website here: Annual Pass Discounts

When planning your vacation, any combination of these may show you that getting an annual pass is worth the extra money.  If you’re planning on buying Memory Maker, playing a few rounds of miniature golf, and spending money on parking while at Walt Disney World, the Disney Platinum Pass is definitely worth it!

The money you can save by purchasing an annual pass can be hundreds of dollars or more!  And that saved money means a longer trip, more souvenirs, a character buffet, or a donation to 365DaysAtDisney (joking.  sort of…).

FullSizeRender 136(And who doesn’t want this awesome looking card in their wallet?!?)

Please be sure to follow me on twitter, where I tweet daily about Disney history, food, parks, movies, and more! @365DaysOfDisney

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365 Days of Kitchen Sinks

sin584232LARGE(Picture from the Walt Disney World website)

If you were to eat a kitchen sink (okay, if your group of family or friends) every single day for an entire year…

It would cost:
$10,585.00
$11,263.90 (including tax)
$13,291.40 (including tax and an 18% gratuity)

You would eat:
11.4 gallons of hot fudge topping
11.4 gallons of peanut butter topping
11.4 gallons of butterscotch topping
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365 bananas
365 cinnamon spice cupcakes
365 angel food cake cupcakes
Ice Cream Freezer Room
(image found here)
22.8 gallons of vanilla ice cream
22.8 gallons of chocolate ice cream
22.8 gallons of strawberry ice cream
11.4 gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream
11.4 gallons of coffee ice cream
4.28 gallons of chocolate syrup
kirs0193edited1.jpg
(image found here)
5.7 gallons of marshmallow crème
5.7 gallons of strawberry topping
5.7 gallons of pineapple topping
319.4 pounds of dairy whipped topping
213558_largest_brownie-Daphne
(image found here)
91.25 square feet of brownies (365 brownies)
45.625 pounds of candy bars (365 candy bars)
1,460 chocolate cookies with cream filling
1.4 gallons of toasted almonds
1.4 gallons of dark and white chocolate shavings
1.4 gallons of chocolate cookie (crushed)
orangeslice(3)_1720_general
(image found here)
1.4 gallons of jellied oranges (730 slices)
1.4 gallons of mint chocolate chips
1.4 gallons of peanut butter chips
1.4 gallon of chocolate sprinkles
1.4 gallons of rainbow sprinkles
01lensNYC.480(image found here)
11.4 gallons of maraschino cherries

Miniature Golf part 1: Winter Summerland

Misc 114

One of my favorite things to do, whether I’m at Walt Disney World or not, is play miniature golf.  I’ve played countless rounds across the country and even the world, and my wife and I have even worked at a miniature golf course and children’s theater.  She learned about this love of mine when we decided to honeymoon at Myrtle Beach, SC, the “miniature golf capital of the world” and we played about a dozen rounds in the 5 days we were there.

At Disney, there are two miniature golf areas: Fantasia Gardens and Fairways, and Winter Summerland.  This post will focus on Winter Summerland.  The two courses there are nearly identical/symmetrical, making it fun to play both sets of 18 and compare the holes.

winter summerland screenshot 11-11-11
(screenshot from 11-11-11 aerial photo on Google Earth)

Winter Summerland consists of two 18-hole courses, one, themed for the winter, and the other, as you can guess, themed for the summer.  As the Disney website states:

Late one Christmas Eve, as Santa was flying back to the North Pole, he discovered snow in Florida. After surveying the strange sight, he decided to build a vacation destination for his off-duty elves—a Winter Summerland.

Seeing that the only thing Winter Summerland lacked was a golf course, Santa and his elves divided into 2 camps, one that enjoyed the warm Florida sun and another that preferred the snow and cold of the North Pole. The elves then built 2 distinctly different 18–hole golf experiences: a sand course named “Summer” and a snow course named “Winter.”

(description courtesy of the Walt Disney World website)

winter summerland 3(Santa has a sleigh and an airstream)

There are funny little things all over to take pictures of: Santa’s airstream, a sleigh you can sit in, a melted snowman, etc.  The Winter Summerland miniature golf course also has a few surprises in store, which I don’t want to give away.

winter summerland 2
(We HAD to golf when we went down for the WDW Marathon!)

Maybe we’re just crazy, but we felt like the winter side had more shade, and felt much cooler than the summer side.  Perhaps it was just wishful thinking?

winter summerland 4
Hot cocoa and mini-golf anyone?

At the end of your round, you get a message from Santa, and when you turn in your clubs, they have a bowl full of candy canes.  The best time to play here? Pick a cool day, if you can, and bring some hot cocoa!

Q4-29 Winter-Summerland June 1999    MRA(Please don’t swing your club like this kid, from a Disney website picture)

winter summerland castle - snowwinter summerland castle - sand

(These photos are from Magical Memories by John, run by vacation planner John Parr)

The only negatives about the experience? One – the computer e-mail message from Santa at the end could use some updating.  The other – getting to this golf course in the winter can be a major pain.  When Blizzard Beach is closed, finding a bus to take you can be a bit problematic, so we opt for a taxi. $10 to save 45-60 minutes on buses is worth it!

For more information, you can also check out Disney-Pal, which has some great photos.

Have you tried these golf courses out?  Which course is your favorite?  If you haven’t tried out Winter Summerland, why not?  Leave your comments below!

Giving away $400 dollars

Earlier this week, I decided to do something a bit strange.  I wrote my 4,000th tweet (@365DaysOfDisney), and decided to donate some money to a good cause: Give Kids The World®.  I decided that I would give $1 for every retweet I got, up to $400.  Am I rich?  Absolutely not.  Am I crazy?  Maybe.  Is the money going to a great cause?  Definitely!

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What is Give Kids The World?  It is a “non-profit “storybook” resort… where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to week long, cost-free fantasy vacations.” (www.gktw.org)  Started by hotelier Henri Landwirth, it is located about 15 minutes from Walt Disney World.  Every need of its visitors is taken care of, complimentary, during their week long vacations.  There are activities at the village itself (including non-branded themed Boston Market and Perkins restaurants), and guests can go to a number of theme parks in the area around it (Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World, to name a few).  In their 20+ years serving families, over 127,000 have been able to spend a week at the Village.  Just this year, they remodeled a number of their accommodations, knowing that if it’s anything like record breaking 2012 (7,300 families!), they’ll be busy.

The Gingerbread House (yes, it's a Perkins)

The Gingerbread House (yes, it’s a Perkins)

There is so much that could be written about Give Kids The World, but instead, I encourage you to check out their webpage.  If you feel the desire to donate to them, you are more than welcome to! Just $25 can allow  family to use the Ice Cream Palace bar for their entire visit.

All you can eat ice cream for a week

All you can eat ice cream for a week

(photos are from the GKTW website)

The Give Kids The World blog

You can read a post from the family of Jaylie Nielson, in which they discuss in much more detail the Give Kids The World Village.

Surviving Someone Else’s Disney Trip

Today, I want to talk about ways to survive someone else’s trip to Walt Disney World.

I had recently planned a trip to Disney after finding out about a ridiculously low rate at the Boardwalk Inn… and although I would have gotten a room for as much as $520 LESS than other people were paying for it, I decided that leaving my wife with our 2 year old and 2 month old (and paying $980 for the flight) maybe wasn’t the best husbandly thing to do.  However, my brother and dad (who is presenting a paper at the conference) will be heading down and arrive on January 1st.  Am I upset by this?  Nope.  Because instead of sulking sadly in the corner, I will travel vicariously to Disney through them!

Help them plan (if they let you)

My dad is not always the most organized person when traveling, so when I offered to help him plan his trip, he happily agreed.  He and I have talked together about some of the places he wants to see, restaurants he’d like to eat at, and activities he’d like to do, and I worked out a few possible itineraries for him.  Giving the person as much say as they want in their trip is the healthiest way to go about it.  If they’re comfortable giving you free reign: awesome, but don’t expect to get to tell someone else what to do every minute of their trip.  Plans may change, the weather may not cooperate, or he may decide to sleep in on certain mornings, but by offering to help plan it, I’ve been able to get some of that excitement and OCD out of my system.  If someone you know is traveling to Walt Disney World, take the time to find out what you can about their likes and dislikes.  Not only will this help you (and them) plan, but it can be a fun time to get to know someone better.

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Give useful/helpful tips

I’ve told my dad to stay away from certain areas that are likely to be crowded, as well as any that have maintenance scheduled for their visit.  Splash Mountain, for example, will be open during their first few days, but then closes for maintenance, so they’ll need to head their early if they want to enjoy it.

If they are a person that may buy something for you, have an idea of what you’d like and where from, if they ask.  HINT: the Turkey Leg air freshener can only be found in certain locations, so make sure you let them know where to get it!!!

A secret to tips: don’t go overboard.  My dad and I both love Disney, and can’t have enough of it, but texting at 12:40 am to let him know that there’s only a 40 minute wait to Peter Pan’s Flight when he’s not a night person and has probably been in bed for 3 hours… maybe not the best idea.

Schedule time to talk

I know that if my family is watching Illuminations at 9:00 pm, I probably shouldn’t call them at 9:05 pm and expect them to answer.  When my dad goes to Walt Disney World without me, he LOVES to send pictures, texts, voice mails and videos throughout the day letting me follow along with what he’s doing.  What we’re going to try this trip is FaceTime.  Without being that obnoxious person holding their iPad up to the sky during Wishes, we’re going to try a few times to video chat while he’s in the parks.

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Don’t be these people! (photo originally found here)

Back off if you need to

If you’re able to be involved with someone else’s trip, great!  However, it’s THEIR trip, not yours, and they may need time to enjoy things on their own.  Take the hint if they don’t answer your phone calls or texts: while you are at home living in ridiculously cold South Dakota winters, they are on vacation having a great time.

If they don’t follow your advice, your walking tour suggestion, your restaurant recommendations, and your detailed Excel spreadsheet that lists optimal times throughout the week for each of the ‘major’ ‘moderate’ and ‘low’ interest attractions, so be it.

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Hey, at least we’re above 0 this week…

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(photo can be found here)

Be excited when they return

If you’ve ever been on an amazingly awesome, super great, terrific trip, sometimes getting home afterwards can be a bit of a let down.  (I feel like I need a vacation after some of my vacations).  If someone you know if going, be there for them when they get back.  Ask to see their pictures, or if they have a link to their online PhotoPass page, check it out.  If you haven’t kept up with them during their vacation, find out how it went, what their favorite rides were, etc.

As you have read, most of these tips are for family members / relatives going to Walt Disney World, but they can be modified for friends, coworkers and other people you know who are taking a trip without you.  Are there any tips, tricks or pieces of advice that YOU would like to share?  Leave a comment below!

The HOW of going to Walt Disney World

Why now?

At this moment, my wife and I have jobs that we very much enjoy, but are not permanent.  The school district we work for is pretty great, and we would be able to take off for one year and probably find similar jobs if so desired (and I will eventually be a musical teacher, vocal emphasis).  My wife and I have a daughter who is just over a year and a half, and another child on the way.  For the next few years, neither of them will have to be in school, and children under the age of 3 get into Disney parks for free, so this seems to be the perfect time.

Where to stay?

I’ve called Disney agents a number of times (they are very helpful, and all seem to think this 365 Days At Disney idea is great), but there are no cheap places to stay on property for one full year.  The least expensive is a tent site, but at roughly $60 a night in the off season, it would cost $22,000 (but I don’t think I’d have a very happy family living in a tent).  And unless I win the lottery in the next few months, I won’t be able to resort hop, as cool as that sounds.  So most likely, we would rent an apartment somewhere near Disney World, or find a gracious WordPress reader who would like to let out their house for 12 months.  “Hey honey, renting an apartment in Orlando is cheaper than sleeping in a tent”. 🙂

The only thing keeping us from moving to Orlando tomorrow is how to pay for one year in the happiest place on Earth.  We’ve talked about taking out a loan (I sure hope my super amazing, gracious, wonderful parents are reading this), and we’ve talked about starting a Kickstarter page.  We would absolutely love to be able to go based on the generosity of others, and think it would make for a really great story… but we’re also trying to be realistic.

I am awaiting verification from Kickstarter, but have filled out everything I need for a project to begin.  The first goal is $3,000.  I’ll put a link in once everything is a go.

Do YOU have ideas on how to raise enough money to spend 365 Days At Disney?  I’d be happy to hear from you!

Teaching my Toddler

My wife and I have a 20 month old daughter, Rya, and another child on the way.  At our home, we have a TV, and we watch movies, but we don’t have cable (I know, crazy, right?).  Our daughter knows who the Fab Five are because of books we read, but has never really seen any Disney TV shows (other than the occasional Jake and the Never Land Pirates when at Grandma’s house).

I was thinking about ways of slowly introducing her to different Disney characters, so that when she goes to Walt Disney World for the first time, she won’t be scared by a giant mouse or pirate or fairy walking around.  Today, we sat down and looked at pictures from other trips my wife and I have taken to Disney, and Rya was most excited about her favorite new word: castle.  The last four trips have been when the Cinderella’s castle has been decked out in holiday lights, and every picture that came up with us in it, she’d say “mommy, daddy, oo pretty castle”.  Two of the trips have also been during record cold (really, it CANImage snow in Orlando…)

For any readers who have young kids, or are thinking about having young kids, or don’t have young kids but want to share their opinions anyway: When would you first go with children, or when did you first go with children?  Do you remember your first trip to Walt Disney World?   Please leave a comment below, and share the blog to others if you feel so inclined!