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Question Grab Bag

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Hello Readers! We asked and you answered. Here is a sampling of some of the questions that have been submitted by travelers like you in the last week and a half:

Do meals taste better with life-sized stuffed animals?

A father of three is concerned about character meal overload:

My wife and I will be taking our 3 children a 6 year-old daughter, a 3 year-old son, and a 1 year-old daughter to the World in January for four days.  As of right now, we have one sit down meal each day- Crystal Palace breakfast, Chef Mickey’s supper, Le Cellier lunch, and a 1900 Park Fare supper.  Are we overdoing the character meals?  If we were to drop one, it would probably be 1900 Park Fare, just because it’s an unknown for us.  Can you have too many characters on a Walt Disney World vacation?  The older two children are multi-trip veterans, so we’re not all that worried about character fright.  Any advice would be appreciated!

The Advisor’s first thought was “yeah, that’s a lot of character meals!,” but looking at the ages of his group, he is in a sweet spot – one free (the 1-year-old), and two kids under the “adult” cut-off of 9 years old. Character meals will never be this inexpensive for his group again. But why drop the one meal you’ve yet to experience, Dad? 1900 Park Fare scores higher than Chef Mickey’s though lower than Crystal Palace with Unofficial Guide readers. What says the crowd? Help out Pops by weighing in on dining with the characters in the comments section.

All rentals are not created equal

Another reader has questions about the Official Unofficial Stance and Decree on the Subject of Rental Cars:

So, I hear you often suggest that while Disney Transportation is fine, nothing beats renting a car to get around.  My question for you is…Are they any Disney hotels where that rule of thumb does not really apply?  (Poly? Contemporary?) Or one that you REALLY should take notice and rent the car (maybe Caribbean Beach?). I’m interested in your thoughts on when and where a rental car is a must have vs not so much.

Our thoughts are fine. I mean I like my thoughts – but how about the thoughts of 1000s of other readers? We have transportation ratings for every onsite hotel. You should also think about where you want to go. The monorail resorts are great for getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but share buses for trips to Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Downtown Disney. Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and the Port Orleans resorts have buses to all the parks, but boats to Downtown Disney.

My take is that a rental never a must have, but often a “sure is nice to have.” If renting a car means staying at a lower level resort than you would, or not staying as long, hop on Magical Express by all means. How about the rest of you? Are the any circumstances in which having a rental car is non-negotiable? Share your thoughts below!

Many readers ask (paraphrased):

What’s up with the Crowd Calendar? Where do you get your data? How about your entertainment times? Are you just making this up?

I asked Fred, and he assures me we’re not just making this up. Which is good, because otherwise the joke is on me for standing in all those lines timing my waits. In all seriousness, we put more resources than most of you would believe into getting our crowd predictions and wait time models right. Moreover, when we make changes to the Crowd Calendar we tend to blog about it to explain the reasoning. We track occupancy estimates, school schedules for the entire country, special events….you get the picture.

Any other questions about how we make the sausage here at TouringPlans.com? Mail them and all your other trip planning queries to advice@touringplans.com.

Until next time, readers, Happy Planning!

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Laurel Stewart

Laurel is a former software engineer and current student. She likes pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and Big Thunder Mountain.

11 thoughts on “Question Grab Bag

  • Rental Car vs. Disney Transportation:
    I live in North Carolina. I drive to Disney when it’s a family trip but I fly when it’s a solo trip and I can get a good price on a plane ticket. I never rent a car anymore. When I have my own car with me, I occasionally drive to a theme park if it involves a meal at a resort directly before or after but usually the car sits in the resort parking lot for my entire stay. The exception was when my son and I stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort in 2010. After one day of enduring the many bus stops at CBR, we drove everywhere except the Magic Kingdom. My solution to this would not be to rent a car, it would be to not stay at CBR again unless I had a car.

    Other factors to consider when renting a car is how many children you have and how well they will do on public transportation. Strollers need to be folded on Disney Transportation which means everything in the stroller has to be held by the adults in the group. Sometimes managing all of your baby/kid supplies *and* your children is next to impossible. Throwing it all in a rental car might be worth the money spent. Another consideration would be any offsite activities you have planned: a trip to the grocery store, a trip to Universal or Seaworld, a trip to the outlet mall. While it can be done without a rental car, it is definitely easier with a rental car.

    So, it depends on your situation. My situation these days with one child who is pushing 10 years old lends itself to Disney Transportation. Your situation may be different.

  • Because of the ages of the children, I’d say eating at character meals is a great option! Ours were 6 and 3 at the time, and because of their heights and age (6 year old was too intimidated by alot of the rides even if he was tall enough), character meals became “attractions” for us. Sure, the meals take a long time but at this age, you won’t be hitting many rides anyways so why not have an enjoyable meal?
    Also, my DD has some food allergies, and I must say Disney Table Service restaurants are AWESOME! Each time the chef came to our table and personally addressed the allergy concerns, sometimes making special dish just for DD. Quick Service are pretty good, too, but I found that eating at TS restaurants was the best.

  • We are another family that loves character meals. We have a 7DD and 4DS and did 1900 Park Fare, Crystal Palace, Akershus, Chef Mickey, Hollywood and Dine. We also did La Cellier (kids love it), Sci Fi and Trex. Like others, we use it as a chance to sit down and take a break plus beats standing in line for characters.

    As far as car. We have driven down and had a car for us at all times and it was nice, but we have also flown down and relied only on Disney transportation with no problems. I think it becomes a matter of personal preference and budget. I just think it matters how you tour and what your needs are.

  • We’ve gone with our 3 kids twice now–June 2010 and June 2011. On the most recent trip, our kids were 7, 5, and 1. We also loaded up on character meals, because it cut down on character wait times in the park. Our table service meals this past trip were: Crystal Palace breakfast (character), Tusker House breakfast (character), Garden Grill dinner (character), Mama Melrose dinner, Le Cellier lunch, Liberty Tree Tavern lunch, and ????? )(I’m forgetting one!) The break of a sit-down-meal each day helped to give my kids a built-in break and great character interaction! We’re planning a 3rd trip this June….and we’re taking our sister & brother-in-law and their two girls. I forsee lots of character meals in our future again!

    Sorry….no input on the car rental. We’ve relied solely on ME/Disney transportation during our trips. 1st trip: Contemporary Resort, 2nd trip: Animal Kingdom Lodge. We won’t stay at AKL again without additional transportation options.

    • I remembered our other meal: 50’s Prime Time….
      (It was bugging me!)

  • Went in 2008 with my then 6 & 4 year old daughters. Went back in 2010 with them as 8 & 6 year olds. Since we had the Deluxe Dining Plan we loaded up on character meals both times.

    Did them all: Crystal Palace, Cinderella’s, Princesses in EPCOT, Tusker House, Garden Grill, Chef Mickey’s, 1900 Park Fare for breakfast & dinner, etc. etc.

    This wasn’t too much in our eyes because to my kids at that point Disney was the characters. They had little to no interest in the shows in the parks. Lots of the rides were too much for them, especially the first trip. So seeing the characters and having intereactions with them was worth it for us. The kiddies even wanted to wait in line in the parks to see characters they didn’t see at the meals.

    But we’re planning on going back in April of 2012 and with the kids being 9 & 7, and probably not doing the deluxe plan, we’ll cut way down on the character meals. Only hit the “highlights.”

    Kids are more interested in the other things that are offered at Disney now such as the rides.

    So I would say keep the meals right now with the young kids.

  • For our past trip we had 4 character meals for our six year old son on a seven day trip. We did Ohana’s for breakfast, Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey’s, and the Garden Grill. We absolutely loved it and it kept us from spending hardly any time waiting for characters while we were in the parks. Our son loved it, even the fact that Mickey and Pluto were in three of his fopur character meals. My only regret would be not exposing him to the princesses any while he is still young enough to be awed by them.

    • Our 3 year old son loved the princesses at Akerhus, and they LOVED him. I think his biggest smile of the trip is a picture of him with a lipstick kiss mark on his cheek. Other than character meals, we only saw characters with very limited waits like at rifiki’s planet watch (thumbs up) and Buzz and Woody at Hollywood studios (thumbs down) We figured at least we could multitask and eat at the character meals 😉

  • I’m looking forward to these answers!

    • particularly to the dining question…

  • Went in August with 2 daughters age 5 and son age 3 for their first time and we went to 5 Character meals, including 2 in 1 day! Seeing that many characters was great, never got old for the kids as they saw different characters each time. We reasoned that seeing the characters would be easier than splitting up because of height restrictions and varying courage levels. The 2 in 1 day meals were at Epcot, Akerhus for Breakfast and Garden Grill for dinner. 2 was probably too much, we had figured the kids wouldn’t be that interested in Epcot. We were right in that regard, but almost 4 hours tied up eating was too much for the adults, even though the kids liked it. For the record we also ate at the Disney Jr. play and dine, Crystal Palace, and 1900. Our 5 year old girls were “playfully scared” of the evil stepmother, and thought the step sisters were cool. The only drawback we found to our meal schedule was that buffets started to get to be a real drag. Too much walking after a long day in the park.


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