The Right Way to Tour Epcot’s World Showcase

Hang around with enough fellow Disney fans and you’re bound to notice one hotly debated topic:  Which way is the right way to circle World Showcase?  One camp swears by the Mexico Pavilion route as the only acceptable way to go (Looking at YOU, Nick Maglio).  The other camp adamantly believes the only way to kick off a World Showcase visit is to begin in Canada (Hello, Dave Hodges!).  Of course, I have my own opinion (no big surprise, right?) and I’m certain my way is best.  (Want in-depth arguing on this topic?  Listen to The Disney Exchange!)

The Right Way to Tour Epcot’s World Showcase

The answer is simple.  Enter World Showcase wherever you like!  Our plan is always to go towards whatever is first on our agenda if we have one.  If we’re there simply to wander (a favorite family activity), we go to the side that appears to be less crowded at that particular moment.Gran Fiesta Tour / Mexico Pavilion / Epcot's World Showcase

If there for the rides, we enter on the Mexico side and hit the Gran Fiesta Tour on our way to Frozen Ever After in Norway.  When looking for a bite to eat, the direction we take is solely based on whatever we’re craving at the moment.  In search of a cold beverage, we’re headed to the Canada side to make our way to the UK Pavilion for an Innes & Gunn (Scotland’s finest beer, IMHO).  See how this works?

On of the very best and most charming aspects of World Showcase is that it can be completely different from one visit to the next.  Seasonal festivals, holiday decorations and special events, and slower times of the year – all game changers.

For example:  During Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, the World Showcase can be packed!  Between guests and the extra food booths and kiosks, it has a certain party atmosphere unlike other time of the year.  If we’re there for attractions or visiting particular pavilions to shop, we go at park opening.  If we’re there for the food, we prefer to be in and out by late afternoon.

When there are no special events, World Showcase begs to be explored at a leisurely pace.  This is when we love to visit every pavilion and stop here and there to speak to Cast Members or watch a performance unique to a particular country.  Drummers in Japan, acrobats in China, Mariachi band in Mexico, performers in Italy and France – we’ll take in whatever happens to be going on at the moment.  Of course, there are always snacks and drinks to try!

Don’t fall for the arguments!  There is no one correct way to tour World Showcase – no matter where you start, there are amazing sights, sounds, and flavors to explore.

What’s your World Showcase touring strategy? 

 

 

Walt Disney World Safety Tips

Nobody expects something bad to happen to them on vacation.  Thinking about safety while visiting Walt Disney World seems pretty un-magical, but it’s a priority if we all want the happiest of vacation memories.  I’ve compiled a list based on recent news items and my own family’s experiences.  For your consideration…

Walt Disney World Safety Tips

Minimize the Risk of TheftWalt Disney World Summer Crowd

Consider renting a stroller.  It’s sad, but true, there are thieves among us – even on a Disney vacation.  This recent incident is an excellent example of a repeat offender hard at work.  While she finally got caught, she’d apparently been stealing for a while and making off with high-end goods including at least one expensive stroller.  Leave your fancy wheels at home and choose among the many rental options in Orlando.  You may also want to consider investing in a stroller lock (like this one).

Secure your valuables (or leave them at home).  If you’re staying on Disney property, your resort will offer an in-room safe.  Use it to store everything of value you won’t be carrying in the parks.  Laptops (small ones fit in most safes), tablets, cell phones, credit cards, passports, extra cash, etc. will all be safely tucked away while you’re out having fun in the parks.

Carry a good park bag.  For the important things you need with you while enjoying the parks, a good bag is key.  It needs to be as small and comfortable as possible but still include every necessity.  Never leave your park bag (or anything of value) unattended or in a stroller or on a scooter or wheel chair.  There are designated parking areas for strollers, but that doesn’t mean a guard is watching your stuff.

Watch your snacks!  It’s entertaining to watch resourceful squirrels and birds raid park guests’ snacks from a stroller, but it’s kind of gross (and disappointing) for the snacks’ owners, I’m sure.  There are lots of reasons Disney guests are asked not to feed the local wildlife.  It’s not healthy for the animals and it turns them into beggars and thieves.

Avoid Injury

Dehydration, sunburn, falls, sprains – all possibilities no matter where you vacation.  Sometimes the excitement of being at Walt Disney World causes people to become completely distracted.  With so much to see and do, so many magical sights all around, the Florida heat and sun can take a toll before you realize it.  Have a plan to make sure everyone gets plenty to drink (especially water) and use sunscreen generously and often.  Wear sensible shoes and keep your eyes open for potential hazards (like the trolley track on Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom).

Watch Out!  I’ve had strollers run into me on more than one occasion even when I was walking along with the crowd.  If I’d been paying more attention to my surroundings, I might have been able to get out of the way.  Maybe.  If you’ve been hit by a stroller, you know how suddenly and unexpectedly that impact can happen.  I guess my point here is there are lots of folks who don’t watch where they’re going…many of them are armed with wheeled weapons.  Beware!  Also, NOT stopping in the middle of a walkway is a good way to avoid collisions.

Germs are Everywhere!

I try not to think about the germs when I’m at Disney World, but it’s hard!  I’ve watched kids lick handrails, seen plenty of runny noses, dodged uncovered coughs and sneezes.  Let’s not even talk about bathroom stuff.  With huge crowds of people from all over the world, the odds of picking up a bug are high.  I have friends who catch a cold or the flu every time they travel.  To minimize the chances of getting sick, I recommend carrying both liquid hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.  At the very least, have everyone in your group wash their hands before eating.

Have a Plan for Getting Separated

In general, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place as you arrive at a park for when and where you will meet if you split up either accidentally or on purpose.  I realize everyone these days has a cell phone and you can just call each other, but just in case…think ahead about what you’ll do.  If the worst happens, you should know this:  If Cast Members cannot find the parents of a lost child immediately, they escort the child to a certain “lost child” area in the park. Alert a cast member immediately if your child is missing – there’s an awesome system in place to help. If you’re not alone, have someone stay where the child was last seen while you go check at the lost child area.

There’s nothing like a Disney vacation.  Taking a few basic safety precautions is well worth the time and effort.  Everyone coming home safe and sound with only happy memories is the best!

What tips did I miss?  What’s your #1 safety tip for Walt Disney World?

In Magic Kingdom? Avoid the PeopleMover!

There’s been much too much love shared among Disney fans on social media, in blog posts, and on podcasts  for Tomorrowland’s PeopleMover attraction.  Way too much effusive praise.  I feel the need to warn you away.  Don’t listen to the hype, I say!  Why?  Well, if you’ve never ridden the PeopleMover, now’s not the time to try it.

In Magic Kingdom? Avoid the PeopleMover!

Let me give you the five best reasons to mark this attraction off your to-do list…

  1.  You’re afraid of heights.  You’re pretty high up on this ride – at times, on the very edge of the track even.  It’s straight down if something goes wrong.  Better not chance it.
  2. You like clean air.  You’d think that a birds-eye view of Magic Kingdom would be refreshing, right?  Nope!  The exhaust fumes from the Tomorrowland Speedway are toxic!  You’ll have a difficult time breathing, trust me.
  3. You’re a thrill ride junkie!  No thrills here.  PeopleMover is a total snooze-fest.  A boring, narrated, slow-moving tour of Tomorrowland’s sights and attractions.  You want thrills in this section of the park?  You’ll want Space Mountain or Stitch’s Great Escape, for sure.
  4. You (or any member of your party) are afraid of the dark.  Your ride vehicle will enter tunnels of complete and total darkness.  Like can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face pitch blackness.  And not in a thrilling way.  It’s boring and uneventful…unless it’s your biggest fear, then it will be horrible.
  5. You want to be cool.  This ride is for dorks and geeks.  Cool kids do not ride the PeopleMover.  It’s the last place you’d ever want to be caught if you want people to think you’re worldly and hip.

So, if you’ve been here before you know that I’m always completely honest, right?  I give you my opinions in a straight forward, no-nonsense way and I can’t lie to you now.  I love the PeopleMover!  It’s the only must-do Tomorrowland attraction for me on every visit.  I’ve taught my entire family to appreciate and adore this wonderful ride as much as I do, but too many people have started to notice its awesomeness!

It’s getting too popular.  Where we used to walk on no matter the season or time of year, we’ve recently started to have to wait in line.  Sometimes for as long as 20 minutes!  I don’t like this development and want you to pass up PeopleMover so those of us who love it the most can have it to ourselves.  Am I asking too much?  I don’t think so.  Re-read the list of reasons to avoid the PeopleMover, take them to heart, and keep on walking, okay?  Please?

Holler if you love PeopleMover!!!!

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

Let’s talk (more) Pandora, okay?  I recently shared an overview of Megan’s and my experience in Animal Kingdom’s newest land.  Now it’s time to get to the very best part – Flight of Passage!  With a height requirement of 44-inches, this ride is intended for everyone in the family from about age six.  Is it a perfect attraction for everyone?  Just about!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

We rode Flight of Passage using the standby queue and also rode with a FastPass.  The standby line weaves through several different rooms, gradually becoming more heavily themed as guests make their way to the heart of the ride.  Unlike some of Disney’s newest queue innovations, this one has no interactive elements (that we noticed).  While I didn’t enjoy the queue nearly as much as I do the one for Expedition Everest, the final area of the line is VERY cool and worth waiting for…if the wait isn’t longer than about an hour.  We waited 90+ minutes and were pretty bored most of the time.  FastPass holders skip all of the standby – including the super interesting, well-themed parts.  Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage? Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?My suggestion:  If the line’s not too long, the lead up to the actual attraction adds certain immersive details that enhance the experience…if you like that sort of thing.

The “pre-ride show” is very detailed and includes instructions for actually experiencing the attraction.  During our first ride, I missed some of the finer details.  Don’t be like me!  Pay close attention to things like the particular avatar you are linked to and you’ll be even more amazed.Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Riding a Banshee

When you finally take your place on the ride vehicle (think motorbike or jet ski) and are secured in place (not nearly as restrictive as Rock’n’ Roller Coaster), you’ll be facing an industrial-looking wall.  As you wait for the final link to your avatar to be complete (you can see this happening on a screen on your vehicle), you may wonder (like we did), “What the heck?  What kinda good attraction has you staring at this wall?  Why do I even need these 3D glasses?” and then prepared to be delighted and amazed!  The wall simply vanishes and you arrive on Pandora.

I can’t describe it to you, but will tell you my impression.  Flight of Passage involves all of your senses.  You can feel the banshee breathing, beating its wings, jumping into the air.  You can see, feel and smell the Pandoran environment as you explore the planet with your leader.  Megan and I both exited the ride in complete amazement!  She wore a huge, unending grin – punctuated with an occasional delighted laugh.  I know I was walking along in jaw-dropped awe.  At one point, Megan took my hand and let me along…I was that stunned!

After that first ride, I could remember so clearly the sights, aromas, and feelings I experienced.  I could not remember a single sound…not one!  After that one time, I recalled the experience as being completely silent, yet I knew it couldn’t have been!  And I believe that’s a testament to this attraction’s outstanding design!  Sensory overload in the very best way!!!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

As with most of Disney World’s magic, I don’t care to know anything about the technology involved in allowing me to visit another planet and ride on the back of a flying animal there.  I just want to do it again!  More immersive than Soarin’, less motion-sickness-inducing jerkiness than Star Tours, no unexpectedly scary elements like Tower of Terror…yet much, much more thrilling than any of them, in its own unique way.  Unless your little one is easily scared by new experiences, I can’t imagine anyone not loving Flight of Passage.

If you’re headed to Walt Disney World to experience Pandora for the first time, I recommend Flight of Passage as the top must-do experience in this land.  While we were waiting in the standby line, Megan and I chatted up the folks around us…those who’d ridden Flight of Passage already were unanimous in their feelings about this attraction and overwhelmingly said, “Best ride EVER!”  As much as I love my favorite Disney World attractions, I’d be hard pressed to disagree.

Go! Ride! And let me know what you thought of Flight of Passage when you get back.