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Today was our last day in the parks. We had used up our 5 day ticket, so R. and I bought 1 day/1 park tickets on our phones. That worked out really simply. Nice system! The whole park is very phone centric.

I didn't get up for the really early park open (7 a.m. with 1 hour early for staying on property), but we did get there earlier than our 8:30 breakfast at the Plaza Inn and rode Buzz twice. Plaza Inn was fun; I had an omelette and some gluten free/milk free mickey waffles. She had the regular mickey waffles. Lots of photos, including "Max", Goofy's son who I had not been previously aware of. After that, we got Hyperspace Mountain one last time, and Star Tours. We did the Tinkerbell meet and greet. We watched Path of the Jedi. And we got a photo with Boba Fett in Launch Bay. We watched (but did not participate in) Trials of the Temple.

We left a little early and hung out in the hotel lobby. We had to wait for gate agents. They take a dinner break, I guess. Mint was lovely. Luggage was expedited. Flight was super short due to tail winds. We all slept.

A. got take out from McD's next to the rental car return. The rest of us got BK at the airport. I got a phone call from the hotel asking us about the shoes we had abandoned in the room -- we had even put them in the trash. Great service, I guess? Also, we'd left a sleep mask. No, we didn't want any of those back.
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We had a great last day at Disney's California Adventure. We saw the Frozen show at the Hyperion. We did the Anna and Elsa meet and greet in the Animation building. A. really enjoyed watching the snippets of cartoons that were playing so waiting wasn't a big chore. We rode Soarin and Racers in the morning, and got a Soarin fast pass for the end of the day (after dinner). We tried to ride the Goofy coaster but it broke down so we used that fast pass at the end of the day, too. We also got A. a multi color pen like K. had.

We had dinner at Goofy's Kitchen. I bought the Passport Collection, since I hadn't paid for any photos yet, and that got us the photo voucher for the group photo at the restaurant. It's sad the trip is basically all but over; it's been a lot of fun and I will miss J & J, K., and N.
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We had a late lunch at the Blue Bayou, despite the closure of Pirates of the Caribbean for refurbishment. We had had some concerns about whether the various atmospheric effects would be on or not and had been told various stories. Obviously, no water noises of hearing the boats go by! And we couldn't see any stars, which was a bummer, but otherwise it felt about like it usually does. The chef came out to help R., J. and I with our various dietary constraints and everyone had a good meal. I stopped at the Stage Door beforehand to pick up A. a power pack so she would have things to snack on.

I had gotten a fast pass for Big Thunder when I noticed the wait time was the same as the fast pass return (this happened _a lot_ on this trip, which I find incredibly confusing). During our wait, I lined up some other activities, and A. inserted a bathroom break in the middle. We went over by the Zocalo and wow, there was a line. We still made it to lunch in time, but it was a near thing.

She also requested a character breakfast at the Plaza Inn. I don't like to do these, because they tend to happen during the nice, relatively quiet time at the beginning of the day, but it was towards the end of the trip and we'd gotten to do basically everything we really wanted to do so I said, sure, if I can make a reservation. I wasn't able to get one for Friday, but I did get one for Saturday.

Since we had a big, late lunch, T. and I went down to the Hearthstone Lounge for chips again, and a drink for me. I'm gonna miss this. It's fun.
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Yesterday, A.'s interest in Haunted Mansion was piqued by a girl one year younger than her in line (but taller! this was the DVC family from Queens that I was so utterly charmed by). Today, we tried to ride it and failed a few times before ultimately succeeding. It was down at park open, so we went on Winnie the Pooh -- and rode it through a second time without getting off the ride. We were the first people on it this morning. We also rode Indy standby and then later on a fastpass, walked through the treehouse.

Dinner was at Cafe Orleans, which is a little odd, because they don't have a bar. So I went down to the lounge after we got back to the hotel with T. again. It's getting to be a nice little routine: I get a drink, we get chips, salsa and guac, we talk a little and play on our devices for a while. Altho it is potentially going to come back to bite me, if some of my son's major memories of hanging out with me on vacations is going to bars with me.
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Went to Disneyland today. The Hyperspace Mountain -- Star Wars themed space mountain -- is hugely awesome. Waited almost an hour and had a great time chatting with Becky and Bruce originally from Ohio, now in Albuquerque. Retired from teaching school and Sandia National Labs. Also met a lovely family of four from Queens (house destroyed in Hurricane Sandy) while waiting to enter the park. Both parents school teachers. DVC members. They are thinking about Aulani, too.

Met a family of four from Wellesley waiting for the Gadget coaster. A. ran the bubble wand constantly and the kids had a blast. The mother took pictures and emailed me one. Our kids got along great and we're going to try to set up a playdate -- wonderful what can happen in a line!

Also had a nice chat waiting in FP line to ride space mountain again -- LA resident.

Went to build a bear and got a Minnie Bear. Lunch at Galactic Grill. Walked through the castle. A. loved riding the horse drawn omnibus back to the front of the park. She was amazed it was a real horse.

My cousin has sent a letter requesting no contact from his parents and saying he won't be supporting them financially. It's a good letter. I'm thinking about copying the message and using parts of it myself. Our situations have some elements in common (the parents are shunning us, but intruding in our lives with a variety of requests and demands, while being simultaneously unwilling to engage in the most basic elements of a family connection, like, sharing a meal or even talking for pleasure as opposed to for family business such as a funeral, or a request for funds, etc.), but other elements are not shared. I wouldn't wish what we are going through on anyone, but it is kind of amazing to have someone to communicate with and work through the issues with. Doing this in complete isolation, or only with the support of people with no relevant experience, would be much more difficult.
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Today, my sister's flight was fairly early, so she went to Disney Springs and then home. We had a later flight so we went to AK and rode Expedition Everest 5 times. Ouch. I refused to get on it again. I had to take imodium in the morning anyway because I foolishly ate a Veggie Naanwich at Epcot a couple days earlier and it really didn't agree with me. Allergy pills will fix the allergic reaction but I never remembered to take a lactose pill.

After Everest, we did Safaris, then lunch at Restaurantosaurus. Then everyone else went on Primeval Whirl. I hate that ride. It beats up my shoulders something fierce and I have no idea why.

A. and I also did It's Tough to Be a Bug.

Our flight was delayed because the incoming flight on the same airplane was late out of Boston due to weather and we weren't able to leave until things were a little better in Boston anyway. Fortunately, it turns out that one of the boxes of food they sell on JetBlue is kosher, vegan and gluten free, which means -- because of the vegan part -- it has no milk products. Fortunately, they did not do gluten free with buckwheat, which would have been a problem for me. R. bought a sandwich to bring on the plane. I had the last of the package of bagels for T. and a box of Nutrigrain bars to feed A. I got a Jack to go with my Ginger Ale and felt much less annoyed by the whole experience.

I discovered that the driver on the way home had gone to college at EWU, and lived for a while here in Acton. Small world!

T. unpacked his luggage put everything away unprompted then put himself to bed. A. went to bed without much protest. I did not do laundry, but got everything else unpacked. We are all very happy to be home.
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I probably should not have planned to do MK today, because it was insanely busy. Also, our APs had expired yesterday so we had to set up new media and I forgot to tell R. who left earlier than us with T. *sigh* It did eventually all work out. They waited in the Will Call line for me.

I convinced A. to do Peter Pan first thing, which was fun. Then we did Belle and there was no one there, but fortunately people showed up pretty quick. A. wanted to be Mrs. Potts (she always does) and that actually worked out well. We even still managed to get on Buzz through the regular line. Then it was fast passes, but A. wanted to do Space Mountain twice; we waited through a 40 minute queue -- mostly she just wished there were games to play through the whole queue. Last FP was Seven Dwarfs. I love that ride. Then she brought up going to see Rapunzel and Tiana, which would have been a 5 minute wait in the morning, but was now 55 minutes. I was able to get a 4th FP for about an hour and 10 minutes, so we bought some stuff, went to the bathroom, went on the carousel and finally got into the FP line slightly early. I convinced her we could go back to the hotel at that point, since T. and R. had gone there so we could ride with them in the car over to dinner. Altho it was tricky -- she wanted to know where the other princesses were.

We had lunch with my sister's family at Cosmic Ray's. We all had dinner at Ohana, where the kids got to do coconut races.
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Having settled in finally, we had a lovely time at Hollywood Studios, riding Star Tours during the early magic hour until we were pretty sick of it. We also caught Midway Mania at the start of the day and on a FastPass -- it is not so nuts in terms of line build since they doubled it (or should I say Dumbo'd it?). A. bought Holly, a barbie sized doll themed to look like an employee of the Tower of Terror. It seems to be part of a series and is her new, constant companion.

ETA: While playing with the doll after unboxing it, I got to have a half hour conversation with my friend K. It was lovely!

We left fairly early -- we usually do from Hollywood Studios. R. drove us in the rental car over to a very early dinner at Park Fare. They have reversed the entrance and exit of the restaurant, confusing us, and agitating T. *sigh* I agree with them that the layout is better. They seem to have done away with the group photo. The food and service is good, as always. I hauled three autograph books all the way to WDW and never did remember to get them back out of the luggage. I apologized to A., who said she didn't need any more autographs because she had them all already. Can't argue with that logic.
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We were supposed to go in for the first hour today, but decided not to. MIL, T. and I finally went down to Islands and got him his waffle. Their breakfasts are large and tasty, which I think violates some rule of sit down hotel breakfasts, which are typically not very filling, not very tasty and wildly overpriced (I guess that last part still sort of applied, but it's hard to mind much when the food is good and there is lots of it).

MIL went home. We went to Wilderness Lodge and then toured Epcot. Since we had a dinner reservation at Kona Cafe at 5:05, and I wasn't sure when our room would be ready, I figured it would be easier to just spend a long day at Epcot and not return to our room until after eating. To that end, A. and I rested a couple times in the DVC member lounge, along with her iPad. I sort of wish I had brought her charger. I also discovered that the credit card charge issue with MIL's room really hadn't been fixed, so I had to find out how to correct that. Wilderness Lodge's concierge/front desk was very helpful about getting a form printed out so I could fill it out, send it in, etc.

R. went to Publix to pick up some groceries. Yogurt and cole slaw. The necessities of life had now been acquired, altho not with the brand T. wanted in the yogurt because they were out of his preferred brand/flavor.

We got from Epcot to Kona by monorail then walking. We got from Kona to Wilderness Lodge by taking two boats. Kinda cool! Both meanings of the term. It was after dark and R. and I were shivering. The kids had more clothes on than we did.
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Okay, so, JUST TO BE CLEAR: This actually _is_ a tragedy. This is a very awful story. If awful stories involving children are the kind of thing you can't tolerate hearing you should really back away now.

Here is some blank space for you.

And some more. Seriously. Leave now. Dead young person.

All right.

We go to WDW. A lot. And we like staying at the GF. We stay other places, too, but when I saw the pictures from this story, I knew without being told the resort where it happened, because it's right next to a place where I've spent a bunch of time with my young children and mother-in-law and husband. I cannot count the number of times I've walked across that stretch of sand.


I've never seen an alligator anywhere near this place. That said, when we stayed at the Beach Club, when we walked across a bridge from the parking lot to the villas, there were a frightening number of gators in the water under the bridge. We stopped and counted. Double digits. Lots of snappy terror, right there.

According to the NPR coverage, since the incident:

"Nick Wiley of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ... said, his team has removed four alligators from the lake, euthanized them and analyzed them. They found no evidence that suggested they were involved in the boy's disappearance." (The punctuation makes sense in context -- I just wanted to include the explanation of who Wiley is so I pushed two different sections together.)

I would like to offer up the following comments, but I would further like them to be understood in the context of (a) I'm not blaming the family and (b) I'm not blaming Disney and (c) I'm not blaming the conservation commission. All that said, I think there are some lessons that can be taken away from this.

(1) Don't Ever Go In Water at WDW That Isn't Expressly Maintained For That Purpose. If it's a pool, or a hot tub or a part of a water park or a spray feature or an outdoor shower, have fun and follow the posted rules. I read a fair amount back in the day about the construction of The World and I would _never_ _ever_ _ever_ touch the "natural" water in The World. It ain't natural. It's quite awful. And it turns out that in addition to being unnatural and awful from all the many perspectives I had from that reading, there are also gators in it, this being central Florida (it can be hard to remember, while immersed in the theming, that you are in Florida. But you are in Florida).

(2) Disney is understandably concerned about its reputation with a variety of communities that have families. And they don't want to open themselves up to attacks from environmentalists because they are blithely massacring the local fauna to keep the place safe for guests. (Don't get me started on the vulture thing.) I get it. I spent a lot of time walking around Green Lake stepping in green goose shit. I have heard more than one story (didn't happen to me, ever, but I'm quite aggressive) of a woman being sexually assaulted by a goose (turns out those Greek myths have some basis to them. Who knew?). It took a really, really long time to convince Seattle Parks & Rec to do something about the goose problem, and it is now a chronic issue, trying to figure out how to appropriately manage the population. (ETA: http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=9351 The article discusses the pre-kill efforts at deportation of eggs, which didn't reduce numbers for very long and just made it so other places had the problem also. So if you're thinking, oh, just capture the gators and move them, well, waste of effort. While it may be the case that killing has ended at Green Lake because other control efforts are working, other lakes in the region are continuing to struggle: http://www.issaquahreporter.com/news/218746311.html) But all that said, we are apex predators and this is one of our nesting areas. We should keep it safe. It's tempting to say they should patrol the area, but honestly, they've got so many cast members yards away busy checking to make sure no one is at the bottom of the pool that you could get to the point where you couldn't move without tripping over a cast member. There are a LOT of signs. I don't think this is something you fix with more signs and more staff. I think this is something you fix by reducing the population of offending predators.

(3) Finally, I know that there is some history between WDW and the conservation commission, previously known as the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. I mentioned the vultures, right?


Nobody wants another thing like the vultures. But gators in Florida are not like endangered gorillas living in a zoo in Cleveland or whatever. And while there ARE signs saying to stay out of the water, this is not a kid that defeated multiple barriers to get into a space where the paying customers are not supposed to go. I think we're going to need to make it so there aren't gators in this vicinity, and that might involve killing more than four. Maybe the involved parties could hash out a program to maintain the population at an appropriate level on an ongoing basis, so low level employees don't wind up inventing something on the fly that embarrasses everyone when it comes to light.

ETA: Also, if you are thinking, oh, hey, maybe a decorative railing at the water's edge? Probably not gonna be enough to stop the gators.


"Concrete or wooden bulkheads that are a minimum of 3 feet (1 m) above the high water mark will repel alligators along waterways and lakes. Alligators have been documented to climb 5-foot (1.5-m) chain-link fences to get at dogs. Fences at least 5 feet high with 4-inch (10-cm) mesh will effectively exclude larger alligators if the top of the fence is angled outward."

ETA: NYT reprinted a piece from the late 1980s about how the Conservation Commission (under an earlier name) handled gators.


Again, relocation does not work.


WaPo coverage of 1986 attack on a (surviving) 8 year old at the World. Included in the article is a link to contemporaneous news coverage.


It would be easy to ask questions about why a couple kids rescued a kid successfully in 1986 but adults couldn't save a kid in 2016, but I think the relevant feature is the age difference. 8 year olds are bigger than 2 year olds, so the ability of the gator to get away is substantially limited. Reptiles are surprisingly bad at letting go once they have clamped down. (<-- this is not a joke)

Here is some detailed information about how alligators behave and what to do / not to do around them.


The beach where the child was attacked has emergent vegetation.

"Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Therefore, swim only during daylight hours. Large alligators feed most actively during the evening hours."

"DON’T swim or allow pets to swim in areas with emergent vegetation (plants
growing up out of the water). Alligators favor this type of habitat. Swim in
designated areas only."

For all you control freak-y planners out there wondering what to do if you are at GF and see something like this again:

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I recently blocked about a weird NYT article involving income inequality and tourism. The author picked Disney After Hours, a hard ticket 3 hour post close event with limits slots, as an example of a "behind the velvet rope" experience only available to Moneyed Folk.

I just got an invitation in email as an annual passholder: I can buy up to 4 of those tickets for half the going rate (normally $150 -- for me, a mere $75!).

From this I conclude NOT that WDW really particularly values me, but that those nights at MK were gonna be sparsely attended anyway, this event was an effort to gin up some visitors and it isn't working as well as was anticipated.
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I really set up a ridiculous day: start the day at WorldQuest, check out, go to Universal, go on rides for a few hours (mostly to do Forbidden Journey at the beginning of the day -- we'd done Gringott's at the beginning of the previous day. Neither ride is available through Ultimate Express), leave, drive to Animal Kingdom, eat lunch at Yak and Yeti Local Foods, go on the Safari, Expedition Everest using Fast Passes, check into Grand Floridian, meet R.'s mother, go to 'Ohana for dinner. A plan like this is begging to be Murphied, but apparently he was on vacation too and left us alone. I was a zombie by the end of it, but everything went smoothly.

The first day at Universal, someone wanted me to do a survey, which I attempted and then bailed out on because it was screen after screen of pick one of five Would You Use This Kind of Transportation From this location to that location (Very likely, somewhat likely, etc.). A half a dozen or more of these questions per screen, and I was also trying to keep track of my daughter, her souvenirs, etc. Did Not Work For Me. I handed it back.

But it did get me thinking. Orlando suffers from the Las Vegas problem that ultimately led to the monorail which parallels the Strip: people arrive at Mccarren, get a taxi to some location on the Strip, may be willing to walk to a neighboring location on the Strip if there is a tunnel but otherwise will take more taxis to go from location to location on the Strip, unless it is after dark and not crazy hot. The result is horrible traffic and worse air pollution, and city public transport is not really set up to accommodate tourist needs and preferences. The Universal survey which I did not complete did, indeed, ask about monorails.

I don't want a monorail. I've been on a fair number of monorails at this point, and honestly, I don't trust the fuckers for a host of reasons, but even if I did, Orlando development is just spread out too much for it to work well. I suppose someone could set up light rail (also a question on the survey), but I would be fine if Universal set up something like Disney's Magical Express (DME is a Disney branded, Mears run motor coach where you get yellow luggage tags. You stick 'em on your luggage when you check your bags at your home airport, DO NOT pick them up at MCO instead Mears gets them and hands them off to Disney bell services which puts them in your room. The reverse service is available at departure.), altho that would leave the problem of what to do when transitioning from Universal to Disney or vice versa.

Universal recently set up SuperStar Shuttle (who knew there were other shuttles not run by Mears in Orlando? But yes, Super Shuttle has an Orlando operation, and that's who Universal picked to run SuperStar), and semi-mandatory, FOR PAY operation that does not pick up your bags for you. Sort of makes you wonder whyever the fuck.

My main theory is that Universal makes a lot of money off their parking garages. For example, even if you stay on property and have a season pass, and thus don't have to pay at the theme park garage, they still get you for $15 a night to park your rental car at the hotel. And then there are plenty of people with season passes who are paying extra for preferred or Valet or whatever. If this theory is correct, it's hard to know what will happen with DME.

On the other hand, it could be an average capacity issue. Disney has been running up against parking limits (mostly due to Walt's hatred of garages persisting way past any sensible point -- I mean, seriously, this is Florida. You _want_ to be in a garage) for a long while now and has a built up internal transportation network that works better with more people using it (justifies running them at closer intervals which increases usage in a virtuous cycle). If this theory is correct, as Universal's parks continue to mature and capacity is more consistently used, they'll run up against comparable limits and see a benefit in reducing car usages so as to avoid the expense of building more parking garages.

I have no direct experience of Universal's transportation system. The place their buses drop off requires all the walking that a person parking the garage has to go through, so that's not much of a win. The boat docks are closer to the parks -- but are somewhat distant from many of the rooms in some of the hotels. But at least one of the hotels has a walking path at least as convenient as the BLT -> MK walking path. (We'll be staying there later in the year so hopefully I'll have something to say in a future trip report.)

In any event, as a customer of both the Universal and Disney system, and likely to continue to be so for the next (how old are my kids?) decade plus, it would be Pretty Freaking Awesome to be able to tag my luggage at home, drop it off at Logan, go to a park, check into a hotel and find my luggage already in the room, settle in. Spend a couple days, tag the bags for the other system, call bell service to pick them up, head on down to an air conditioned motor coach that would drop me off at my hotel in the other system (or, conceivably, a central location such as TTC at WDW or CityWalk at Universal), do a park in the other system, head over to my hotel to find my bags already in my room, settle in for a couple days, call bell service to pick up my bags to check them in for my return home, head on down to an air conditioned motor coach that will drop me off at MCO and go home.

Basically, DME at both systems with a connecting link.

I'm not gonna get it. I get that. I can explain in some detail why I'm not gonna get it. But I still want it.

ETA: Speaking of Las Vegas vs. Orlando and transporting the tourists as a problem:

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We flew JetBlue and got an Embraer this time. I am pleased to note that the Zuca Pro (oh, man, you can get it in purple now! damn. The thing is kind of immortal so I cannot justify a replacement. *sigh*) fits into the overhead even in an Embraer. Gotta put it in sideways, but it slides in perfectly. Because we were on an Embraer, we didn't get our favorite row, but it's not a long flight so it hardly matters. Rather than 3 on one side and one across the aisle, we were 2 and 2 in front of each other.

Flight was uneventful. We got our bags and picked up a car at National. I had not ordered a booster for my daughter because she often objects and she's tall enough and old enough to be legal in Florida without. OF COURSE she decided she wanted one.

Trip to Universal was uneventful. I had ordered season passes and unlimited express, so we had to wait in line to pick those up. But once we had them, in theory, minimal waiting, right? We get in the express line for Minions, and boy was I glad a parade came down the street because we waited a loooong time; ride may have been down or something, but I eventually set a timer and we got moving before it went off altho my son and husband bailed out and came back later.

We did rides for a few hours but didn't attempt to close the park down; we left to go to the hotel around 6 or thereabouts after having dinner at Mel's. It's hard to justify spending to stay on property at Disney to go over to Universal, and I hadn't yet decided it was worth it to stay on property at Universal (getting a kitchen there is difficult, so I've been working my way around to giving up on having a kitchen for a few days). WorldQuest is clean and reasonably comfortable. The screens surrounding the deck are kind of awesome. Alas, our room faced the pool and it was loud down there until quite late. R. didn't much care for the mattress. It was fine, and while we'd be willing to go back, I doubt we will between the noise from the pool and the benefits of unlimited express being bundled in with the rooms on property at Universal (plus the hour before park open for on property guests).

We were at Universal last November, but A. and I didn't go on Transformers, Spiderman, the Cat in the Hat Ride, etc. It was nice to get to do a few new things. We skipped ET this time and still haven't done any of the water rides. Looking forward to Kong on our next visit.

We spent parts of 3 days at Universal, and still didn't run out of things to do. The Express is definitely worth it, altho I think it would be almost as good (and a lot cheaper) to get the regular express rather than the Unlimited, if you pay for it separately. We didn't go on very many rides multiple times (altho Hippogriff, Spiderman and Transformers we did, and it was nice to not have to wait long).
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The immediate spark for this post is a long piece over at Quartz arguing for a reputation system for diners, and also describing a system that someone is developing for discouraging no-shows at restaurant reservations.

"The concept is simple: instead of calling, prospective dinners will visit a restaurant’s website and buy tickets for a set time and date. Restaurants will also have the option of only asking for a smaller deposit—say $20—that is applied to the check, rather than the full cost of the meal.

The software will be ready later this year and 17 restaurants have already signed up."


I would note that the Tasting Dinner at Flying Fish at WDW already does the first option (paying for the full meal in advance).

Some years ago, when we first started going to WDW, I remembered our most recent trip to Disneyland Resort, and some character meals we had there. I had never previously been a fan of sit down meals at Disney, but I was pretty sold after that. However, walking up and hoping for a table never works at Disney; you have to book in advance. Like, 6 months in advance. My initial strategy (I got this from advocates online) was to book numerous meals (none at exactly the same time), with the idea that it was easier to cancel than to get a spontaneous reservation, and there was no cost. After a few years of doing this, WDW apparently had had enough of people like me, and some restaurants adopted a policy of asking for a credit card and charging you $20/person on the reservation if you didn't cancel within 1-2 in advance of the reservation. Among other things, that discouraged people like me from booking additional people on the reservation, on the premise that it was easier to subtract diners than add.

"“The reservation apps are totally customer centric, but they don’t really solve the restaurant’s problem,” says Brian Fitzpatrick, Kokonas’s chief technology officer. “One of the biggest problems isn’t just no-shows, it’s when only part of the party shows and you have to give a party of 2 the table of 4 they booked."

Based on what WDW has already done, I expect that Kokonas' project, or something like it, will become a part of the dining reservation process going forward. But as someone who only very rarely makes reservations far in advance (with the exception of Disney trips), I'm unlikely to encounter it, since I mostly still just call the restaurant.
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The Verge reviewed it in November 2014. Basically, if you've bought Disney/Pixar/Marvel movies through iTunes/Google Play/VUDU, and you set up an account on Disney Movies Anywhere and you hook your iTunes/GooglePlay/VUDU accounts up, then you can watch movies bought through any of those services on any of the other services or through the Disney Movies Anywhere app or website. I think. One account per provider (that is, only one iTunes account can be hooked up to this thing at a time and if you go switching around there are some long time outs and the usual to keep you from being a scammy freeloader with your extended kinship network).


I'm now trying to remember if I've ever bought anything over on the Amazon side, because they are not participating. Yet?

This feels like Pottermore? But I haven't used Pottermore, so I don't really know. Here are some things I've learned from this process. Some of the codes associated with Disney discs are just rewards codes, and all you can get with rewards points are, well, the kind of thing you'd expect to get: DVDs, some trinkets, some minor electronic gadgetry, some kitschy stuff. Some of the codes do that AND if you want to watch the Digital Copy on a Mac or PC, you need the code to make the player play the movie. Not that that would ever happen with us anymore, because our laptops don't even have optical drives anymore, so we'd have to be at home to bother, in which case we'd just go put the damn disc into a real player attached to a real TV. Some of the codes are for rewards points AND to enter into Disney Movies Anywhere, formerly iTunes etc. to redeem the movie within that universe. Those are the codes worth bothering with. I think I had three of them that came with discs I owned, mostly because these days I buy the everything pack if I bother to buy a disc at all.

Good news: I won't have to re-buy Guardians of the Galaxy to watch it on an iDevice. Yay? Maybe I'll eventually watch the last third of the movie (which was a fine movie, but I got a little distracted and then never finished watching it).

I kind of wish all the video content that I buy worked this way -- buy it once, instead of winding up buying it twice -- I've only occasionally had to buy something three or four times, and that was pre-streaming. But we own a bunch of content in the Amazon system and in the Apple system, and it would great to never have to do _that_ again.

If you're wondering how I stumbled across this, well, I was reading Disney Files and it had a short piece about it and I went, wha - ? And then fired it up, set up the account and went downstairs and extracted all the rewards codes and entered them all. R. skipped over the Guardians of the Galaxy, thinking that wasn't Disney universe. I think the Paranorman code _is_ not Disney, but I should probably figure out how to get that thing entered anyway. Maybe tomorrow. What I really ought to do is _watch_ some of it.
walkitout: (Default)
The speedway is going away come June. They're going to demo the speedway in order to do some "transportation improvements".

Here's our theory. The speedway is right next to the main parking lots at TTC (ticket and transportation center, aka, the Magic Kingdom parking lot). In fact, that proximity is part of the problem with the speedway, back when they actually had races there, there was obvious conflict between people arriving and departing and parking for the duration of a race vs. going to the theme park(s). The races went away a long while ago relieving the problem. I'm unable to find any data (maybe you can do better than me?) on how many days of the year TTC is filled completely, but I bet it happens occasionally, and will happen more and more. So. Maybe extend the parking lot and the trams -- and then use that additional parking to block off some of the closer in space, then build garages. The net effect over time would be to both increase total spaces AND reduce tram travel on most days of the year (that is, you wouldn't run the tram around empty lots, and people could walk in from closely positioned garages).

Disney has started building parking garages, notably at Disney Springs. In the past, they just flat out wouldn't, and there are a lot of people who have all kinds of weird ideas about garages being ugly and evil (really, compared to acres of parking lot? That's an interesting argument! But people complained when the lots had a name switch to Heroes and Villains at the top level, and then character names for subsidiary sections, which was a pretty reality based way to ease cognitive load on visitors) and how that would somehow mess with the transition of being in your car to being at the park.

I'm inclined to believe that the logic of garages will win out in the end, despite the But Walt Didn't Want It That Way argument. Even MK at WDW is finally serving wine and beer (at Be Our Guest, IIRC), and Walt sure didn't want that. But Time Will Tell. An alternative possibility is a better location for parking buses.
walkitout: (Default)
"My Disney Experience" is a website, a tablet app and a smartphone app. It is available on ... many platforms. In conjunction with Disney hotels now using RFID door locks, and the RFID ticketing system, you can manage your Disney vacay soup to nuts: you can use your Magic Band to get on the coach to go to your hotel, use early check in on the website to enable you to go straight to your room, get into the room using your Magic Band (they sent you it complimentary in the mail before your vacation), find your bags that were delivered separately, head out to the parks and go right in (assuming you have purchased and attached tickets or passes -- and you can buy tickets on your mobile device through the app), buy popcorn with your Magic Band, sail through FastPass lines with reservations you made 2 months in advance for popular attractions like Midway Mania or Space Mountain. You _can't_ (yet -- see date of posting if you're thinking, but you can! Because I bet you will be able to someday) use it to get on the coach back to the airport at the end of your trip. You can make and track and cancel dining reservations through any of the versions of My Disney Experience. You can view menus for most dining locations (whether they take reservations or not) as well. The menu information is still limited, so if you're looking for allergy info, you may be SOL.

The iOS phone app is a hybrid design. Some of the functions are accessed from the default screen with a menu bar across the top with icons and words which you can scroll right to left. Other functions are access from what one of my web design friends calls (somewhat contemptuously) "the burger": three short horizontal lines stacked on top of each other. The menus available via the burger or via the website menu labeled "My Disney Experience" (in Disney Font), are similar but not identical. For example, on iOS mobile devices, you will find "My Plans" whereas on the website the closed equivalent is "My Itinerary". The website shows three days, separated by location. The mobile device version shows only one day, and organizes by time. All happily munge together your information with your friends and family's plans, which can make for quite epic confusion; I suspect some of this is modifiable via Profile selection, but that is buried enough that I just suffered through it.

On the iPad version of the app, under "Explore" (first menu segment under the burger), the options are "Park Hours Wait Times FastPass+ Things To Do Characters Today Dining". The iPhone version of the app does not have "Characters Today" or "Things To Do".

The default screen on the tablet is a swipable set of beautiful photo screens, one per park with park hours. The default screen on the phone is My Plans.

If you have a fast pass that is for a ride or attraction which is unavailable for some or all of the period of the fast pass and that prevents you from using it (generically: if the ride is down the first fifteen minutes of your hours), you will receive a replacement fast pass for that ride and a group of other rides deemed of comparable value. If your fast pass wasn't for Mine Train, for example, you won't get a fast pass for Mine Train. I don't know the exact algorithm; maybe you can find it somewhere else. In any event, you will receive an email to your My Disney Experience registered email, and you will also see the description of that FastPass change under My Plans/My Itinerary. You will also receive an entry in "My Notifications".

There are a few spots in the parks where wi-fi coverage is limited or non-existent. As your device attempts to switch from wi-fi to wi-fi, it will run your battery down. You can often see people in the park along a hallway to the strooms or similar, plugged in and recharging.

Obviously, wi-fi service is subject to greater demand than it was engineered for. When the park is busy, wi-fi service can become erratic. Because the My Disney Experience web 2.0 layer is built _on top of_ many existing legacy computer systems (dining reservations systems, hotel reservation systems, etc.), an outage or high demand on the underlying systems can result in excessive waiting times for information to load.

When the parks are busy, fast passes for many rides may all disburse relatively early. As in, Mine Train and Anna and Elsa meet and greet are often booked 60 days in advance by people staying on property. By the time you _can_ book (30 days if you have ticket media but are staying off property -- or worse), you are booking from a highly reduced universe.

Fast Passes have a lot of underlying rules that can result in error messages indicating a conflict that prevents an available Fast Pass from being issued. If you get one of these, good fucking luck. They are all a little cryptic, and quite often even if you do go find a Cast Member to research it for you, you may or may not ever understand what went wrong.

If you buy MemoryMaker, none of your friends and family need to buy it also, as long as you (or the person who bought it) is willing to transfer the downloaded .zip files along.

The website and the mobile apps are undergoing constant revision. When we first used the app, for example, the Copy fast pass function was nominally there, but never, ever, ever worked. On the second trip, it worked fine, every time. By the third trip, we were running into fast passes that were so exhausted that they wouldn't copy for that reason -- and wouldn't really _tell you_ that that was the reason why. Sometimes, Cast Members can override that. But not always.

There are park maps in the app. You can display the wait times on the map, which is nice. But as near as I can tell, you can't get directions from the app. I can't find any obvious way to delete entries from "My Notifications".

I'm a little unclear on exactly who gets freebie Magic Bands mailed to them, however, if you have someone join you mid-stay, they can't get a freebie even at the front desk, the way you can if you lose yours. But they aren't that expensive to buy. There are decorative things you can attach to your band as well (either slip onto the band or sit poked into the holes that allow the band to close). If you buy a bunch of bands, or visit numerous times and receive them by mail, they tend to build up in your account. You can deactivate and reactivate them via the app. Somewhat disturbingly, if you have shared planning with friends and family, you may find that you have the ability to deactivate other people's cards (like, your friends' kids' cards). Don't be mean.

In your profile, you can add Affiliations. The purpose given is "to receive special offers, other benefits or renewal reminders". If you want DVC to show up, you have to use the same email address for DVC as you do for the My Disney Experience app.

If there is a way to look at your MemoryMaker/PhotoPass/ride photos via the app, I haven't found it yet.

I did not engage in this level of analysis months ago when I first started using the apps. They were obviously broken and incomplete in many ways (and I was by no means an early adopter on this stuff -- there was a whole other mobile app before My Disney Experience). The apps and website have now stabilized well, and while I can hear in my head, imagined voices of my web design friends complaining about hybrid design and relying on "the burger", and while many of my traveling companions have complained vigorously about crashes, slow loads, confusing menus and poor display choices, the amount of time my companions are spending at concierge desks and kiosks working with Cast Members to unravel horrifying bugs with potentially expensive costs in time or money (where'd my annual pass go!!! type of thing) has fallen into what I view as way above average [ETA: for clarification, LESS TOTAL TIME] for customer service in theme parks and vacation destinations in general. I will probably continue to bring along my three ring binder with printed out _everything_, but I'll say this: I didn't even pull it out of the bag on this trip. Given another year or two, I may stop bothering.

I have a couple suggestions that I'll toss out into the ether. In addition to how nice it would be to have directions available in the app, or access to ride photos, I do recognize those are phenomenally difficult to implement and/or bandwidth taxing. But here's one that I _think_ might be do-able and might save Disney a ton of ... something or other. I'd like e-receipts to be delivered to the account. I believe that all the receipts are kept internally (because I've requested and received images for all of them from my November 2011 trip) as pictures, altho I don't know for sure that they are relying upon the pictures versus keeping prints -- when they generate a receipt for me, there's a second one that they keep as well. But if they reach a point where they can legally rely upon the digital receipt internally, and trust the process well enough to do that, I'd like the option to receive the receipt through the app as well. As it is, the primary purpose being served by my three ring binder on these trips is as a receptacle for all those pieces of paper.

ETA: I've used two other theme park apps (Hershey and Santa's Village); neither does anywhere near as much as the Disney app, altho at the time, Hershey had menu information before Disney did, IIRC.


I haven't downloaded it nor have I been to Universal Studios at all, but their app apparently _does_ provide directions. Has anyone used it? Any integration with on property hotels?

The Disney app will let you make reservations at some restaurants within the app (given a party size and time frame, it'll check a variety of restaurants defined by a filter, even). The Universal app just gives you the phone number to call for reservations. They do the same thing for making a hotel reservation, altho to be fair, I don't _think_ you can make a room reservation in the phone app via Disney, either.

Universal app has a spot where you can put a parking reminder (Section, Level, Row and notes where you parked).

I can't find a spot to buy tickets on the Universal app.

So far, all of the above is the iOS PHONE app; I haven't checked to see if they have a tablet app that does something different.

2nd click required to access the inches number on the height limit -- there's an icon on the main ride page. Why make you click through for the number? Altho future ride views will leave the ride details subsection open until you explicitly close it, so this actually is fine. ETAYA: No, it doesn't. Behaves sort of randomly.
walkitout: (Default)
We were originally scheduled to fly down to Orlando on Sunday, Feb 15. However, that was going to have a blizzard with gusts up to 50 mph at Logan so on Thursday I panicked and rescheduled on the web to Monday the 16th while waiting on hold to talk to a Real Person who eventually undid that and got me on a Friday the 13th flight. The original flight had extra leg room and I paid a second time for extra leg room on the no-change-fee switch online to Monday; the person on the phone said they would refund me both of those sets of extra leg room. This is important for later in the story.

Next problem: we needed a place to stay the nights of the 13th and 14th. Miraculously, I got a 1 bedroom (on the first floor -- 7111 -- right next to the lobby, which you would think would be loud but they soundproofed that thing so hard it is the quietest room I've stayed in at BLT) on points for the 13th. I was able to book a room on the 14th floor of Hilton Bonnet Creek (which is their allergy floor, and believe me, if you are staying there, try to get a room on that floor. The air quality is amazingly good) for the 14th, which was crap, but all I could get (my mother-in-law and her brother live in the Villages but were unavailable by phone as I was frantically arranging all this; DVC had nothing and at the time, I wasn't getting anything through the main line at WDW).

On Valentine's Day, I spent some more time on the phone with the main WDW lodging line and got a room at Caribbean Beach. So my husband and son went over there and A. and I stayed at Bonnet Creek. That got us to our regularly scheduled vacation at BLT.

Upon our return, however, problems arose! We were unable to checkin for our flight until the morning of the flight, and there was a discrepancy between what the website said our seats were and what the mobile devices said. When R. went to checkin the bags at the airline desk, they were able to print boarding passes and they showed the messed up seats scattered all over the plane that the mobiles had said. Yikes!

I called and got an earlier Disney's Magical Express coach to the airport so we'd have more time to try to resolve this thing. Once there, it took a loooooong time and three different people to figure out what had happened. And here is what we think happened. When the refunds for the Monday flight and the Sunday flight were done, the computer system thought that one of those applied to the Saturday return flight, so our seats, while reserved, weren't fully paid for and we lost them. Gaaah! They got us into two sets of two seats, none with extra space, so I'll have to call JetBlue again after I check my credit card website to see what has been refunded and charged so they can give me more back if necessary.

I don't know what the moral here is. I do not in any way regret moving the flight to Friday the 13th. We had a blast the whole trip and it didn't even feel too long for me, altho I was ready to go home after 8 days in the parks and November for the next trip seems like a completely reasonable amount of time to wait to go back. Our originally scheduled flight on Sunday was canceled by Saturday afternoon, and I think (but don't know for sure) that the Monday departure would have been delayed, plus it was quite late in the afternoon anyway and would have caused us to miss our reservation at Chef Mickey's. It's hard to know whether I should have just been patient and waited for the agent on the phone or booked that Monday seat while I was waiting. I think next time, I'll be patient -- but I may also take that weather forecast more seriously and rebook a day earlier. I wasn't taking it seriously because the snow totals didn't look that bad. I forgot about wind.

Finally, I _could_ blame myself for getting the refunded extra leg room, because that is what caused the problem on the return leg (along with the Monday reschedule that was undone). I may delay asking for refunds until after a trip is complete, to avoid running into this situation.

In the end, however, it wasn't really that big a deal. R. was way more stressed about it than I was. I was convinced that JetBlue would give us, worst case scenario, two pairs of seats, because (a) JetBlue doesn't overbook, ever and (b) they have never yet left something to the flight crew to deal with, unlike every other airline I've flown.

I've been flying exclusively JetBlue for years (with the exception of things like flying to the Netherlands), and I buy plane tickets for other people and always try to put them on JetBlue unless they really object (or, in one case, the Alaska nonstop is the only available nonstop on that pair of cities). Nothing about this situation has changed my opinion. While it was regrettable that the seats got messed up on the return, I am so happy with how hard they worked to get me on an earlier flight, and to correct the seating problem when we asked them to, that if anything, I am even more of a fan of JetBlue than I was before.
walkitout: (Default)
We got to Hollywood Studios two separate days this trip. The first day we didn't have a fast pass for Midway Mania and did not arrive early enough to get on it before the line built; the second day we visited, we rode it once at park open and once on a fp. I continue to believe this is the Best Ride Ever. Or at least really, really close.

We did Tower of Terror on the first day we visited, but skipped it the second day. A. finds it terrifying so we only go on it if she asks, because I'm not willing to run a trembling kid through the line on anything other than her own initiative. If she _wants_ to scare the crap out of herself, that's all on her.

We rode the Great Movie Ride twice. Because A. bought a Classic Minnie (in black and white) plush toy at the Tower gift shop, she wanted to know why it was grey and white and black. I explained about black and white movies. We stopped into One Man's Dream and looked around and she got to see some black and white film. She also noticed black and white film in the Great Movie Ride. We also talked a little about how animated films used to be made vs. now. She later repeated these explanations with reasonably good fidelity to her grandmother, which may or may not have impressed grandma but impressed the hell out of me. Do Not Have Adult Conversations Around This Kid Any More, I guess, is the lesson here. It is not safe to rely upon her social skills/expressive language level of development to let you get away with it safely anymore.

A. is finally old enough to really enjoy riding Star Tours so I got to ride it over a half dozen times. Wooot!

My husband and I had a disagreement about how many possible ride combinations there were. I had heard/read that there were about 50. He seemed to think there were a lot more. Wikipedia says I'm right.


"There are eleven random segments of the film (two opening segments, three primary destination segments, three hologram message segments, and three ending destination segments). When combined, they allow 54 different possible ride experiences."

Okay. So have I seen all the components yet? No! At least, I don't remember ever seeing the Admiral Ackbar message (altho I'm now thinking that maybe I did on a previous trip -- my memory is imperfect at best).

I have seen both openers. I've seen all three post-opener segments (Hoth, pod race, Wookie planet). I've seen all three post-message segments (Coruscant, Naboo, incomplete Death Star).

So while I certainly have not ridden it enough times to see all possible combinations, I think if there is a segment I'm missing, it's the Admiral Ackbar message -- and I may have seen that on a previous trip. I saw all the other pieces on this trip.

Pizza Planet continues to make an allergy pizza with soy cheese for me (yay!) including replacing the caesar salad with a garden salad with italian dressing. I really should find out whether Pizzafari will do that, because it would expand the food options for me at AK -- altho I prefer Yak & Yeti Local Foods anyway so it hardly matters.
walkitout: (Default)
Kona Cafe is a table service restaurant at the Polynesian Resort Hotel at Walt Disney World. It is on the second floor and is open for lunch almost an hour later than most of the table service restaurants at Disney resorts (seating until 2:45 or so, versus closing between 2 and 5 p.m.). It's sort of an asian fusion thing: more sushi than other sushi place at the World (they must make up the California rolls and Spicy Rolls in some massive kitchen somewhere, because they all look exactly alike wherever you buy them). R. and I split the beef rolls, the poke and the pot stickers. The pot sticker sauce was very French sauce-y, not like what I'm used to at all. However, very tasty. My mother-in-law got the steak tips salad (so there are definitely options for those less excited about asian fusion) and I have apparently forgotten what R.'s uncle got. The kids got the Sunday, but I think the Kona Kone looked really cool. They are deconstructed desserts, so you get all the pieces in little dishes and you get to put them together yourself. Service was excellent. I got the beer flight. There's Kona coffee, so, you know, gotta drink that, too, right?

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