Special Info for these Crazy Times:
News for 2021:
- Disneyland Finally Scheduled to Reopen
- Planning and Executing Your Walt Disney World Vacation During These Trying Times
- 2021 Walt Disney World Armed Forces Salute Ticket Announcement
- Using Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets in 2021
- Using the Walt Disney World Theme Park Reservation System
- Park Hopping Returns to Walt Disney World Starting in 2021
Everything is Different at WDW since it Reopened. See Our Trip Reports:
- 2022 Disney Armed Forces Salute Timeline
- Our Return to Walt Disney World (Aug/Sep 2020)
- Our Second Trip Back to Walt Disney World (Nov 2020)
- Our Third Trip Back to Walt Disney World (Jan 2021)
Greg is just back from an extended Disney World vacation. Extended as in a long one, but also as in trapped at WDW by the Northeast weather… Greg graciously offered before going to write up a trip report on just how My Magic Plus (Fastpass Plus, RFID Tickets, Magic Bands, etc.) is working for Shades of Green travelers and Disney resort guests, as he stayed with both this trip.
SO…here are some details from my trip that you may or may not find useful, including life with and without a Magic Band. If I cover some stuff you already know about, I apologize. I will also mention a few important items (important in my opinion at least) that you should/may want to know.
Duration of Trip: 01 Feb to 16 Feb. We got extended due to flight cancellations courtesy of the lovely weather in the Northeast. If you are going to get stuck, get stuck in Disney! Please don’t judge me by the length of stay. When you live in the North Pole (at least it feels that way) you will find a way to run away as long as you can in the winter to maintain some sense of sanity!
- Part 1. Shades of Green – 01 Feb to 13 Feb (no magic bands while staying at SoG).
- Part 2. Caribbean Beach Resort 13 Feb – 16 Feb (received magic band while saying at CBR).
Transportation: If you are driving to Disney, you are all set getting to your resort. If you are flying, I highly recommend Tiffany Town Car as your transportation to get to the Shades of Green.
My experience was fabulous. I was guaranteed a grocery stop, which saved us tons of money stocking up on snacks, beer, wine, and cases of water (seven 32 bottle cases to be exact, but if we drank that much water by purchasing in the parks we could have paid for another week at Disney). We requested a van or SUV and it cost $132.00 I believe for the round trip. That does not include tip, but, having our own transportation without sharing, plus the guaranteed stop was worth it.
Also, they were extremely flexible accommodating my requests to change our itinerary on the fly. They also offer a $5 off coupon on their website. Again, this was my experience with the company and it was fabulous!
Tools: Steve has mentioned it before, but I highly recommend you subscribing to Touringplans.com. You will have access to a very accurate wait time app for the rides in the parks, and also a crowd level calendar. It is about the best $10 I ever spent associated with a Disney trip!
With that app, we were able to run the parks like the old days; finding the shortest lines in the parks and beating the crowds as they shifted around. You WILL want to have that kind of information now that Magic Bands have limited your daily fast passes to three a day (for only one park! Can’t get one in Epcot and two in MK. Once you make one in a park, that is your park for FP+ for the day).
The app was spot on, and although they offer other tools such as actual plan recommendations, we only used the wait time, crowd level and dining app. The dining app just gives you access to the menus with prices, you can’t actually book reservations. To book dining reservations from you phone, you need to download the My Disney Experience app (free, no magic band needed).
Hospital: If you are faced with having to make a hospital run while on your trip, I highly recommend Celebration Health Hospital. It was clean, staff was friendly, and a wonderful experience taking everything into consideration. If you have a car, get in and go. It is about ten miles from Shades of Green. If you don’t, get ready for a expensive taxi ride; unless you can get a rental car quickly (non life threatening emergency situation of course) and it is during operating hours of the rental car desk at SoG. A rental car would probably cost you under $100 for a day, plus you can use it at your discretion. My taxi ride from SoG, to the hospital, to the closest 24/7 prescription filling pharmacy (a CVS which is another seven miles from the hospital in Kissimmee; the complete opposite direction of SoG) and back to SoG cost approx $140.00. There were closer CVS’s, but due to it being a Sunday and in the middle of the night, I needed one that could accommodate me on my schedule. I highly recommend having a contingency plan in place prior to your trip in case you find yourself in this situation. The hospital is the last theme park you want to visit on your trip, but it does happen. Know in advance how you plan on getting there!
Magic Band vs No Magic Band impacting your trip
While at SoG, we were not entitled to MB’s (Magic Bands). This ended up not being as devastating as we originally thought, however, understand we were visiting during a notoriously slow time of year, during Part 1 (see duration of trip above) of our trip. We only used the FP+ kiosks in the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
The FP+ kiosk lines at Epcot and Animal Kingdom were unbearable, and in my opinion, not worth waiting in line for to go one any specific ride in those parks. By not using the FP+ at Epcot or AK, we left our options open to visit a second park and utilize our FP’s there (MK or HS). If you need to ride Soarin or Test Track (the only two rides that will accumulate a line), hit it first thing in the morning, and don’t forget the single rider options that have a minimal wait all day long (if you can split up your party).
Magic Kingdom: When making FP+ reservations in the park, USE the kiosk in the City Hall (directly inside the gates, left hand side). There are two kiosks in there and I really don’t think anyone knows about them. Crowds were sprinting to other ends of the parks to get in lines, and these two machines sat lonely waiting to be used. You will be able to get in and get out quickly and beat the crowds to some of the major attractions while others wait in lines to book their FP’s for the day. Don’t forget to use your Touringplan app also, because that is how you will navigate the chaos while waiting to use your FP’s.
Hollywood Studios: They have signs directing you the kiosks (which were cast members with iPADs during my visit. It was pretty easy to find and quick enough not to take up all of your day.
We never experienced any issues getting FP’s for rides due to Magic Band guests taking them all up in advance.
Even when we saved our FP’s for another park later in the day, we still got to do most of what we wanted (Peter Pan and Toy Story Mania are the two you may have issues getting if you wait until later in the day to book). So, don’t worry about not having the band, you will still get to play.
I do recommend you make the FP’s for later in the day. The reason why is, with your fancy apps and typically lower crowds earlier in the days, you won’t want to waste a FP on a line that is only a five minute standby. As the crowds roll in and congest the parks later in the day, you will want to ensure you can do something without waiting an hour to get on a ride. There is plenty to do to fill the down time while you are waiting if you don’t feel like sprinting around the parks to work the lines, but if you have the energy, make the most of it and power
through in the mornings.
Staying With Disney
The parks were VERY busy during this time, but we were issued MB’s upon checking into CBR (we didn’t want to leave SoG, but there was no room for us to stay). The crowds were almost overwhelming during this time (possibly because we had been there so long already) and standby lines were commonly around 45-75 minute waits.
Having the MB, we were able to book our reservations prior to showing up, AS WELL AS, changing our FP’s from our phones on the fly. Example: FP+ reservation for Buzz Lightyear from 0900-1000, show up, five minute standby…why waste it? We hop on our phone, switch the attraction or time, and jump on the standby line. Having the ability to change your reservations on the fly is PRICELESS! If you don’t have the MB, you have to find a kiosk, wait in line, and change it; wasting precious time on your trip.
One night, I think I changed our FP reservations from my phone seven times before I locked up some times that I actually needed it. Granted, everyone was watching the electric light parade and wishes, so we ran around Adventure Land riding everything while no one was there. The park was open until 0100, so, we took advantage of Jungle Cruise, Pirates, Carpet Ride, and the Tree House for a few rides at night while they had no wait.
I am not sure how our trip would have played out during Part 2 had we not had the MB’s during the higher crowd levels. Based on our ability to change our FP reservations on the fly throughout the day, I am guess you still won’t have too much of an issue getting FP’s when you don’t have a MB. Again, Toy Story Mania and Peter Pan will be your biggest challenge with larger crowds.
Although having the MB was very convenient, I didn’t feel like it made the difference in having a successful trip or not, so don’t panic. I was there during a slower time of year and a busy time, and this was our personal experience. If you are a SoG regular, I found no joy in staying at a Disney resort vs SoG just to get a MB. In the opinion of my family, you can’t beat SoG.
The rooms are larger, the resort is smaller compared to some resorts, the coffee and adult beverages are closer, and pretty much everything is accessible from the interior; preventing you from being exposed to inclement weather while moving about the resort.
Having the monorail and three Deluxe resorts in your path while staying at SoG was much more convenient than relying on buses alone and being limited to one property during down time or exploring things outside the park. If you have a car, this is a non issue, but for those who don’t, SoG offers you the most transportation options hands down.
The food stinks at SoG, but it was horrible at CBR also. At least while at SoG, we could easily eat at the Poly, GF or Contemporary simply by walking to the Poly and jumping on a monorail. You lose that option when you stay elsewhere. You can also use the buses at Poly to prevent waiting for a crowded SoG bus. The walk is not bad at all, and, they have that Shady Shuttle golf cart for those who need it.
That is my overview of our trip. I am not a blogger so I apologize if this post is a mess. I would be happy to answer any questions about our experiences if I failed to cover something in this post. The best advice I would give is to plan, plan, plan, plan, plan in advance!! For some, you only get one chance at a Disney trip. For others, you don’t want your first trip to be spoiled by going into it unprepared.
Disney is not a vacation…it is a mission! This isn’t a typical take it easy place to get away. We are all part of a community where overcoming obstacles, adapting, planning, outsmarting and making stuff happens is a normal way of living. Make sure you use the tools and resources available to you, and ask questions to ensure your trip is magical.
Disney can take the wind out of your sails real quick if you aren’t ready to outsmart the Mouse and his followers. There is always time to relax at night or when you get back (at least that is how we feel every time we visit).
The MB hasn’t completely taken away from your opportunity to have a great time, but it would be nice to be included with the others. Have an idea of what you want to experience in advance so you can quickly make your FP+ reservations at a kiosk and get on with your day. I hope this helps others, and enjoy your trip!!! If anyone has any questions that I may be able to answer, I would be happy to answer them (if I have the answer).
Lastly….and most important for those with young children!!!!! THE MICKEY MOUSE IN THE THEATRE ON MAIN STREET USA ACTUALLY TALKS NOW!!! This is a FP+ option, so I HIGHLY recommend you not skip this to meet the Mouse elsewhere. Get to the MK early and watch your kids eyes get as big as the sun! We were blown away when we walked in the room and Mickey started talking to us (and yes, his mouth moves also). MK is the only place to experience this as of now. It was a very special moment for our son when Mickey sang happy birthday to him. He also did a magic trick and told some jokes. DON’T MISS IT, it will set the tone for the magic to unfold!
Here is our constantly updated post on Disney World’s My Magic Plus for the Military Traveler
Thanks so much Greg for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts with out community!!!
Do you have something to share? Do it below in the comments!
Information on Shades of Green the Military Hotel on Disney World property
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