May 042009

When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! — Jiminy Cricket

Do you have a Disney dilemma? Are you wondering about a certain attraction? Are you curious about a resort or a cruise? Give us a little whistle and we’ll help you sort out how to handle it. Questions should be sent to

Q. I’m currently planning our first trip to Walt Disney World. It will be myself, my husband, my oldest daughter will be almost nine, my younger daughter will be six and my son will turn two when we arrive. We have decided to stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort because of the sandy beaches and playground areas. I’m leaning toward the Jamaican area (possibly building number 44?) because there seems to be a playground area very close by. I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts or advice on this or could tell me which area and/or building they would recommend? Thank you so much! (Submitted by Jamie P.)

A. Ah, Caribbean Beach Resort — it’s the favorite moderate of at least one Magically Speaking editor. How can you resist the laid-back island feel? Granted, it’s a huge resort, but every inch of it is green, lush, and screams “I’m on vacation.” So, good choice!

Because of the size of CBR, location is important (click here for resort map). Jamaica is an excellent choice, as is Aruba, because they are the closest non-preferred islands to Old Port Royale, the hub of activity at CBR. Old Port Royale houses the food court, the gift shop, and the table service restaurant (Shutters), plus the feature pool is right outside its door. While there is an internal bus system that serves all six islands, it is nice to be close enough to walk to OPR (about a five-minute walk from Jamaica).

A word of caution about requests, however. They are just that, requests, and while Disney CMs do their level best to fill them, not everyone can stay in Jamaica. So, ensure that your request is properly noted on your reservation (something like, “Jamaica or Aruba, close to Old Port Royale”) and then resolve to enjoy your vacation no matter where Disney sticks you. It’s all good.

Q. I know that if anyone can help, it will be you guys! Here’s my “problem.” I have taken my three children (now ages five, seven and nine) to Disney in September, 2007 and September, 2008 (great time to go, especially with the free dining), and am now planning our trip for September, 2009. The first year we went with no pre-conceived notions of what to see and do, and had a fantastic time. Long story short, this may be our last trip for awhile, as I can’t really get away with taking them out of school every September. I’d really like to make sure that we do and see everything this time. I’m a great fan of type-A planning, so that’s not an issue, I just would like your recommendations of what not to miss! Any suggestions? (Submitted by Mary)

A. Mary, you don’t say how long your vacation will be, but unless it’s about a month long, it’ll be impossible to do and see everything (and even with 30 days, you might be pressed for time). So the name of the game will be to determine what is on your family’s “must see” list. The process will be easier for you than WDW newbies, as your children are all Disney veterans who surely have clear opinions about their favorite attractions.

We recommend setting aside time before your 90-day ADR window, so maybe in June, and having each child write down their top three choices for each park. They could also include more that they’d like to do, if time permits. All adults in your party should make a list as well — Disney theme parks are for us too!

The other factor to consider is whether there are any new attractions since your last visit. Since you were in Orlando last September, the only headliner attractions that Disney has added are at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: American Idol Experience and Toy Story Midway Mania. You should also include time for the new Kim Possible missions at Epcot’s World Showcase.

Once you have a list of attractions for each park, you have the beginnings of your touring plans. Now you’ll just have to put ’em all in order. We usually consult the Unofficial Guide or TourGuideMiKE for help with that. Decide if and where you’d like to make a couple Advanced Dining Reservations.

Another thing to consider, if budget allows, is to select something special to do on the trip. Consider a pirate cruise (which leaves from various resorts) or other special program geared toward children. They will have a magical experience to remember. Sometimes adding a very special treat to the trip will help eliminate sad feelings if someone realizes there was an attraction that you missed. You can book these experiences at 407-WDW-PLAY.

Also, be sure that you aren’t on the go all the time. Family vacations are times to just enjoy each others company. Build in some pool time, some smell-the-roses time. Then pull it all together, and you’ve got the makings of a fab vacation.

Q. I have been reading about the wonderful offer Disney is extending to active and retired military. The question that I can’t seem to find the answer to is: “Am I eligible?” I am the widow of a retired Air Force Chief. I have a military ID card and full benefits. Since I still have all the benefits that I had when my husband was alive, do I qualify for this offer? (Submitted by Barbara M)

A. Barbara, we knew right off that you wouldn’t be able to get the free ticket, as no spouses are eligible for that offer. But spouses are eligible to purchase the discounted companion tickets, so you should be “good to go.” Let’s see how it will work.

First the facts, for readers who aren’t familiar with this Disney offer. Through December 23, 2009, all active or retired members of the U.S. military can get a free five-day “Disney’s Armed Forces Salute” ticket for Walt Disney World, which includes the park hopper and Water Park Fun & More options. In addition, the military/retired member may buy up to five additional five-day companion tickets, at $99 plus tax a pop (these tickets do not include hopping or Water Park Fun & More, which may be added for $25 plus tax). At Disneyland, the military offer is valid through June 12, 2009, and is for a complimentary three-day park hopper. Three-day park-hopper companion tickets can be purchased for up to five family members or friends for the price of an adult 1-Day Park Hopper ticket. You can get the tickets at participating U.S. military base ticket offices, at Shades of Green (Walt Disney World), or at any theme park ticket window. Companion tickets purchased at a military base or at Shades of Green are tax-free. Tickets at Walt Disney World must be used by December 23, 2009. At Disneyland, tickets must be used by June 25, 2009.

Here are a couple good sources for additional information:

This is a wonderful offer from Disney, but it might not be the best option for all military families. If you are planning a vacation that includes more than five theme-park days, know that you cannot add days to these tickets. You will have to buy additional ticket media. The cost of buying a one- or two-day ticket to round off your vacation may negate the savings of the initial discounted five-day ticket. Just be sure you do the math before assuming this is the best deal for your family’s planned vacation. You might find you’re better off just taking advantage of Disney’s discounted resort rates for the military.

Thanks for your family’s service, Barbara, and enjoy your time at Disney World.

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