May 182009

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. Hi, thanks for the great newsletter. We are planning our first trip to Disney World, and it has been so helpful to get your information. My main question is about the night-time fireworks and shows. We’re traveling with our kids (four and eight). They are used to getting to bed fairly early, but we definitely want to see at least one of the fireworks shows. Which would you do, if you could only do one? (Submitted by Anita)

A. Selecting one of the fireworks shows is a tough decision: “Fantasmic!” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, “IllumiNations” at Epcot, or “Wishes” at the Magic Kingdom. “Fantasmic!” is an awe-inspiring show, and Disney pulls out all the stops with a huge cast and numerous amazing special effects. However, it is probable that your four-year old (and maybe even your eight-year old) could be frightened by elements of the storyline, which includes a ginormous dragon, and a whole slew of Disney villains. Epcot’s “IllumiNations” is hard to beat, in large part because of its placement in World Showcase. It’s hard to beat that view! The choreography of music, firework effects on the water, and additional lighting elements around World Showcase are stunning. Possible downsides of “IllumiNations” for children are that the music used is not familiar to the vast majority of children, and Disney characters do not play a role in this nighttime display.

Among the three choices, we think “Wishes” is the clear winner for your family. It best embodies the Disney magic, especially with its placement around Cinderella Castle. “Wishes” captures the nostalgia of many Disney iconic characters, and inspires guests to believe in, well, wishes! It also has the bonus of often being partnered with the nighttime Disney parade, “SpectroMagic!” Many guests like to watch the parade go by at Liberty Square or the hub (right in front of the castle) and then relocate to watch the fireworks in a spot on Main Street, where you can see the castle without anything blocking the view (such as a pesky tree). Another option (and shhhh, don’t tell the kids): consider going to the bridge that links Main Street to Tomorrowland. When you’re in that area during the day, look above for a wire. Then, make that your “Wishes” viewing spot. Be sure and look above you as the fireworks begin — you may get a sprinkling of Tinker Bell–inspired pixie dust!

Q. How can I get my family of five their very first Disney World experience? We’ve never had the money to be able to afford this wonderful experience. My husband is disabled and I am the only one working for the past two and a half years. We have three teenage boys. I’m wanting to find a way to be able to afford to give my family an experience that they’ve never had. So, please tell me how I can do this affordably, without hurting our tight budget finances. (Submitted by Rebecca C.)

A. Disney can absolutely be done on budget, especially if you plan ahead! Maybe you won’t be able to make the trip right away, but half the fun of a Disney trip can be the planning, so stretching out the wait before your trip can be part of the experience. And while it’s hard to put off exciting travel, taking the time to save ahead will help you avoid the misery of returning from your vacation to bills you could find difficult to pay. There’s nothing magical about that.

If you are able to travel in the off-season, that can make a huge dent in the cost, especially if you can then take advantage of any special offers. With teenage boys, the best offer to try to take advantage of would be “free dining,” a package discount that has been offered in late August and September for a number of years. With this discount, for the price of a room and tickets, you also get one counter-service meal, one table-service meal, and a snack, for every night of your stay. This year, the dates for this discount are August 16 through October 3. While it’s not guaranteed that this offer will be repeated next year, planning a 2010 Disney World visit for this time-frame enhances your chances of getting this fabulous value.

If you are willing to stay off-site, you can find some impressive deals on hotels, or even on vacation homes. During these economic times, many of the Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista hotels are hurting for business. If you are willing to take the time and do your research, you can end up with decent accommodations for a fraction of the cost of a Disney room. Food is also cheaper off Disney property, so staying off-site is clearly another option you should explore.

On, there’s a section devoted to Disney savings. Give it a look, and see if any of the discounts or ideas help you save a buck (or a hundred bucks!). If you haven’t yet joined the’s yahoogroups list, definitely do that A.S.A.P. Click here for more info. The helpful folks on that list are Disney veterans who know all the ways to save money while still having a fabulous vacation in Orlando. Also, we want to give a shout out to the Magic for Less travel agents, who have scads of experience planning affordable Disney vacations for their clients. You can reach them here.

Q. Reports online say that Disney has once again started construction on Pop Century’s Second phase. Have you heard as much? Is there an official word? If there is truth to this rumor it is most welcomed as I have been looking for an excuse to stay at Pop and actually decided not to this year (2009) as they did not have the accommodations I required for my family to stay in (i.e. the family suites). I look forward to the family suites in Phase Two getting completed, as from what I have seen on-line, the suites at All Star Music give Disney vacationers the room and space they need, without the hefty price tag that would otherwise accompany it. (Submitted by J. Brooks)

A. We’re right there with you, J. Brooks. Completing the Legendary Years side of Pop Century, especially as family suites, would add much-needed inventory to the Disney on-site hotels, especially for families of five and up. Lately, Disney has only been adding Disney Vacation Club accommodations, and it would be a nice change to have something new that wasn’t quite so spendy.

Unfortunately, we haven’t found any credible evidence that Disney has immediate plans for the incomplete side of Pop Century. There is certainly no official word from Disney yet on the expansion of the second phase of the Pop Century Resort. When we’ve gotten this question in the past (and we seem to get it just about every spring), we poke around and come up with some good video footage, and a couple interesting articles, but nothing substantive. You can be sure, though, that the moment there’s new news on the Legendary Years front, we’ll be writing about it in Magically Speaking.

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