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From our friend Damian at Travel Insurance 101 

By Damian on Mar 19, 2010

 Epcot BallA trip to Disney World located in Orland0, Florida is usually associated with fun since the entire park was designed to give children the chance to live out their dreams with some of the most beloved figures of all time. For parents who may be looking for a reason to take their kids to Disney World, one question is often asked: Is a trip to Disney World educational?

Unlike Disneyland located in Anaheim, California, which is suited for younger children with some educational attractions, Disney World was built with people of all ages in mind and there are a large number of attractions at Disney World that are educational for both children and adults.

Firstly, Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers a “Wild by Design” tour that takes groups of sightseers through a swampy area based on of a small part of Africa. Along the route, the group is exposed to a small section of the African ecosystem. Participants must be at least 14 years old. Then, there is the “Backstage Safari” attraction that teaches those 16 years of age and older about caring for the animals. The group visits a veterinary hospital and Nutrition Center. For the people who stay in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, there are several other educational animal-related programs available as well.

The hands-down most educational attraction at Disney World is EPCOT. EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is a futuristic dome that focuses on hypothesizing what future technology will be. In addition to allowing people the chance to explore both current and future technologies, EPCOT offers a series of marine-related tours as well. “DiveQuest” is a dive tour of EPCOT’s 6-million gallon indoor aquarium. “Dolphins in Depth” is an arranged dolphin encounter that allows people ages 13 and up to get up close and personal with dolphins and “Seas Aqua Tour” is for the younger children so that they can experience the aquarium as fully as possible. Visitors will also find the two plant-related tours, “Gardens of the World” and “Behind the Seeds,” to be highly educational.

There are many other attractions that educate visitors on how the park itself was formed and how it runs. Disney’s Hollywood Studios offer backstage tours so people can see how films are put together and Magic Kingdom offers a look at the park’s steam train operation system, along with other programs.

With all of these adventures, it’s a good idea to invest in some kind of travel insurance. While accidents at Disney World may be few and far between, there is always the smallest chance that something can go wrong, so getting a single trip travel insurance policy will help make sure the trip goes as smoothly as possible.

Read our Travel Insurance 101: The Complete Guide to Travel Insurance

By Olan Suddeth

If you are planning to fly in to Orlando, one of the first things you’ll need to consdier is whether or not to rent a car for your stay at Disney World. To intelligently make this decision, you need to look at your overall plans – are you staying onsite (at a Disney owned hotel) and focusing primarily on Disney parks? If the answer is yes, then you probably don’t need a rental car.

Disney’s onsite transportation is top notch – each Disney hotel offers a bus pickup area, with busses that regularly run to each of the parks, as well as to other Disney hotels (which can make attractive dining options when you tire of hamburgers and fries in the park every day). Disney bussing is free and very convenient. Also, there is the option of riding the monorail between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and the monorail services several of the major Dinsey resort hotels (the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary Resorts). If you stay for more than a couple of days, its worth it to ride the monorail a least once.

The final advantage to staying onsite and not renting a car is that you can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express Service. The idea here is that you check your bags in your hometown airport, and don’t bother with them again until you reach your hotel room – no waiting for baggage in the airport… Dinsey handles it all for you! Once in Orlando, you follow a Disney representative to a motor coach, and they take you to your resort. Likewise, when you check out, Dinsey takes your bags, provides you with transportation back to the airport, and you don’t have to deal with anything until you reach your home airport. Even better? the Magical Express Service is free – this knocks a good $100-200 off your bill for a family of four.

However, if you are staying at an offsite hotel, or if you plan on takig in some of the non-Disney attractions in Orlando (Sea World, Islands of Adventure, Discovery Cove, Universal Studios, etc), then the answer is yes, you probably do need to rent a car for your vacation.

Many offsite hotels offer shuttle services to the Disney parks, but beware – these shuttles are often expensive (a parking pass to a Dinsey lot is only $8 – don’t be taken in by the claims of astronomical fees), and can waste a lot of your time as they typically run one shuttle to visit all parks, meaning that you can spend well over an hour riding a shuttle before you ever arrive at the park of your choice.

If you do rent a car, expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 per week. Beware of ads that claim a $30 per day rate – after taxes, this typically climbs closer to $50 per day.

Most rental car companies (Avis, Budget, Dollar, and National) have desks at the Orlando airport. Others (Alamo and Hertz) do not, and require a seperate shuttle ride.

Avis 800.331.1212 http://www.avis.com
Budget 800.527.0700 http://www.budget.com
Dollar 800.800.4000 http://www.dollar.com
National 800.227.7368 http://www.nationalcar.com
Alamo 800.462.5266 http://www.alamo.com
Hertz 800.654.3131 http://www.hertz.com

Finally, you can get around Orlando without a car and without using Disney transportation. Cab fares to the Universal Studios / Sea World area average around $40, and fares to Disney run about $50. The Mears shuttle service is a round trip fare $29 for adults and $19 for kids, with no tip expected… but if you have two or more in your party, a cab will cost you less.


By Olan Suddeth

Research – You will likely be spending thousands of dollars on your Disney Vacation. Spend some time researching your trip. Get maps so you will know your way around. Pick up a touring guide like the Unofficial Guide to Disney World. Check out bulletin boards like DISBoards.com, they can be invaluable and have lots of Disney experts that are happy to help you have a Magical trip. On these boards you can find out everything from menus to information about hidden Mickeys.

Have a Plan – Choose your dates trying to avoid holidays. Once you have your dates, chose which park you want to go to each day. Consult the calendar on the Disney.com website for current hours. Disney hours are not the same everyday and can change often. Disney also offers Extra Magic Hours for Disney resort guests. These times allow resort guests only in the park before and after the non resort guests may enter. These can make the parks extra busy on the day that a park has an EMH. Decide before getting in the park which rides you want to do first, second and third and know where these rides are at. This will save a considerable amount of time trying to figure out where to go. There are also pay sites like touringplan.com, tourguidemike.com and ridemax.com. Considering how much a trip cost, spending an extra $20 for some great advise is cheap.

ADR – Advance Dining Reservation. If you want to eat at a sit down restaurant while at Disney World you should have reservations. ADRs can be made 90 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Most of the better restaurants will fill up quickly and not take any walk up requests for dining. There are also many Counter Service restaurants that don’t take reservations. Eating early will lesson the crowds, as there is a huge difference in the lines from 11:30 to 12:00.

Park Hopping – If you want to go to more than one park on the same day you need a Park Hopper ticket. You cannot just use an extra day from your Magic Your Way ticket to hit 2 parks in the same day. If you are unsure that you will use park hopping, don’t get it but put the money aside (currently the hopper option is $50 per ticket for your entire stay whether it is one day or 10) and then if you need to add the hopper option you can upgrade at any ticket booth or even at your Disney resort. If you don’t end up hopping you just saved a considerable amount of money that you can spend on that stuffed Mickey you have been eyeing.

Transportation – Getting around the parks is easy, but can take a while. Buses, monorails and boats go between resorts and theme parks and from theme parks to theme parks but not from resorts to resorts. Allow for 30-60 minutes to get from a resort to a theme park and a bit longer to get from one resort to another. Disney Magic Express provides free airport transportation to and from Disney resorts. (advanced booking for DME is required)

Rope Drop – Disney gets crowded. The earlier in the day you start your tour of the parks, the more you will get done. If you get there 30 minutes before the park opens for the day you will be at the turnstiles when they open 15 minutes before the park opens. From the turnstiles you will be held inside the park by a rope. When the park officially opens for the day they remove the rope and you may then proceed to the attractions. You will get more done in the first hour than you will in the next 3 hours and more done in the first 3 hours than you will the rest of the day.

Fastpasses – They are free and are included with your park admission. You get a Fastpass by inserting your Key to the World card or park ticket into the Fastpass machine at the attraction you want the Fastpass for. This will give you a ticket with a return time that will allow you to ride with a minimal wait. You can get a second Fastpass as soon as the return time on the ticket or 2 hours from the time you got the previous Fastpass whichever is less. Fastpasses may be used after the return time that is printed on the ticket but never before the time printed.

Take Care of Yourself and Your Group – Make sure to drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause meltdowns and muscle fatigue. If someone in your group starts to imitate Grumpy from the Seven Dwarfs have them drink some water. There are many drinking fountains around the parks but filtered water is also available for free from any location that has fountain drinks. Bring a couple of pairs of comfortable shoes that are broken in. Take a first aid kit with moleskin for putting on blisters and check your kids feet regularly to make sure that they don’t have a blister starting. Extra dry socks are a good idea to take with you into the parks. Medicated powders can be helpful for keeping chaffing under control. If your in pain, your not feeling the Magic.

Know your Group – Gear your trip to the needs and interest of all members of your group. Not all people are into big coasters or meeting characters. Plan something for everyone. Also remember that you are only as strong as your weakest link. Young children (some adults too) may need a break in the afternoon whether it is a nap or a swim in the pool. You will then be better rested to hit the parks in the evening. Remember that you can get Fastpasses before you leave that you can use when you get back to the park.

Have Fun – Remember that this is a vacation and not a military exercise. You will not be able to see and do everything in a single visit. Slow down and enjoy what you are doing instead of rushing around trying to get it all done. If you miss something, don’t get upset about it. Just think of it as being the reason for your next trip to the Mouse House.
By Olan Suddeth of  http://www.wdwinsiders.com

The best thing I ever could have done was map out a route at each park weeks in advance of our trip!
I had a ‘crib sheet’ that i carried in my pocket each day with events and attractions that I knew were age appropriate and points of interest.

I took time to look at maps before we got there and knew a basic route to follow when entering the Parks. This kept the confusion to a minimum and gave us a plan. We made changes as needed but stuck to the general route.

It made our days at Disney run smoothly and we hit all of our “Must See’s”!