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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TRAVEL TIPS FOR DISNEYWORLD AND EPCOT

Spontaneous dining in the restaurants at Epcot is virtually impossible any time of year. You need reservations—absolutely. You've several possibilities here: use the dining reservations number: (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463) as soon as you know the dates you will be at Epcot. Remember that reservations may be made up to 180 days in advance, so think of this as part of your travel planning. For more info, go to http://www.mousesavers.com/advancedres.html.

A second option is to use your hotel's concierge. In the Sheraton Vistana where Rob and I stayed, there was a separate Disney desk for all Disney activities. We asked them to make dining reservations for the following evening and were able to get a "ringside" table at the United Kingdom's Rose & Crown from which we could view the Illuminations program at night. I believe the Rose & Crown is the only restaurant on the lagoon, therefore the only restaurant offering that kind of seating. When I tried to book my own lunch reservation by phone the following morning, there was not one table available at any restaurant in Epcot. That result tells me that the concierge who connected directly by computer had an edge the individual caller does not.

The Epcot countries all have "take-out" type places as well as restaurants, but some of the restaurants are lovely, reasonably priced, and well worth the time in planning your itinerary.

While at Epcot, take advantage of FastPass which we used at Disneyland in California last year. Rides where FastPass is available are noted on your Guidemap to the Park. You pick up a Guidemap as you enter. You'll find FastPass at the more popular or challenging rides. These rides have two lines, a standing line and a FastPass line. Each line announces the waiting times. To get a FastPass, put your entry ticket in the machine, and you're given a ticket to that ride with about an hour window in which to use it. When you return during your window, you may be able to walk right on to the ride. In Disneyland we still had a short wait on one ride, but you should have seen the length of the Standing Line.

You're only permitted one FastPass ticket at a time, so you can't FastPass your way around the park. Fastpass works really well, and it definitely beats standing in line. We got a FastPass for Test Track with its 70 minute Standing Waiting line, and used our “wait” time to enjoy other rides: Mission: Space, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Journey Into Imagination with Figment, and Living with the Land. We also had enough time to look at other exhibits and to send an email video. That’s a lot to accomplish, but we got back to Test Track before our FastPass expired. Ironically we ended up giving away our FastPass tickets; we didn't realize that Test Track is the fastest ride in Epcot complete with bumps, short stops, etc. I guess that accounts for the long Standing Line (full of young people!).

Consider this option if you think you may have trouble walking for the time or distance at any Disney venues. Disney rents wheelchairs and scooters. Plenty of people use them. You will not be alone if you choose this mode of travel. Epcot and Disneyworld rides are also scooter and wheelchair friendly, and as you would expect, Disney staffers are ready to assist. The Guidemap indicates which rides are wheelchair accessible--and at Epcot, every ride is accessible, although on some rides a person must transfer from the scooter to a wheelchair.

One last bit of advice. Well in advance of your visit, go to a bookstore and browse through the numerous guidebooks available. In our Barnes & Noble, for instance, there is an entire section dedicated to Disney. Go online and google Disneyworld, Epcot, Orlando. You’ll get a lot of information that will make your trip more enjoyable and give you some options you might have not known. In the huge Disney entertainment empire, knowledge is power. I can help with your bookings. Click this link to my TATravel and look at VACATIONS. Explore there, and you’ll pick up some good info on Disney (or any other spot). When you make your decisions, choose FLIGHT & HOTEL or FLIGHT, HOTEL & CAR, plug in your info, and you’ll come up with some great possibilities for a terrific vacation. Or email me!
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