Some Things I Learned on Our 2019 Disney Trip

With the one year anniversary of our latest Disney trip here are some things I learned this time. Some of it I learned after we got back especially looking for solutions to problems we had. I finally got our group podcast done so I thought it was time to revisit Walt Disney World. Find my report on Disney book recommendations from last time and some sources I recommended from our 2015 trip. I did a podcast in 2013 with my friend Richard Simms, my report on our 2015 trip, and our group podcast from our 2019 trip and a podcast with definitions for Disney jargon.
Sarah with Balloons on Main Street
Sarah with Balloons on Main Street
Most of this post is things that are just informational and I think are things that anyone, especially those staying at Pop Century would find helpful. There is some actual advice. It MAY be true and useful for you. It may NOT be true and useful for you. It’s all in how you do it.

Pop Century Resort

I love Laundry View. It shows you a drawing of the individual laundry rooms at Disney and other resorts (search by name and select in terms of nearest pool) and which machines (washers and dryers) are available. I still look sometimes just to feel like I’m there – which I know is pretty sad.
There are shower/bathtub units available in the Pop Century resort. Most of them are shower units the same size as a bathtub, but they felt some parents would want the tub option. We had joined rooms where one had the tub and one didn’t. If I’d have known I’d have requested the one with the tub. If you want one, ask. It wasn’t shown on any of the room tour videos I watched in preparation.
Pop Century Pool
Pop Century does indeed have a business center, it’s around the corner from the front desk in the hallway that runs in front of the giftshop, BUT unlike any other business center I’ve visited in the last 5 years or so you have to pay for time online. Things didn’t work out so I wouldn’t have had many chances to check in  my online stuff anyway, but while you could get to the boarding pass print-out page for free, you couldn’t get anywhere else. I was sadly disappointed I couldn’t pop on and check a couple of things quick. The Wi-Fi was free, but I didn’t want to drag along a laptop for the once or twice I’d use it.
None of the value resorts have hot tubs, if you want one you have to go up a level.
Normally it takes quite a bit to make me complain about fast food, it is of course, fast food and you can’t expect it to be more than it is. While I have my favorites I don’t ask all that much of it in places that aren’t my favorites. However, I was thoroughly disappointed in the Pop Century food court which I thought was vastly inferior to the one we used at Art of Animation on the last trip. No one seemed to know what they were doing and none of it was really what I’d been taught to expect for Disney food quality and when I contemplated grabbing something at the quick service inside The Land at EPCOT I changed my mind because it looked exactly the same down to the slow service as I watched. Lots of people said good things about the Pop Century Food Court online who have been proved right about all sorts of stuff so maybe the problem was seasonal? Really though it needed a good solid cleaning and didn’t get one the entire time we were there (for instance the mess by the microwaves). It was also super noisy even the couple of times when it wasn’t busy. They could really use some kind of sound deadening.
Pop Century
Overall I was kind of disappointed in Pop Century, but as I thought about it over the year, I decided my biggest problem was the food court. If I planned to not use it except for quick drink refills and instead use the Art of Animation’s food court and giftshop it would be better. Also the addition of the Disney Skyliner station would certainly plus it up. If someone offered me the opportunity to stay at Art of Animation again, I’d jump on it. If someone offered me the opportunity to stay at Pop Century again, for most of the year I’d hesitate, but now I think I have a plan worth trying. (Using the food court at Art of Animation for everything, but drinks and using the Skyliner to get to the parks.) I’d still rather try a more expensive hotel, but don’t see it happening anytime soon.
Jen and Mom on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Jen and Mom on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
One sad thing we piled stuff on our room phone and so missed our character wake up call which was awesome. A recording of it was put on PhotoPass later.
Another thing I tried for was late check-out. My mom got exhausted – it really was too soon after her last operation to have gone – and didn’t want to go at all the last day. Our Magic Express didn’t come until the afternoon. We asked for a two hour extension at the front desk and were told no. About 20 minutes or so later we got a phone call – which we heard as packing up the phone wasn’t smothered anymore – and they said she could stay an extra hour. That was super nice because Shannon Albert who goes all the time WDWPrepSchool said it almost never happens. (Really dislike the WDWPrepSchool website redo, but the rest of it is awesome sauce.)
Chef Mickey's Mickey Designed Chairs
Mickey Chair design in Chef Mickeys

Dining Plan

Being terribly late for one of our dinner reservations (started late and then got on wrong monorail – see below) like an hour late for that one and a half hour for another they told us they’ll hold your place for 15 minutes past time and after that they’ll still work you in and not charge you for not showing as long as you appear at some point (I’m assuming that day or within a couple of hours, but they didn’t say). Calls to the dining reservation line to let them know you’re running late are only met with that information and an assurance you’re fine and not to rush. I don’t think they have any direct links to the restaurants.
Our first character meal of the trip was at Chef Mickey’s. It was the one where we were super late. It was our best character experience of both trips. If I went again I’d book it late when it’s less busy and they’re reaching the ends of their shifts. I really think I’d do that for all the dinner reservations unless it was tied to something like the Fantasmic package. It’s my favorite show and I’d definitely do that again, but not with the Brown Derby which was frankly a disappointment. It was stuffed with tables and although I’m glad to have gone once to try their signature dishes (versions of the ones from the original restaurant in studio era LA) I really didn’t care for any of them. Also, right after saying our credits were good for anything I tried to order the Kobe steak so we could all try it and were told anything, but that. Really the waiter was one of the least helpful we dealt with this trip, too.
Family at Chef Mickey's
Family at Chef Mickey’s
Since we were there – maybe it was true before and somehow we just didn’t find it – they have an express monorail that only stops at the Transportation Center and the Magic Kingdom so you watch helplessly as you rush past Chef Mickey’s. Be sure you know which one you’re heading to.
In front of the Mary Blair wall
The Mary Blair wall in the Contemporary
The rose beepers no longer buzz at Be Our Guest once they hand you head right to the bridge. Related – repeating the same information repeatedly has made many of the cast members talk quickly and softly to the point that it’s impossible to decode – ask if you can’t hear don’t assume things work the same as last time to fill in any gaps. From this experience it’s probably changed. Also, realize that any time before 11am is breakfast. If they have 2 menus, you might be able to get stuff on the other menu, but you can’t preorder it.
Me and the nephew at Be Our Guest
Another thing to learn is to talk to your group. I had figured that the Mexican restaurant in the Mexico Pavilion would have been what they wanted. However, when we were watching EPCOT videos and the niece and nephew were stoked to go to the Beirgarten. So I changed the reservation and they had the best food and meal of our trip.
Sarah and Susie at Beirgarten
Sarah and Susie at Beirgarten
Another favorite was the Bon Voyage breakfast. Love the princes and the food which was amazing!
Sarah at Bon Voyage Breakfast
Sarah at Bon Voyage Breakfast, wearing Disney Bound Rapunzel
Disney Bounding is superfun. It’s even more fun when people figure out who you are.
Sarah and Rapunzel
Sarah and Rapunzel
Sarah and Prince Eric
Sarah and Prince Eric
Sarah and Ariel
Sarah and Ariel
Sarah and Eugene
Sarah and Eugene

1900 Park Faire was one of my favorite restaurants both trips. The 2015 trip we went for breakfast. The 2019 trip we went for supper.

Loved Cinderella and Prince Charming, their princess parade and dance where they basically hung around a good chunk of time in the afternoon

I loved it for both food and everything else. I want to recommend the strawberry soup which is available for BOTH breakfast and supper. I wasn’t sure about that and I was glad. Months later there was a soup contest as a fundraiser and she announced she had to make her favorite soup the strawberry soup from 1900 Park Faire.

Strawberry Soup

Another favorite both trip was visiting the tea shop in the Grand Floridian lobby they were very accomodating this time letting us sit there a long time even when I ran off to see Cinderella and my mom waited at the table.

Mom and me in the tea room
Tea Food

My biggest disappointment was that I got sick one day. I threw up in Hollywood Studios and learned that no matter how sincerely your mother needs your help working the laundry don’t walk if you feel like you have to throw up. After I got home I found out about Zylast which is a high power hand sanitizer that can take on stomach flu and I’ll definitely take some next trip. Anyway it meant I missed the meal I was looking forward to most the new Snow White meal at Wilderness Lodge.

The Wilderness Lodge with the niece and nephew

We’ve now tried both the Deluxe and the Standard Dining Plans. I think if we go again I might try it without the dining plan unless I had a chance for free dining. Both times it was just TOO MUCH FOOD! While I loved how it kept you in the Disney bubble I really think I’d like to try to put the amount of money I spent on the dining meal aside so it would already be saved and actually buy. Even though we did better the second time what with being sick we left money on the table both times. I think just pretending it was all paid for might work better.

Stuff in the Parks

The moving sidewalks getting on and off the rides seemed to go faster than the last time we were there (our entire group agreed). Frankly I’d think they’d start to have problems getting older people and young kids on and off although I didn’t personally see any problems.
If someone in your group gets tired, this is a great place to wait and find them again. It’s in fantasyland right across from the Seven Dwarfs Minetrain. Mom waited here quite a few times.
Mom waiting at tower
Mom waiting at tower
Fantasmic is BY FAR my favorite nighttime show. It’s worth it. I’d also get the dinner package so you have a reserved area to sit in. They really were good seats near the top so you could see the whole stage. I might even set it up to go 2 nights if possible.
Sarah at the Dessert Party
The Dessert Party (Garden View) was also a wonderful night and meal. The view was great. I wish there had been chairs to see the fireworks. My mom didn’t want to come because there weren’t. To be clear there were chairs to sit and eat, but not to watch the show. We showed about about a half hour early because that’s what they recommended and stuff was already a little picked over. I’d go earlier next time.
Desserts at the Dessert Party
My niece LOVED it and said why hadn’t we gone every night! Her dad told her it was an extra ticket and reminded her it was her Christmas present from me, but she still wanted to know why we couldn’t go every night.
Our tour guide on the Marceline tour showed us there is a murder mystery within the busts, who killed who?
The Marceline to Magic Tour is much less on the Marceline part than I expected, especially light on Main Street, but once you realize it’s mostly about the history of the Magic Kingdom it was pretty amazing and I want to go again knowing what to expect and to hear a different guide’s take. From that tour, while the lights are out during the fuse blown scene on the Carousel of Progress the audioanamatronics keep moving as if you could see them despite the fact it is pitch black and you can’t (the guide had us flashlight mode all our phones and shine them on the stage – we had our own car – so we could see). I don’t have any photos because you’re not allowed to take photos behind the scenes on most of the tours.
Once again having carefully picked a time when it should have been fairly slow crowds cast members agreed it was unexpectedly and surprisingly heavy for the time of year because we seem to cause that. I guess people just want to see us. LOL. Another cast member said there basically is no off season anymore.
Kylo Ren and Sarah talke over the universe
A cast member told us they expect that when Star Wars Land opens it will double attendance at Hollywood Studios. Not sure if that’s actually true, especially since they’re cutting bus times because of the Disney Skyliner.
Family and Chewie
Another one pointed out that a big problem with the scooters at the parks isn’t the fact that there ARE scooters, it’s that a lot of people rent them and have very little idea how to make them work well. If they were more of the people who use them in the parks actually were good at driving them they really wouldn’t be as much of an issue in his opinion which I thought was a very interesting point. It also reminded me of my failed campaign at the museum I used to work at to get people mover drivers to pass a test before they were allowed to drive at least for liability sake. THIS IS NOTHING I HEARD AT DISNEY but in my own never humble opinion a test/class to make sure you could actually handle the scooter before you got a “license” of some sort to take them into the park would make a lot of sense and would be good for everyone. My mom really should have rented a scooter, but she has a thing against them and wouldn’t. She would have been able to do a lot more if she would have or even a wheelchair, but no dice. She’s stubborn.

DVC Tour

My brother and I took the DVC salespitch tour. I really expected more of a tour of the resort – for instance taking us through the DVC area of the resort, into one of the DVC only lounges, that sort of thing – instead they have mocked up rooms of different sizes from various resorts. They were SUPER nice, but had a kind of theater set feel to them the way they were set up. I mean I’m sure they don’t in place, but I felt a bit like I was in a furniture store bedroom if you know the feeling. I’d have much rather seen the real thing. We were upfront that because of some large expected one time expenses that should be coming up at an undetermined time in the next few years we weren’t looking to lock in any new on-going expenses and they really didn’t push too hard. They did lose a little interest in us at that point which was a little bad on them because we have seriously talked about doing it and I believe there is a good chance we will in the future. We did have lots of our questions answered. There were only 3 things (besides the on-going expense factor mentioned above) that gave us pause so here they are in case you’re thinking about it too. If you go to the Parks you will think about it because they have booths EVERYWHERE selling it as compared to when we went in 2015.
1. Apparently the 50 year clock (you pay off the purchase in the 1st 10 years and then for the next 40 only have to pay a relatively small maintenance fee) doesn’t start when you purchase, it starts when they open a new DVC resort. All the leases expire at the same time per resort (I’m guessing so they can easily close it and do updates or build a replacement) so if you buy in at full price in a resort that only has 30 years left on the lease you get 30 years instead of 50 — at full price. Which seems a little shady to me and definitely not something they mentioned earlier in any of the videos, booklets, or phone calls we’d seen before although they had talked about buying into already existing resorts.
2. Disney apparently has the right to unilaterally change the benefits you get with your membership. So another salesman we talked to in the parks (their booths are EVERYWHERE you go now compared with 2015) told us when they started you got a free ticket to the park each year with your membership so you sign up with that expectation — and then they ended it. Much more recently they decided that if you sell your points to someone else they no longer get any of the benefits of membership other than the right to stay in the resort (including free parking, lounge access, etc.). That is always a dangerous way to sign a contract when the terms can change at any time because these changes were retroactive it wasn’t that new purchases didn’t get them it was that nobody got them anymore.
3. Even if you bought points from Disney and maintained your membership, if you bought points or I think rented them from someone other than Disney – they were less clear on that and I was a little too surprised to think to ask for clarification – you didn’t get any of the benefits of membership while you were using points you hadn’t purchased directly from Disney.
I’d still recommend everybody do the tour though. It was fun and the 3 anytime, anywhere (except headliners) fastpasses were amazing and if they offered your whole party 3 of those every DVC trip I might have been talked into signing immediately despite my good sense. I really loved the bus ride over where we saw the dog hotel, the famous treehouses, and other Disney special sites. It was at Saratoga Springs. Here I am in the Winner’s Circle.
Sarah in the Winner’s Circle

Touring Plans

Having followed my brother’s plan this time of basically no planning and putting all your fastpasses as early as possible in the morning – I don’t recommend that. As the group couldn’t get going in the morning and I stayed with the group we missed almost every one of our first fastpasses of the day and when we tried to book later in the day very, VERY few remained for anything. I missed riding on my favorite ride Peter Pan’s Flight even though I had two fastpasses for it. Sometimes by midmorning a few would remain for that evening, but “No remaining fastpasses” was on almost everything by 10 am or so on the days we were there. Remember this was supposed to be a light crowd time. If that’s true and the number of fastpasses holds constant, I shudder to think how fast they must go during busy times just assume you won’t get any additional fastpasses, still try and just because you don’t see any once don’t give up, but you might as well go into it with the assumption you won’t get any extra. Have a good touring plan that spaces your fastpasses knowing where you are going in-between and be willing to adjust and you will not have to feel you are on a forced march which I did every time my brother or sister-in-law took the lead to whatever random ride had the shortest wait time even if it was across the park which what happened most of the time.
I’m now convinced that using early morning Extra Magic Hours no longer has any benefit and you’re much better off scheduling your day by going to whatever park had Extra Magic Hours the day before. That’s because many people schedule their day by the magic hours and don’t do the same parks back to back. It’s another Shannon Albert – WDW Prep School suggestion. The only exception being if you had park hoppers and a plan to leave as soon as you felt crowded. Also, apparently some of the late night times were less crowded so that might be an option.
It’s worth spending time in other resorts. Besides the DVC tour to Saratoga Springs (the bus out there alone took you past things like the dog kennel – which is decorated by portraits of Disney dogs – and the famous treehouses), my brother took time to visit Wilderness Lodge and the Polynesian and I spent a lovely afternoon with my mother at the Grand Floridian.
Sarah and Susie at Tea at the Grand Floridian
We took the Minnie Vans and Mears Taxis back to Pop Century from the resorts we visited. They were very helpful. The amount of information you got from a Minnie Van driver varied. One we took was beyond excellent, another gave the suggestion to go to the far left bag check line first which was great advice, but really the only on topic thing she said. They don’t let you make reservations ahead and when I was trying to get one to get me there the day of my tour I had my request time out 3 times before I finally got a Minnie Van, but it really doesn’t take long to get there when you can pull up to the front door of the Magic Kingdom, but I made it in enough time to take a restroom break and sit down for awhile waiting before we started. Leave plenty of time for morning rides though.
Sarah and Susie by the Minnie Van
Cinderella and Prince Charming waltz at the Grand Floridian every afternoon
Park Hoppers are definitely worth it. Pretty much everyday of the trip I had to go back in the afternoon to check on my mom who wasn’t doing mornings in the Parks (see operation remark above). Having to go through the SAME security line twice in one day just felt like an unpleasant redo. Going through into another park, felt much better. Schedule mornings and evenings at different parks especially if you’re going back to your hotel room in between.
Deconstructed strawberry cheesecake on cardboard plate
The food at the EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts was really good. I had the deconstructed cheesecake. They serve the food on really solid cardboard plates so I was able to flip one over on the other to carry it home. The people at the stand were real nice about helping me. I was afraid they were using really dishes and I couldn’t do it, but you could.
This time we visited Disney Springs. We hadn’t before, but it’s definitely worth a visit. One thing it was so large. Even though I’d looked at videos and maps I really didn’t get a feeling at how big it was. It’s really huge. We ate at the Hardrock Cafe. Our waitress was really great. She was attentive and when we had a beverage spill she handled it great. It was super loud though and the theming wasn’t nearly as as cool as it looked online. If I went again I’d pick a quick service place there.
Look up the Disney PhotoPass options before you go. They tend to default to Tinkerbelle, but there are a lot more options. You want not only to know what photos are available, but have in mind a reaction or pose for the best effect. Not all PhotoPass photographers have all options most just seemed ot have a couple so be sure to ask what they have.
Mom and me with magic hyenas
Mom and me with magic hyenas
Finally since I haven’t linked to it yet, besides the official Disney app, Kenny the Pirate (especially the character locater) and Touring Plans were the best. Kenny saved the day when my niece decided in the middle of the trip that Stitch was her favorite character of all time. (During the year based on a health scare, Kenny switched to having other people post to his page which aren’t nearly as good as when he was doing it alone sadly, but FYI. — I’ve recently started watching the Touring Plan livestreams and videos. They are great! Still don’t like the book though.)
Kylo Ren and Sarah take over the universe
Kylo Ren and Sarah take over the universe
Sarah and Launchpad McQuack
Sarah and Launchpad McQuack
Sarah by giant camper kiosk in Hollywood Studios. Sarah is in Snow White Disney Bound
Me and Snow White at Airport Disney store
Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos,   listen to her podcast,    look at her photos, and find her on Facebook ,   Twitter ,   LinkedIn ,   SlideShare,   and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Travel Times Disney

Travel Times is a subseries of my Trundlebed Tales podcasts where we get the insider’s view of how to try out something completely different on your vacation whether it’s being a Civil War Reenactor or riding a bike across Iowa or Trekfest, try something new.

Join host Sarah Uthoff as she talks with Richard M. Simms one of the biggest Walt Disney World fans on the planet as he gives the inside story on how to have the most fantastic Disney World vacation. From running a marathon to attending a food festival, traveling with adults or with a family to having a special Twitter account just to share his Disney adventures Richard’s done it all so listen in for the full scoop.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/trundlebedtales/2013/03/02/travel-times-disney 

Me and My Brother at Disney World in 1985
Me and My Brother at Disney World in 1985

Hope Floats from Porthole Magazine
http://www.porthole.com/CurrentIssue/CruisingforaCause.aspx

Disney Trip Discussion Board
http://www.disboards.com/

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/epcot/epcot-international-food-and-wine-festival/

Wine and Dine Half Marathon
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/epcot/wine-dine-half-marathon/

Gardens of the World
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/epcot/gardens-of-the-world

Special Events Schedule
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours

Disney Parks Blog
http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/

Limited Time Magic
http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/let-the-memories-begin/limited-time-magic/

All Ears – Disney Trip Planning
http://allears.net/index.html

Extra Magic Hours – Extended Time for Staying on Park Resorts
http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/planning-guides/in-depth-advice/extended-theme-park-hours/\

Richard added this blog as a recommendation in 2015:
http://www.wdwinfo.com

Mellow Mickey Twitter Handle
https://twitter.com/mellowmickey

Richard’s Crimes Against Civility
Twitter Handle
https://twitter.com/howrudeareyou
Book on Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Crimes-Against-Civility-ebook/dp/B006O3JLSE

And his real job Twitter Handle
https://twitter.com/soapsindepthcbs

Another friend recommended:
http://wdwprepschool.com

UPDATE March 22, 2015: I added two links today.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.