Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Disney Experience In The Rear View Mirror
Part 3

Our five days of Disney almost over, we have adjusted to the teaming multitudes here in central Florida striving to enjoy the various parks and attractions of this area. This fall America's population topped 300 million, and at times this week it sure seemed like a sizable portion of them were here. Nonetheless, we have managed to give the kids a good time, and that's all that's important.

I have chuckled these past few days at the irony that my wife and I can provide volumes of advice about obscure places on the planet (e.g., the best places to see Roan antelope around Xakanaka Camp in Botswana's Okavango Swamp, or how to arrange reliable private overland transport from Mandalay to Bagan in Myanmar), but we obviously knew NOTHING about Walt Disney World before we came here!

Contrary to assumptions, we did quite a bit of research. We checked out five books on Disney from the library, bought and read the Birnbaum book on WDW, and checked the Internet. We also asked about a dozen friends who had extensive Disney World experience for advice before we came.

However, none of that prepared us for what we found here during this period. While some of the Internet research warned of the crowds at Christmas, I find it difficult to sort fact from fiction on the Web. So we took the warnings with a grain of salt.

Here's what we as a family have learned from firsthand experience this week about WDW Parks:

1. Go early in the morning, taking advantage of "Extra Magic Hours" 7:00 AM opening wherever possible. This allows the kids to experience popular rides early before the big crowds arrive. Our experience has been that the parks get really saturated by 9:30-10:00 AM.

2. After 10:00 AM do the less popular things that most people don't want to do. For example, we saw a fantastic 12-minute 360 degree movie at the China expo at Epcot which was not crowded even at 1:00 PM.

3. Eat early to avoid long lines. We found 11:00-11:30 AM about the right time to get lunch with no waiting.

4. Use FastPass whenever possible. We mastered the art of going to one popular ride early and getting FastPass tickets and then going to another one without having to wait, and later coming back to the FastPass ride. We even discovered an unpublished trick about FastPass that involved using the "Rider Switch" option that allowed us to avoid waits more than once.

5. Use the theatre-based shows as opportunities to rest up and sit down (e.g., "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience" and "The Lion King Experience").

6. Use quiet corners like the Magic Kingdom Train, the Animal Kingdom Dino kid's park, and Epcot's Innovention halls to rest up and get away from the crowds.

7. Leave early. We left every park by 3:00 PM.

8. When leaving a park, take the first bus going to the Downtown Disney area or to its hotels, even if not the designated one for our Hilton. We could walk from Downtown Disney or a nearby hotel back to the Hilton.

9. Lastly, despite the astonishing crowds, I tip my hat respectfully to the Disney management on two counts: They have hired some of the friendliest people on earth, and they have made their ride management world-class examples of efficiency. These two factors did not negate the effect of over-crowding, but it sure made the crowds easier to take. I wish every company hired people like the Disney "Cast Members."

Learning the things above turned what reader Ed called a "Tragic Kingdom vacation" (thanks, Ed, for that turn of phrase) into a good one for the kids--and that's all that mattered.

And here's what I personally have learned about this experience:

1. No matter how much I know about other parts of the world (and I do), I was sure ignorant and stupid about the Orlando area. My first and only Disney experience prior to this was in 1964, and I remember waiting in lines all day long at Disneyland. That pretty much killed any desire I had to return to such a park, and I only came this time for our kids. Despite doing the research I mentioned above, it obviously wasn't enough.

2. In the last few days on the Internet I have been ridiculed by a lot of good people out there who read my Disney blog entries, Parts 1 and 2, and they have been mostly spot on. I deserved to be laughed at for being so naive about this place. Some people assumed we did no research, which is wrong--we did--but we sure didn't do the RIGHT research.

3. What has surprised me most about the Internet reaction to my blog entries has been, well, just that: the REACTION! Disney provokes a lot of emotion and passion, another revelation for me. The whole central Florida vacation thing is about as interesting to me as watching paint dry, but I seem to be very much in the minority. The vast majority of Americans have strong opinions about Disney and a lot of knowledge, too. Way more than I do (or want to). But then, not everyone wants to go camping in Botswana and have hyenas nudging your tent trying to gnaw on a foot, and we love such thrills. To each his own.

Several people have suggested that I must not really be very knowledgeable about world travel if I don't know about Disney and Orlando. That is not logical, and they are wrong. However, since Orlando is a part of the WORLD--even if its attractions are built on a hot, steamy, mosquito-infested swamp--and since I have proved that I didn't know squat about it, I freely acknowledge my ignorance by amending the bio squib on my blog accordingly, Q.V.

Thank you all who have written comments and sent emails; all were appreciated, and all made good points. Some were strident, but I appreciate the candor. It has been a great learning opportunity for me, and I would have remained in ignorance had it not been for your writing me and the power of the Internet. Again, I sincerely thank you.


Blogger Terry Wrist said...

You're not fooling anyone, Will.

You claim to have done research before planning your trip to Disney World. Then now did you happen to miss the section at the front of every travel guide about the best and worst times of year to visit?

You claim that you can be very knowledgeable about world travel even if you don't know about Orlando. Tell us, in your travels, have you not figured out that Christmas is generally a busy travel season? Why would you think that Disney World woulld be different?

And it's not just your stupidity in Orlando that is of interest. What experienced traveler doesn't know that boarding passes can be printed at home on Southwest? What experienced traveler doesn't check for flight delays BEFORE leaving for the airport?

I can't tell if you're simply the world's least competent traveler, or just a liar. But either way, why on earth would you post a blog, and make it clear to the world that you're one or the other?

12/31/2006 8:59 AM  
Blogger BonzoGal said...

Geez Terry, your knickers sure seem to be in a twist about Will's blog. Your foaming at the mouth about someone giving his honest (and humble) account of an unenjoyable vacation at a major theme park is way over the top.

Travel guides might say a certain time of year is "Busy", but that doesn't convey the insanity that is Disney when it's REALLY busy.

It's enjoyable to read someone's travel blog. If you don't agree with the way the traveller did things, go ahead and suggest better ways. But to offer offense and rudeness is ridiculous. Will did more than enough research for what is, again, a heavily pre-packaged vacation resort that SHOULD have their act together for the holidays.

I'm sure many other travellers have the same unhappy experience with Disneyworld on the holidays. Disney guests can always learn from someone like Will who is nice enough to share.

12/31/2006 4:09 PM  
Blogger Terry Wrist said...

Hey, bonzogal -

In case you have figured it out, Allen isn't offering an "honest" account.

He claims to have consulted various travel guides - yet is furious that Disney World turned out to be busy during the Christmas holidays. That's funny - every Disney World travel guide I've ever seen includes a "when to go" section - which warns that the holidays are the peak season of the year. If he really ahs "30 years" of travel experience, that ought to have warned him to investigate further. He didn't.

And his dishonesty is rampant. he refers to non-existent attractions like the "The Lion King Experience". He makes up facts out of whole cloth, like that taxis can't serve the TTC, or that the same crowd levels continue right through Spring Break.

Allen's account of his vacation reads like a parody of a clueless, unprepared visitor's complaints - except that he appears to be for real.

Let's call a spade a spade. Allen is either a liar or a fool. Or both.

12/31/2006 4:31 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

Mr. Wrist,

For someone who claims to be such a stickler for accuracy, it's odd that you did not even bother to read the paragraph in "Disney, Part 1" that says: "On Christmas day I was happy to discover that I could print my Southwest boarding passes from home (24 hours before our 4:45 PM departure on the 26th)."

And though it wasn't mentioned, I also looked on the SWA website before we left for the airport, and it showed our flight was on time.

The Lion King theatre thing at Animal Kingdom is actually called "Festival of The Lion King." Since you sound like part of the Disney cult--or perhaps a Disney employee trolling for Disney denigrators, it figures you would be know the real name. Who cares? The presentation was enjoyable, and that was the point.

As for the blog, read it or not--makes no difference to me. I write it to relieve frustration, not to attract readers. It's great therapy for me, and you're of course welcome to throw stones. Because I am writing it for me, not for you.

12/31/2006 5:20 PM  
Blogger Terry Wrist said...

Will says - "The presentation was enjoyable, and that was the point."

No, Will, the point is that you claim to be a travel expert - but post blog entries full of mistakes and (such as calling a show by the wrong name). If you want to be taken seriously, Will, you'd better get your facts right - and it's not hard to actually read the park map or a travel guide to verify details such as attraction names.

And just in case you're trying to convince yourself that you're the poor pathetic victim of a conspiracy: I'm not a Disney employee. I'm not even a big Disney fan. However, I am capable of actually checking facts and planning ahead.

But if you consider it theraputic to make a fool out of yourself online, that's your choice. (However, the Internet has a long memory - do you really want your business partners today, tomorrow, or five years from now discovering your blog - and that you're not exactly a stickler for accuracy? I sure wouldn't.)

12/31/2006 5:28 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

To Bonzogal:

Many thanks for coming to my defense. But please don't waste your energy on this one. The NullVoidWaste blog by Mr. " Terry Wrist" (terror-ist, get it?) is just a ruse.

By the way, "A Confederacy of Dunces" is one of my favorite books, too.

1/01/2007 2:13 PM  

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