Monday 26 November 2012

Transportation - Car or no Car?

Now for those of us travelling to WDW from outside the US we have the dilemma of 'do we need a hire car or not?'

All the travel companies here in the UK seem to promote 'free hire car rental' included with the package price...what they fail to mention is the few hundred dollars that you'll need to spend on insurance to drive the car!

Our first few visits to Orlando involved us staying around the International Drive area and were all about us exploring what Orlando and the surrounding area had to offer and a hire car was almost essential.  Yes, we could have used local bus services or taxis but the cost of those would only have been equivalent to the insurance we had to pay for the hire car anyway, so it seemed that the logical thing to do to was to have a hire car.  We were able to visit all that we wanted and at the convenience of going when we wanted.  Yes, driving in the US is different to the UK but as Simon had driven in the US before on work trips it was easy for me - I simply sat back and allowed myself to be chauffeured about :)

But when it came to our first visit staying at a Disney hotel in 1996 we thought long and hard about whether a car was a necessity or not, especially as this was our first time staying 'on-site' and therefore having had no real experience of WDW transportation.

We had chosen to stay at Port Orleans (as it was known then, it is now Port Orleans French Quarter) and there was just Simon and I going (the days before children!).  We knew that our main focus for our holiday was going to be Disney and all that it had to offer and that our time 'off-site' would be limited.  So we decided that all of our non-Disney needs could be met through taxis or organised trips through our travel company of choice at a cost less than that of the insurance for the hire car.

So I dutifully read up as much as I could about the transportation on offer - buses, boats and monorail.  From Port Orleans we had bus transportation as well as a boat link to then Disney Village Marketplace.  We knew that wait times for buses could be lengthy and even journey times between parks and hotels would not be as quick as driving ourselves, but we decided to take a chance and opt for the 'no-car' option.

Well something must have worked out right for us on this trip because since then every time we have visited WDW, and stayed at a Disney hotel, we have always opted for the 'no-car' option.  We have always found the buses to be clean, with extremely friendly drivers and whilst we did have to wait for our transport we never had any waits that were too long, in fact I would say that we never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus to come along.  The boat link to the then Disney Village Marketplace was a lovely alternative to the bus and often overlooked by other hotel guests.

Port Orleans Resort map - check out the 'hidden mickey' drawn by the cast member on registration that shows where the boat left for D.V (Disney Village) and P.I (Pleasure Island)!!
Part of our 'Welcome Pack' at Port Orleans included a 'Disney Transportation Guide', which I have to admit was a little daunting and appeared somewhat confusing.  I remember sitting one afternoon in the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory pouring over the guide trying to figure out how to get to Fort Wilderness for Mickey's Backyard BBQ and almost giving myself a headache trying to figure out how to get there and how much time to allow.  Looking back I think we had a rather convoluted route which involved buses and boats and ended up in us getting there way ahead of time, and all of which could probably have been avoided!!

The slightly confusing transportation guide - 1996

Thankfully Disney's approach to transportation and the information they give you has greatly improved and is now a whole lot simpler, plus having stayed 'on-site' a few more times since means that our own knowledge and appreciation has improved.

My own personal recommendation would be that if you are going to visit WDW and stay at a Disney Resort and not venture much further than its 43 square miles then don't bother with the hire car, use the transportation that's freely available.  And if you do venture outside Disney then there are taxis aplenty or simply rent a car just for the few days that you may need it (there are car rental offices within the Disney complex).  I know some will like the freedom that a car can give you but for us being 'car-less' for two weeks means we can sit back, relax and let someone else take the strain.

Friday 9 November 2012

On Site or Off Site

To stay in a Disney hotel or not to stay - that is the question!

It can be a dilemma for some as to whether a stay in a Disney resort is worth the money and whether it would be 'too much Disney'.  Now for me there is no such phrase as 'too much Disney' - how could that be possible? ;)  But I can appreciate that for others it may not be such a clear decision.

I have stayed both on and off site so will attempt to give you an insight to both options. But I think the main question you have to ask is why are you visiting?  Are you wanting to see all that Orlando has to offer or is the main focus of your visit WDW?

Now the first three times that we visited Orlando we stayed off property.  We were new to visiting the area and knew that there was so much to see and do and wanted to put ourselves in the best position for seeing everything!

Our first visit was, to coin a phrase, 'cheap and cheerful'.  We were based on International Drive opposite Wet 'n' Wild but, as a young couple, it enabled us to explore and see all that we wanted.

Continental Plaza - International Drive - 1991
But with one trip under our belt we were better informed when making our next two trips, both trips involved us bringing along extra members of the family and so we opted for a 'suites' hotel based again on International Drive, but at the opposite end to where we had stayed previously.  Again this gave us the opportunity to explore as much, or as little, of Orlando as we wanted.

Summerfield Suites - International Drive - 1992
Our fourth visit was back to just the two of us and by this time we knew that our main reason for visiting was WDW.  We looked long and hard at all the options available to us and decided that we would treat ourselves to a stay in a Disney hotel......we have never stayed anywhere but in a Disney hotel ever since!

We have now had the good fortune to stay at Port Orleans French Quarter three times and All Star Movies Resort once.

                  Port Orleans walkway to pool area - 1996
Port Orleans hotel grounds- 1996 
                                All Star Movies - 2004
All Star Movies - 2004

Port Orleans French Quarter - 2011
Our next visit sees us trying a different hotel - Coronado Springs.

But I think the benefits, perks and querks of staying in a Disney hotel will be left for another post!!

It would be great to think that we could get the chance to stay in all of the amazing Disney hotels at some point or other and who knows as the years go by just what we'll achieve.

Mousekeeping! - 2011

Sunday 4 November 2012

Halloween Update

So last night was our annual Halloween party, an evening spent with friends who all entered into the spirit with suitably appropriate attire.  An evening with food, drink and karaoke and lots of what did Simon and I go as?
Simon & I - Joker & Catwoman
Thanks to all our friends both new and old for making it such a fantastic night.