Mum shares smart time-saving tip for families at Disney theme parks


A MUM of three has shared a time-saving tip for families heading to Disney theme parks while there are still Covid restrictions.

Holidaying in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has added an extra layer of stress for a lot of people going away.

A mum has shared a time-saving tip for families heading to Disneyland theme parks

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A mum has shared a time-saving tip for families heading to Disneyland theme parks

But Jennifer Leigh’s easy trick gives families ‘one less thing to worry about’ while racing round the park having fun.

Jennifer recently returned from a trip to Disney World, Florida with her kids, aged seven, 10 and 12.

All three kids needed face masks as Disney has a face covering rule for everyone aged six and over.

While they are mandatory in most places, face masks can be removed in some parts of the parks, such as outdoor selfie spots, as well as for eating and drinking.

This gives kids several opportunities to lose their mask.

Jennifer has advised any parents visiting a Disney park with their kids to attach a face mask to a lanyard and hang it around their child’s neck.

Kids then have easy access to their face mask when they need it and don’t have to faff around taking it out of a pocket or bag, saving time.

It is also a lot less likely to go missing.

Reflecting on her trip, Jennifer wrote on Facebook: “Things that helped: the lanyards for the masks.

“This might be a little detail but they helped a lot.

“Instead of having to put away the mask and get the mask out again the kids just wore them around their necks all day and it was one less thing to worry about.”

Jennifer also advised parents to carry a portable phone charger, poncho and bottled water.

Last week, Disney announced that guests aged five and over on a US Disney Cruise Line must be vaccinated from January 13, 2022.

This is likely to cause problems for Brit families booked on Disney cruises in the US, as children under 12 in the UK are not currently eligible for a vaccine.

Recently, a woman whose job is to plan Disney holidays for people revealed some of the most common mistakes when visiting the parks.

They included the worst time to visit, the types of tickets people buy and the meals they opt for once inside the parks.

Jennifer advises parents visiting a Disney park to attach a face mask to a lanyard and hang it around their child's neck

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Jennifer advises parents visiting a Disney park to attach a face mask to a lanyard and hang it around their child’s neck
Disney fan reveals hidden secret eating area in the parks without the crowds





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Better Buy: Disney vs. Airbnb


For some businesses, the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind them, while other companies are still struggling to overcome supply chain disruption.  Entertainment titan Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) is still operating below pre-pandemic levels, while company Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB) is back to high growth.

Both companies are more than pandemic plays. Looking at future potential, which company is the better buy today?

Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters in Disney World.

Image source: Walt Disney.

How they’re doing now

Disney’s business is back and running, thanks not only to its streaming efforts, but also to the parks segment, which became profitable again in the fiscal fourth quarter (ended Oct. 2). All parks are open, and cruise ships are running, although there are still some capacity restrictions.

All in all, the fourth-quarter report was positive. Revenue increased 26% year over year, and it posted a profit of $160 million after a loss last year. However, investors weren’t enthused about new streaming subscriber count. Total net new Disney+ subscriptions came in at 2.1 million, a big slowdown from more than 12 million in the third quarter, and while paid subscriptions increased 60% year over year, it’s the first year since launch that it didn’t increase at least 100% over the prior year.

Airbnb, on the other hand, had a scorching hot quarter. Revenue increased 67% year over year to a record $80 million, and gross booking value rose 48% to $12 billion. Travel is still not back to normal, but Airbnb is already in tip-top shape. Even better, it posted a profit of $834 million after three quarters of losses.

Part of Airbnb’s quick rebound is its flexible travel options. It’s seen particularly high growth in stays of at least one month, which accounted for 20% of nights booked in Q3, and soaring bookings in more rural locations. It’s suited to meet these nontraditional needs much more than traditional travel.

Two people hugging underneath a tree.

Image source: Airbnb.

Future opportunities 

Disney’s business is highly resilient for several reasons. First, it has a number of different but connected businesses that hedge against each other at any particular time. Second, its content library includes several blockbuster franchises that are challenging to compete with. Finally, it has the cash to devote to a specific area wherever it needs to refocus.

It needed to apply solutions to the sagging parks business as it dealt with restrictions beyond its control, and it’s seeing success with some new offers that are attracting customers and increasing sales. For example, it rolled out a new annual membership program called Magic Key, and the highest tier, for $1,399, is already sold out.

And its streaming business is chugging along nicely. Despite the underwhelming new subscriber count in Q3, management says it’s not a linear process and it’s maintaining its overall targets, expecting 230 million to 260 million paid subscribers and profitability by 2024. It has 340 titles in some form of development to be released over the next three years, and with its stellar creative studios, these are the meat of streaming business.

Airbnb is seeing strong demand continuing into 2022, and as vaccination rates rise and travel increases, it’s well-positioned to benefit. It launched a new playbook last year with 100 improvements to upgrade its service for both hosts and guests, and it’s planning to release another 50 upgrades this coming winter. 

CEO Brian Chesky said on the recent earnings call, “For the first time ever, millions of people can now travel anytime, anywhere for any length, and even live anywhere on Airbnb.” That’s already fueling higher sales, but the opportunity is simply explosive. No other travel company can match Airbnb’s more than 4 million rentals (and growing), and Airbnb has massive growth potential.

Comparing stock stats

Let’s take a look at how their stocks stack up against each other, and vs. the broader market.

Company P/E Ratio Forward 1-Year Year-to-Date gains 5-Year Gains
Disney 34 (15)% 56%
Airbnb 227 34% N/A
S&P 500 29 26.67% 114%

The market is finally liking Airbnb, after its stock tanked last year, while Disney stock got slammed after its earnings report, bringing its five-year stock gains down to a paltry 63%.

I think we’re even past the stage where Airbnb looks like a risk. It’s demonstrated over the past year that it has a solid model, pointed advantages over traditional travel, and disciplined management. The only factor weighing on it right now is valuation, trading at 227 times forward one-year earnings. That’s definitely a premium price to pay for a stock. 

Disney and Airbnb are both great stocks to own with plenty of future growth opportunities, but right now, Airbnb is looking good to me.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.





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How to Use Disney Genie at Walt Disney World


October 19, 2021, 6:48 PM ·

Disney has replaced its Fastpass line reservation system with not one, but three new products: a free service called Disney Genie, an upsell called Disney Genie+, and a pay-per-use line skip called Individual Lightning Lane.

What are these new services and how do you use them? Should you pay the extra money for Disney Genie+ or Lightning Lane? Keep reading, and we will show you.

How to Use Disney Genie

Let’s start with the freebie. Disney Genie is Disney’s new free, automated itinerary planner for people visiting the Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks. It is available through the official Disneyland app and the My Disney Experience app at Walt Disney World. So start by downloading the appropriate app and logging into it with your Disney account, if you have not done that already.

But the automated itinerary planner isn’t the only thing that Disney Genie offers. With the introduction of Disney Genie, Disney has added some powerful new tools to its official theme park apps. You will want to start using these tools before your next visit to a Disney theme park, as they will give you valuable information about attraction wait times and restaurant availability inside the parks.

Disney Genie opening screen

To start using Disney Genie’s automated itinerary planner, you would click “Summon Disney Genie” on the opening screen of the official app. But let’s start by clicking “View My Day” instead.

That link will bring up Disney’s new “Tip Board.” This is the new place within the app to find current wait times for Walt Disney World (or Disneyland) attractions. But the Tip Board includes much more than just wait times.

Disney Genie Tip Board

There are two tabs here: Experiences and Dining. Under the Experiences tab you will find current standby wait times for each attraction as well as shows times for upcoming shows. If you click “View Details” in the Standby Line box, Disney Genie will show you the estimated wait times for that attraction at each hour of the day.

Estimated Disney wait times

Back on the Tip Board screen, you also will see the next available time for “Genie+ Lightning Lane” or “Individual Lightning Lane.” These are the upsell line-skipping opportunities that we will talk more about in a bit. But you will want to pay attention to those estimated wait times we just discussed before deciding whether you want to pay extra to get a shorter wait time for some attractions.

If you see that the estimated standby wait times are manageable to you and your family at some point during the day, you might as well save yourself the money and not buy Disney’s upsells. But you will need to get to know those wait times in advance of your visit to make that informed decision. That’s why we suggest checking the Tip Board frequently in the weeks leading up to your trip.

The second tab on the Tip Board is Dining. Under that tab, you will find the next arrival window for Mobile Order at counter service restaurants and the current walk-up wait time and link to make a reservation at table service restaurants.

Disney Genie Tip Board Dining

You will want to check this tab to help you plan where to eat, and when, during your Disney theme park visit. At the Walt Disney World Resort, you can make dining reservations for most table service restaurants starting 60 days in advance of your visit. (If you have a Disney World on-site hotel reservation, you can book dining reservations for all days of your stay – up to 10 days – starting 60 days in advance of your check-in date.)

If you consistently see no available reservations or walk-up availability for a restaurant you wanted, that means you had better be ready to log on to Disney’s website and make your reservation as early as 5:45 AM Eastern Time exactly 60 days before your visit or check-in date. But if you see easy availability for the restaurants you want on the Tip Board, go ahead and sleep in, then make the reservations you want at your convenience.

If you are planning to eat at a counter service restaurant, watching the the Mobile Order availability times will help you plan when to place your order so that you can pick it up when you want to eat. For popular counter service restaurants, you may need to order early in the morning to get a noon pickup time for lunch.

Looking at the tip board several time before your trip should help you to plan your day so that you minimize wait times on the attractions you want and get to eat at the restaurants you want, too. But if you want to use Disney’s automated itinerary planner for your trip, let’s go click that “Summon Disney Genie” link on the app’s home screen.

To help create your custom itinerary, Disney Genie will check to see that everyone in your travel party has a Disney Park Pass reservation for the park and date you want, then help you do that if you need those reservations.

Once that is confirmed, Disney Genie will ask you to select which available attractions in the park are a “must do” for you…

My Top Picks
Images courtesy Disney

…as well as to select what other priorities you have during your visit.

My Interests

It will work around any existing dining reservations you have made and take into account both estimated wait times and how far you would need to walk from location to location. Disney Genie accesses Disney’s real-time attraction wait time and capacity information, as well as historic information on attraction load and guest ratings, plus your stated preferences, to generate your itinerary, using a genetic algorithm.

If you are Park Hopping, Disney Genie will ask you when you want to go to the other park and take that into account when generating your itinerary for the day. If you don’t like a suggestion that Disney Genie makes, you can click to swap that destination with something else, from a list of additional options that Disney Genie will provide. You also can let Disney Genie know if height restrictions or accessibility is an issue for your travel party, and it will adjust your plan to accommodate.

Disney Genie works like a navigation app on your phone, according to Disney, so if a suggested attraction goes down due to weather or some other factor, Disney Genie will “reroute” and adjust your plan for the day.

Disney Genie Itinerary

You are under no obligation to stick with Disney Genie’s suggestions, of course, so if you feel like you can do a better job than the Genie at deciding what to do next, by all means, tell the Genie to chill in its lamp and just go do what you want.

But what if the wait times you are seeing are just too long and you want a way to make them shorter? That’s when you will want to consider Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane.

Keep reading: How to Use Disney Genie+

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How to Use Disney Genie Plus





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Walt Disney Travel Company reveals tips how to make visits to Disney Parks more magical – Travel Daily



Walt Disney Travel Company reveals tips how to make visits to Disney Parks more magical  Travel Daily



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10 Tips For a Trip To Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL


Are you planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL? This October, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, will begin an 18-month long celebration of its 50th Anniversary, providing generations of kids (and kids at heart) with lifelong memories. 

“The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, will last from October 1, 2021, until April 1, 2023. That means there’s still time to save up for and plan your family trip to the most magical place on earth! 

Kidding Around Contributor and former Florida resident, Melanie, shared some of her secrets to getting the most out of a trip to Walt Disney World Resort. So grab those Mickey Ears, and let’s get busy planning a trip to visit him in sunny Orlando, Florida. 

Disney World fireworks

Planning A Trip To Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida 

Whether this is your family’s first trip or you’re a seasoned Disneyphile, planning a trip to “The Happiest Place On Earth” can be a stressful, confusing undertaking. Constantly changing health protocols and planning deadlines, make a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort more work in advance than most domestic vacations. 

But it’s ok. You can do this, and you have a seasoned Disney visitor who’s been through the “Disney College of Knowledge” training that travel reps go through on your team! So let’s get started with those tips! 

1. Do Your Research 

If you’re a fan of podcasts, then I highly recommend Shannon Albert’s WDW Prep School! She has all the info you’ll need to stay up-to-date with policies and changes at the park. She’s an excellent free resource, and with everything surrounding COVID-19 changing things continuously, it’s good to have the latest info. 

If podcasts aren’t your thing, or you don’t have the time to do homework for a vacation; then I encourage you to at least keep these links handy: 

  • WDW COVID-19 Response
  • WDW Face Covering Guidelines
    The Resort has specific requirements for what they will accept as a face mask, so unless you want to get stuck at the gate paying $2 for a disposable mask – make sure you have the proper masks for your trip if they are currently required within the resort. 
  • WDW Crowd Calendar on WDW Prep School
    Most families have a restricted window for when they can visit due to school schedules. If that’s the case, this information won’t be as helpful. However, if your schedule allows for some flexibility, use this crowd estimator calendar to help you plan your trip around busier days in the parks. 

It’s also worth looking at the changes planned in the coming months: 

  • The new WDW Annual Pass options will begin September 8th, 2021. The price increase, and restructured benefits now exclude some popular perks for pass holders. 
  • FastPass and FastPass+ will be retired and replaced with Lightning Lane. This new fee based option ($15 a day) will allow guests to schedule a ride time, one at a time, for popular attractions. 
  • The addition of a personal concierge type service on the My Disney Experience app – Disney Genie will assist guests with planning out their day. 
Wyndam Disney Springs Resort lobby
The Wyndham Disney Springs Resort

2. Stay At A Walt Disney Resort Partner Hotel 

This section contains Stay22 Affiliate links.

While I used to advocate staying on property and in a Disney-owned hotel, several things have changed my thoughts on that. First, I now recommend people select a Disney Springs Resort Area Hotel. There are six hotels to choose from, and while Disney doesn’t own them, there are still WDW perks included! 

My kids and I discovered Wyndham Lake Buena Vista/ Disney Springs Resort Area last year. We loved it so much this past fall; we visited again in the spring! The value, location, and amenities at this hotel make it a perfect choice. Depending on the location your room window faces, you’ll be able to enjoy the Epcot fireworks from the comfort of bed like we did!

Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels all provide transportation to the parks, a discount booklet for use at Disney Springs, and the use of “Early Magic Hours” daily. The only *benefit given at an on-property resort location that isn’t at these is the “complimentary” magic bands. But, that’s ok, with the money saved, you can purchase your own from the Disney Online Shop. *The perk of free Magic Bands with a stay at a Disney Resort is being phased out in the fall of 2021.

The Wyndham has Mickey waffles for breakfast and one of the only Character meals outside the park! The pool area has a splash area for kids, a lap pool, a hot tub, and a snack bar. If you do stay at the Wyndham, and I can’t stress this enough – DO NOT leave without getting one of the massive donuts from the lobby Jeoffrey’s coffee shop. Trust Me.

donut collage

3. Pay For Your Trip With Disney Gift Cards

Take the money you will use for park tickets, food, and other Disney Purchases and use it to buy gift cards. No, this isn’t some crazy scheme. 

Ok, maybe it is. 

But, as expensive as it is to take a trip to WDW, saving at every possible opportunity is ideal. Wholesale stores like Costco and Sam’s sell multipacks of Disney Gift Cards to reduce the face value. It’s not much, only about 3%, but if you spend several days at the parks with your family – the savings add up. 

Disney palm trees

4. Don’t Opt-In For The Park Hopper Ticket Option 

Before I get angry emails from people, let me just preface this by saying: every family is different, and what doesn’t work for me might be perfect for yours if you use Park Hopper religiously; great. 

Depending on the age of your children, I would say skip the Park Hopper Tickets. Travel agents will push them, but you should consider the inflated ticket price carefully first. In my experience with young children, it’s just not worth the extra cost for the privilege to come and go from parks throughout the day. During a week-long stay – we used it twice. The hundreds of additional dollars to our trip for that luxury could have been spent on something else. 

Having said that, if you are traveling with teens, and your itinerary includes split days where half the day the family is together, and the other half teens and parents go their separate ways, it would not be a terrible idea. That way, the family can spend the afternoon in one park and then explore other parks on their own at night. But, of course, I still would only recommend this if you have the money to check off all the other boxes on your WDW bucket list. 

Disney pins
This is one of my most cherished memories of that trip to Disney! 

5. Pin Trading At Walt Disney World Is A Must Do For Young Kids

Pin trading is the solution if you are looking for a clever way to get your child distracted from all the shiny expensive souvenirs in the parks. 

Disney fans take pin trading very seriously, but it can also be a fun distraction in the parks and a way for your child to interact with cast members that aren’t in character costumes. 

You can start by purchasing a bulk set of trading pins off of Amazon or eBay. It doesn’t matter what pins you get because trading them is more challenging if you start with ones you like. You just need to ensure the pins are backed with the authentic black, rubber Mickey head backing. Cast members can only trade for those. 

My kids and I try to collect a theme. We’ve collected Alice in Wonderland theme (Cheshire Cat), The Muppets, The Little Mermaid, Character Cupcakes, Star Wars, and others. Cast members all wear lanyards, and each gift shop has at least one pin trading board to pick from. 

The distraction of seeking out pins, cast members, and pin trading boards helps distract kids from the souvenir onslaught coming from every direction. Plus, it makes for some incredible memories. 

Speaking of souvenirs. 

Disney souvenir secrets
My secret souvenir spot is a great place to get matching family shirts! 

6. Head Here To Buy All The Disney Souvenirs 

I have a secret spot where you can find authentic Disney brand souvenirs at a fraction of the cost. 

  • The ponchos you’ll need when it starts to downpour in the park
  • Mickeys ears 
  • Disney shirts 
  • Stuffed animals
  • Key chains 
  • Tote bags
  • Beach towels 
  • Disney hats 
  • Anything you can think of to purchase! Even Disney pins, with the year, stamped on them. We like to get them every time we go to mark the occasion. 

So, where is this magical place? This well-guarded secret of mine? 

Walmart, but not just any location. It needs to be the one at this Kissimmee, FL Walmart location. The Disney souvenir section is half the size of a Walmart neighborhood market. It’s massive and worth a stop when you get into town. 

Disney Springs

7. Get A GPS locator tag for your stroller 

If you don’t have young children, you can skip right over this and head to the next tip. 

However, if you have stroller-age children and plan to utilize a stroller in the park, invest in a GPS tag to zip tie to the bottom of it. One of the most problematic things that occur within the Disney parks is the moving of strollers. Depending on when it happens, it can chew through an excessive amount of time while you search for it or completely ruin the day if it’s raining. 

It took us an hour in the rain to find our stroller after lunch when it happened to us. That was the end of our day. The $30 apple tag investment will pay for itself multiple times over in the time not wasted within the park if it happens to you. 

Disney at Walmart

8. Pack Young Children’s Lunches 

The kids’ meals in the parks mainly consist of chicken fingers or Uncrustable brand sandwiches. However, the parks allow you to bring in soft-sided coolers, so we took full advantage of that. 

I found a cute Mickey-themed soft-sided lunch bag in the dollar bin at Target and used that each day to create a “Happy Mickey Meal” for my son. It included the same Uncrustable food the other kids in the park were eating, and a Good 2 Grow brand juice sipper with a Disney character topper, a snack, and a little piece of Mickey candy. Packing a kid’s lunch allowed him to start eating as soon as he became hungry without waiting in a line to order and receive food. 

Meeting Mickey at Disney World

9. Choose Your Sit Down Dining Reservations Wisely 

Keep in mind that even with reservations at some in-park restaurants, you’ll need to wait. This is problematic in that: a) you’ve already paid handsomely to be there, b) now you are paying to wait so that you can pay some more. 

For this reason, if you’re visiting the parks during peak time, I would skip the in-park meals that are hard to book. Instead, there are opportunities to do meet and greet character meals outside of the park. 

The only in-park meal that I highly recommend is the Tusker House character meal at Animal Kingdom. It’s easily one of the most under-appreciated character meals within the resort. Tusker House Restaurant serves a buffet of African, Middle Eastern, and American cuisine. Guests are guaranteed to meet some of their favorite characters, including Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Pluto, dressed in their Animal Kingdom safari outfits.

Outside of the parks, I would attend this Disney Resort meal every day if time, money, and distance were different – the Luau at the Polynesian. The dinner is served family-style, and it’s worth every penny. If the Luau isn’t in the budget, you can also visit the Polynesian to grab a dole whip and admire the view. Every year, my kids and I snap a family photo in the unique “Great Ceremonial House,” which serves as the hotel lobby. 

Dole Whip at the Polynesian
Dole Whip at the Polynesian Walt Disney World Resort 

10. Enjoy The 50th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort

Beginning October 1st, 2021, the Happiest Place on earth will begin its 18-month, 50th-anniversary celebration! 

If you want to visit the park during the celebration, you need to book your trip as soon as possible. Within minutes of the anniversary announcement, days at the park started selling out at the current reduced capacity. That was months ago when the information about the anniversary was made public. 

Changes made in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World include: 

  • Mickey and Minnie will dress for the occasion in outfits fit for a celebration as big as this!
  • Cinderella’s Castle will be decorated for the occasion in Gold bunting and a 50th-anniversary plaque. 
  • Spaceship Earth at Epcot will have new reflective lights added to the surface permanently. 
  • Magical fireflies will surround the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom Park.
  • The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have new unique features for the celebration.

More information about the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Walt Disney World Resorts can be found online. 

Disney character autographs

Bonus Tips! 

  • Skip the autograph books and opt instead to bring a photo mat for characters to autograph! Then frame your vacation photos with them! 
  • Check out the event schedule at the WDW resort locations. For example, Fort Wilderness offers a campfire moonlight movie that features Chip ‘n Dale, which is free to attend. Fort Wilderness also has horse stables that offer pony rides for a minimal fee. (Check the status of events – they are currently suspended due to COVID-19)
  • Unless the promotion you book includes the meal plan for free, or you have ravenous teenagers to feed, do the math before paying for the meal plan. People often struggle to eat all of the food included, and eating ala carte is usually less expensive than the meal plan. 
  • Venture outside of the Walt Disney Resort Property. Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando is gorgeous and includes a Disney Amphitheatre! 
  • If you travel the east coast often, invest in a UNI pass.
    It’s a universal car toll transponder that covers systems in 18 different states on the eastern seaboard. For example, the toll roads in Orlando sneak up on you, and having this pass on your car is a great stress reducer for when you are stuck in Orlando traffic and get pushed into a toll road (it happens); you can just zip through stress free. It also makes travel into Atlanta easier if you frequently do that. It also discounts the toll rate, so if you travel frequently, it will pay for itself quickly.

Do you have a great hack for a trip to Walt Disney World?

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Disney World for solo travelers






Disney World for solo travelers – The Points Guy























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Tips For Getting on Disney Rides That Use a Virtual Queue


When you visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you want to be in the action, going on rides. You certainly don’t want to spend your entire vacation waiting in line. Disney knows this, so the brand’s introduced a virtual-queue system to help you spend less time in line and more time making magical memories. Currently, there are two major rides that are compatible with the virtual-queue system: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney World and Disneyland, and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure at California Adventure’s Avengers Campus. Once you join the queue, you’ll be given a boarding-group number, and you can enjoy the rest of the park until it’s your turn to ride. Unfortunately, there’s only so many virtual-queue spots to go around, and they disappear quickly (like, within seconds).

We can’t make any promises, but we’ve put together some helpful tips that will maximize your chances of getting a highly coveted spot in the queue. May the Force (or the Spidey sense) be with you.





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Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th anniversary: A look back at the Magic


(CNN) — It changed acres and acres of orange groves. It changed Orlando. It changed Florida. It changed an already legendary company. And it changed the entire theme park industry.

Walt Disney World Resort opened on October 1, 1971. And on its 50th anniversary, it continues to be a major driver in the travel world, weathering big shifts in tourism trends, notorious Florida hurricanes and a pandemic.

Back in ’71, there was just the one theme park, Magic Kingdom, along with a couple of adjacent golf courses and resorts.

The Florida park was actually the second baby in the Disney bunch. It came 16 years after Southern California’s Disneyland, which opened on July 17, 1955.

But sibling No. 2 didn’t stay in the shadows.

Walt Disney World’s influence

Guests board Runnamuck Railroad as part of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, which opened in 2020.

Guests board Runnamuck Railroad as part of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which opened in 2020.

The Walt Disney Company

“Obviously, WDW has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world in its short 50-year history,” said Martin Lewison, an associate professor of business management at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, New York, in an email interview.

Known in theme park circles as “Professor Roller Coaster,” he said Walt Disney World is a dominating force in the global attractions industry.

“Just as the 1955 opening of Disneyland in California convinced other entrepreneurs that theme parks were a good investment … the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971 led to another spurt of theme park building in the USA,” he said.

Lewison noted some of the major amusement parks that followed soon after: Kings Island in Ohio in 1972, Carowinds on the North Carolina-South Carolina border in 1973, Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey in 1974 and Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens in Virginia in 1975.

“WDW has led the industry in many areas: ride design and technology, entertainment, resort development, transportation systems, special events, dining experiences, ticket pricing, queue products, merchandising [and] conservation,” Lewison said.

Professor Roller Coaster plans to visit the park for the first time since 2019 in November for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attraction Expo.

His favorite rides include the classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion and some of the newer rides such as Avatar Flight of Passage.

He said he’s looking forward to his first ride on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, among others.

Changes and traditions at the park

Guests take a spin on Dumbo, the Flying Elephant at Magic Kingdom Park. This signature ride has been with the park since its open in 1971.

Guests take a spin on Dumbo, the Flying Elephant at Magic Kingdom Park. This signature ride has been with the park since its open in 1971.

Handout/Disney

They include beloved favorites such as the Country Bear Jamboree, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Haunted Mansion and the Tomorrowland Speedway. Jungle Cruise has recently been updated at Disneyland and Disney World to address racially insensitive stereotypes.
And of course, the signature structure of the park, Cinderella Castle, has been there from the start, though she’s seen some makeovers over the years.

How Disney will celebrate the anniversary

Disney’s 50th anniversary party starts on Friday, but it’s hardly going to be a one-day affair.

This is going to be an 18-month party. And celebrations will be held not only in the Magic Kingdom but at the other three of the resort’s theme parks.

A “Beacons of Magic” show starts Friday, where signature structures in each park will be specially illuminated: Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, Hollywood Tower Hotel at Hollywood Studios and the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.
Just at the Magic Kingdom, a nighttime show called “Disney Enchantment” will feature music, enhanced lighting, fireworks and immersive projection effects from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.



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Some Original Staffers Say They’re Still Happy To Work At Disney World After 50 Years : NPR


Celebrating 50 years as original employees of Walt Disney World are (from left) Chuck Milam, Earliene Anderson and Forrest Bahruth.

John Raoux/AP


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John Raoux/AP


Celebrating 50 years as original employees of Walt Disney World are (from left) Chuck Milam, Earliene Anderson and Forrest Bahruth.

John Raoux/AP

ORLANDO, Fla. — Applying to be one of the first workers at Walt Disney World, high school graduate George Kalogridis made a split-second decision that set the course for his life: he picked a room where prospective hotel workers were being hired.

Chuck Milam got a tip about a job opening from a transplanted Disney executive whose new house he was landscaping. Earliene Anderson jumped at the chance to take a job at the new Disney theme park in Florida, having fallen in love with the beauty of Disneyland in California during a trip two years earlier.

At the time, the three were among the 6,000 employees who opened the Magic Kingdom at Disney World to the public for the first time on Oct. 1, 1971. Now, they are among two dozen from that first day still employed at the theme park resort as it celebrates its 50th anniversary on Friday.

Over those decades, Disney World added three more theme parks, two dozen additional hotels and grew to have a workforce of 77,000 employees as it helped Orlando become the most visited place in the U.S. before the pandemic.

What never changed was the original employees’ devotion to the pixie dust, the dream machine created by Walt Disney and his Imagineers.

A Disney representative presents the three with special 50th anniversary name tags.

John Raoux/AP


hide caption

toggle caption

John Raoux/AP


A Disney representative presents the three with special 50th anniversary name tags.

John Raoux/AP

“Disney has been my love, and it still is,” Anderson said recently before starting her shift in merchandising at a Magic Kingdom hotel. “I love Disney.”

The employees who make up the 50-year club say the theme park resort has allowed them to grow their careers and try on new hats. Kalogridis worked his way up to be president of Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California. Milam went from a warehouse worker to a buyer of spare parts for rides and shows.

Forrest Bahruth joined the workforce at Disney World in January 1971 as a show director, responsible for staging and choreographing parades and shows. He was also given the opportunity to help open other Disney theme parks around the world over the past five decades.

“There are people all over the world who get up to go work. They’re unhappy about it. They don’t really like their jobs,” Bahruth said. “As you can tell from us, there’s an enthusiasm. We are privileged to be at a place where we love what we do.”

Some Disney World history

There was no guarantee that Disney World was going to be a success 50 years ago. Walt Disney, the pioneering animator and entrepreneur whose name graces the Florida resort, had died in 1966, just a year after announcing plans for “the East Coast Disneyland.” The company had quietly acquired 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares) of scrub land outside Orlando for around $5 million via secret land purchases using fake names and shell companies.

The job of shepherding the project to Opening Day fell to his brother, Roy Disney, who with other company officials convinced the Florida Legislature to create a quasi-governmental agency that would allow Disney to self-govern when it came to matters of infrastructure and planning. Roy died almost three months after Disney World opened.

Just weeks before opening, construction at the Magic Kingdom was controlled chaos, and it seemed impossible that it would all come together in time.

“It was like an army of ants. Everything was under construction. Interiors were still being put in. Roofing was still being put on top,” Bahruth said. “There was painting, landscaping. Things were arriving by the moment. It was like trucks going everywhere.”

Bahruth rehearsed performers through parade choreography down Main Street, which cut through the center of the Magic Kingdom and resembled a turn-of-the-century small town from Walt Disney’s childhood. Even though he was a busser, Kalogridis was drafted into laying down sod outside the hotel he was working in, hours before Disney World’s grand opening.

Memories of opening day

Two things have stuck in the memories of the longtime employees from that opening day. The first was the photo. It was an image of thousands of Disney World workers standing in front of the iconic Cinderella Castle with Mickey Mouse and other costumed characters holding hands in front. Two weeks later, it was featured on the cover of Life magazine.

“They brought all the characters up, staged them first, and then they tried to keep all the different workers together based on the color of their costumes,” Milam said. “If you were from Fantasyland and in yellow, you would go over there.”

The second was the parade. It featured a 1,076-member marching band conducted by Meredith Wilson, the composer of the Broadway show, “The Music Man.” There were 4,000 Disney entertainers marching through the theme park, a mass choir and trumpeters from the United States Army Band. Hundreds of white doves were released into the air, and less environmentally friendly, so were thousands of multi-colored balloons.

“It was the biggest thing I had ever seen,” Bahruth said.

Only around 10,000 visitors showed up on that first day — which at today’s much larger Walt Disney World would represent about 90 minutes’ worth of visitors entering. It wouldn’t be until Thanksgiving 1971, almost three months later, when Disney executives had an answer about whether their new resort would be a success; that’s when cars trying to get into the Magic Kingdom stretched for miles down the interstate.

“It was very clear after that first Thanksgiving, that the public definitely liked what we were doing,” Kalogridis said. “That first Thanksgiving, that was the moment.”



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Disney World opened 50 years ago; these workers never left


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Applying to be one of the first workers at Walt Disney World, high school graduate George Kalogridis made a split-second decision that set the course for his life: he picked a room where prospective hotel workers were being hired.

Chuck Milam got a tip about a job opening from a transplanted Disney executive whose new house he was landscaping. Earliene Anderson jumped at the chance to take a job at the new Disney theme park in Florida, having fallen in love with the beauty of Disneyland in California during a trip two years earlier.

At the time, the three were among the 6,000 employees who opened the Magic Kingdom at Disney World to the public for the first time on Oct. 1, 1971. Now, they are among two dozen from that first day still employed at the theme park resort as it celebrates its 50th anniversary on Friday.

Over those decades, Disney World added three more theme parks, two dozen additional hotels and grew to have a workforce of 77,000 employees as it helped Orlando become the most visited place in the U.S. before the pandemic.

What never changed was the original employees’ devotion to the pixie dust, the dream machine created by Walt Disney and his Imagineers.

“Disney has been my love, and it still is,” Anderson said recently before starting her shift in merchandising at a Magic Kingdom hotel. “I love Disney.”

The employees who make up the 50-year club say the theme park resort has allowed them to grow their careers and try on new hats. Kalogridis worked his way up to be president of Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California. Milam went from a warehouse worker to a buyer of spare parts for rides and shows.

Forrest Bahruth joined the workforce at Disney World in January 1971 as a show director, responsible for staging and choreographing parades and shows. He was also given the opportunity to help open other Disney theme parks around the world over the past five decades.

“There are people all over the world who get up to go work. They’re unhappy about it. They don’t really like their jobs,” Bahruth said. “As you can tell from us, there’s an enthusiasm. We are privileged to be at a place where we love what we do.”

There was no guarantee that Disney World was going to be a success 50 years ago. Walt Disney, the pioneering animator and entrepreneur whose name graces the Florida resort, had died in 1966, just a year after announcing plans for “the East Coast Disneyland.” The company had quietly acquired 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares) of scrub land outside Orlando for around $5 million via secret land purchases using fake names and shell companies.

The job of shepherding the project to Opening Day fell to his brother, Roy Disney, who with other company officials convinced the Florida Legislature to create a quasi-governmental agency that would allow Disney to self-govern when it came to matters of infrastructure and planning. Roy died almost three months after Disney World opened.

Just weeks before opening, construction at the Magic Kingdom was controlled chaos, and it seemed impossible that it would all come together in time.

“It was like an army of ants. Everything was under construction. Interiors were still being put in. Roofing was still being put on top,” Bahruth said. “There was painting, landscaping. Things were arriving by the moment. It was like trucks going everywhere.”

Bahruth rehearsed performers through parade choreography down Main Street, which cut through the center of the Magic Kingdom and resembled a turn-of-the-century small town from Walt Disney’s childhood. Even though he was a busser, Kalogridis was drafted into laying down sod outside the hotel he was working in, hours before Disney World’s grand opening.

Two things have stuck in the memories of the longtime employees from that opening day. The first was the photo. It was an image of thousands of Disney World workers standing in front of the iconic Cinderella’s Castle with Mickey Mouse and other costumed characters holding hands in front. Two weeks later, it was featured on the cover of Life magazine.

“They brought all the characters up, staged them first, and then they tried to keep all the different workers together based on the color of their costumes,” Milam said. “If you were from Fantasyland and in yellow, you would go over there.”

The second was the parade. It featured a 1,076-member marching band conducted by Meredith Wilson, the composer of the Broadway show, “The Music Man.” There were 4,000 Disney entertainers marching through the theme park, a mass choir and trumpeters from the United States Army Band. Hundreds of white doves were released into the air, and less environmentally friendly, so were thousands of multi-colored balloons.

“It was the biggest thing I had ever seen,” Bahruth said.

Only around 10,000 visitors showed up on that first day — which at today’s much larger Walt Disney World would represent about 90 minutes’ worth of visitors entering. It wouldn’t be until Thanksgiving 1971, almost three months later, when Disney executives had an answer about whether their new resort would be a success; that’s when cars trying to get into the Magic Kingdom stretched for miles down the interstate.

“It was very clear after that first Thanksgiving, that the public definitely liked what we were doing,” Kalogridis said. “That first Thanksgiving, that was the moment.”

___

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP





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