As you’ve probably already read on every other Disney blog on the Internet, a Disney-World-wide ban on “selfie sticks” went into effect on June 30th. Guests are greeted with these signs outside bag check. And every driver will be handed this pamphlet at the auto plaza/parking gate. There are some exceptions:

  • Tripods that can be folded and stored in a reasonable size bag are allowed. Large tripods are not.
  • Extendable camera monopods are allowed.
  • GoPro brand name body and head harnesses are allowed.
  • Short, brand name GoPro handles are allowed.
  • Brand name or similar style GRIP & SHOOT handles are also allowed.
  • GoPro 3-way or similar style extending handles are not allowed.
  • Selfie sticks of any kind are not allowed.

There’s no difference in verbiage on the tripod thing, though there probably should be a ban on tripods that extend over a foot in length or something. Your GoPro is probably safe too, though I would remind you that nobody is ever going to watch your footage.

Like you, probably, I walk through the Parks basically wanting to murder everyone I see (“not really”), but selfie sticks have never been a problem for me. I don’t want to be in any pictures, so it’s never occurred to me to bring one, and I’ve never been touched by one or seen someone extend one out on a ride. But the ban is a general safety thing. Rides are designed so that nobody could possibly extend a limb and come into contact with any ride elements, including ceilings and animatronics. And that all goes out the window when someone is extending a rod several feet in length. Selfie sticks also become an issue in crowded areas, particularly during the nighttime spectaculars when it’s dark. They can also be dangerous when extended out during parades and other live shows.

The entire Internet is against these things, which probably has more to do with the “kinds of people” that carry them more than the act itself. And the ban probably has more to do with Disney trying to protect PhotoPass and MemoryMaker revenue than a concern that somebody is going to extend their selfie stick during the drop on Mine Train and it’s going to hit the ceiling, break, and the pieces are going to fall on the person in the row behind. Obviously Disney has done nothing to curtail the prevalent use of iPads and tablets to videotape shows and rides. The person holding up their iPad during one of the drop sequences on Expedition Everest worries me a lot more than someone with a firm grip on a selfie stick that’s being held much closer to the body. But it doesn’t matter what I think and it doesn’t matter what you think. Selfie Sticks are gone and they aren’t coming back.

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After spending a considerable amount of time looking at what’s important (food), we’ll take a look at the pools, kids clubs, and theaters on the Disney Magic, in addition to a few more places of interest. Then maybe a look at the bars and nightlife before moving back over to the Dream. Maybe Castaway Cay.

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It’s been about a month since we last took a look at Downtown Disney walls in depth.

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After taking a look at breakfast, lunch, and brunch, we move on to dinner on the Disney Magic. I think next time we will take a look around the ship.

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Sometime ago we got going on some cruise coverage, but like most things, other things happened and the updates fell by the wayside. But since I am in the mood to reminisce and just lost about six hours of work on the Best Deluxe Resort update due to the fact my browser hates me and I’m still running WordPress 1.0, we’ll return with very brief commentary. These pictures are about 18 months old now, so things have certainly changed, but even if they were from yesterday, they will inevitably change again. There are two other posts linked on the right under Cruising – Disney Dream.

We begin with one of my favorite meals of the cruise – Palo brunch. Palo is one of two upcharge restaurants on the ship that requires diners be at least 18 years old. Brunch costs $30 per person and is scheduled on “select days” on 4+ day cruises.

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This is the Free January 2016 Disney World Crowd Calendar that shows the Recommended Parks to Visit, Overall Crowd Level Estimation, Cost, Historic High/Low Temperature, Historic Chance of Precipitation, Extra Magic Hours Schedule, Fantasmic Show Times, Holidays, and Special Events.

Make sure you first read my month-by-month overview of visiting Disney World, located here. The overview will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of cost, crowds, weather, and special events on a broader scale. Once you figure out when you would like to visit, you can move on to this more detailed look.

Here’s a quick explanation of how to read the calendar and what the numbers mean. It may seem like it’s a little long, but you’ll only need to read the explanation once.

  • The first line in each box is the date.
  • The second line shows the cost to book a room at a Disney-owned resort. $ = Value Season, $$ = Regular Season, $$$ = Summer Season, $$$$ = Peak Season, and $$$$$ = Holiday Season. Occasionally there will be a + or – after the $$$ to show that the cost is slightly higher or lower than usual, but not by enough to raise it another $ notch.
  • The third line is the average high and low temperature and the chance of precipitation. All data is based on the last 15 years. I wouldn’t read too much into the precipitation percentages for each day because just one or two additional days of rain in the last 15 years can raise the percentage substantially. I included it so you can look at the precipitation trends throughout the month(s) and take it into consideration when deciding when to book your vacation. For a broader overview of the month, read the month-by-month overview I linked to above.
  • The fourth line is an estimation of the overall crowd level. A “5″ refers to average crowds. Numbers above 5 refer to a larger than average overall crowd level and numbers below 5 refer to lower than average overall crowds. A day with an overall crowd level of “1″ means that the crowds are expected to be the absolute lowest of the year and a “10″ means crowds are expected to be at their largest of the year. In other words, the overall crowd level estimation will give you an idea of how many people are in the four major theme parks. Individual theme parks can have smaller or larger crowds than the overall estimation, which is where the theme park recommendations come in.
  • The fifth line shows the theme parks I recommend visiting in green and the theme parks I recommend avoiding in red. There is also a | sign that splits up the recommended and not recommended Parks for the color blind or those printing in black and white (the Parks to the left of the | sign are recommended). I use the usual abbreviations for the Parks; AK is the Animal Kingdom, EP is Epcot, HS is Hollywood Studios, and MK is the Magic Kingdom. In addition to the colors, the Park on the far left is the most recommended Park to visit that day. The Park second to the left is the second most recommended and so on. For example, if the line reads AK EP | HS MK then the Animal Kingdom is the most recommended and Epcot is the second most recommended. On the other side of the | sign, Hollywood Studios is not recommended and the Magic Kingdom is expressly not recommended even more. If possible, I would strongly recommend you visit the Park that is most recommended each day. Please read below the calendar for an overview of how I’ve selected the recommended Parks and also a day-by-day explanation.
  • The sixth line lists which Parks have Extra Magic Hours and at what time they start. Morning Extra Magic Hour lasts one hour and usually starts at 8am. Evening Extra Magic Hours last two hours from the start time. For example, if you see AK:8am EP:9pm, that means the Animal Kingdom has a morning Extra Magic Hour from 8am-9am and Epcot has evening Extra Magic Hours from 9pm-11pm.
  • The seventh line lists the Fantasmic show times at the Hollywood Studios.
  • The eighth line lists the start time of Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP:) and Wishes Fireworks at Magic Kingdom(W:). For example, if you see, MSEP: 9pm & 11pm W: 10pm, it would mean that Main Street Electrical Parade begins at 9pm and 11pm and Wishes begins at 10pm.

The Calendar is also available in an easy to view and print PDF file, Here.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Friday January 1

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (8am-7pm likely) (Recommended)

Epcot: 9am – 9pm (8am-9pm likely) (Tentatively Recommended for Morning Touring)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 9pm-11pm

Illuminations: 9pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (8am-10pm likely) (Highly Recommended)

Fantasmic: 8:30pm (and 10pm likely)

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 11pm (8am-1am likely) (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: (and 12:30pm likely) 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 10:15pm (and 12:15am likely), Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

Animal Kingdom is recommended, though yesterday would have been significantly better with so much going on elsewhere. Today is still fine with an early arrival and/or intelligent FastPass+ selections. New Year’s Day tends to be a late arriving bunch, so the Park may not clear out as much as usual after 5pm. Still, waits are reliably shorter in DinoLand after 5pm and in Asia after 6pm. Stick around until close to ride Expedition Everest last thing at night.

Epcot is tentatively recommended for those that can take advantage of the early morning. Disney moved the open to 8am last year and may do so this year and you’ll want to be prepared for that possibility. With a 9am open, plan to arrive no later than 8:15am. With an 8am open, you’ll want to arrive no later than 7:20am or so with plans to visit Soarin’ or Test Track first thing. The afternoon will be busier than tomorrow as the wary New Year’s crowd arrives in the late morning and early afternoon as Disney resort guests flock to the Park with evening Extra Magic Hours. Expect long waits continuing through at least 10pm for evening Extra Magic Hours. Evening Extra Magic Hours can be pleasant so long as you hold off on either Soarin’ or Test Track for the very end of the night. World Showcase will see light crowds as will most other Future World attractions.

Hollywood Studios is highly recommended as we come off a busier day yesterday with the New Year’s Eve festivities. It’s very likely that the open will move to 8am and you will want to plan to arrive no later than 7:15am to take advantage of that. You can do very well in the early morning, but with such a limited number of rides, waits will be very long in the afternoon with the high overall crowd level. Consider taking a break in the afternoon when crowds peak and return in the evening for dinner, some late night rides after waits drop, and the second Fantasmic (which isn’t yet scheduled, but assuredly will as we get closer to the date).

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park as we come off two of the busiest days of the year. Epcot will be a bigger draw with the sizable on-site contingent with evening Extra Magic Hours. To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head to Fantasyland or the headlining Mountain rides. Most people will want to start with the priorities in Fantasyland or Tomorrowland. You may have other time sensitive attractions on your itinerary like Astro Orbiter or Tomorrowland Indy Speedway as well. While these aren’t “the most popular” or “headlining” attractions, they are still morning priorities because they have guaranteed uncomfortable waits from 10am onward. Also consider prioritizing the most popular characters that don’t offer FastPass+. The late night hours are also a great time to tour, particularly if you’re skipping the nighttime spectaculars. Consider a lengthy break from 1pm to 7pm or so when crowds peak and return in the evening for dinner, the nighttime spectaculars, and late night rides.

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Today we set out for Disney’s Hollywood Studios to check out the Frozen Summer Fun offerings and try to craft a plan that minimizes waiting, crowds, and the heat as much as possible.

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January 2016 Preliminary Crowd Calendar

by josh on June 18, 2015

This is what Disney World is looking like for January 2016. Click to enlarge or view as a prettier PDF. And if you don’t know what the numbers/letters mean, read the top of this post. The full operating schedule is available here.

The $$$$ resort prices on the line below the date are estimates based on previous years. We should know exact pricing and seasons when 2016 packages become available for booking on the 22nd. Holiday Season should continue for the first two days with peak-level crowds, in addition to a continuation of the holiday shows at Magic Kingdom. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights looks to continue through the 3rd. It seems like a safe bet that the Frozen Castle Lighting at Magic Kingdom will continue for a few days after that.

Things die down considerably on the 3rd and we see crowds that are well below-average for a few days beginning on the 5th, before going back up to average levels for Marathon Weekend from the 8th-10th. Then it’s below-average again until the 15th for Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend through the 18th. Then it’s relatively low to average crowds through the first week in February.

A few things are a departure from previous years. The good news is perhaps that Main Street Electrical Parade is scheduled every night. That offers visitors many more opportunities to see the show, but it also works to balance daily crowds out more evenly as people don’t swarm to Magic Kingdom on Parade nights. And because Magic Kingdom isn’t pulling considerably more people on specific days, it also means the other Parks aren’t giving up more people, which in turn causes daily attendance to even out more than past years. Add Fantasmic every night and what should be similar operating hours at most parks on most days, and we don’t enjoy the fluctuations that we saw when the theme park offerings were wildly different from day to day. Add maximum daily FastPass+ distribution at just about any attraction that moves or might feature Anna and Elsa, and what you do only becomes that much more important than what day you do it. The recommended Parks on the lowest crowd level days will reliably see fewer people, lower average and peak waits, and easier overall touring, but I guarantee you somebody is going to return from their trip spanning January 21st to January 28th and complain that they just came back from spending July 4th at Magic Kingdom. It’s something I look forward to every year.

The Extra Magic Hours schedule is also considerably different than previous years. I’m not expecting it to have a dramatic impact on crowd flow throughout the week, but certain days like Epcot on Thursdays and Magic Kingdom on Fridays are affected.

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Disney made two new changes to the July operating schedule since Monday. Animal Kingdom will be opening at 8am instead of 9am on July 3rd and 4th. Unfortunately, the Park still closes at 5pm, which doesn’t give it a lot of opportunity to clear out. The full operating schedule is available here: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_july.pdf. Click refresh to load the newest version.

Friday July 3:

Animal Kingdom hours extended to 8am-5pm from 9am-5pm.

Saturday July 4:

Animal Kingdom hours extended to 8am-5pm from 9am-5pm.

And one change to October:

Saturday October 3:

Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-11pm from 9am-10pm.

 

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Hit refresh on your browser to load the newest version: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_january.pdf.

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