What's new at Disney World in the last decade?
July 24, 2013 8:09 PM   Subscribe

We last went to Disney World about ten years ago. What are the best new things since then, and what changes should I know about?

Souvenirs, rides, policies, meals, lodging -- whatever you want to suggest. I heard that FastPasses works differently now. And is it still worth staying in a Disney property? Is the Unofficial Guide book still the gold standard? Are the meal plans a good deal?

Two adults, four kids (ages 5 to 14). We don't have a specific date in mind yet; sometime in the winter or spring, I think. Thanks in advance!
posted by wenestvedt to Travel & Transportation around Lake Buena Vista, FL (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unofficial guides are still great, although if you have a smartphone you can get a LOT of mileage out of the various apps available. I recommend Lines, which is an app produced by http://touringplans.com/, also a great site for planning.

SO much has changed in 10 years....last year they opened the largest expansion of Fantasyland ever, which includes many parts of Beauty and the Beast (Beast's castle, Gaston's pub, Belle meeting and greet experience), but also an entirely new Dumbo ride, Ariel ride and meet and greet, and a lot more. Seriously, it's huge.

Traditional Fastpasses are still around, but Disney is JUST about to launch their new RFID driven fastpass system to go along with RFID tickets and hotel keys and basically everything else. We had the opportunity to test Fastpass+ last year, and it was awesome...basically, you get to choose what you want to Fastpass before you even get into the park (with limitations, of course). But overall we really liked it.

Really, I would recommend just diving into the Disney Moms panel (an unfortunate name, as I'm a dad that loves the mouse) but it IS full of good advice.

Oh, and if it's really been a decade since you've been, Pirates of the Carribbean and the Haunted Mansion have both been "updated". Don't be surprised.
posted by griffey at 8:18 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Probably the biggest change is the dining plans. Not that you, yourself probably want a dining plan. They're usually only worth it if a "free dining" promotion is running and you were planning on staying onsite at a Value resort, or else if you really eat a lot. (A few years ago they were a really good deal, but not anymore, for most people.) However, the popularity of the dining plans has made it much, much harder to just walk up to restaurants, especially the nicer ones, since people on the dining plan are forced to eat a certain number of table service meals to get their money's worth. Pretty much every table service restaurant, not just the most popular ones, are now fully booked in advance, even during the shoulder season, so make some reservations yourself. The cancellation fee of, I think, $10 per person is also new, but as long as you cancel at least 24 hours before your dining time they don't charge it.

Staying on property is about the same, however there are two things to consider. One, with the real-estate bust there are a ton of condos set up as vacation rentals, often available for very little money. Two, Disney's timeshare Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is everywhere, and especially since you would need two rooms anyway, you should definitely consider "renting" points from a DVC member and staying in one of the DVC properties. Some are separate buildings, others, like at Jambo House in Animal Kingdom Lodge, are renovated rooms within the regular resorts. DVC is significantly more work than a regular hotel reservation, though there are reputable sites to help you with the transaction (Don't bother looking at rack rates for the DVC properties, they're outrageous).

The FastPass is slightly different. They are enforcing the arrival windows now, to a much greater extent than before, and those on property can get a certain number of FastPass+ which is basically free FastPass for the E-ticket rides, but overall it's the same concept as before.

UndercoverTourist is a neat app that shows nearly live wait times. That site also has good discount tickets (though check with your employer or other affinity organization).

If you have specific questions, one thing that is the same is the unbelievable resources available at http://www.disboards.com/ in the areas of trip planning, restaurants, DVC, etc., etc.
posted by wnissen at 10:48 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We are headed down to the World in 17 days! :) So excited.

New Fantastyland! Prepare for the Magic Kingdom to be very busy. Belle's Enchanted Storytime is my favorite, but it's all wonderful.

ADRs. If you want to eat at Be Our Guest, you need to be on the ball 180 days out from when you're going to visit. (I just made my reservations for January a few weeks ago).

FastPass+ will be live before you get there, in all likelihood. If you hop on to the Theme Parks and Attractions board at DISboards, you will se a lot of threads explaining how it works. It's complicated. DISboards, and the DIS Unplugged Podcast, is going to be a lifesaver for all sorts of information. (And the podcasters are very sweet, wonderful people!)

For me it is always worth it to stay on site. I like the extra magic hours, and even though we will have a car this time, I like having bus transportation that is fairly reliable.

I haven't been to the new Art of Animation Resort, but you might want to check out their family suites, since you've got four kids.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:40 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get the app. I loved the app, although I'd need to do some digging to see which one we used. And the Park Hopper option is totally worth the money. We weren't terribly impressed with Hollywood Studios, so we cut short our planned time there and spent extra time in the Magic Kingdom.
posted by Ruki at 8:16 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ADRs are Advanced Dining Reservations, right? My wife is a planner, so this should be no problem. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:38 AM on July 25, 2013

Yes, ADR is dining reservation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:24 AM on July 25, 2013

Oh, the acronyms. It's almost a contest to see who can use the most in a single sentence. "DW and I left AKL for EMH at MK to picked up FPs for BTMR before our ADR at CRT but the CM said it was closed for the day." translates as "My wife and I left Animal Kingdom Lodge for the Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom to pick up FastPasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before our reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table, but the Cast Member (Disney staff) said it was closed for the day." Mercifully, a partial list of acronyms is here.
posted by wnissen at 3:41 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, there's even amounts of BITTER and RESIGNATION in that piece. :7)

(Careful, there's some auto-play music *and* video on the Buzzfeed page. Not that this should surprise anyone.)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:27 PM on July 29, 2013

I just went last month after an absence of several years.

The horrible horrible Tiki Room: Under New Management is now NO LONGER under new management and has been restored to its former wonderful, kitschy glory sans Gilbert Gottfried.

Space Mountain has been updated recently. So has Test Track, completely revamped.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is the most amazing roller coaster I have ever ridden, and I am NOT an upside-down coaster fan. It is smooth as glass. Ride it at any cost.

Staying at one of the timeshares is fantastic. You don't have to be an owner to stay there. Look for one of the Disney properties with "Villas" in the name. You can get a two bedroom villa and it's about 1200 square feet or so, and the bedrooms close off completely from the living room, where there's a comfy pull out sofa. There's also a full kitchen. The price of the room is much less than paying for two separate rooms. We have stayed at both villas and at deluxe resorts like the Polynesian where the rooms are larger than normal and we will never go back to the single-room thing.

If you go in July, you're going to be sharing the park with thousands of 15 year old South American girls in tour groups, celebrating their quinceaƱeras. Take the week off of school. ;)
posted by Addlepated at 6:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: After a year of delays, we're finally going this summer -- and all of the advice above is still good. MeFites, you all age very well!!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:35 PM on June 12, 2014

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