After 408 days away (our last visit was February 29, 2020), we finally went back to Walt Disney World yesterday.
We live a few hours south of Orlando, and as Passholders who usually visit once a month or so. So the year and change away was hard on us. And while we have a lot of friends who went back once the Parks reopened in July, for us the right decision was to wait until we were fully vaccinated. That’s a personal decision for each person to make, and just what fit our specific situation. We missed Disney a LOT, though, so when we hit our fully inoculated date at the end of March, and we planned a one-day trip back to the Magic Kingdom as soon as we could. (We adhered to ALL safety protocols the entire time we were there, and wouldn’t dream of doing otherwise.)
So many things different, and so many the same. It’s still Disney. I still loved being on Main Street. I still got to ride two of my favorite rides, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Haunted Mansion. I still shopped (we call our Disney haul our “loot”), coming home with a very cool Haunted Mansion blanket and a celebratory new Pandora charm. But I will say, it was harder than I thought it would be to not be able to see people’s faces. To not be able to smile at Cast Members and see them smile back. More practically speaking, it was also hard to wear a mask in the humidity all day.
The worst thing for me, though, was the lack of Fast Passes. I can’t express to you how much I miss being able to plan out my three favorite rides of the day. Lines are long and despite what some will tell you, it’s not just because they’re socially distanced. (I actually saw zero social distancing going on in lines. The markers are there on the floor, and Disney reminds you to stand on them. No one was doing so on the rides we were on. I don’t know whether this was an unusual occurrence or not, but it shocked me.) The line for Winnie the Pooh was wrapped around to Cosmic Ray’s. If you’re familiar with the layout of Magic Kingdom, you know that’s pretty far. Some people say they’re glad that Fast Passes are gone for now, but I can’t imagine why. Spending that much of my Park day in a line is a waste to me. I can’t wait until FP+ comes back.
One change I do love are the Character Cavalcades. While under COVID safety protocols, Disney has suspended regular parades and fireworks. Instead, randomly throughout the day and in different locations in the Park, you’ll see a Character Cavalcade instead. These are such fun. Short, just a couple floats maybe, unannounced, but all the more fun for that. We saw three in the time we were there, plus a performance from the Dapper Dans up on the train platform.
These, I hope are here to stay. I love the longer parades, of course. Festival of Fantasy is beautiful. But it does sort of jam up Magic Kingdom for a big part of the day, every day, what with people staking out viewing spots sometimes hours in advance. I wouldn’t want to see it go away, but maybe it should just be once a week or something like that, with the smaller Cavalcades every day? Just a thought.
We weren’t at the Magic Kingdom very late, because of the long drive home. We probably spent more time in the car than in the Park. But it was worth it just to be back. Yes, the masks are hard, mobile ordering can be a bit hectic, and it’s harder to get dining reservations right now because not everything is open. You still need to be careful, even with a vaccine, by washing your hands, wearing your mask, using sanitizer, and trying to keep a little distance. But on the other hand, I got to see Mickey. I got lots of compliments on my Dole Whip dress. And when a Princess Cavalcade went by, the Fairy Godmother saw me waving at her and blew me a kiss. If that doesn’t make your day, I don’t know what will.
“Vacationers have more options to choose from than ever for transportation, including ride-share services that save time and offer more flexibility to go where they want, when they want. In light of this shift, when Disney Resort hotel bookings open for stays in 2022, we will no longer offer Disney’s Magical Express service for airport transportation, starting with arrivals Jan. 1, 2022. We will continue to operate the service for new and existing reservations made at Disney Resort hotels for arrivals throughout 2021.”
Disney went on to reassure guests that other complimentary transportation options such as buses, monorails and Disney Skyliner will continue to be available within Walt Disney World Resort for Disney Resort hotel guests, including to and from all four theme parks.
As locals to the area, the Magical Express wasn’t something that we used, but I know it’s a huge favorite service for many guests. While expected, this news is probably a disappointment for many.
Disney Parks has released a statement regarding Hurricane Dorian:
The Walt Disney World Resort is operating under normal conditions. We are closely monitoring the path of the projected weather, as nothing is more important than the safety of our Guests and Cast Members.
We are taking precautions, including cancelling weekend sporting events and closing Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park on Sunday. We are also contacting Guests with current and upcoming reservations at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to plan for anticipated weather impacts.
As Annual Passholders, we visit the Walt Disney World a lot. We love to collect things, too, so my husband collects trading pins, and I collect autographs. Collecting at the Parks can be fun; it’s like a big scavenger hunt sometimes, trying to get that elusive pin or coming across a rare character meet. We’re about ready for something new, though, and pressed pennies fit the bill. Each pressed penny souvenir is affordable and small, not taking up too much room, and it’s fun to find the machines scattered throughout all of Walt Disney World — the Parks, the resorts, and even some other places you’d never guess.
Scroll down for a free downloadable spreadsheet of ALL Walt Disney World Pressed Pennies and Coins.
If you want to start collecting pressed pennies, or just bring home a few as souvenirs, come prepared. Most pressed pennies cost 51 cents — that’s two quarters and the penny itself. You’ll need to bring change with you. One great way to carry your coins easily is to use a tube of M&M minis (minus the M&Ms of course). They’re a good size. A few machines make pressed quarters, too, so bring extra change.
There are also an increasing amount of machines that take credit cards, so no change required, and even the penny is provided for you. These digital machines cost more (often $1 each pressed penny or 8 for $5) but they save you the trouble of carrying around coins and finding shiny pennies.
How about those shiny pennies, too? You can clean dirty pennies by placing them in white vinegar for a few minutes and then wiping with a clean cloth. Another method is to use ketchup — regular ketchup, you heard me right! — and a little elbow grease. Using pennies made prior to 1982 may give you the best results, as these are all-copper; pennies made after 1983 are part zinc, and may leave a sort of streak when pressed. If you’re not worried about that and don’t want to clean pennies, just keep your eyes peeled for new, shiny ones whenever you get change at the store.
Now that you’ve got your souvenirs, you can store them in pressed coin books (Disney has some for sale), keep them loose, or even punch a hole in one end and wear them as a charm. Either way, you’ve got a fun and inexpensive souvenir — or a new bit of memorabilia to collect.
We’ve got a new YouTube channel — and some new videos to share! As annual passholders, we’re lucky enough to get to visit Disney World year round. So we have lots of videos of rides, attractions, special experiences, hidden gems, and everything that makes Disney the most magical place on earth to show you. Just click subscribe now!
First up, last week we got to ride the double-decker Omnibus down Main Street first thing in the morning. The best way to secure a seat is to wait the train station for the vehicles to pull up, before the welcome show at the castle (you won’t be able to see both). Then enjoy a bird’s-eye view down Main Street!
So in my last post I explained how to rent a scooter, or ECV, to use at Disney World. That was the easy part. The harder part is deciding that you need one, and then overcoming any concerns you may have about what using a scooter will be like. I’ve got the scoop on what to expect, and some tips to making it the best experience possible.
But let’s start with why you might need to rent a scooter at Disney World. There are tons of reasons why this might be a good choice for you. You might be physically disabled permanently, or temporarily. You might be recovering from knee surgery, or the flu. You might have plantar fasciitis. You might have back problems, joint problems, rheumatoid arthritis. You might have digestive, respiratory, circulatory, neurological, or any other physical condition that impacts you. You might have terrible blisters from wearing the wrong shoes the day before. You might have fibromyalgia. You might have anything at all that will impede your ability to walk many miles in a day, and/or to stand for long periods of time. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what your reason is for needing a scooter. WHATEVER THAT REASON IS, IT’S A PERFECTLY GOOD REASON AND NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. (Warning: you might hear me say this again.)
I confess, I had a hard time convincing myself to use a scooter the first time. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to admit I needed it. I wanted to get the exercise from walking all day. And I could walk, albeit sometimes slowly and painfully, leaving me an exhausted wreck at the end of the day. I’ve got a spinal fusion, sciatica pain, and some other issues that drain my energy. My back makes standing harder than walking, so there are tons of things at Disney World I was never able to do, such as watch the castle show, wait in a long line to meet a character, stand and listen to musicians in EPCOT or Animal Kingdom, or do any rides standby. But now, when I do rent a scooter? We do EVERYTHING. We watch shows, we wait in super long lines to meet characters, we go everywhere and anywhere. We get to do more and I hurt less. It’s a win-win.
For some people, a mobility device is a day to day reality. That’s okay. For others, it’s something they need in special circumstances, and that’s okay too. Disney is tough. Disney is a haul. You might be able to get around without a scooter in your normal environment, but not be up to walking 7 or 8 miles a day. That’s okay. And if you’re telling yourself, “I’m not one of those scooter people,” stop it. There’s no such thing as “scooter people.” You’re just a person who needs mobility assistance. And that’s OKAY. It might not be what you want, and it might be hard to adjust to your current reality, but cut yourself some slack and do whatever it takes to make your vacation as magical as it can be. Never once have I met anyone who’s regretted getting a scooter. Instead, every person I know who’s needed one and gotten one has said it was a terrific decision.
Still feeling nervous? There’s a fantastic Facebook group you might want to join. It’s called Magical Guide to doing Disney with Special Needs – Visible and Invisible. (It’s a closed group so you’ll have to request to join.) I am so grateful to the people who started this group, it’s been a lifeline. It’s a terrific bunch of supportive people that can help make your Disney trip as magical as possible. As the group description says, “If you need help planning, need emotional support, or want to help others by sharing your experience, please join us!”
But maybe you’re still hesitant, and maybe one of the reasons you still don’t want to rent a scooter is because you’re worried about what other people will think. “Will they judge me?” So many of us have hidden or invisible disabilities that aren’t obvious just by looking at us. “Will they think I’m just lazy? Will people be mean to me?” You know, it’s human nature to feel insecure about these things, but you need to put it in perspective. Firstly, of course, you shouldn’t worry about what other people think, especially people who are strangers. You have to think long and hard about what’s more important to you: living your best life at Disney World to the fullest degree possible, or worrying about what some person you’ll never see again might be thinking. Secondly, scooters are everywhere at Disney World. You won’t stick out using one, not at all. And lastly, always remember this if you start to feel self-conscious: other people at Disney are not as interested in you as you think they are. They’re much too busy. They’re ultra-focused on getting a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass or getting in line to meet the stepsisters, making family memories and enjoying themselves. You should be doing the same.
Will people be mean or rude to you? There are some unkind people in this world, unfortunately, so it’s possible someone might. But in my experience this is the rarity, not the norm. Cast members are extraordinarily kind when you’re using a scooter. I mean, they’re always so helpful and friendly, but when I’m doing poorly enough to need a scooter, I really notice how they go that extra mile to make me feel welcome and comfortable. As for other visitors at the Parks, remember what I said: most of them do not care whether you’re on a scooter or a pogo stick. They’re too busy planning and executing their vacation. Then, some people will be friendly, some will be on scooters themselves, and yes, I won’t tell a lie: there’s a percentage of people out there who “hate scooters.” There’s also a percentage of people out there that hate strollers, parades, dessert parties, ‘Ohana, and anything Frozen. What can I say? There’s no accounting for taste. 🙂
The biggest complaint you’ll see about people in scooters is that they run into (or “plow into,” “run over,” “crash into”) people walking. I’m sure it happens sometimes, accidentally. The problem is on both sides. One, scooters don’t stop on a dime. If you stop pressing the forward button, there’s a little hitch before you stop moving. So a person using a scooter might not notice an obstacle coming to be able to stop in time from bumping into someone. At the same time, people like to dart in front of scooters, either because they’re focused on their own journey and they’re darting in front of everyone, or because they don’t want to get stuck behind a scooter so they try to get ahead. I’ll warn you, the latter happens a lot. Or — and we all love this one, riding or walking — they stop dead in their tracks in front of you, with no warning. Once, in Magic Kingdom, just after the parade, I was trying to cross Main Street, which was as busy as it ever was (in other words, wall to wall people). I had the scooter on the lowest setting and was creeping along carefully when the woman who’d been walking in front of me a moment ago stopped dead in her tracks. I bumped her backpack slightly with my scooter’s basket, and she whirled on me like I’d run over her with a semi. She screeched, “Watch where you’re going!” I said, “Right back atcha!” and we both went on our way. What can you do? But really, most of the time, a simple “excuse me” works wonders. Be careful and be kind, and most people will return the favor. We’re all there to enjoy the magic, after all.
Having said that, if you’re going to use a scooter at Disney World, you should take the time to learn how to use one before hitting the Parks. It’s not difficult at all, but practice never hurts. Go to a Target or Walmart and use one there. Then, when you get to Disney, tool around your resort a little bit before heading straight for Magic Kingdom on the busiest day of the year. Go slowly — there’s a dial that lets you set your speed, and you don’t have to have it at full blast.
Getting on and off Disney buses can be a little tricky. You have to parallel park the scooter, essentially, and while I’m a whiz at parallel parking my car, I seem to be less than stellar at doing it with the scooter. To be frank, the first time I tried it, my personal experience with this was not good. I couldn’t get the hang of it, and the bus driver I happened to encounter was not especially magical about it. 🙂 But since then, it’s been really easy. If you tell the driver you need help steering to park, they’ll steer it for you (you don’t have to get up, just let them move the handlebar). And I found that pulling out of the spot and getting off the bus isn’t all that difficult, so that I can do by myself. Using a scooter on the monorail, for what it’s worth, is much easier. You don’t really have to park, you just pull in and drive off. I hear the Skyliner is the same, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.
Once you’ve decided to rent a scooter, and now that you know there’s no reason at alI to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about it, you still might have some concerns about navigating your way through the Parks. In my opinion, EPCOT and Animal Kingdom are the easiest parks for using a scooter. Walkways are wide, which means it’s easier for people to go around you and for you to go around other people. Disney Springs is likewise spread out, though some stores are a closer fit than others. Lines for ordering food are generally tight. Hollywood Studios is a mixed bag. The newer parts (Toy Story Land, Galaxy’s Edge) are pretty easy, though on crowded days it’s a little harder. The older parts are a little narrower, but just go slow and you’ll be fine.
Magic Kingdom is, for me, probably the most challenging Park to use a scooter in, first off because of the crowds. Most days, it’s packed. Walkways are a little smaller and there’s not a lot of open space. You have to go through Main Street at least twice, to get in and out of the park, and it’s always a zoo there. People stop in the middle of the sidewalk or the street and aren’t looking where they’re going. I totally understand, it’s really exciting being there! The first time I walked down Main Street towards that beautiful castle, I was in a daze. There are also the trolley tracks in the street, which can be difficult to drive over. All in all, it’s slow going. Just be patient and careful. It might even be easier to duck into the Emporium (or the Confectionary on the other side) and navigate down through the shops, which are all connected.
When you get back into Fantasyland/Adventureland/Tomorrowland etc., if you’re able to walk a bit, you might consider parking your scooter in a central spot and going on some rides without it, if that works for you. Or keep it with you, but know that for some of the older rides (Haunted Mansion, for example, my favorite, and Pirates of the Caribbean) you do need to be able to transfer out of the scooter. Just remember to take your key with you and not leave any valuables behind.
Remember, a scooter is an assistive device that’s there to help you because you need help. It’s nothing to feel funny or worry about, and it’s only there to make your life easier. Heck, they come with baskets for storing your Disney loot, so that’s a bonus right there. If you’re worried about heavy sun, you can even get a shade canopy, if you rent from the offsite vendors, or a cupholder. Do whatever makes your trip to Disney better for you and your family, and enjoy each magical moment to the fullest.
As Annual Passholders, we visit WDW about once a month. Sometimes, on those trips, I’m in good shape. Or sometimes we’re not spending a full day at the Parks and I can manage okay. But sometimes, I’m having a bad day. Back problems, sciatic pain, vertigo, IBS, whatever the current health issue is, sometimes I can’t manage walking around the Parks all day. On those days, I use a scooter, also known as an ECV (Electronic Convenience Vehicle). And so do a lot of other people who need them for any variety of reasons.
You can rent scooters from Disney at each of the four Parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios). The cost is $50 per day, plus a $20 refundable deposit. Scooters are also available from Disney at both water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) and at Disney Springs for $50 a day, plus a $100 refundable deposit. Daily rentals are transferable between all locations. You can use a scooter at Magic Kingdom, return it mid-day, and use one at Animal Kingdom in the afternoon, and just pay once. At Magic Kingdom, however, they do tend to run out of scooters early in the day.
Your other option is to rent them from an outside company. There are many in the Orlando area, and they will make it easy for you, bringing your scooter directly to your resort so that it’s waiting for you. In most cases, that will mean you need to set a time to meet the scooter company directly for the hand-off as well as the return. But Disney does have a Featured Provider. Scooterbug, that will leave your scooter waiting for you with bell services at your resort. Collect it when you arrive, and then return it there whenever you’re done, no worries. Learn more about rentals here.
We have used both Scooterbug Buena Vista Scooter Rentals and have had a great experience with them. You can rent for any number of days — even one day, though you have to pay for a minimum of two days at least. The price of a multi-day rental from an outside company is very economical compared to renting each day from the Parks.
We also recently learned you can have your scooter delivered to a resort you aren’t even staying at. For example, I recently needed a scooter for just one day we were spending at EPCOT. EPCOT is hard for me; I love it but it’s big and involves a lot of walking. We were staying at Port Orleans and could have gotten the scooter delivered there, but then would have had to take a bus to EPCOT, which I didn’t want do do as we wanted to go in through the International Gateway. They delivered the scooter to Beach Club for us instead, with just an extra fee of $20 as a damage waiver. We took Uber there, picked it up, and then returned it there at the end of the day. Easy. (Check with your scooter provider in advance, of course, to see what they can do.)
There’s a wide variety of scooters available, different sizes and capacities, ones you can take apart and put in your car, ones with canopies to protect you from the sun (a real help during Food & Wine at EPCOT, I have to tell you!), cup holders, and so forth. I have long legs, and I always want to make sure there’s enough leg room on my scooter for comfort. I find the three-wheel scooters work better for me than the four-wheel ones. Talk to your customer service rep at whatever provider you choose and they will help you make the right decision. You can rent scooters as well as strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility products. Renting a mobility device to use at Disney World is really simple, and can make a big difference for anyone who needs one.
But … maybe you need a scooter, but you’re hesitant. You might not want to use one. You might be shy about it, or even embarrassed (though you shouldn’t be). Will it be hard to navigate around the crowds? Will people judge you? More on that in my next post.
We had a chance to visit Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and it was a blast!
Woody greeting guests at the entrance to Toy Story Land.
Woody is there to greet you with a “Howdy, Pardner!” and you find yourself shrunk down to the size of one of Andy’s toys.
We went during Extra Magic Hours, from 7 to 8 AM. Disney World is offering daily Extra Magic Hours for Hollywood Studios through August, 2018. If you can, take advantage of them! Crowds were incredibly light. Everyone seems to be running straight to Slinky Dog Dash, and you can do that too and have only a short wait. We walked onto Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania twice, each, no waiting. We also were able to meet Buzz, Woody, and Jessie with waits of less than five minutes.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Woody before but I’ve been waiting FOREVER to meet Jessie!
The new entrance to Toy Story Mania.
Toy Story Mania has a new entrance and queue, but it’s still the amazingly fun ride you know and love. Alien Swirling Saucers is kind of like the teacups on steroids — all the swirly fun but some added bits. I loved it, but I’m a fan of spinny rides.
We had been chosen! Swirling around in Alien Swirling Saucers.
As for Slinky Dog Dash, it’s a great coaster. Not a thrill ride for sure, but not a kiddie coaster either. The speed is comparable to Seven Dwarves Mine Train and the trajectory is similar to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but the ride is very, very smooth. For a more intense ride, sit in the back; for a calmer experience, try the front.
One disappointment was Woody’s lunchbox. Some of the more interesting items, the brisket sandwich and the grilled cheese and totchos, are only served at lunch, after 10:30 AM. The breakfast offerings we tried did not impress. The turkey and egg sandwich was okay but not exciting and the tater tots were cold.
There’s no actual gift shop in Toy Story Land, which is a little surprising — for one thing, it would be nice if there was one place to go that provided shelter from the elements and even a little air conditioning. Instead, merchandise is sold from carts. There are a few fun toys, Slink eats, alien ears, and an alien souvenir cup, as well as t-shirts, hats, and pins.
Toy Story Land isn’t jaw-droppingly innovative, but it is a great and much-needed addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which has been rightly called a “half-day Park” for some time. The Toy Story franchise has enthralled both children and adults for years and this new land is a long-overdue expansion we were very glad to see.
Anyone else super excited for Toy Story Land’s opening next week, on June 30, 2018, in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios? I know I am. Here’s a peek from INSIDE Disney Parks, as well as some previews of exciting news for Disneyland’s Pixar Pier as well.