Disney is truly a magical place. What I find so magical is that every time I go, I notice some new detail, or learn some new fact. The amount of detail that goes into every aspect of Disney is astounding. This is why I find the behind the scenes tours so exciting. First, let me say, they are not for everyone. If it’s your first time going, or maybe even your second or third, I would argue there is plenty of magic just being in the parks and around the resorts. For that matter, if you never do one of these tours, your time at Disney will still be magical. If you have young kids, these tours may also not be for you, as many have minimum age limits that range anywhere from tweens to adults. (Of course, you could always leave the kids with the grandparents.) Some are designed for kids too though. But, if you are like my family, and consider yourself to be complete Disney nerds. If you set your dinner plate down, and the first thing your family yells is “Hidden Mickey.” If you have that one burning question about Disney that you just want to get answered, then these tours may be for you.
My family has personally done two separate tours, though not together. I did the Keys to the Kingdom tour when I was down with some friends for a RunDisney event. My wife and son did the Behind the Seeds tour at Living with the Land on a mother/son trip. The Keys to the Kingdom tour was excellent. We spent some time on Main Street learning history, got priority access to two different rides, went backstage and saw the parade floats, and went into the famed utilidors (the tunnels beneath Magic Kingdom that they use to move people and objects from land to land). It was an exciting day filled with all sorts of insight. The only problem I had with the tour is that it was so filled with information, it overwhelmed my brain, and I had a hard time trying to remember what I had learned as the tour ended. On the bright side, I can do the tour again and relearn it all.
I can’t really tell you much about the Behind the Seeds tour as I did not do that one, but I can tell you this…It potentially insured that my son isn’t going to move back in with me. Prior to going on the tour, he wanted to study Philosophy. Afterwards, he wanted to study biochemistry. This fall, he will be applying to colleges, and the quality of their biochemistry programs is one of his primary criteria. He dreams of eventually getting to do an internship with Disney in their Living with the Land area. So now you know, Disney can truly change your life.
Neal Jones, pictured with his wife Mandy, is a seasoned Disney fan and a runDisney enthusiast and expert. He's been a great friend and advocate to Magic Bound Travel and has been with us since the very beginning.
Whether you are an experienced runner, or have never run a day in your life, a Disney race may be for you. In fact, Disney Half Marathons have more first time Half Marathoners than any other races in the world, so regardless of where you may find yourself, you will not be alone. I love Disney races. I have run every distance they offer, and have done several of the challenges, and I’m not in great shape. In fact, the last Disney race I ran, I was 80 lbs overweight. Truly anyone can do a Disney race, you just have to be prepared. Here are a few tips to help you make sure that you have a magical time.
When I say anyone can do it, I mean it. However, if you just decide that you are going to do it and don’t prepare, it can make the rest of your vacation miserable. You will be struggling just to make it through the parks, and it will not be a magical time. Fortunately, RunDisney puts out training plans for all of their races. They use interval training which is also known as the run/walk method, which I personally love. Not only do I use the RunDisney plans for their races, but also for any other race I do. If you don’t like their plans, do a quick google search and you will find plenty. Just know that the more you train, the better time you will have.
2. Stay Hydrated.
Florida races can be very hot. (I haven’t done one at Disneyland, but that is on my bucket list) It is easy to become dehydrated. Fortunately, Disney races have plenty of water/powerade stops. Some would say too many. Make sure that you keep plenty of fluids in you.
3. If you can hold it, use the restroom in the parks.
Keeping hydrated also means that there is a decent chance you will have to take a pit stop at some point. I have never seen so many port-a-johns as at Disney races. They have hundreds of them at the start and finish and plenty all along the race course. However, the one thing that Disney has that most races don’t is real bathrooms on the course. Every time we hit a park, we make sure to stop at a restroom because, let’s face it, a bathroom with running water is always nicer than a box with a hole in it. Bonus tip: I tend to not stop at the first restroom in the park, because the lines are often the longest.
When I asked my family, what tips they had to make a Disney run magical, the first thing my 14 year old daughter yelled out was “Biofreeze!” For those who don’t know about Biofreeze, it is essentially a fancier version of Bengay, and they have it at every medical tent, which are almost as frequent as the water stops. Don’t be afraid to stop and get help if you need it. Each station has professional medical people that can help with things as simple as chafing and as dangerous as heart conditions. The medical care is top notch. As far as the Biofreeze goes, my daughter’s advice is, “Put it wherever you hurt. Use a lot of it. Use it often.”
5. Dress the part
When you head out to the race, you will see people in all sorts of gear. Some will be dressed up in the fanciest of racing gear, while others will have even fancier costumes. Have fun. I’m personally not a costume type of person, but I will often wear different colors, depending on the theme. For example, at the Star Wars Dark Side Half, I wore all gray, and ordered a green magic band. My round belly was the Death Star, and the magic band represented the laser shot out of it. Others were more fully dressed in costumes, but mine was perfect for me. Word of Warning: Train at least once in your costume. My daughter wore a tutu for the Princess half for exactly ½ a mile, before it became annoying. That is something that you can take off, but other costumes may not be so simple. Know what it will be like before you run.
6. Stop for characters, or rides, or McDonalds
Disney offers opportunities that most races don’t. They have characters out on the course, and not just the run-of-the-mill characters you see in the park, but Disney characters rarely seen. For at least two races, the Dark Side Half and the Mickey Full Marathon, the course goes on an overpass next to a McDonalds. If you finish going over the overpass, at the end you can cut through the grass and get a quick breakfast. If you’re slow enough, you will also run into the parks just as they are opening. That is a great time to jump on a ride. I have taken breaks to ride Mt Everest and Tower of Terror. How many people can say they have ridden a thrill ride in the middle of a running race?
7. Take your time
Obviously, if I’m willing to stop and get character pictures, eat some McDonalds, and ride rides, I’m not that worried about my finishing time. Particularly if this is your first race at that distance, you already know you are going to set a personal best. While some go for time, Disney races are for me a celebration of the training and hard work I did to get to that point. To help you take your time, follow tip 8.
8. If possible, get a qualifying time
You start a Disney race based on your estimated finishing time. The faster people start first, while the slower people and those without a qualifying time start in the back. The last people to start are a group of women that are called the balloon ladies. They walk an approximately 16 minute mile, which is the slowest you can go without being removed from the course. If you run a race before Disney and can prove that you can run faster, than the other paces, you will start closer to the front. The 16 minutes/mile clock doesn’t start until the last runner crosses the start line, which means the closer to the front you are, the more time you have to play and enjoy yourself on the course.
9. Don’t be afraid of the balloon ladies
First, I used to think the balloon ladies were a myth. That is until my wife forgot her inhaler one race, and her asthma kicked in about a mile and a half into the 10K. It was about mile 4 that we met the balloon ladies. They are nice. And they told us that we needed to speed up, which we were able to do by doing very short run/walk intervals. If you meet the balloon ladies, it is not the end of the world.
10. Have fun
At about mile 18 of my first full at Disney, I saw a man wearing a shirt that read, “DLF>DNF>DNS.” Below it, it said Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish is greater than Did Not Start. Running a race is ultimately a competition against one’s self. If you have taken the time to train and made it to race day you have won. When you cross that start line, you will have accomplished something that literally billions of people have not. Even if you get passed by the balloon ladies and end up being pulled from the course, the fact that you started, and didn’t finish is better than most. And when you finish, you will have accomplished something many only dream of. As it turns out, the person who finishes last will be able to wear the same medal around the park as the person who finishes first. The point is to do your best and to enjoy it. If you follow these 10 tips, then running at Disney can be another magical part of your vacation.
Neal Jones is a seasoned Disney fan and a runDisney enthusiast and expert. He's been a great friend and advocate to Magic Bound Travel and has been with us since the very beginning.
You can get a FREE dining plan when you purchase a non-discounted 5-night/6-day Magic Your Way package that includes a room at a select Walt Disney World® Resort hotel and ticket with a Park Hopper® or Park Hopper Plus Option Aug. 21-Sept. 30, Nov. 14-20, Nov. 25-27, Dec. 8-23, 2017 when they book April 24-July 7, 2017.
BUT WAIT! Do you see that little fine print on the right hand side..... just under the dates? That says "Ask about packages of other lengths of stay"? Second star to the right and straight on til morning! Technically, the minimum required is a non-discounted 3-night/2-day package with Park Hopper passes! But they are very limited and are going fast- so contact us TODAY for a FREE QUOTE!
When you stay at a select Disney Deluxe Resort or Disney Deluxe Villa Resort, you get the Disney Dining Plan with a variety of delicious dining options. When you stay at a select Disney Value Resort or Disney Moderate Resort, you get the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan.
Booking Window: April 24-July 7, 2017
Travel Window: Aug. 21-Sept. 30, Nov. 14-20, Nov. 25-27, Dec. 8-23, 2017
Excludes the following room types and Disney Resort hotels:
Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Let us help compare the other available offers (such as Discounted Fall Room Rates) to find you which promotion or discount gets you the best value for your hard earned Disney vacation dollars.
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It's only Spring but Fall already in the air for those of us planning magical vacations!
Beginning in September, Fall decor will adorn the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World and select nights, ticket only access to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party will come alive! This amazing Halloween party is one of the few times kids of ALL ages can come in full garb, trick or treat for candy, enjoy character dance parties, special castle show and fireworks, parade, and rides late into the night! It's the perfect event for anyone that loves Halloween but not the stuff of nightmares.
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Dates for 2017:
**Special notes to consider-
Are you ready to RunDisney?!
I think Disney is the best place in the world and I think everyone should go there because it is a magical place were people can dream and there is a lot of adventure and the places are beautiful.
In Disney World I think the first place you should go is to Magic Kingdom because that is where they do special shows at the castle and even on the castle too (projection shows) - and that was the first park they built that Walt planned to make in Disney World!
Disney's Animal Kingdom
My favorite place for adventure is Animal Kingdom because there is a lot of wild adventures on the rides like River Rapids where there is a lot of bumps and you get really wet! Also the shows are surprising and adventurous like the Festival of the Lion King show.
The best place for learning I think is Epcot because they teach you about different places on earth and the people and what they do in their culture! Also the best show there I think is the Illuminations where they show lots of colored lights on the big ball and show all the places. They also have food and treats from different places too!
Disney's Hollywood Studios
The best entertaining place I think is Hollywood Studios because they have a lot of rides about movies or shows and it’s just cool to see movies that you have maybe seen or heard. I think the best entertaining and fun ride is Tower of Terror because the effects with the ghosts are very real and you can even see a little through the ghosts! My favorite show there is The Muppet Vision in 3d because there are a lot of things that pop out at you!
Your 10 Year-Old Expert In Magical Enjoyment
It started with a short trip to WDW to take our then 4-year-old daughter for her first time. We left the 2-year-old with the grandparents and only committed to a couple days- a quick trip that was too short, too hot, and too unorganized. BUT we were in love- in love with our little girl’s excitement and wonder, her patience to wait and meet her favorite princesses after a long hard day, our childlike joy and amazement of being in a place that literally transports you to another time and place. We returned later that year adults only thanks to a conference in town and discovered a whole other side of the Disney experience that was sophisticated and beautiful, cuisine beyond anything we could imagine, and holiday decor that was truly magical.
We soon started taking family vacations and the Walt Disney World Resort became an adventure to explore- the details, the history, the creativity, the vision. We’ve done family vacations, long weekends for special events, runDisney half marathons, childless celebrations for anniversaries and festivals. Over the years, we’ve learned so much about the resorts, all of the parks, and surrounding areas that we were constantly sharing with friends our recommendations, favorite things not to miss, tips and tricks. Friends started to refer their friends to us for reviews of where to stay, where to eat, and what to do. We have found ways to go on the cheap and we’ve found ways to really live it up and maximize what it means to play. We’ve tightly organized budgets and park touring plans to know what to reserve, what to do when, and how to get the most out of our time in wonderland with less stress and less frustration. We LOVE planning our next visit (from the moment we leave, we are planning our next visit) and we LOVE helping others create magical experiences. So making the decision to start a home-based business as a travel agency specializing in Disney experiences was a dream. After a lot of planning and researching and paperwork, Magic Bound Travel, LLC was officially “born” on December 5, 2016. Legal offices determined that date but the realization that this was also Walt Disney’s birthday was serendipitous! We are so excited to share the magic that is Disney. We are Magic Bound.
During crowded times at the parks, the lines to get into the magic can be just as stressful as the ride lines (PSA- Fastpasses are FREE. I repeat, Fastpasses are indeed FREE). Security checkpoints have been added to the main gates after a series of unfortunate and scary events (which I completely support for the safety of all who enter) and the amazing security staff do such a thorough job of checking every pocket and pouch and hiding place in our fancy multipurpose bags and strollers that the back check line can be pretty overwhelming and long. If you're traveling without strollers, scooters or small children not toilet trained yet, let me invite you to the Guests Without Bags Challenge. It really can be done! As a mother with two children and a husband who wears great cargo shorts, it can be done rather easily. Not only does it get you in the park gates much faster- there is never a wait at the Guests Without Bags line, it will make the rest of your day so much more enjoyable; it is a pain to get in and out of rides with an overstuffed backpack full of things you really can live without in the park, you'll find you buy more stuff than you intended to because you have someplace to stash it, and hot summer backpack sweat is the worst. Since we stay on property, we usually plan a mid-afternoon rest break to go back and nap, swim, snack, recharge phones, reapply sunscreen, and layer up for the evening temperature drop. Travel lightly!
Top 5 Essentials to carry in:
1. Sunglasses on your head. Wear on your head as a headband, clip on your shirt or use a glasses cord to keep up with them.
2. Phone and power charger in your cargo shorts pocket. You can even make it most of the day without the charger (my iPhone only can last half a day with this method and then I recharge during the midday hotel rest break!) by (1) turning your phone to airplane mode, (2) turning your phone to low battery mode and (3) only turning on the FREE WDW wifi as needed to text others in your group, look up ride wait times, or access the MyDisneyExperience app. Save your juice for when you really need it- parade and fireworks photos and video!
3. Lip balm and sunscreen in your pocket. No cargo shorts even required here. Keep it small- a small travel tube or stick of sunscreen for touch ups is all you need.
4. Magic Band on your wrist. With your band (only available to those with either Annual Passes or staying on resort property), you don't need a purse, wallet, credit card, ID, room key, or cash. With it's amazing technology, this cute watch band is your park ticket, Fastpass ticket, resort room door key, credit card, Photopass card, and meal plan all in one. If you lose a child, cast members can even locate your child by their band. Some may find this intrusive and creepy but I find it absolutely magical.
5. Disposable water bottle in hand. No matter what time of year it is when you go, hydration is essential. You will be on your feet for hours and literally walk an average of 8-10 miles per day. Not kidding. Will walk for Dole Whips! You can go through the Guests Without Bags line with a water bottle, even filled. Shoot, you can walk through that line with your whole breakfast in hand (more on eating on the cheap at Disney in a later post). There are water fountains all through the parks and you can actually skip carrying a bottle altogether and just go to any quick service restaurant and get a cup of ice water with a lid and straw for free and refill or replace all day.
Extras to consider if you have room in pockets?