Wishes And Pixie Dust

Follow the journey of a Wisconsin family of 4 who relocated to the Walt Disney World area in July 2011


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Walt Disney World Park Closure Guide

WDW_Closed

So, the Park Is Closing?

As many who are visiting Walt Disney World (WDW) this week and next will learn, the Disney Parks can close when busy.  Maybe you asked what all the close phases are you’ve heard about.  Here’s a little bit of help for you if you are visiting during a busy period.

The first type of closing is when any Park’s parking lots reach capacity and the lots are closed for any further parking.  In these cases Disney will direct you to alternate means of parking.  For example, this happens quite often at Hollywood Studios (DHS) during Star Wars Weekends.  For those lot closings, you’ll be directed to the Epcot parking lots where you can then board the extra buses that Disney provides to transport Guests from Epcot to DHS.

The next series of closings are the ‘mysterious’ phased closings.  Disney doesn’t publish an ‘official’ guide to what each Phase refers to, but this is a good guide based on past experiences.  One important thing to keep in mind is that these phases are flexible and can change up or down or even be cancelled altogether as a day progresses and people arrive and leave.

Phase A Closures: Guests without tickets and those with base one-day, one-park tickets as well as Cast Members are turned away at the parking lot entrance booths.  In these cases, you will need to change your plans and try a different Park for that day. Phase A allows admission for the following:

  • WDW Resort Guests (Including guests from Hotel Plaza Boulevard hotels arriving by bus, Golden Oak residents and registered Guests of Golden Oak residents)
  • WDW Premier Passport, Annual & Premium Passholders
  • Guests with Park Hopper tickets re-entering or crossing over from another WDW Theme Park
  • Guests with Memory Maker
  • Guests with dining reservations
  • Magic Kingdom Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Harmony Barber Shop or The Pirates League (if applicable).

Phase B Closures: Guests without tickets, those with base one-day, one-park tickets and Guests with Park Hopper tickets re-entering or crossing over from another WDW Theme Park as well as Cast Members are turned away at the parking lot entrance booths.  In these cases, you will need to change your plans and try a different Park for that day. Phase B allows admission for the following:

  • WDW Resort Guests (Including guests from Hotel Plaza Boulevard hotels arriving by bus, Golden Oak residents and registered Guests of Golden Oak residents)
  • WDW Premier Passport, Annual & Premium Passholders
  • Guests with Memory Maker
  • Guests with dining reservations
  • Magic Kingdom Guests with reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Harmony Barber Shop or The Pirates League (if applicable).

In these cases be prepared to show your resort key or annual pass or, even better, take Disney transportation from your resort.  If you have an ADR or appointment, please make sure to allow extra time to arrive for your reserved time.

Phase C Closures: Only these guests will be allowed admission: Guests staying at a Disney Resort, the Swan and Dolphin or arriving by bus from the ‘Downtown Disney Hotels’ with a valid room key, Annual Passholders and guests with ADRs or appointments (the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirates League) in the Park.  In these cases be prepared to show your resort key or annual pass or take Disney transportation from your resort.  If you have an ADR or appointment, please make sure to allow extra time to arrive for your reserved time.

Phase D Closures: No guests are allowed in and the Park is completely closed to new arrivals.  If you have an ADR or appointment and you have any warning or thought that a Phase D closing will occur you will want to get to the Park as early as possible or change your reservation if possible or you may miss by being denied admission.

Also, if you are visiting during a very busy period (such as the current Holiday weeks) and want to experience a particular event (such as New Year’s Eve fireworks for example), it is best to plan to arrive as early in the day as you can to ensure you are able to be admitted.

I hope this helps you plan your next visit during a busy period.


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Get Extra Magic in Your Photopass Shots with Magic Shots

If you’re looking to add a little fun and magic to your Disney vacation photos, be sure to take advantage of the Magic Shots that are available from Disney’s PhotoPass Photographers.  Magic Shots are photos where special effects are added after a photo has been taken.

Most shots are only available in select locations and Magic Shots require that the PhotoPass Photographer has been trained to do that particular shot.  For this reason, Magic Shots may not always be available where listed below; this depends on the photographer and even the time of day.  Also PhotoPass Photographers who use tripods typically do not do any Magic Shots.  When in doubt, just ask!

Here are the locations of many of the available Magic Shots you’ll find in the four Parks.

Family_Castle_Tink

Captain Hook
Magic Kingdom – Occasionally available outside Pirates of the Caribbean

Ghost Hearse Driver
Magic Kingdom – Haunted Mansion – primarily during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) but may be available during the day if a PhotoPass photographer is present

Hitchhiking Ghosts
Magic Kingdom – Liberty Belle Area – primarily during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) but may be available during the day if a PhotoPass photographer is present

Baby Simba
Animal Kingdom – Discovery Island and in Asia by the shrine with Expedition Everest in the background

Soarin’ With Mickey, Minnie and Goofy
Epcot – between the Fountain of Nations and World Showcase

Disney ‘Mickey’ Balloons
Magic Kingdom – Main Street and the entrance to Tomorrowland
Epcot – Entrance area
Animal Kingdom – Discovery Island
Hollywood Studios – On Hollywood Boulevard

Mickey Mouse
Magic Kingdom – Benches and curbs on Main Street
Hollywood Studios – Benches on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards

Minnie Mouse
Magic Kingdom – Benches and curbs on Main Street
Hollywood Studios – Benches on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards

Lilo
Hollywood Studios – Benches on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards

Stitch
Hollywood Studios – Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards
Magic Kingdom – Main Street
Epcot – Entrance area

Darth Vader
Hollywood Studios – Occasionally available outside Star Tours by the Jedi Training Academy stage

Fairy Wings (on your back)
Magic Kingdom – Adventureland by Tinkerbell Meet

Chip (from Beauty and the Beast)
Hollywood Studios – Outside the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ show
Epcot – Occasionally available in France
Magic Kingdom – Outside Gaston’s Tavern

Sebastian
Magic Kingdom – Outside ‘Under the Sea with the Little Mermaid’
Hollywood Studios – Outside the ‘Voyage of the Little Mermaid’ show

Monsters University Mike Wazowski
Hollywood Studios – Outside entrance

Anna & Elsa
Hollywood Studios – Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna

Also a new type of photo available, where the PhotoPass Photographer will take your picture holding a large frame around you.  These are available in various areas but are usually seen in the Magic Kingdom between Casey’s and the Crystal Palace with Cinderella Castle in the background, in Epcot in the main entrance area with Spaceship Earth in the background and in Animal Kingdom in Asia by the shrine with Expedition Everest in the background.  These photos are impacted by refurb work and construction barriers, so may not always be available.

I hope that you can find some great Magic Shot opportunities on your next visit.  Also, please comment below if you know of some locations that I may have missed here.  Thank you for reading this month!


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Our Experience With Disney’s DAS Card

Ever since the rumours started a few months back that Disney would soon be changing the Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program to a new system or doing away with it altogether, we’ve been waiting for the official word to come.  A few weeks ago that word came and the GAC was set to change over to the new  Disability Access Service (DAS) effective October 9th.  You can find Disney’s official statement and FAQ on the program at this link.  Our first visit to a Park under the new program was this past Saturday, October 12th.  Here is our experience at the Magic Kingdom.

We started our day with a stop at Guest Services at City Hall.  The line was shorter than we typically encounter and we were met at the door by a very nice CM, Vas, who brought us inside.  He asked a few questions on Ben’s needs and began filling out a form on his iPad entering this info.  He used the iPad to take Ben’s photo and then went behind the desk to pick up the printed DAS card.  They are no longer hand-printed, they are printed out using the info supplied to the CM, the Guest’s photo, the issuing Park and the time frame the card will be good for.  Vas explained that as Annual Passholders we could only get the card for 14 days.  He told us this was due to the fact that Disney is still testing and refining the process and they want to be able to make changes as needed.  He also went over the program in detail explaining how the card works.  We take the card to the Fastpass entrance of any attraction where the CM will note the current time, the wait time and the return time on the back of the card.  The return time is based on the current wait time minus 10 minutes.  So if the current time is 3:00pm and the wait time is 30 minutes, the return time will be 3:20pm.  We can return any time after that return time, there is no time limit as with a Fastpass.  We also learned that if we are given a return time and decide to skip that attraction, we have to go back to that attraction and have the return time crossed out, even if we don’t ride, before we can get a new one at another attraction.

Next we had Re-Entry Passes (sometimes referred to as Re-admittance or Re-ad cards) explained.  If a Guest has a cognitive disability that could cause melt-downs when waiting to board or re-ride a favourite attraction, Disney will issue Re-Entry Passes to allow for immediate use of the Fastpass queue to enter.  These look like and are used just as Fastpass tickets (photo below).  We were issued 1 pass apiece for 3 attractions, a total of 12 passes for the 4 of us.

We entered the Magic Kingdom and decided to first get a set of Fastpasses for one attraction to plan around.  We got these for Winnie the Pooh and also received a set for Mickey’s Philharmagic.   Our plan was to get a DAS return time, enjoy Mickey and then go forward from there.  Jen went to get a DAS time at Under The Sea.  The CM was confused at first, it seemed this was the first one she had done, but quickly had the card filled out.  We were given a 30-minute return time and then went into Philharmagic using those Fastpasses.  After enjoying the show we walked over to Under the Sea and arrived just at our return time.  We entered through the Fastpass queue where the CM crossed out the entry and let us enter.  We showed the DAS card again at the second CM and entered in.

After riding Under the Sea we still had some time before we could use our Pooh Fastpasses so we used the Re-entry Passes to ride Barnstormer.  To use these passes we do need to show the DAS card as well, although the CM at Barnstormer didn’t ask to see it.  We were asked to see it when using the passes at Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear however.  Afterwards we used our ‘regular’ Fastpasses at Pooh and then moved to Tomorrowland where we used the Re-entry Passes at Space Mountain and Buzz and also rode TTA.  At this point my energy was spent for the day and we headed home.

Overall our experience was very positive.  The CMs were all helpful and everything worked smoothly for us Saturday.  With good planning; by using Fastpasses (and Fastpass+ once available), the Re-entry Passes and the DAS card this program should work out well for our particular needs.  We can see how this program might still need refinement for families coming on vacations and for those families with different needs.  It does work differently for those needing extra accommodations, such as using strollers as wheelchairs, etc., as well.

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Please let us know if you have any questions and we’ll do our best to help answer for you.  Please feel free to comment below or reach out to us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Resources:
Services for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities

Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities

Social Story Video: DAS vs. GAC (Courtesy of John Saccheri of BigFatPanda.com)

Disability Access Service Card Guide

Disability Assistance Service FAQ

Services for Guests with Disabilities

Guides for Guests with Disabilities
Available at Guest Relations, these guides can also be downloaded in a printable format for each theme park:
Magic Kingdom
Epcot
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Animal Kingdom