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Jentasmic: The Joys of Solo Travel

20 May
Mickey and Me

Hanging with Mickey on a solo trip to Disneyland, January 2011.

My kid’s growing up, which means more solo Disney travel is on the horizon for me. So, this week’s Jentasmic! includes some of my favorite things about solo travel.

Touring my way. I can be very particular about my touring needs. It just doesn’t feel right to miss rope drop. I want to ride Mr Toad’s Wild Ride five times in rapid succession to earn my Nowhere in Particular badge on Disneyland Lines. I might choose my lunch location strictly on the availability of power outlets for recharging my phone. And while I’ll happily compromise on most of those to be with friends and family, if I’m gonna go alone, I’m gonna enjoy the heck out of my autonomy.

Say, Can Anybody Spare 20,275 Disney Movie Rewards Points?

3 Sep

I am a geek, with an inexplicable fondness for spreadsheets and a serious addiction to travel, especially Disney trips. I even have a list of online sweepstakes which I enter every ding-dong day, just on the off chance that I might might might be the one to win that Disney Vacation Club membership, or that boatload of Hilton Honors points!

So, when I recently logged into the Disney Movie Rewards web site (to enter my daily sweepstakes, natch) and saw that one of the currently-listed awards is a 4-night trip to Walt Disney World, I had to break out the Excel and run some rough numbers to try to find a clue.

The trip will cost you 22,000 Disney Movie Reward points. If the average DVD gets you 100 points, and you’re paying an average of $22 for your movies (think sales at Target, people), that’s about 220 movies you’re gonna have to buy, for a cost of $4,840. (You could get there a little faster with the Blu-Ray releases, since they generally carry more points, but they’re also more expensive and there aren’t as many titles to choose from.)

Is there a limit on how many copies of the same title you can redeem points on? I’m not sure there are 220 movies currently on the market which you can actually earn the points on…so I do believe you’re gonna need some duplicates to get there.

Now, you can also earn points by going to the movie theatre, but you can’t earn many points that way. For example, I earned 50 points each for WALL-E tickets, but I believe there was a limit of 4 tickets one could redeem for that feature, and that seems to be about the usual limit.

So, this probably makes sense if you just happened to need 220 Disney DVDs, both for your own collection and to share with friends, family, and random strangers on the bus who you decide to be kind to, as they look like they had a lousy day. But leaving aside the value of your newly-enhanced movie collection, would the $4,840 be a wise investment for your Disney travel needs?

Well y’know, the weird thing is it just might be, but I can’t tell for sure. Your party of four would be staying at a Deluxe Resort, enjoying a day with a VIP tour guide, with Magic Your Way Park Hoppers and various trinkets for everybody, plus a $250 dining allowance and all airfare fully paid. When I did a little search on the Disney World web site, I found that a party of 4 adults staying at the Grand Floridian for four nights in late December with those tickets would spend $4,104.68…and we all know that most parties of four are going to be spending more than $700 on their airfare to MCO these days, right? We don’t even have to calculate the cost of the VIP tour guide, or the other vaguely-described benefits (“Character Meet-and-Greet and Dining Experience, plus photos and more!”), or the ever-popular, ever-essential Mickey Ears and pin trading starter sets. (That $4,104.68 was for a garden-view room, by the way, so if the lucky recipient is staying at Concierge, that’s a whole different ballpark. On the other hand, it’s also at peak season, so if we’re talking Value season the cost would of course decline.)

But there’s no way to reliably do the math, even if my numbers were more heavily researched. Because you see, there are unspecified blackout dates and other “redemption restrictions” that will only be disclosed upon “reward redemption verification.” And how many people are racking up 22,000 Disney Movie Rewards points just in the course of their day-to-day Disney entertainment needs? I’m a pretty serious consumer here…and I still have only 1875 points (it’ll be 1925 after my recent WALL-E viewing is credited!).

So hey, is there anybody out there who’s actually redeemed for this award, or who even has 22,000 points in the first place? What’s the scoop, people? Or by any chance does anybody want to give me 20,275 points so I can test this thing out? I’d happily mail you the Mickey Ears and pin trading starter sets, I promise!

Why No Love for Frequent Disney Guests?

22 Aug

Anybody who knows the details of my June trip to Star Wars Weekends knows that I’m a big fan of hotel points and frequent flier miles! I don’t travel enough to rack up as many as I’d like…but I can be very creative with what I’ve got! On a five night trip, I stayed in four different hotels, and only had to pony up cash at one of them.

So, my Jentasmic! column this week on StudiosCentral has a bit of a rant about Disney’s lack of any such program for its resort hotels, or any cheapo tidbits for those who visit multiple Disney Parks around the world.

Now, one might think that Disney doesn’t really need to provide these perks or discounts, given the high occupancy rates at its resorts. One might also argue that such niceties for repeat guests goes against the democratic vibe of Disney Parks, where every Guest is special. But doesn’t Disney already provide special perks for those who spend more money (ie, more amenities at Deluxe than Value resorts), or make a longer-term investment in their Disney vacations (ie, Disney Vacation Club member discounts)? Why would it then be inconsistent to implement a hotel points system, ala Hilton HHonors or Starwood Points, to reward the greater long-term investment of frequent Guests?

Grumble grumble grumble.

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report at AllEarsNet

3 May

JeanineY, a guest blogger at AllEarsNet, wrote recently about her trip to Tokyo Disneyland Resort. She’s got great pictures and descriptions of DisneySea, which I especially enjoyed since I missed that park when I was at Tokyo Disneyland.

I laughed out loud reading her description of the flight to Japan (presumably from somewhere in the continental US):

On a 12+ hour flight in coach, the evolution of attitude goes like this:

Hour 1: Well this isn’t bad! We left on time and everything! The grand adventure has begun!
Hour 2: There isn’t much space in these seats, is there? Well at least the meal was…included.
Hour 6: If this guy in back of me shakes my chair one more time, I am turning my vent full blast towards him. Also, I can’t feel my feet anymore.
Hour 10: We will grow old and die on this plane.

For some reason, one of my fondest memories of the flights to and from Japan was the Cup of Noodles that the flight attendants brought around for breakfast. (The worst memory, on the other hand, was hitting 3 hours worth of severe turbulence on the flight home, and watching the horizon disappear above and below my window as we rocked back and forth. The more experienced trans-Pacific travelers seated around me snored all the way through.)

I was totally envious reading JeanineY’s description of the DisneySea show, The Legend of Mythica, which clearly must be seen:

The only thing you can imagine is that someone decided to throw everything anyone might like to see in a show together into one glorious spectacular. There’s singing, dancing, characters, floats, fire effect, water effects, drumming, jet skis, kites, fireworks, and more. There must be a phenomenal number of CMs working on this one show, and it all goes to form an extravaganza that’s unlikely to be matched in any US park.

I did read recently in Blue Sky Disney that there’s a super-cool show planned for Disney’s California Adventure, in Anaheim. I doubt it’ll be quite as cool as The Legend of Mythica, but it sounds pretty nifty nonetheless:

Did you know how much of the Pier will actually be used for these fountains [for the new show]? Most have said that it will just be in front of Mickey’s Fun Wheel. No, no…

Try the entire water area of the Pier. That big. Really. When the PP goes down next year to be drained so that construction can begin on the new extended area and the placement of the water and lighting system is put in it will be extensive. This will have some form of fountain display all across the whole of the area. It’s no wonder that the area around Ariel’s Grotto is talked about being enclosed. Guest will get drenched sitting out under those exposed canopies. The WOC show will be very intimate for audiences. As well as that, when the displays and water jets are shooting up into the air, expect to see a very familiar Disney character floating in the Pier as he’ll be part of the festivities. Mickey Mouse? Nope. Donald Duck? Nooooo. Ariel? No, but technically she’ll be there(more on that in a minute).


A giant Variation of the demon from “Night On Bald Mountain” will inhabit the PP show if everything goes as planed.

Back to Tokyo . . . I have to wholeheartedly agree with JeanineY about how fabulous the Winnie the Pooh attraction is at Tokyo Disneyland. I’m not a big Pooh fan, so I could have easily just walked by this one, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Pooh is deservedly one of the most popular rides in Tokyo Disneyland because of its unique trackless ride system which has you skittering around in honeypots seemingly at random–first spinning around in circles, next appearing to crash into other pots, then zooming up to a woozle (or a hefflelump?) to get smoke blown at you. It’s a great ride and puts the Anaheim Disneyland version to shame.

I desperately want to get back to Tokyo, and not just for Disneyland! I want to wander the streets of Harajuku again, maybe pick up a few copies of the Gothic and Lolita Bible. I want to hop on the Shinkansen down to Kyoto, go back to Arashiyama Monkey Park. I want to see some of the Tokyo neighborhoods I missed, like Akihabara, where the electronics stores reign supreme and you can have lunch served to you by cosplay wait staff. And yes of course, I want another spin on that Winnie the Pooh ride, another picture of my dear son in front of the Castle, another chance to hear Rex pilot the Star Speeder 3000 in Japanese.

Grand Floridian Resort Mold Infestation?

4 Mar

According to (by way of, there was a significant mold issue at the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World, but it’s been resolved. Sounds like one family had an interesting day:

The moldy discovery came from the guests themselves when a Florida family checked into their $788 per night hotel room hoping for a magical getaway. What they got instead was a room filled with a musty odor, much like that of an old fishing cabin at a lake that hadn’t been aired out since the previous summer. It didn’t take long before the guests spotted a dark, powdery substance on the walls and along the baseboards of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Concerned for their safety, the family left immediately and checked into a different resort.

The press release goes on to explain that the problem’s been resolved. And it also has the funniest sentence I’ve read all day:

View photos of the mold-infested wallpaper here:

Boy, some people really know how to have fun!

My Top 5 Disney Parks Mistakes

16 Nov

Matt Hochberg’s just posted my latest Jentasmic! column on My Top 5 Disney Parks Mistakes.

In my professional life, there’s a lot of emphasis on “lessons learned.” I do believe there’s a real benefit in sharing with others the bonehead moves we’ve made, in the interest of sparing them future pain. Plus, true-life confessions are an important part of the interweb food chain, and who am I to argue with the circle of life?

Congratulations to Lou Mongello and The WDW Radio Show!

16 Aug

The 2007 People’s Choice podcast awards were announced today, and The WDW Radio Show has taken top honors in the Travel category. (Hat tip to 2719 Hyperion.)

If you love Disney trivia and history, and have a few spare hours each week (sorry Lou, I couldn’t resist!), you really owe it to yourself to check out The WDW Radio Show. This week’s show is a great example of the high-quality, in-depth content.

I am also going to introduce the first in a recurring series entitled, Legends of Disney Imagineering. My first guest certainly qualifies to bear that title and introduction. He is George McGinnis, who played a large part in the creation of the Mark VI monorail, Space Mountain, Horizons, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and countless other attractions and vehicles in Walt Disney World. In this exclusive, one-on-one interview, Mr. McGinnis shares stories of being personally hired by Walt Disney, the triumphs and challenges in creating such attractions as the WEDWay PeopleMover, Space Mountain, Communicore and countless others. He reminisces about working with not only Walt Disney, but a who’s who of Disney legends, including Dick Nunis, Marty Sklar, John Hench, Bob Gurr, Roger Broggie, Claude Coates, and so many others. It is truly something special that I think you’re going to enjoy and was a personal privilege for me to do. And listen very carefully, as he also shares a secret about a change that is likely coming soon to one of his Walt Disney World attractions.

If you have any time left after listening to WDW Radio, there’s a wealth of other great podcasts on the list, in categories ranging from Business to Gaming to Education. Or if you simply can’t get enough Mongello, he’s a frequent co-host on WDW Today. (And no, I’m not just sending you there because they plugged my blog this week . . . I’m also sending you there because yesterday’s episode was wonderfully weird. Hey Matt Hochberg, you might want to drag yourself out of your sickbed soon, those guys are going off the deep end without you!)

Trip Report from Holy Land Experience, Circa 2002

13 Aug

News broke last week that the Trinity Broadcasting Network has stepped in to save the Holy Land Experience, a Jerusalem-themed attraction not far from Disney World.

Mr Broke Hoedown (aka Collateral Damage) has just published a trip report from his April 2002 visit to the Holy Land Experience. Here’s a snippet from his report:

After getting my ticket, I then passed through the Jerusalem Gate, sans Ass or Palms, and wandered straight into a recreation of a Jerusalem street market which might easily be confused with a souvenir shop. The tchotchkes offered here and at various carts around the park are all Old Testament: a variety of shofars, several types of menorahs and jet black yarmulkes (suffice to say this selection of keepsakes has done nothing to soothe Jewish feelings about the park). The day I was there there was only one depiction of Jesus to be seen: a standard-issue, saccharine painting of an Anglicized Him meeting the woman at the well. All other paintings feature either Moses or Abraham. Indeed this lack of Christian imagery is ubiquitous throughout the park and on its customers. I didn’t see a single cross on anyone inside of the park. The only cross I did see was a small and relatively discrete one in The Land’s logo: It takes the place of a star in the sky over a silhouette of the old Jerusalem skyline. Admittedly that logo is on everything from key chains to tote bags to t-shirts but compared to the trifurcated circles of Mickey Mouse which are incorporated into buildings, landscaping and food at Disney World, The Holy Land is a model of restraint. (Indeed after visiting The Land, I was keenly aware of what it meant to have Disney’s corporate logo offered to me in cookies, ice cream and cakes of butter. Body of Mickey, anyone?)

I suppose you won’t be surprised to know that Broke Hoedown Jr and I spent the day in Fantasyland instead.

Shaun the Sheep Joins the Mickey Mouse Club

22 Jun

DIS News tells me that Disney Channel will be airing interstitial segments starring Shaun the Sheep, from Aardman Animations:

Shaun the Sheep “Shaun the Sheep” follows the comedic stories of a young sheep who leads his barnyard pals into all sorts of adventures. The character was first introduced in the Oscar-winning “Wallace & Gromit” short “A Close Shave,” from Aardman and Nick Park.

“Aardman Animations represents the platinum standard in stop-motion animation and ‘Shaun the Sheep’ brilliantly captures the unique brand of humor for which they have become world famous,” said Disney Channel Worldwide prexy Gary Marsh.

Cracking! Might this be just enough to get Mr Broke Hoedown to watch the Disney Channel with me?

Climb Aboard The Plane Of The Future

4 Jun

Disney is one of many companies collaborating with Boeing on “the plane of the future.” From Forbes, via DIS News:

Ah, the jet set. Crammed into a coach-class seat next to a pair of sweaty neighbors. Nothing to look at but the back of an air sickness bag. Your knees are crushed when the jerk in front of you pushes his seat back. Good stuff.

Take heart. At Boeing’s Payload Concepts Center north of Seattle, engineers are studying techniques used by Starbucks, Disney, Cirque du Soleil and Wal-Mart for clues to make flying less of a chore. “We are having a blast,” said Pete Guard, the center’s director. Good for them. Now what about us?

Strangely enough, there’s no mention of Dippin’ Dots. Shouldn’t the airplane of the future include the Ice Cream of the Future?

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