“Mousejunkies! is a laugh-filled alternative to your standard WDW travel book.”
—Jim Hill, Jim Hill Media
“Bill Burke is a master storyteller who can take the reader on a rewarding journey on everyday events.”
—Parenting Media Association
What becomes of Mouseketeers when they (never) grow up?
Where should you turn if you want the best inside information for your Walt Disney World vacation? Why, to the fanatics who go year after year, several times a year, who spend all their waking hours planning their next trip and devising strategies to make the most of their time there—for them it’s not a vacation, it’s a way of life. That’s right, you’d turn to the Mousejunkies!
Inside these pages lies the accumulated wisdom of many years and countless trips to Walt Disney World, on all the topics that make a difference to you:
- How to beat the crowds and the lines
- How to take full advantage of passes
- When to go and what to bring
- Where the best restrooms are
- Where to stay and why
- The psychology behind Walt Disney World
- What to do when overload strikes
- Where to splurge and where to eat cheap
- How to get the best discounts…and much more!
FOLLOW THE MOUSEJUNKIES AND MAINLINE THE MAGIC!
By Bill Burke
The traditional gift for a 17th anniversary is furniture or a watch, according to time-honored customs. I’ve been dragging my friends and family to Walt Disney World, every year, for just about that long.
By my estimation, then, Disney can ship me one of those great leather rocking chairs from the Carolwood Pacific Room in the Wilderness Lodge Resort, because another watch at this point would seem excessive. But then, that’s what being a Mousejunkie is all about.
One Mickey watch is nice. Amassing an unnecessarily massive and jumbled pile of timepieces is something a Mousejunkie does. It’s an apt metaphor for stringing together endless trips to central Florida. After all, this book isn’t called Mousemildlyinterested. This is what we do, this is who we’ve become, and this is why you’re holding the third edition ofMousejunkies! in your hands—or more likely these days, downloading it onto your tablet. (If you’re reading the preview file, just spring for the whole thing. Spoiler alert: there’s a section about someone throwing up all over a Disney boat.) If that doesn’t entice you to delve deeper into this book, then maybe you need to make sure you wouldn’t be better off spending your vacation time in a sensory deprivation tank and crafting haikus. Not that I have anything against haikus.
You have a problem
You should move to Orlando
And marry Mickey
Anyone afflicted with our particular malady has heard versions of this before. And it is a fair, if uninformed, question. I’ve been to Walt Disney World scores of times over the past 17 years. Why don’t I just move there?
Well, I’ll tell you…
If this was a Disney movie, this is where music would begin to swell and I’d break into song and explain all there is to know about visiting Walt Disney World again and again. There would be a verse about discovering the place and how it exceeded all my expectations. The chorus would have something to do with how I love having it as an escape from reality, and how if I lived there it would become the reality I sometimes need a break from. There would probably be a final verse about how the constant, frenetic pace of change on the property keeps it forever evolving. At the end, I’d turn dramatically from the camera, my dress flowing in the warm breeze. Wait, no, I didn’t say dress. (Note to publisher: We can edit that out, right?)
I’d also make sure there was a mind-melting bass solo in the middle of it, because, well, it’s my name on the front cover and if you can’t blast a bass solo in your own book, then why do it?
The point is, there’s a third edition of Mousejunkies! because our World—our favorite vacation destination above all others—never stops moving. Keeping up with the changes is very difficult: From what to do and where to stay to deciding where to eat and how to get around, things are rarely the same from trip to trip. Even planning a vacation to Walt Disney World is dramatically different than it was just a year ago.
Over the next few hundred pages, we’ll talk about what’s so great about Walt Disney World and what’s different and new. There is, however, a minor challenge. As soon as I attach this to an email, hit “send” and the book is transported through the tubes across the country to Travelers’ Tales, my publisher, Disney is going to announce a new project, restaurant, hotel, or theme park alteration. To Disney, I say: Stop it. Just for a few months, so I don’t look dumb. Or at least a little less so.
I love sharing our adventures and helping people experience as much of the Florida Project as possible. If any of the information herein helps that to happen, then great. If you laugh, even better.
It’s my hope that through this book, you’ll untangle the sometimes arcane process of planning a Walt Disney World vacation. I hope you’ll come to discover, or rediscover, the joy that can be found there, and hopefully, just when you need a fix the most, you’ll be transported there and you’ll be reminded about what it means to be a Mousejunkie.
While you do that, I’m going to go wait at the mailbox for my leather rocking chair.
CHAPTER 1 Mousejunkies Return. And Return. And Return.
Like Normal People, Just Disneyer
Meet the Mousejunkies
Crowdsourcing the Mouse
What You’ll Find In This Book
CHAPTER 2 Mousejunkies Travel
What’s New About Traveling to Walt Disney World
I Can’t Believe How Hot/Cold/Humid/Rainy It Is
The Seasons of Disney
Disney on the Cheap
CHAPTER 3 Mousejunkies Sleep
What’s New at Walt Disney World Resorts
The Resorts of Walt Disney World
Resorts by the Numbers
Interview: The Human Exclamation Point
Mousejunkies Sleep Checklist
CHAPTER 4 Mousejunkies Eat
What’s New with Walt Disney World Dining
The Best Places to Pig Out
Meals with Character
Dealing with Food Allergies
Picking Up the Check
Mousejunkies Eat Checklist
The Restaurants of Walt Disney World
CHAPTER 5 The Way of the Mousejunkie
Walking the Walk: Zen and the Art of Not Melting Down
Pulling Back the Curtain
CHAPTER 6 The Magic Kingdom
What’s New at the Magic Kingdom
Interview With an Imagineer
General Touring Tips
Main Street USA
Napping in the Kingdom
CHAPTER 7 Epcot
What’s New at Epcot
The World Showcase
Soused With the Mouse: An Epcot Tradition Exposed
CHAPTER 8 Disney’s Animal Kingdom
What’s New at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Welcome to the Kingdom
CHAPTER 9 Disney’s Hollywood Studios
What’s New at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Streets of America
CHAPTER 10 Mousejunkies Recreate
What’s New at Downtown Disney
What’s New Outside the Theme Parks
Duffing at Disney
Date Night at Disney
Dashing at Disney: runDisney
Who Needs Theme Parks? Resort Recreation
Disney Recreation Checklist
CHAPTER 11 Mousejunkies Procreate
Let’s Nap-It-Out, Stitch
A Lack of Character Is Not Such a Bad Thing
Strollers Are Your Friend
Tackling the Magic Kingdom
Epcot with Kids
Strollers in the Studios
Animal Kingdom with Kids
CHAPTER 12 Mousejunkies Expectorate
The Voyage of the S.S. Regurgitation
Health and Well-Being Checklist
CHAPTER 13 Mousejunkies Marry
Disney Vacation Club
The DVC Resorts
Renting the Secret
CHAPTER 14 Mousejunkies Confess
The Lightning Bolt Moment
Why We Go
Mousejunkies Return And Return. And Return.
To the casual observer, I might seem rather normal. For that matter, you might as well—but you and I know better. We are just like everyone else—just Disneyer.
Like Normal People, Just Disneyer
Scratch the surface and a new truth emerges. We are Disney addicts. Take a look around my house and it becomes clear quickly. There are far too many ear hats scattered about my office, a jumbled pile of metal that I like to call my Disney watch collection sits in a twisted heap right next to my com¬puter, framed pin sets decorate the walls, and there’s even a big fig of Mickey and Minnie holding hands and taking up way too much room next to the TV. It’s all pretty much rou¬tine for someone living the life of a Mousejunkie. And the great thing about reveling in the throes of this obsession is that before too long, you’ll learn that you’re not alone. Disney has built a vacation destination that people feel com¬pelled to return to again and again.
There’s a reason Mousejunkies exist. People visit Walt Disney World and they (the royal “they” that is, meaning me and possibly you) return again and again—which means that Disney is doing something right. And when it all comes together, it can form a potent concoction that turns a seem¬ingly normal individual into an unabashed, wide-eyed fanatic. It’s that heady fusion that breeds Mousejunkies.
More often than not, it all starts with a lightning bolt moment. Weather, crowd levels, company, and circum¬stances combine into a synchronous mash that converts even the most apathetic vacationer. I know this to be fact because to what else can I attribute my compulsion to sit in a giant honey pot and ride through the Hundred Acre Wood like a child?
Mousejunkies also know that when you’re not at Walt Disney World, you’re doing your best to recreate that feel¬ing anywhere and everywhere. Facebook groups and online forums eat up billable hours, attraction ride-throughs on YouTube completely remove us from mundane reality, and theme park music playlists pipe atmosphere-completing audio into our world.
If you do not yet count yourself among us, fair warning: You soon will. You’ve picked this book up for one of three reasons:
1. You’re a confirmed Mousejunkie. You love Walt Disney World and everything about it, and you need to get your Disney fix. You saw a picture of Cinderella Castle on the cover and fell into a pixie-dust infused haze. You awoke to the sound of the cash register with this book in your hands.
2. You thought the cover said, “Mouthjunkies,” and you’re studying dentistry.
3. You’re planning a Walt Disney World vacation and can use some advice.
If you’re already an addict, then I welcome you with the secret handshake. (Hint for the uninitiated: It involves a big, white glove with four fingers.)
If you’re about to embark on your first Walt Disney World vacation, I envy you. A Walt Disney World vacation is not just a week away at an amusement park. It’s a potentially life-changing event. I realize that sounds a bit overly dra¬matic, but I speak from experience.
I first visited Walt Disney World on June 7, 1981. Sure, it blew my mind, but I was also twelve. My next visit wouldn’t be for another eighteen years. I was knocking on thirty and needed to pick a vacation destination. For a variety of rea¬sons—most of which turned out to be invalid—Walt Disney World was not at the top of my list. However, after a little debate between my wife and I, that’s where we ended up. I booked the trip and left our home with zero expecta¬tions—and I think that’s why I would be transformed into a Mousejunkie in less time than it takes to say “our travel agent was on crack.”
Everyone has their own story about how they became a Mousejunkie. Here’s mine:
We had been on the ground in Orlando for less than an hour, and we were already rethinking our plan to vacation at Walt Disney World. My wife and I had just battled an unruly mob while checking in to our non-Disney-owned hotel somewhere on a patch of oily, sun-softened asphalt in Kissimmee.
Then we discovered that our travel agent had dramatically misrepresented our accommodations. My travel partner/wife Amy was succumbing to what was shaping up to be a disas¬ter of a week ahead of us. There was no kitchenette, as was promised by our travel agent. There was no shuttle ready to take us to Walt Disney World, which allegedly lay just to our west. Perhaps it lay strategically hidden behind the fried chicken shack or the crappy t-shirt shop.
There were flies. And all around us was an absolutely crushing, all-enveloping, relentless heat. It is memorable only because where there was once an air conditioner in our room was now a large metal box that conditioned approxi¬mately no cubic feet of air whatsoever.
In a quiet voice shaking with regret, she summed up our vacation thus far.
“I can’t do this,” she said.
If, at that moment, I had grabbed a taxi back to the Orlando International Airport and hopped the next flight home, this would be a very short book, perhaps called Laying on the Couch All Weekjunkies. We certainly would have saved a lot of money. And we definitely would have avoided curi¬ous stares from people when they learned we’d be returning to central Florida. Again.
But then we would have missed so many things. Like the overwhelming nostalgia that made it feel like we were trav¬eling back in time, watching Wonderful World of Disney as a youngster in the ’70s (he said, revealing his age). Or the tangible high that accompanied being completely immersed in an admittedly manufactured world where everything exceeded my expectations. What I would’ve missed most, without even knowing it, would have been the relationships.
Mousejunkies are a fraternity of like-minded Disney enthusiasts that speak a shared language, and have experi¬enced similar things at a fixed location. It’s almost impossi¬ble to not forge new bonds with people who have also been moved by what started out as nothing more than a simple trip to a theme park resort.
It also could have been the bread pudding at ‘Ohana. Either way, our lives would be dramatically different right now if it wasn’t for that decision to see our planned vacation through.
It all truly began with a change in venue. Refusing to stay at our pre-arranged hotel, we fled for Disney prop¬erty. It’s there that we were welcomed into the world of Disney obsession. When I first walked through the front doors of the All-Star Music Resort, it was if I had been smashed in the face by a sledgehammer. An animated, com¬ically oversized sledgehammer that didn’t really hurt, but a sledgehammer nonetheless. It was probably because we were coming from a completely underwhelming and frankly kind of scary hotel, and stepping into a colorful, impos¬sibly happy environment. That transformative experience was much more than just upgrading to a nicer accommoda¬tion. I had all my expectations exceeded during that week at Walt Disney World. We saw great shows, ate at fantastic restaurants, heard amazing music, shared a million laughs, experienced top-notch thrills and attractions and got away from reality for a while.
It was, in retrospect, something to write home about.
So I’m glad we decided to change hotels, brave the heat and the crowds and embark on what would become a life-changing seven days. It wasn’t exactly a religious expe-rience, but it did open up a whole new world and provide an all-encompassing hobby/lifestyle.
Here’s an example of what being beaten by the magic stick will do to you: One of my favorite attractions is Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. On the surface that might not seem like much, but consider that the target audience is probably seven years old. Such is my shameless love for all things Disney now that I have fallen under its spell.
Never in a million years did I suspect that I’d stand in line to hug a sweaty stranger in a bear suit and gasp at water foun¬tains. It all happened during those first few days at the resort. I arrived a fairly normal guy. I left a Mousejunkie.
What occurred next can be summed up fairly succinctly: We embarked on roughly 17 bajillion trips to central Florida and spent far too much money at my favorite vacation destination.
Why? The short answer might mention the food, the world-class customer service or the obsessive attention to detail. But it’s more than that. Walt Disney World makes you feel things. There’s a Disney high that comes along with visiting. Everything about the place has a story or a his¬tory to it. You get wrapped up and inexorably involved. The atmosphere, the music, the lighting—it all goes into creating a world that becomes very real.
Over time I got pretty good at navigating this massive world. Its size alone, however, meant that while I could effortlessly skip from one attraction to the next in one small portion of the property, I’d bungle some other part of our experience. (Like not even knowing there were nighttime shows until our second trip. Feel free to mock me.)
That’s where the Mousejunkies came in. We are all Mousejunkies, but the originals—a group of friends who, it turned out, were Walt Disney World fanatics—could help navigate the ins and outs of visiting Walt Disney World. They were the like-minded friends I could turn to in times of Disney-related calamity.
Bill Burke is a veteran newspaper reporter and editor. He is also a columnist at Parenting N.H. Magazine, where he has been named a three-time consecutive winner of Best Humor Column by the Parenting Media Association.
He has traveled to Walt Disney World countless times over the years. During his twenty-one-year journalism career, he has covered marathons and murders, and written everything from business features to comic book scripts. Bill has been traveling to and writing about Walt Disney World for the past seventeen years.
A dyed-in-the-wool New Englander who recently came to the conclusion he hates the cold weather but can’t live without good fried clams, Bill spent portions of his childhood living in different parts of the country and traveling throughout the United States. Now he flees to the warm embrace of central Florida whenever time and finances allow. Or even if they don’t.
After trying out a number of different career options ranging from installing concrete foundations and digging ditches to working as a bouncer at an oceanfront nightclub and selling sci-fi collectibles, he stumbled across journalism.
He lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife, Amy, twelve-year-old daughter, Katie, and their psychotic dog, Figgy.