FASTPASS Changes Come to Disneyland!

Earlier this year, Disneyland announced that there were several FastPass changes coming this year, and since the first of those was rolled out in the park yesterday, I thought it worth mentioning how this might affect your RideMax plans.

So, just what are those FastPass changes? There are three of them:

  • FastPass will be added to Toy Story Midway Mania
  • FastPass will be added to the Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • A product called “MaxPass” will roll out sometime later this year

FASTPASS comes to Toy Story Midway Mania

The first of these changes was implemented yesterday, with Toy Story Midway Mania now offering FastPass.

The important thing to note here is that we sampled wait times and FastPass return windows yesterday during the rollout, and have now added FastPass support for this attraction in RideMax. Of course, we may change estimates as time goes on, but feel like we at least have a good starting point here.

As a result of this change, if you’ve previously created RideMax plans which include Toy Story Midway Mania, I strongly recommend creating new plans instead.

I expect a similar update to RideMax for the Matterhorn once it comes out of refurbishment later this month, so keep an eye out for those changes as well.

As for MaxPass (which you can read about on the Disney parks blog), I don’t see this having a huge impact on RideMax plans, since it basically adds a new layer of support to the existing FastPass system, rather than replacing it entirely, like FastPass+ did at Walt Disney World.

As usual, if you’re planning a visit to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland and want custom, wait-busting itineraries designed to save significant time in line, please subscribe to RideMax.

Oh, and have a great trip!

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VIDEO REVIEW: Customer Tests RideMax at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland

I received a tweet recently from Chad, a RideMax customer who had just returned from vacation using RideMax at Disneyland and California Adventure.

Chad recorded his visit for YouTube, and was kind enough to share links to his videos, which I thought would be fun to share here. After all, it’s one thing to see my own RideMax Roulette reports, but quite another to see a video report like this from a “real customer.”

Here are Chad’s YouTube reports:

Disneyland with RideMax

Disney California Adventure with RideMax

(Disclaimer: Chad has no relationship with RideMax, other than that of an apparently happy customer.)

Enjoy!

 

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RideMax Turns Fifteen!

Disney California Adventure - Dusk

It seems sort of hard to believe, but 2016 marks the fifteenth year since our very first RideMax sale.

To this day, I still remember the feeling I had on that first day we opened for sales in 2001, when we had TWO customers purchase subscriptions. I was still working at my 9-5 job as a software developer for a large company, and walked the halls that day very excited inside for what had just happened.

Little did I realize that this little idea would become as popular over time as it has, eventually allowing me to pursue RideMax as a full time job. Since those early days of a Windows-only program, where customers would typically print their plans and take them to the park, RideMax has evolved into the web version that exists now, allowing customers to create RideMax plans both at home or on-the-fly from mobile devices as they head out to one of the parks.

For all of this, let me say THANK YOU to all of the thousands of you who have supported — and continue to support — the RideMax concept as it has developed over the years. The fact that RideMax resonates with so many of you is truly gratifying!

Since we’re celebrating our fifteenth anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to share an unsolicited email we recently received from a very loyal customer, who has been a RideMax subscriber off and on for several years now, having used RideMax successfully at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

So with that, I’ll turn the remainder of today’s post over to Dean, a RideMax customer from Chicago. (And thanks for the note, Dean. It’s stuff like this that keeps us going!)

I am embarrassed to say that I have been meaning to write you for nearly a decade now to thank you for RideMax and to tell you how much it has meant to me and my daughters (my wife won’t set foot in a theme park!).

I first discovered RideMax when planning a trip to Disneyland in the summer of 2007.  We’re from Chicago and most of our vacations had been confined to family-related trips in the Midwest.  That summer we were doing college visits with my younger daughter.  Our final visits were to schools around LA and I figured capping off the trip at Disneyland and fulfilling her lifetime dream to visit a Disney park would be a great way to celebrate.  Since it would be her first visit and my second (the first in 1970), I was really anxious about managing the trip and being able to fully experience the parks.  Nosing around the internet I came across an article on RideMax and decided to give it a try, figuring we could abandon the plan and fly by the seat of our pants if it didn’t work.

We did our last college visit in the morning and then drove to Anaheim, getting into the California Adventure about 2:30.  We did 13 rides before the park closed, even taking time out to go check into our hotel.  We also saw FANTASMIC, drifting into seats more perfect that we realized by following your instructions.  The next day we did 23 attractions (and took a five hour break for lunch and a nap).  We started the day following your instructions for the NEMO submarines (Editor’s note: This was the time when Nemo was new  :-) ) and as we jogged through the switchback line on our way to board the 2nd sub of the day the herd came charging out of Tomorrowland.  My daughter looked at me and said, “Whatever you paid for RideMax, it was worth it” and we’ve been RideMax evangelists ever since.  The next day we did 20 attractions before we had to leave for the airport at 2:30 in the afternoon.

In the summer of 2009 my older daughter was back in Chicago for the summer and on a day together at the local Six Flags when I continually groused “They’d never get by with this kind of service/cleanliness/maintenance/etc at Disneyland, she always replied, “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been there.”  Figuring I had an obligation to remedy that, I started planning a WDW trip for August with both daughters.  We created a spreadsheet and ranked the attractions that were most important to us, I created a number of RideMax plans, and we had the fun of sharing our opinions about the best plans in anticipation of our trip.

We flew out on a Friday morning, got to the Magic Kingdom about 12:45, and were able to do 14 attractions before finish the day viewing fireworks from the bridge between Main Street and Founders Circle.

On Saturday the buses were running late out of our resort and there we faced long lines at our arrival at Hollywood Studios.  However, we stayed calm, followed your instructions, and new turnstiles opened to the left just before they began letting guests in, so we ended up at the rope for rope drop and were on the heels of the Toy Story Mania ride operators as they led the crowd to the FastPass machines.  We were able to do 17 attractions (4 times on Tower of Terror) before heading over to the Magic Kingdom for the Spectro Magic Parade.

On Sunday we headed to Animal Kingdom and did 12 attractions before taking the bus to Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic (and 1 ride on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and two more trips on the Tower of Terror).

On Monday we headed to Epcot where we started the day with a celebrity sighting (you) and had a quick chance to shake your hand, say thank you, and promise you this long delayed letter of appreciation.  Though this was our hot and tired day, we did fifteen attractions, strolled the World Showcase, and capped off the night with Illuminations.

On our final day, we headed back to the Magic Kingdom and visited 17 attractions.  We saw you again at the rope drop for Mickey’s Toontown Fair – and following your rope drop instructions we were ahead of the crowd and when the mob went left for Tinkerbell we continued to Mickey’s House and, as the first arrivals, were greeted out front by Mickey and honored with a guided tour through his house, and surprised by Minnie waiting for us in the tent and able to have group pictures with both Mickey and Minnie.  Though we were all adults, we were giddy with excitement at this unexpected magic.  Before we left the park at 2:15 that afternoon we finished our stay with a break for coffee and dessert on Main Street because, thanks to RideMax, we felt like we’d done everything we wanted to!

I have a good friend who grew up in Florida and considers himself a WDW expert.  When I showed him my journal of what we’d done, he said it looked impossible.

Those trips were lovely times with my daughters that none of us will ever forget.  Because of RideMax they were stress free.  We never bickered about what to do next, we never worried that we wouldn’t get to experience attractions that were important to us, we never really had to interrupt the enjoyment of our time together to deal with anything mundane.  Throughout that week we kept repeating that the most important individual to the success of our trip to WDW was Walt Disney and the second most important was you.

The past four years I’ve had the opportunity to travel to LA each fall for business and snuck in a visit to Disneyland each year.  In 2012 it was just a Saturday evening visit (a recipe for disaster, I know) with annual pass holder friends who “knew the secrets.”  Never waited in such long lines in my life!  Fortunately we had a lot of catching up to do.

In 2013 I spent a day park-hopping alone with my RideMax plan and did 26 attractions.

In 2014 & 2015 I met up with friends for the day and the Halloween Party.  We kind of started the day with RideMax and then free-lanced in the afternoon and during the party, doing 28 attractions one year and 23 the next.

Though it may not sound like it I do stop to eat, shop, and relax.

My daughters and I are planning a trip to Orlando this year right after Thanksgiving,   First to Universal (we’re a little nervous about not having RideMax) and then the Magic Kingdom.  Our great RideMax experiences have given us very high expectations for how great a theme park visit should be, so we are starting to make plans with great excitement.  We’re a little nervous about the changes in FastPass and we’re making advanced dining reservations to work around this time, so things look a little more complicated – but my daughters keep repeating the same thing to me, “Trust RideMax!”

It is also looking like I will have to (get to) go to Los Angeles for work on February and will have two days free this year.  If that works out, my daughters are going to come to join me so that the older one can have her first visit to Disneyland.

A couple of observations – We have always gotten ahead of our plans, so we don’t worry about scheduling breaks.  Usually we not only have time for breaks and meals without scheduling them into our plans, but have always been able to add bonus rides not included in our plans. The only times we’ve had a wait time longer than predicted has been because rides went down.

Rather than our plans removing spontaneity from our days, the security of having the plan has allowed us to be spontaneous without the worry that our change in plan would keep us from doing other things that were important to us.

So this is my very lengthy and long-delayed effort to thank you for what you do.  It’s not only a convenience and a service, but for us it has facilitated delightful and stress-free family time together.  You’ve also turned us into Disney Parks fanatics by allowing us to enjoy them to their fullest.  It really is surreal to be sailing through the day while seeing other families in misery because they are stuck in the herd.

What you do is valuable and important.  I hope you find satisfaction in it and have some sense of the positive impact it has on families.

Always a RideMax evangelist,

Dean

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I’m Baaaack! Plus Low Labor-Day Week Crowds at Animal Kingdom, New Food Items at Nomad Lounge Review

OK, it seems like every summer I end up crazy busy, and this summer was no exception. And you may have noticed that the frequency of blog posts over the summer has suffered. Between a large extended family reunion at Disneyland earlier in the summer, an out-of-state high school reunion, and helping our daughter prepare as she headed off to live in Cambodia for an extended period of time (she’ll be back early 2018), it’s been pretty crazy around here.

But with the fall comes more time, and with more time comes more frequency posting here. It’s a fairly short post today, so let’s dive in!

Primeval Whirl No Line - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

As a Disney “expert,” something I’m often asked is when is the best time to visit Walt Disney World? And my normal response is that the days right after Labor Day are hard to beat. All the schools are back in session, and none of the fall school breaks have started up yet, leaving the park very uncrowded.

The picture above sort of tells the story. This was the scene at Primeval Whirl on Wednesday, September 7th, at just before 10:30am. No waiting here.

Expedition Everest Short Wait - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Same story with low crowds at Expedition Everest, just a few minutes later.

Kilimanjaro Safaris Short Wait - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

And… well, you get the idea. This was at 10:44am.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself something like this:

“Wow! I’m visiting next month! Hopefully the crowds will stay low until my trip!”

Sorry to disappoint, but no, you likely won’t see crowds this low in October. At Disneyland, you have all sorts of fall breaks in Arizona and Utah, and fall breaks abound here in the east as well. The Food & Wine Festival, which starts tomorrow at Epcot, also serves to draw guests into the parks. So, if you’ve been visiting the parks over the last week and a half, enjoy it while it lasts!

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

In Animal Kingdom news, the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail has been renamed back to its original moniker, the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. Personally, I think this was a good move, as it should help guests know immediately what to expect as the “star attraction” on this trail.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail - New Sign - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Another new sign outside Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Nomad Lounge - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Somehow, Liesle and I had never made it to Nomad Lounge, so we decided to stop in for lunch before Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival starts consuming most of our discretionary eating time, beginning tomorrow. We arrived to a completely empty lounge right after Nomad opened for the day at 11:30am, though a few groups of guests did arrive later as our lunch progressed.

For those who don’t know, Nomad Lounge shares its kitchen with Tiffin’s, which is the Animal Kingdom’s newest restaurant, located near what will someday be the entrance to Avatarland (or on the way to the old Camp Minnie-Mickey, if that helps).

Nomad Lounge Small Plate Menu - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

As usual, you can click on any image here for a larger view. We were mostly interested in the Small Plate Menu, which listed a couple of new offerings. These two didn’t appear on Disney’s app yet — the Sustainable Fish Tacos and the African-Spiced Wagyu Beef Sliders. (These have replaced the Fish Balls and Beef Skewer, respectively.)

Nomad Lounge Kiama Mamma - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

We first ordered the non-alcoholic Kiama Mamma, which was basically watermelon-flavored Sprite, complete with a wedge of the fruit. It was a refreshing beginning to the meal.

Nomad Lounge Cocktail Menu - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

You can see the some of the other drink options listed above.

Nomad Lounge Wagyu Beef Sliders - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

These are the Beef Sliders, which we both very much enjoyed. The sandwich had a nice tangy taste to it, and was cooked just right. The vinegared potatoes were a pleasant surprise here, offering a very unique taste. Our server, Adriana, who was very knowledgeable and helpful with the menu, explained that the potatoes were first boiled in a water-vinegar mixture, and finished off with a vinegar salt. My only complaint here is that we could have used more of the potatoes — they were just very good.

Nomad Lounge Sustainable Fish Tacos - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The Fish Tacos were also delicious. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but these are served in soft corn tortillas, and the overall flavor and texture profile is very well balanced, with the mellowness of the corn tortilla and the fish combining with the tanginess of the charred pineapple and other garnishes to create a very nice overall effect.

Nomad Lounge Dessert - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

We also couldn’t resist the Taste of Tiffin’s dessert, which consisted of a dark chocolate ganache topped with various flavorings, including hibiscus meringue, Sri Lankan chantilly, passion fruit curd, and Egyptian sea salt. The bowl itself sat in a lime-based liquid that served as a palate cleanser between bites, which added a nice touch to the overall experience. Although the portion size is small here, it’s fairly rich, and Liesle and I both thought it was done just right, and a very delicious way to finish off the meal.

Nomad Lounge Entrance - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The view of Nomad Lounge from the pathway in front. We look forward to eating here again soon.

Expedition Everest Short Wait - Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

We left the Animal Kingdom in the early afternoon, when the posted wait for Expedition Everest was still just ten minutes. It looked like Disney may have actually underestimated the crowd at this point though — my guess is that the wait was actually closer to 15-20 minutes. Still not bad for the busiest time of the day.

Liesle and I are both excited to head off to Epcot tomorrow for the opening day of the Food & Wine Festival. Stay tuned for pictures and food reviews!

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Update: RideMax Disneyland Dates Available Through the End of July

Disney California Adventure Trolley

Just a quick update to note that for those who’ve been asking, RideMax now has planning dates for Disneyland and DCA available through the end of July. This brings us current with Disney’s published park hours for Disneyland.

Also note that Disney hasn’t yet published showtimes for dates after July 4th for the new Frozen show playing at the Hyperion, so you won’t see it listed in RideMax for dates later in July just yet. After the showtimes are available, you can expect to see it listed in RideMax for planning purposes.

Disney has already expanded the number of showtimes for Frozen from three to four, and my guess is that they’re waiting to see how the new schedule works out before committing to showtimes for future dates.

Hopefully the dust will settle soon on this!

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