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Use Your iPhone or iPad To Help You Better Plan and Enjoy Your Next Disney World Vacation

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Experiencing a Walt Disney World vacation in Orlando, Florida, with your family can be an expensive proposition and require a lot of pre-planning. After all, there’s so much to see, do, and experience. To begin, you’ll need to book your airfares, hotel, and potentially a rental car, plus plan meals, theme park visits, and other activities. For many, staying within their budget, dealing with the crowds, and managing to experience everything in one trip can be a huge challenge. In this article, Jason R. Rich explains how to use your Apple iPhone or iPad to help you plan your next Walt Disney World vacation, plus save time, save money, and more efficiently navigate around the theme park crowds.

Every year, countless families from all over the world flock to Orlando, Florida to experience the Walt Disney World Resort firsthand. Comprised of 35 on-property resort hotels, four theme parks, several water parks, hundreds of restaurants and dining options, multiple golf courses, plus numerous other activities and shopping opportunities, this 40-square mile destination virtually guarantees a family-friendly vacation experience that will provide fond memories to last a lifetime.

Since 1971, people have been visiting Disney World to experience the latest rides, shows, and attractions, which these days are spread throughout the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the rest of the resort’s property.

Planning and navigating your way through a Disney vacation has always been a huge undertaking. But now, with the help of your iPhone or iPad, the you can spend less time planning, making reservations, looking for Disney characters for your kids to meet, and waiting in long lines, and have much more time for actually having fun and creating amazing vacation memories.

Use Your iPhone/iPad as a Trip-Planning Tool

As you begin planning your trip, do your research to figure out—based on your budget, available time, and who you’ll be traveling with—the best places to stay and eat, as well as the best non-Disney attractions to experience in Orlando. For this, use an app such as TripAdvisor or Yelp!, both of which offer reviews and other tools for learning more about restaurants, activities/attractions, and local businesses.

When it comes to actually making travel plans—which can include airfare, hotel and a rental car—there are a handful of apps available to help you find the best rates and book your reservations from anywhere, as long as your iPhone or iPad has Internet access.

For example, most of the major airlines now have their own apps that allow you to check on and track flights, plus make or change reservations. Likewise, you’ll find similar apps available for individual hotel chains and rental car companies. So, if you’re a frequent flier with United Airlines, prefer to stay at Hilton hotels, and opt to rent your car from Hertz, specialized apps from these companies are available from the App Store to help you make and manage your travel plans.

Beyond the company-specific travel apps, a wide range of apps allow you to seek out the lowest airfares, hotel, and rental car rates. KayakPro.com, Priceline, Travelocity, TravelZoo, AAAMobile, Hotwire Hotels, Hotels by Orbitz, and the Hotels.com app are all examples of these. Each is available for free from the App Store.

Then, once you’ve made your travel reservations, apps like TripIt Travel Organizer and Flight Track Pro allow you to manage all aspects of your travel from a single app. What’s great about these apps is that they’ll automatically notify you of flight delays, gate changes, and other situations that will require your attention while you’re on the go. Plus, all of your travel itineraries, reservation confirmation numbers, and trip details get stored in one place.

Money-Saving Apps for Local Dining and Attractions

With thousands of restaurants and dining options to choose from in and around Orlando, plus hundreds within Disney World itself, apps such as Yelp!, OpenTable, AroundMe, and Urbanspoon can help you choose the best places to eat, no matter what your budget.

If you’re an AAA member, the AAA Mobile app will not only help you find local restaurants, attractions, and businesses, but it will also let you know which offer discounts to AAA members. These discounts often allow you to save 10 to 20 percent from each participating company. The Deals by Citysearch, Groupon, and Living Social apps, for example, can also be used to discover money-saving offers from Orlando-area restaurants, attractions, and stores.

The Disney Mobile Magic App Is an Absolute Must

Once your trip planning is done and you find yourself navigating your way around the various theme parks within Disney World, having the free Disney Mobile Magic app at your disposal can save you plenty of time. When you visit the App Store, you’ll find dozens of third-party apps related to the Disney World; however, only the free Disney Mobile Magic app was created by The Walt Disney Company.

The core functionality of Disney Mobile Magic is to help you navigate your way around the various theme parks, and to be more efficient with your time. After launching the app, choose between The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, or the Disneyland Resort in California. Then, select which specific theme park you’re visiting that day.

This app offers comprehensive information about the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, Downtown Disney, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, as well as all of the on-property resort hotels and recreational activities (outside of the theme parks).

Tap on the Recreation Guide option from the Select Park menu of the app to discover all that there is to experience within the Disney World, but that’s offered outside of the actual theme parks. Here you’ll find details about everything from bike trails and bike rentals, to on-property heath clubs and spas, boat rentals, movies, swimming pools, tennis, golf, and fishing.

One great feature of this app is that it’s constantly updated with the very latest theme park hours, show and parade schedules, as well as Disney character meet and greet times, for example. So, from the Select Park menu, choose which park to visit first, and instantly see each park’s operating hours for that day.

Then, once you select a park, at the top of the screen you’ll see a detailed listing of the day’s events, including show and parade times. There’s also an interactive Guide Map that taps into the GPS capabilities of your iPhone or iPad, so you can easily find your way to all of the rides, shows, and attractions you’d like to experience, based on your current location within the park.

Along the bottom of the app, once you select a specific theme park, tap on the Attractions, Characters, Dining, Favorites, or More button to help you further explore the park and obtain up-to-the-minute information, which can help save you time.

For example, when you tap on the Attractions button, in addition to viewing the names and descriptions of every attraction within each theme park, you’ll have instant access to current wait times and FastPass information. This information can help you make the most use of your time, by discovering when the lines are the shortest for the attractions you want to experience the most. The app is also useful for helping you pick age-appropriate attractions for your kids, and then choosing the order to experience them that will follow the most efficient route (to cut down on excessive walking).

Tap on the Characters button to discover exactly where and when the various Disney characters are appearing within each theme park, and then use the app’s interactive map to help you find them quickly.

Tap on the Dining button to browse through the restaurants and fast food dining opportunities within each park. From your iOS mobile device, it’s easy to access the hours of operation and the complete menu for each dining option. The in-app filter makes it simple to find exactly the type of food you’re looking for, based on meal type (breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack), location, cuisine type, or budget. Once you pick a restaurant, the app will help you find it from your current location using the interactive Guide Map.

To help you plan your day at the park, be sure to add rides, shows and attractions to your Favorites list by tapping on the Favorites button, and then referring to your personalized list as you make your way through each theme park. The personalized Tip Board that the app generates based on your Favorites list will help you decide when the best time is to experience each ride, show, or attraction on your “must-see” list.

By tapping on the More button, you have access to the current and extended weather forecast for the Orlando area (so you know what to wear each day). It’s also possible to obtain details about the plethora of shopping opportunities in and around Disney World, gain access to Guest Services information, plus access WDW Transportation bus and monorail routes and schedules. The Disney Mobile Magic app even offers links to Disney-themed iPhone/iPad games (including trivia and character puzzles) you and your kids can enjoy while you’re waiting in lines for attractions and rides, for example.

Overall, the Disney Mobile Magic app is well-designed and intuitive. It offers more information than what you’d typically find in a full-length Orlando or Disney-related travel guide. So, as long as your iPhone/iPad has Internet access, be sure to install this free app to help you get the most out of your Disney vacation.

Other Useful Apps that Can Improve Your Vacation Experience

If you’re visiting the theme parks at Disney World, you’ll quickly discover that they’re massive and a lot of walking is required. If multiple people in your family have Internet-enabled iPhones or iPads, be sure to install Apple’s own Find My Friends app. This app allows you to quickly pinpoint the exact location of your friends (or family members), if you get separated or want to meet up at various times during the day.

And, to capture all of your vacation memories, consider using the camera that’s built in to your iPhone or iPad, in conjunction with the Camera and Photos apps that come preinstalled with iOS 6. There’s also a vast selection of easy-to-use photography-related apps that allow you to snap, edit, and then instantly share your vacation photos while on-the-go, plus publish your photos directly to Facebook, Twitter ,or Instagram, for example.

Charge Your iPhone and Enjoy Your Vacation

Be sure to charge up your iPhone/iPad during each night of your vacation so you can begin each day with a fully-charged battery. All of the travel-related apps you’ll be using require extensive Internet connectivity to fully function, and you want your iOS mobile device to remain functional and powered throughout the day. Plus, if you’ll be experiencing Disney’s water parks or some of the rides (like Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids) that often result in getting wet, be sure to secure your device within a waterproof case or take proper precautions.

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