If you know my family, you know that we have probably been to Walt Disney World more times than the Disney family themselves. We have gone at every time of year, gone for different events, gone at various times of day and with various crowds ahead of us. I have never before felt like I needed help in planning my trip – except for utilizing the awesome and amazing tips offered by the veterans of The Mouse For Less. This time, I was going with my four month old daughter, during some of the hottest weather of the year, and I wasn’t sure how many days I would have to spend at the parks or if I would be purchasing an annual pass that would encourage me to come back again soon. I got nervous about how this trip would go. Yes, I worked at Disney World. Yes, Jim worked at Disney World. Yes, Russell worked at Disney World. It’s not like I had no insider information. But hearing some of the praise from the members of The Mouse For Less email list about the benefits offered when you purchase Tour Guide Mike, and being nervous about making the most of this trip, I broke down and spent the money on Tour Guide Mike.
Tour Guide Mike can be purchased for a fee of $21.95 (there are discounts available through www.themouseforless.com which brings the price down to $18.95). What I THOUGHT Tour Guide Mike would do for me was give me a plan of attack, spelled out very clearly, guiding me through how I should spend the time I had while in Disney World. I thought, based on the days I would be traveling, I would have been given an itinerary similar to what you might get through a cruise director or travel agent, that told me how to make the most of my vacation – seeing as many sights as I could, taking in as many attractions as I could, telling me which days to go where and why. But, in addition to having all of this information, I wanted it spelled out before me, easy to access, easy to remember, or simple to cart with me.
I want to start by saying I did not puchase Tour Guide Mike until about 2 weeks before my trip. Assuming, as I had, that it would be a very specific itinerary for me and my family, I did not anticipate the volume of information that would be available at the site. Nor did I anticipate that it would not be as easy to find as I expected it to be. I immediately felt overwhelmed. There was no way I would have time in the two weeks leading up to the trip to read everything that was available. There is also a community there where you can join others who are traveling the same month you are traveling. You need approval from the community leader before participating, and I did not get my approval until a few days before we left, so the community that was discussing my month was of completely no value to me.
When you sign up for this service, you put in a few pieces of basic information – like the ages of the people you are traveling with, when you are going to Disney World, whether or not you are staying on property – and based on that information, you are guided to a series of articles that Mike has written that may or may not pertain to your party. There are a ton of articles. With the amount of time I had remaining before my trip, there was no way I was going to read through all of the articles. I did my best to read through the express versions of the articles, but every article I clicked on seemed to be related in some way to another article that I should read, and then I wouldn’t get back to where I started and I would feel overwhelmed all over again.
Finally, I was able to piece together some information that pertained to us by going to the sample itineraries. The thing is, because we have been so many times to Walt Disney World, many of the tips he provides are things we have figured out long ago. And, they are tips that you can find by asking cast members at the theme parks, checking the boards with the wait times and show times. While you may not know the questions to ask if this is your first or even your second trip to Disney World, you will have figured it out if you have already been there a few times. And if you are reading this as you are planning your first trip, you know now that the tips Mike is offering you for $22 you can get for free from many of the CMs at the theme parks.
I ended up printing out nearly 100 pages of stuff, most of which I did not use, because as I found time to read it during our drive down to Florida from New Jersey, it was information I already knew. And when I put the dates in for my trip, I indicated that we would be there from August 24th through September 2nd, but I could not figure out any way at all to access the information for September.
The things I got the most use out of from the pages I printed out were the opening and closing times of the theme parks and the days the parks had their Extra Magic Hours. But all of that information is available for FREE at the Disney website, at the front desk of any Disney resort, at the theme parks, and at a variety of other websites. Had I not printed it all out, I would have just looked it up online.
I want to emphasize that there might be tremendous value in Tour Guide Mike IF:
– this is your first trip to Walt Disney World
– you have plenty of time to read thoroughly all of his articles with the tips and information he provides
– you want to go to Disney with your day planned out pretty much to the minute with little flexibility
– you have never been to the theme parks when they are at their most busy and you are looking for tips to avoid the lines and you don’t want to do the work yourself to figure out how to do this.
For my family, having been to Disney numerous times, knowing our way around as well as we know our own home, and already possessing much of the information provided by Tour Guide Mike, I could have spent the money on a t-shirt instead.
Oh, one last thing, Tour Guide Mike does offer a satisfaction guarantee. Once you are signed up, you no longer see any information about the guarantee, but on the page that tells you how much to pay to sign up, it is there. We contacted him by email telling him we were not satisfied with our purchase, and we were told that a refund would be granted, and we are the first people since he began his business in 2002 to request a refund. I think that may be because many people will dismiss the $20 as money down the drain, or once they have gotten their log in information, they no longer see that there is a guarantee. It could be that people just are too embarassed to request the refund. I know others who have purchased this and been disappointed in what they found, so even though we may be the only ones to have gotten our money back, I’m sure it’s only because my husband was brave enough to ask.