As anyone who has ever done even a little bit of planning for a Disney World vacation knows, there are myriad websites boasting all kinds of information to help vacationers make the most of their time visiting The Mouse. I obviously spend quite a bit of time reading many of these sites and I have come to know which ones are worth my time. Without question, one of the best Disney World planning sites on the internet is easyWDW.com. Created by a guy named Josh back in 2010, easyWDW is chock full of incredibly detailed posts covering touring strategies, resort and restaurant reviews, attraction information, park news and minutia, and a great deal more. Josh spends lots of time visiting the Disney theme parks and surrounding venues, taking and editing all the photos for the site, and writing frequent updates. He is remarkably thorough and his writing style is witty, sarcastic and quite entertaining. Josh recently created a series of “Cheat Sheets” that are sure to rival any of the existing Disney World touring plans that are out there. His site is free–he charges no membership fees & has no ads. His fans frequently offer to buy him scotch or beg him to put a ‘donate’ button on the site as a way to thank him for all of his hard work. So far, though, Josh maintains easyWDW for all of us out of the kindness of his heart.
A few weeks ago I got in touch with Josh and was very fortunate that he agreed to an interview. So without further ado, I give you the elusive Josh.
(Disclaimer: I absolutely love Josh and his site–so much so that I have had to confess my secret crush to my husband and admit to him that I’m angling to meet Josh for a beer on my next trip to Disney World).
What’s your backstory? How did easyWDW come to exist?
I was trying to research a trip to Disney World for myself and my girlfriend at the time several years ago now. I was looking for detailed, honest information geared toward an intelligent, real life human being. Just about everything I read was either a rehash of a press release or a glossed over introduction using stock photos and the same information from Wikipedia. I realized that what I was searching for didn’t exist. So I started trying to put together a sort of online guidebook with as much pertinent, detailed information as I could find. After about a year, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do what I wanted to do from Seattle, so I moved to Orlando.
Are you still selling women’s clothing and electronics on ebay or has easyWDW become a profitable enterprise for you?
No and no. The website has made $71.19 from when I put up a few ads a couple years ago for a day or two.
EasyWDW is clearly a labor of love. How do you plan your upcoming posts and how do you manage to keep the site so incredibly up-to-date?
I usually find some excuse to visit the parks – whether it’s the arrival of the Pork Glop Platter at Pecos Bill or a new wall outside Dawa Bar. The thing about Disney World is while the big picture stuff doesn’t change that much, there are so many little details that do. While it might seem laughably inane to cover Rapunzel moving from Fairy Tale Gardens to Town Square Theater, it can have a pretty big impact on a family that wants to meet the character. So when something like that happens, I set out to find the best way possible to meet that character in the grand scope of a vacation with limited time and plenty of other priorities. So I usually go to the parks with one thing I know I want to cover and then whatever catches my eye from there goes into the post as fluff.
Regarding the great Touring Plans vs. easyWDW debate—why do you think your crowd calendars are the most reliable?
EasyWDW is the only website on the Internet that could tell you how many people Disney is expecting at a theme park each day and how many people actually set foot in that theme park. In that respect, it’s rare that the recommendations are “wrong.” Beyond that, I think people prefer the way I explain the recommendations, particularly why the parks may or may not be recommended and how to go about your day if you need to go a park that isn’t explicitly recommended.
Which park is your favorite and why?
I have an unpopular opinion. Animal Kingdom is my favorite park to visit, particularly after the parade clears people out. I spend a lot of time in hot, crowded theme parks like Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. An evening at Animal Kingdom is an opportunity to walk on great rides, grab a snack and enjoy sitting on a bench overlooking the water, or just spend a few minutes watching the animals. On the other hand, if I was only visiting for one day after being away from the parks for months or years, I would go to Magic Kingdom because there’s so much to do there.
When do you think is the best time of year to visit Disney World? Why?
The last week in January through the first week in February and the week after Thanksgiving through about the second week in December are my favorite. I’m always too hot and those are two examples of much cooler weather on top of lower crowds and inexpensive resort pricing. December is a special time with all the holiday decorations, shows, and parades. And late January is nice because, relatively speaking, there’s nobody there.
What’s the deal with these Magic Bands we’re seeing all this news about?
That’s a good question.
Tell me a little bit about how Fastpass+ works.
Details are not finalized. The general idea is that guests will be able to reserve certain attractions and experiences from the comfort of their computer or mobile device well in advance. So if your family wants to see Fantasmic and ride Toy Story Mania on October 7th 2014, you would be able to reserve spots before even setting foot inside Hollywood Studios. Of course, there are a limited number of spots for the most popular experiences. What it’s going to come down to is when guests will be able to reserve experiences and how many they’ll be able to reserve. And then from there, it’s a question as to how egalitarian the system will end up being. Will a family of four spending ten days at Grand Floridian Villas have the same access as a couple staying at the Best Western and visiting one day? That’s the sort of thing we don’t know and an answer that will probably evolve over time. I’m expecting the system to seem “fair” at the start and slowly but surely begin favoring those staying on-site and paying top dollar.
How do you think Fastpass+ is going to change your strategies for touring the parks?
The current strategy is fairly simple – arrive about 30 minutes before the park opens and take care of the attractions that will have long afternoon waits first. I think FastPass+ will make it easier to return in the afternoon or park hop to another park. Arriving late at Hollywood Studios in the summer means the only way to experience Toy Story Mania is to wait in a 60 to 120 minute standby line because regular FastPasses are gone. It’s a similar situation with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, though single rider is an option there. FastPass+ may give people the opportunity to book those popular rides in the afternoon and evening. So you could schedule Toy Story at 3pm, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 4pm, and Fantasmic at 8pm.
Where can we find your favorite beers in Disney World?
I like draft beer that’s difficult to find in stores. I can pop open a bottle of Sam Adams seasonal at home, so paying $7.25 at a bar is not something I ordinarily do. Right now, my favorite spot for beer is Tutto Gusto at Epcot’s Italy Pavilion, where they have several beers on draft that you won’t find anywhere else in the United States.
If spotted by a fan, will you sign autographs and pose for pictures?
Yes, I’m actually really nice. But also awkward. There’s a reason I’m on the Internet.
We all know Tom Bricker of Disney Tourist Blog fame is the TRUE Disney photography guru, but you obviously put a lot of care into the shots you post on the blog. Tell us about your photography style and philosophy.
First of all, that’s debatable. I don’t actually possess any sort of skill. I point and shoot just like everyone else. The trick to photography is really the post-processing, or what you do with the image after you take it. If you see a picture and think, “Wow, that’s a great shot,” chances are that the image has been manipulated heavily in Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or with other software. It’s amazing what you can do with an image in Lightroom.
What advice do you have for first time visitors to Disney World?
Focus on the four major theme parks and realize you can’t do everything in one trip. The add-ons are probably not necessary either. You don’t need park hoppers (and if you do, you can add them for the same price even after you start using your ticket), the Disney Dining Plan, etc. Try to ignore all the great reviews of restaurants at distant resorts. Vacation time is finite and a Disney vacation is expensive. Everything is farther away than you think it is and will take longer than you expect to do. Plan on one theme park per day, a meal inside the theme park or back at your resort, a break in the afternoon, and a return in the evening. That’s the recipe for a vacation where you maximize theme park time and have an opportunity to relax by the pool.
I don’t know how I will survive if easyWDW were ever to become defunct. What’s in the future for easyWDW? Can you promise your fans that you’ll always be here for us?
I will always be there for you.
Josh’s fan base just keeps growing. Check him out at easywdw.com. You, too, will soon find yourself looking forward to his frequent doses of Disney magic and great snark! Thanks, Josh! You are a gem!