||In This Newsletter
From the Authors: U.S. International Travel Rules, Meet Us in Deeetroit!
Travel Feature: Busch Gardens Africa
Disney Feature: Walt Disney World On A Budget
Updates: What's New and Changed
Tips: Passcode Protector, Love Those Labels, Super Strips
Captain's Corner: Ground Level Detail
PassPorter PhotoPick: Rainbow Over American Adventure
Q and A: Update on International Travel Rules
Our Sponsors: We Recommend...
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What's New and Changed
Here are a few items of relevant news:
Tickets for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party go on sale May 1, 2008. Ticket prices have not been announced. The dates will be September 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 28, 30
October 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, & 31
These dates reflect both the earliest dates the event has ever been held as well as the largest number of parties.
On Friday, March 28, 2008 a tripped circuit breaker caused a power outage to Epcot's Main Entrance and part of Future World. Power was restored within 30 minutes. Some guests were escorted off attractions to allow for time to reset.
The Cheesecake Factory Express located inside DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney will close when its lease expires in May. The eatery will be replaced with FoodQuest, a counter-service location that will be owned and operated by Disney.
Our thanks to AllEars.net and MousePlanet.com from which we get some of our news leads.
Hear some news? Be a "PassPorter Reporter" and send it to us!
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From Fellow Readers
Our readers deliver a wealth of information! Here are the winners in this month's tip contest:
"Disneyland has 'smart' lockers where you are given a passcode to enter in a computer to open your locker. Make sure to write this number down in your PassPorter or put in your cell phone. I did, but noticed many guests scrambling through their purses looking for their receipt with passcode."
-- contributed by Kalli M.
LOVE THOSE LABELS
"I order self-adhesive address labels. We use these for all of the electronics that almost everyone now owns, including cell phones, cameras, laptops, etc, and all their accompanying gear. They are also helpful for labeling the digital storage media, in case it gets lost before being uploaded. We've also used them for labeling our luggage tags as well as attaching one to a small card which is placed inside each bag, both checked and carry on, handbags, wallets, day packs, etc. We are even going to try to use them for shipping our many in-park purchases; they are so much faster than filling out those forms!"
-- contributed by Maxine S.
"Having just sent my 15-year-old son on his first band trip to Walt Disney World alone, I can't stress the value of packing a surge protector type extension cord. As with most teens and many adults, they have their cell phones, iPods, digital cameras, portable DVD players, and other electronic "necessities" that they must have. On this trip there were four teenagers in one hotel room with their must-haves. I made certain to add one of the surge protector strips to his luggage on this trip. It also freed up some outlet space so that all four boys could plug in their electronic devices. From now on, I'm going to pack a surge protector for each trip just as a safety precaution. They take up only a tiny space in the suitcase, but the peace of mind is well worth it."
-- contributed by Laura E.
Send us your tips! You may see them in this newsletter and win a copy of PassPorter!
Want more Disney tips? For Walt Disney World fans, we've collected 500 of the best tips submitted by readers over the past six years. All have been edited for accuracy and categorized. For details, visit the PassPorter Disney 500 info page or the PassPorter store. For Disney Cruise Line fans, we have an e-book with 250 cruiser tips, as well as a special cruise line comparison section and seven customized packing lists. For information, visit the Disney Cruise Clues info page.
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Treasure Hunting Game
Play our fun and quirky treasure hunting game, hosted by Captain Jack Skatt from our book, "PassPorter's Treasure Hunts at Walt Disney World."
Here is this week's journal entry:
The Captain makes a study of the delightful details -- sometimes hidden, sometimes in plain sight but often overlooked -- at Walt Disney World and aboard the Disney Cruise Line. Using notes from his journals, he will lead you to this "treasure" at Disney with clues, questions, photos, or riddles. Your challenge is to discover the answer by searching your memory, visiting Disney, or even just looking really hard on the Internet. If you think you've found the answer, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org -- the first person to correctly submit the FULL answer will receive a free PassPorter enamel pin or PassPorter name badge pin. (Please note: Players can win once every 3 months.)
"After discovering the plaque about the steam engine inventor last week, I've been paying more attention to the ground as I walk about the parks. Most people never notice the little details beneath their feet. Indeed, I found another plaque embedded in the pavement today. It's smallish and silver, with the words 'Walt Disney World P.I. 991510' stamped on it. I wonder what it means. Perhaps it is a secret rendezvous point for a clandestine meeting!"
Where can you spot this plaque at Walt Disney World and what does it mean? For bonus credit, locate the photographic evidence in the PassPorter Photo Archive and post a comment with the photo!
Send your full answer to email@example.com -- the winner will be notified by e-mail and announced in a future newsletter, along with the correct answer!
Congratulations to Jyl who was the winner of last week's trivia contest! Jyl was the first person to identify the location of the plaque as on the ground between The Land pavilion and Innoventions. Jyl was also the first person to find the photo on our web site. To view the original clue, see last week's newsletter.
If you enjoy treasure hunts, we've got an entire book with over 100 distinct treasure hunts and over 1500 questions, complete with clues and contributions from Captain Jack Skatt. Get more details on "PassPorter's Treasure Hunts at Walt Disney World" book at http://www.passporterstore.com.
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Each issue we choose a special photo from the PassPorter Photo Archive which highlights something beautiful, interesting, humorous, or timely at Disney or around the world. Here is this issue's PassPorter PhotoPick:
Rainbow Over American Adventure
contributed by cgai729
(click the photo or link to see a larger photo with details)
You can nominate photos as a PassPorter PhotoPick by giving ratings in the PassPorter Photo Archive (you'll need to be logged in to do this). If you'd like to contribute your own photos to the Photo Archive and be considered as a PhotoPick, please read our Photo Upload Guidelines for details and benefits.
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Q and A:
With Jennifer and Dave
We're pre-empting this week's Q and A for an important update on U.S. Land/Sea travel rules.
After several years of change and uncertainty, the U.S. government has announced final rules for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), the law that requires a passport (or limited equivalents) for travelers entering the U.S. by air, land, or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
For PassPorter readers, the big news is that passports will not be required for U.S. citizen cruise ship passengers on itineraries that originate in, and return to, the same U.S. port (such as Disney Cruise Line's Caribbean and West Coast itineraries.) Those passengers are still allowed to depend upon the two-document ID system we've known for years - a government-issued photo ID plus proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate. Passengers on other itineraries, such as "repositioning" cruises that leave one U.S. port and end at another will need passports, however.
Passports will be necessary for nearly all other international border crossings, so here at PassPorter, we still recommend that all travelers obtain a passport.
Passports are now available in several forms. Best, in our opinion, is what is now known as a "Passport Book," the traditional U.S. passport. It can be used for every kind of travel, world-wide. Cheaper (but no easier to obtain), is the new "Passport Card," which is only good for land and sea crossings between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Basically the same as the Passport Card is a state-issued "Enhanced Driver's License" (EDL). So far, only the State of Washington is offering this new, extra-cost option, but we expect many other border states to offer EDLs, which will be of most use to individuals who frequently drive across the U.S. border.
Here's a listing of what kind of ID adult U.S. citizens can use for what kind of border crossing, and when the requirement goes into effect:
- International air travel - passport book - now
International sea travel to/from Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific - passport book - now
- International land or sea travel to/from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda - proof of identity and citizenship (such as government-issued photo ID plus birth certificate) - now (oral declarations of citizenship have not been accepted since January 31, 2008).
- International land or sea travel to/from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda - passport book, passport card, EDL, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST - June 1, 2009
- Round-trip cruise ship travel originating in and ending at the same U.S. port - government-issued photo ID plus birth certificate or other proof of citizenship - now
Some Canadian provinces also plan to issue EDLs. While in theory Canadian cruise ship passengers on round-trip cruise itineraries originating in a U.S. port can use government-issued photo ID and a birth record, after June 1, 2009 they'll need more than that drive across the U.S. border before the cruise, and if they fly, they already need a passport. In practice, cruise lines will probably continue to require passports from any non-U.S. citizen. Will they accept province-issued EDLs? No word at this time, although the new regulations allow it (cruise lines have been known to play it safe by requiring more than the law demands, since the lines must "certify" their passenger manifests to U.S. and foreign governments).
The WHTI is part of a "one-two punch" in travel ID requirements. The other "punch" is the REAL ID Act, which we wrote about recently (that article has been updated since original release). The REAL ID Act is intended to improve the security of state-issued photo ID. This law affects domestic U.S. air travel, which requires government-issued photo ID for adults. The good news is that, for now, every state's photo ID continues to be good for domestic air travel. Every state and U.S. jurisdiction (District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, etc.) has now requested and received an extension from the U.S. government. The next deadline air travelers have to worry about is December 31, 2009, when those extensions expire/have to be renewed.
More information about all these issues can be found at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security web site http://www.dhs.gov/xtrvlsec/
Have a question? Post questions at http://www.passporterboards.com -- and if you're lucky, you may find that folks have already asked and answered the same question that's on your mind!
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Want To See Your Name in Print?
PassPorter News is published weekly, and this means we're always in need of articles! We're on the lookout for guest columnists who want to contribute articles to this newsletter. No professional writing experience is necessary, just a desire to share your experience with others! Not only is this a great way to give something back to the PassPorter community, but you get to see your name in "print" and receive a $25 gift certificate for use at www.passporter.com.
For details and our article submission guidelines, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Articles about Disney and general travel are welcomed!
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PassPorter only accepts advertising from services of the highest quality -- we recommend these companies because we use them ourselves. Please support our sponsors and, in turn, support this newsletter! This week's sponsors are (in order of appearance):
MouseEarVacations.com -- Disney Cruise Line Special Offers
Mouse Fan Travel -- Exclusive Decade of Dreams Offer
ALL STAR Vacation Homes -- Choose from more than 150 homes within 4 miles of Disney World
|| From the Authors: U.S. International Travel Rules, Meet Us in Deetroit!
We've had our noses buried in the recently-released final rules for land and sea travel into the U.S. (see our report elsewhere in this newsletter), and have also been getting ready for a last-minute public appearance in Detroit (see below). They tell us the weather outside is finally spring-like, but what do we know?
PassPorter's Disney Cruise Line and its Ports of Call 2008 is in stock! All orders of our cruise guide ship the next business day.
Our newest e-book, PassPorter's Answer Book: Expert Answers to Common Disney and Travel Questions is now available to PassPorter's Club passholders as a regular benefit of membership, and it is available for order (and immediate download) in the PassPorter store to everyone! This is a great compendium of helpful information from the same experts who help folks day in and day out at the PassPorter message board community, our message board Guides.
This is very last-minute, but if you're within reasonable driving distance of Detroit this weekend (and we know at least some of you are), you're invited to come and meet us at the NFFC Southeast Michigan Chapter's first "Mostly Disney" Show and Sale. We'll have books for sale, and feel free to bring your own PassPorters - our autographing pens will be full of ink. We'd love to see you there! The event is this Sunday, April 6, from 11:00 am until 4:00 pm at the Roostertail Club, located at the foot of Marquette Drive (adjacent to Waterworks Park) on the Detroit River. The special guest for the event is Disney artist Alex Maher. Admission is $4, and children under 10 are free.
We're happy to announce that PassPorter Travel Press will be exhibiting at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 26 and 27, 2008 (next month). Dave will be on hand to represent us. He'll have selected PassPorter books available for sale, autographing pen in hand, and we're planning a PassPorter Meet sometime during the event (come join the discussion to set the day and time). Admission is free (parking is $8.00), so it's quite a deal! If you can get to the UCLA campus, we'd love to see you there! We're in booth 657, in Zone F - Dickson Court North.
Will you be joining us for PassPorter's Decade of Dreams Tour? PassPorter is celebrating our 10th anniversary in 2009 in a year-long celebration from coast-to-coast! Everyone is invited and all are warmly welcome to join us at all or part of our celebration. We are combining small parties (meets) with grand, multi-day trips, including a 7-night Disney Cruise, a 4-night stay at Walt Disney World, and a Disneyland visit that includes park time and an Adventures by Disney expedition. See our Tour Schedule for the latest details.
|PassPorter's Club Update
More than 1300 vacationers are now enjoying access to all our e-books, e-worksheets, and super-sized photo archive images.Thank you for your continued support!
Our newest e-book, PassPorter's Answer Book is now available for download. This 85-page e-book is full of the detailed, up-to-date information on the topics that really matter to you.
We have two brand-new e-worksheets for you to use to plan your next trip (click the link to go directly to them): the Daily Meal Log e-worksheet and the Deluxe Dining Plan e-worksheet!
More details at http://www.passporter.com/club
In this issue, Featured Columnist Cheryl Pendry heads to Florida's Gulf Coast for a visit to Busch Gardens Africa, in Tampa. Then, PassPorter Guide Sue Kulick begins a four-part series on Walt Disney World on a Budget. Finally, Jack Skatt is back with a brand-new Walt Disney World Treasure Hunt. Have a great week!
Dave and Jennifer Marx
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|| Travel Feature:
Busch Gardens Africa
by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
It's not often that we make it over to Busch Gardens in Tampa to enjoy a taste of Africa. It's not that we don't like the park - far from it. It's the fact that it's located around an hour and a half's drive from Walt Disney World, so to go there really is a full day out of your vacation. So is it worth it? The answer is definitely yes. If you've got time, it's worth the drive.
The whole theming of the park is designed to transport you into Africa, with different lands that represent different countries and areas of that continent, such as Morocco, Egypt and Nairobi. There are also some lands that have nothing to do with Africa, such as Timbuktu and the Land of Dragons, but that's because these areas tend to be either packed with rides or aimed at younger members of the family.
Busch Gardens is very much a mix of two distinct theme park attractions - the big headliner rides, with lots of roller coasters for any fan of thrill rides, and animals. It's the latter that we go for, but it's worth knowing that if you are going for the rides, you're not going to be disappointed.
A quick look at the Busch Gardens web site will immediately tell you that many of their coasters are among the largest, the fastest, and generally the scariest that you'll find anywhere. For example, Gwazi is described as the "southeast's largest and fastest double wooden roller coaster," while SheiKra is the "nation's first dive coaster" with "first of a kind elements like a true 90 degree drop" and then there's Montu, described as "one of the tallest and longest inverted roller coasters in the world." You get the idea.
I'm the sort of person who feels sick just watching these rides, never mind going anywhere near them! The rides here are probably closest to Universal's Islands of Adventure in ride intensity, so the drive will be worthwhile for anyone who wants to experience some of the top coasters that Florida has to offer.
However, for us, there's much more to Busch Gardens that being flung upside down, around corners and having the life terrified out of you. On our first visit, we did wonder how much we would enjoy it, suspecting that it may just be a clone of Disney's Animal Kingdom. We were happy to learn it is not a clone.
The first difference you'll notice is that there are animals scattered almost throughout the park. Turn a corner and you could come across elephants or crocodiles. Yes, there are trails, as you find at Animal Kingdom and there's a huge savannah as well, but somehow the animals are more obvious here. You don't have to explore the park in the same way you do at Animal Kingdom to discover them.
The main trails take you the Great Ape Domain, which is beautifully themed with waterfalls and of course features primates of all sizes, including gorillas and chimpanzees. You can also venture to the Edge of Africa, which features animals such as hippos and lions. This is such a pleasant change from Animal Kingdom -- instead of desperately trying to spot the lion on the rock in the safari, you can get close and personal with these beautiful creatures, with some wonderful glass viewing areas into their enclosures.
However, the trails are just a part of the story. The main attraction is the Serengeti Plain that you can view from a number of different angles. First, there's the Serengeti Express Railway that runs round the edge of it or you can soar over it on the Skyride, which is a great way to get from one part of the park to another.
Perhaps the most exciting way to get into the Serengeti Plain - and get up really close and personal with the animals - is to jump on the Rhino Rally. It's Busch Garden's first foray into mixing a ride with animals, and they didn't do this by halves. It starts off just as you do on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom in a vehicle, albeit a lot more bumpy. It's worth knowing that they don't stop for photos and they don't encourage you to use a camera while you're on the ride, although we've managed to get some fine shots on each of our trips round the rally course.
It's halfway round that things suddenly change. This is no ordinary safari. There's a swollen river in front of you and no way of getting across it. Just when it seems you're in dire trouble, your vehicle miraculously changes into a floating off-road vehicle; and just at the point when you're facing more peril in the water, you end up back on land. It's a fascinating ride, the like of which you won't find at any of the other parks and it's definitely one to try out on any visit to Busch Gardens.
As if this isn't enough variety, one of the other areas of the park is the Clydesdale Hamlet that's home to these beautiful creatures and Sprint the donkey, made famous by the Super Bowl ads. This area of the park is very different, as you leave Africa behind to head firmly back into American theming.
Another part of the park that's very different is Land of the Dragons. If you have little ones in your party, this is the area to head to, as everything here is designed with them in mind. Our niece and nephew loved it. In fact, it was a struggle to drag them away from it!
There's so much to see and do here, it makes for a very packed day. In fact, if you are a die-hard coaster fan, it could be worth spending more than one day out of your vacation at Busch Gardens Africa to cram everything in. It's only possible to touch on some of the highlights here, but hopefully this is enough to make you think twice about adding in at least a day's excursion over to Tampa to enjoy one of the hidden gems of the Florida theme park world.
About the Author: Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to America. They are in the process of visiting every Disney theme park around the world, having already spent a day in Disneyland Resort Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland so far this year. They are looking forward to returning to America in October to visit both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California.
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Did you enjoy this article? Have questions? E-mail us at email@example.com or visit http://www.passporterboards.com to discuss your travel plans. Also check out our Article Collection for more great information!
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Walt Disney World On A Budget (Part 1: Accommodations)
by Sue Kulick, PassPorter Featured Columnist
You've seen the commercials on TV, "Disney for $1600 dollars? Yeah, we can do that!" followed by the thundering hooves of six white ponies and a glass coach. The marketing behind that commercial is great, but most budgets really don't include the $2700 for the coach and the ponies! While a Disney vacation will never be "cheap" there are definitely ways to do it on a budget and have a fantastic time. Over the course of this four-part series we are going to talk about seasons, transportation, lodging, park tickets, dining, and souvenirs.
The first, and perhaps the most important, decision to make is when you are planning to go. The Walt Disney World Resort divides the calendar into "seasons" and there is a difference in lodging and dining prices during those seasons. There is also a difference in crowd levels, and that can make a difference in your budget, too! For 2008, the Walt Disney World seasons are divided like this:
Value season: 1/1-2/13, 8/3-10/1 (for Value and Moderate resorts), 7/2-10/1 (for Deluxe resorts) and 11/30-12/18 (all resorts).
Regular season: 3/30-5/21 (for Value and Moderate resorts) 3/30-7/19 (for Deluxe resorts), and 10/2-11/29 (all resorts).
Summer season: 5/22-8/2
Peak season: 2/14-3/29
Holiday season: 12/19-12/31
Prices for lodging and even some dining increases with the seasons. (More on that later!) The least expensive time to visit is during Value Season. For those traveling with younger children, the decision on whether to take the children out of school needs to be made. Summertime, spring break and Christmas break are the highest seasons, since that is a common time for families to travel.
For the sake of this article, we have chosen August 16-24th for our budget vacation. Our family of four includes Mom, Dad, and two children, ages 5 and 9.
If you make the decision to go during Value Season, you might end up getting better mileage from your vacation dollar. Lines are shorter, restaurants less crowded, transportation easier to navigate. So how does this help your budget? Well, here's how NOT to do it.
One year, my husband and I took my stepson and nephew during spring break. We were resort guests, and we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. The driver told us that the park had been closed to all but resort guests by this time, about 4:00 pm. The maximum capacity was 50,000, and the park was already up to 60,000! Due to the crowds, we needed to pick which attractions we really wanted to see. We rode Haunted Mansion, Alien Encounter, and the Tomorrowland Transportation Authority. All FASTPASSes were already gone for the day. We had dining reservations at Tony's Town Square, for which we waited almost an hour to be seated. After dinner, we did Space Mountain and Carousel of Progress. By that time, it was after 10:00 pm, and we were all exhausted, so we headed back to the resort.
Was this the best use of our vacation dollar? Absolutely not. We paid the same price for park tickets that we would have had we gone in September when there are no lines. The boys were disappointed to miss such favorites as Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean. It made the price paid for the tickets seem a bit over-the-top to Mom and Dad. So traveling in off-season will help you get more bang for your vacation buck!
So now that you have decided when to travel (during Value Season if at all possible), it's time to decide where to stay. You have two choices; on-property and off-property. There are pros and cons to each, and the difference in the costs can be a deciding factor. Let's look at off-property accommodations first.
Orlando offers a plethora of vacation accommodation choices. Accommodations are available at well-known chain hotels for as little as $60/night depending on the time of year. Or, you can stay at a hotel that offers suites, which often include a fridge and microwave. One such chain is located three miles from the main gate of WDW, and for $127/night, you get a kitchenette, as well as access to a free hot breakfast every day. This can be a big savings! There are also many vacation homes available for rent by the night or the week. These often include a full kitchen and a bedroom suite, and can be found for as low as $79/night! If you are staying off-property, be sure to find out what type of shuttle service your hotel offers. If your hotel does not offer shuttle service, or you want to go other places than WDW, you will need to figure transportation into your budget. And if you do rent a car, as a day guest, parking at WDW will cost you $11/day.
Now let's look at on-property resorts.
On-property will usually cost you more per night. A Value Resort will cost you an average of $82/night for a standard room. There are no in-room cooking facilities, and no free hot breakfasts! You may not get as much room for your money, but there are perks that come with staying on site. First, you can utilize Disney's free airport transportation service, Disney's Magical Express, to get from the airport to your hotel room (more on that under transportation). Second, you will have access to all WDW on-site transportation systems - monorail, bus, and boat. Third, you will not have to pay the $11 day parking charge, even if you have a car with you and drive to the parks. This amount can really add up. For our 8 day vacation, that's $88 in your pocket! On-property guests can also take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, which can add up to four hours to your daily time in the theme parks. And of course, there is the famous Disney service and theming. If you are looking for a vacation home with cooking facilities, Disney Vacation Club Villas are available for nightly stays, but a studio starts at $285/night, not exactly a bargain. There are ways to maximize your dining dollar even without cooking facilities, but we'll get to that under dining!
The choice of on- or off-property is a very personal and budget-conscious one. You must take into account the cost, the transportation, the dining, and what is important to you when you vacation. If you like the idea of being immersed in the Disney magic, having the ability to head back to your resort at any time for some down time, and not having to worry about your own transportation, then an on-property resort might be for you. If you don't spend a lot of time at your resort, want to see attractions other that Disney, and love the idea of a free breakfast, staying at an off-property resort might be just the ticket for you!
Check back next week for Part 2: Getting To and From Walt Disney World On A Budget!
About the Author: Sue Kulick is a resident of the Pocono Mountains and an avid Disney fan. She and her husband, Steve, live in a log home with their Golden Retrievers, Cody and Belle and their cats Tigger, Rocky, and Adrian.
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Did you enjoy this article? Have questions? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.passporterboards.com to discuss your Disney vacation plans. Also check out our Article Collection for more great information!
| Did You Know?
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Special for PassPorter News readers: