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John Gushue
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Tips for a non-dizzy Disney trip

On a busy day, more people crowd into Disney World than live in St. John's, with about 90,000 crowding into the Magic Kingdom alone. No wonder Disney World feels like a city unto itself.

Earlier this month, our family braved the crowds for a week and emerged having had a wonderful time, largely devoid of stress. We avoided lineups, had a full itinerary and ate well, despite a plethora of junky options. To manage that we did our homework in advance, and that included consulting a website that charges for its advice, but turns out to have been money well spent indeed.

Surf's up - On a busy day, more people crowd into Disney World than live in St. John's, with about 90,000 crowding into the Magic Kingdom alone. No wonder Disney World feels like a city unto itself.

Earlier this month, our family braved the crowds for a week and emerged having had a wonderful time, largely devoid of stress. We avoided lineups, had a full itinerary and ate well, despite a plethora of junky options. To manage that we did our homework in advance, and that included consulting a website that charges for its advice, but turns out to have been money well spent indeed.

Tour Guide Mike

www.tourguidemike.com/

On the advice of my wife's friend, we plunked down about $22 for a customized plan from Tour Guide Mike. I'll confess that I found this to be a time-consuming process: the site asks you to describe your party (two adults, one kid in our case) and then puts what seems like a never-ending series of options before you.

The idea is to help you pick priorities for your trip. Looking at scores of rides, attractions, shows, meals and other options, this vacation planning seemed like work. On the other hand, it became clear that just heading there cold - and confronting the real thing in person - would have been worse.

The planning turned out to be a good use of our time. In a couple of evenings (you can save your work in progress, and indeed refine it as you go), we had a plan for the week but, more importantly, a set of tips that proved hugely valuable.

Some of them doubled with a guide book we bought, for about the same cost, but we were thankful from the start for some really sage advice.

One tip, which told us where to stand to watch the stunning Illuminations fireworks display at Epcot, was worth the cash alone.

It comes down to knowing how the crowds work. If a major show is on, for instance, that's a good time to check out competing attractions.

When that show gets out, you do not want to be anywhere near the exit points, and that includes the nearby attractions, which fill up immediately.

A downside: the information from Tour Guide Mike is, well, overwhelming, and not conducive to lugging around a park.

We printed off some of the materials, made a binder and took it with us; it actually made for helpful skimming in the evening, as we planned our next day.

We wound up taking some liberties with our original agenda, but I felt well advised on how to handle, and beat, the crowds. In the course of a week, we hardly ever waited more than a couple of minutes in a lineup.

Elsewhere this week:

Europe Map Quiz

www.ilike2learn.com/ilike2learn/europenew.html

How well do you know your European geography? This "spot-the-country" quiz is easy to play; hopefully, you'll do better than I did with placing some Eastern European countries.

Canadian Roadside Attractions

www.roadsideattractions.ca/

One look at this website and you might think it's a relic from a decade ago; appearances, though, are deceiving. The site has an outdated, hand-made look and feel, but updates are still being made. The purpose: cataloguing massive statues, planes, replicas and miscellaneous tourist attractions that dot the roads of Canada. It's a hoot, and a site you may want to explore before you hit the highway.

John Gushue is a news writer for CBCNews.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf@thetelegram.com. Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog: johngushue.typepad.com.

Organizations: Disney World

Geographic location: St. John's, Europe, Canada

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