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Unread 12-03-2001, 02:36 PM
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Nationals accomodations, etc

Can anyone brief me on the details of Florida accomodations? How many team members have to stay in the EPCOT hotel? Where is the best place to by cheap tickets, and how cheap is cheap (from the pacific NW)? What about renting cars? How many do people realistically need (per X members)? Anyone want to recommend cheap hotels/motels in the area, based on previous years' experiences? Where do people get the Disney World tickets, and if it's all through a FIRST package, how much was it last year? All advice is appreciated.
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Unread 12-03-2001, 05:14 PM
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Re: Nationals accomodations, etc

Quote:
Originally posted by Caliostro
Can anyone brief me on the details of Florida accomodations? How many team members have to stay in the EPCOT hotel? Where is the best place to by cheap tickets, and how cheap is cheap (from the pacific NW)? What about renting cars? How many do people realistically need (per X members)? Anyone want to recommend cheap hotels/motels in the area, based on previous years' experiences? Where do people get the Disney World tickets, and if it's all through a FIRST package, how much was it last year? All advice is appreciated.
It sounds to me like you've never been to Walt Disney World

FIRST offers a number of different packages to teams that include both on-site and off-site accomodations.

On-site accomodations are Disney owned and operated hotels, and include the All-Star Resorts and Disney's Pop Century (if construction is finished) Resort, Port Orleans: Riverside, Caribbean Beach Resort, and one other. They are all on Disney property, and the teams have complete access to the Walt Disney World transportation system, which includes monorails, water taxis, and buses. It's free to use, and you can get from any one place on Disney property to any other place - usually very, very quickly.

Off-site hotels are privately owned hotels off of Walt Disney World property that are working with Disney and FIRST under contract to house teams for the competition. They're a bit further from the parks - usually requiring a 15-20 bus trip to get to the competition site. For FIRST, special bus service is provided that doesn't otherwise exist. Again, it's free. Once you're on Walt Disney World property, you may again use their transportation to get around.

Often, teams arrange transportation via coach bus from Orlando International Airport to their accomodations, eliminating the need for rentals cars at all. If you're only planning on visiting Walt Disney World, you rarely need a rental car.

The packages offered by FIRST run ~$425/student for the Value category, on-site hotels. That's the All-Star Resorts and Disney's Pop Century Resort. It's about ~$500 for the Moderate category, which have nicer ammenities, cooler pools, etc. That's the Port Orleans, Caribbean Beach Resort and the other who's name I can't recall.

The off-site hotels are similarly priced.

All FIRST packages include accomodations for 3 or 4 nights, corresponding park entrance media (4 or 5 day Park Hopper passes, which allow students unlimited access to Walt Disney World's 4 theme parks for either 4 or 5 days), as well as a number of meals (6, I think). You also get a commemorative T-shirt.

If you opt to circumvent FIRST's approved packages and book on your own, there are some things you should know.

It is possible to get lower rates than the package provides, especially since tourism has taken a big hit lately. Busch Gardens Tampa and Sea World Orlando are currently offering a package with two-nights accomodations and two days worth of admittance to the parks for only $48.75, which is about the price for entrance to a single theme park. So, maybe that'll give you an idea of the deals that are out there.

FIRST, for the first time, is going to apply some sort of surcharge to teams who opt out of the packages, to cover the additional transportation that Disney provides FIRST teams - including those buses that travel to off-site properties. I'm not sure how much that'll cost, and if it'll make booking on your own ineffective.

In any case, teams are always on their own arranging for travel to Orlando. I'm not at all sure of airfare costs from the Northwest down to Florida. From New York City, our airfare is now approximately $150 round trip - down from $300+.

Finally - you really cannot, and should not, buy park admission media from anyone but Disney. Group rates are available, if you book on your own, and will save a good amount of regular retail prices. I think we saved about $60 on each 5 day ticket we purchased last year.

4 day park hopper passes currently go for - $203.52
5 day park hopper - $230.02
5 day park hopper PLUS (includes admission to water parks) - $261.84

Anyway - back to why you shouldn't get them anywhere but from Disney -

The admission tickets are really quite like credit cards (and can be used as such with proper authorization!) They are individualized, and carry all of your personal data and admission options in their magnetic strip. Looking at a ticket, there is absolutely no way to tell if it has been used. The only way to find out how many admissions remain on a ticket is to check at a Disney turnstile at the entrance to the parks. It's a very, very common practice for people to resell expired ticket media to people look for a good deal - and when you get to the parks you're out of luck.

Like I said, there's just no way to know.

That's all I can think of for now. If you've got more questions, fire away
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Unread 12-04-2001, 02:38 AM
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On the subject of team member numbers:

I'd say budget for those who you absolutely need or require operation and administrative purposes. Based on last years game, you definately need two drivers, one human player and an adult mentor/teacher on your team also a person to do scouting if prefered. I think that would be the minumum. But Obviously more people go into making and planning the team than that. Also if you only brought 5 people you would be exhausted by the time you see day 3 or 4 I'm guessing. Depending on your budget and administrative privleges on your schools end you can bring as many people as you want to (I think). I don't know if there is a limit per team set out by FIRST. Make sure you have the right student to adult ratio as set out by your school if applicable.

For example Last year we had 50 people go. Students, Parents, Teachers, Mentors and Engineers. (Lots of fundraising was invlved. lol) This year we are planning a ghost team to go to Nats if we make it, maybe 15 people at the most. Make sure you have enough adults to handle the students and enough student to play the game. If you can't afford the park's admissions I'd say skip it, even though that's what the biggest perk is from the beginning to hold it at Disney.

Also some teams bring cheerleaders, band members and the like. But just determine what your budget is going to be for the year ASAP and start planning and making reservations now.

And hey, maybe whoever goes from your team will be able to see "IT" up close at the closing cermonies this year just like the Ibot was shown last year.

Most of all, Remember to have fun!!!
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Unread 12-04-2001, 10:05 PM
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Holy cow!! 50 people?! Wow. Last year (on 271) we had about 20 people go. And then, we didn't use the FIRST package. We stayed off Disney property and bought our tickets separately and of course, paid for our own meals. This year (on 810) we're bringing as many people that want to go, and can afford it. And we will be using the FIRST package. But we're starting to plan all of that now (like flights and stuff). We want to be able to get good flights. I remember last year team 263 (my other old team whew...I'm starting to lose count ) didn't come in until Thursday morning. Their engineer had taken a flight the day before and was setting things up in their pit. He had to go pick up the 5 members that were driving and such at the airport, and they made their first practice round by less than 10 minutes (and they were lucky they had a late round). So, after seeing that, and seeing what happens if you wait too long (which doesn't make me envy the teams that will be coming after winning a regional), we're starting to get everything together now.

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Unread 12-04-2001, 11:22 PM
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Where did you stay, if I may ask? We're looking to get a good deal, since we might have about 40 people there, and don't want everyone paying $600/night.

Does FIRST have a site that lists projected expenses? Or better yet, last year's hotel/package rates? Thanks!
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Unread 12-05-2001, 07:47 AM
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A quick correction regarding the prices I mentioned -

With the exception of airfare, the ~$450 is all-inclusive. It's for 3 or 4 nights lodging, transportation to and from the competition, and admission media into all 4 of Walt Disney World's theme parks.

It wouldn't even be close to $600 a night for your students.

Team 271 booked outside of the FIRST packages at a cost of ~$500/student, I think. It may have been more, though.

Personally, Christina and I made our reservations on our own, and we payed (individually) ~$300 for airfare, ~$250 for lodging, ~$200 for park tickets, and ~$150 for meals. Don't ask about souvenirs

You can find last year's booking information here - http://www2.usfirst.org/2k1comp/manu...ionals-pt2.pdf

I don't recall the name of the hotel we stayed at with team 271, but Christina might. I'll ask her when I see her later this morning.
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Unread 12-05-2001, 12:49 PM
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Nationals Accommodations

I have been coordinating the travel for Team #365. I spoke with some FIRST folks last week and they divulged (after a bit of prodding) that there will be a $75 surcharge for each team member not using the Disney FIRST package. When asked about what the $75 actually gets you (or deprives you of if you don't pay it), I was told that it was mainly the Team Party (presumably held at Epcot again this year).

After doing some cost comparisons, The Miracle Workerz will most likely stay off site again this year (we have done this the past two years). In the past, we have rented houses for our team. This is nice in that (1) the cost is lower per person overall, (2) we can purchase the park hopper pass that makes the most sense for us (3 day is usually more than enough), (3) we make a trip to the local grocery store and buy most of our food this way, make sandwiches, cereal for breakfast, etc., (4) we have a nice space for group meetings in a private environment, and (5) each house has a swimming pool.

On the flip-side, we are not at the park, so we do have to commute there each day, transportation logistics may be a bit more difficult, and the off-competition time interaction with other teams is limited. However, as an adult leader on our team, I feel much more in control of our situation and feel that we are able to interact more as a team.

Every team may have their preferences when it comes to Disney travel and lodging. We have felt that our current setup works well for us.

Best of luck to everyone this season. Safe travels to all.
Go MOE!

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Unread 12-05-2001, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Michael Krass

I don't recall the name of the hotel we stayed at with team 271, but Christina might. I'll ask her when I see her later this morning.
Last year, we stayed at the Days Suites Maingate East.

The good part about staying on property is not having to worry about transportation. But, there is usually a shuttle bus between the hotel and EPCOT. But if you miss it, you'll be calling a taxi. And sometimes there's a bit of a wait, especially if the bus goes to other hotels. At least being on Disney property, it's almost impossible not to be able to get to your hotel.

But, it really depends on what you prefer.

~Christina
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Unread 12-05-2001, 05:55 PM
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i think these mandatory use of the FIRST packages is a load of crap!! for us poorer teams (like us) we cannot afford to go to nationals. they are making us spend an extra $10k that we do not have. especially because of the economy and loosing sponsors. who agree's with me? something has to be done about nationals. i'd like to see it move somewhere away from Disney to make it more affordable for everyone. disney really isn't as great as they say.

my $.03 darn inflation!
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Unread 12-05-2001, 06:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by David Kelly
disney really isn't as great as they say.

my $.03 darn inflation!
First, lol for the inflation comment. Second, blasphemy!! Disney kicks a whole lot of booty!! I wish it could be cheaper, but I love Disney. șoș So, I think it's worth it.

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Unread 12-05-2001, 06:37 PM
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Disney adds to the fun

I am beginning my 7th year on a FIRST team, and, while the purpose of Nationals is the competition, I still look forward to going to the Disney parks as part of the trip. Our team has been lucky in having a sponsor which helps with the expenses so I understand what teams without such sponsors deal with. Still, the Nationals would not be the same, or as much fun if it were held in a dome stadium in Kansas rather than at Disney. (no offence toward any Kansans out there)

We have stayed both on and off Disney property. When on property, we stay at the cheapest hotels, All Star Sports or Music. The availablility of continuous access to transportation makes on-site much better, though when off-site we were in a somewhat nicer hotel for probably about the same price.
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Unread 12-05-2001, 07:22 PM
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Disney is good, Disney is wise.

I'm not out to start another debate about Nationals, why we're there, and what we should be doing. I think that's something that should be decided on an individual, or team basis. It's clear that some people have no problem with kids going out and enjoying the parks, while others expect them to be there for the competition their entire stay.

But, all in all, no matter how you feel about that, I think moving away from Disney would be a bad idea. If not because the parks are fun, than because the Disney name is recognized around the world.

To continue an analogy, telling a potential sponsor that our Championship even is in Dust Bowl, Kansas doesn't really have much of an impact. But, when you say, "we're the largest non-Disney event held on Walt Disney World property," that sponsor immediately gets an image in their mind that comes much closer to conveying the true size and magnitude of what goes on.

And, not to start another debate, but we're a pretty odd-sized event. We're larger than most scholastic competitions, but much, much, MUCH smaller than a professional sporting event. There aren't too many arenas that would fit this even comfortably. Disney does a good job, and we should stick with it.
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Unread 12-05-2001, 07:37 PM
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I should clarify one thing from my previous post. Our team members stay at the competition site during the competition except for some people going to lunch at Epcot. We go to the parks after the practice and qualification rounds are over for the day, and we also try to extend the trip one day to "play" after the competition. However, everyone is expected to be at the competition while it is going on.
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Unread 12-05-2001, 10:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by David Kelly
i think these "mandatory use of the FIRST packages"...
As it stands now, the FIRST packages are not "mandatory." However, the FIRST packages due include an additional charge per person for the costs of the event "village", the additional transportation to the village from the hotels, and the team party. While teams have been able to save money in the past by booking outside of the FIRST package, when they did this, they were effectively asking the teams who did use the FIRST package to pay for the use of the transportation, event village, etc. for the teams who booked outside of the FIRST package. The additional charge was why teams were able to get seemingly the same package from Disney reservations if they did not mention they were a FIRST team there for the competition. The per-person event fee that FIRST is imposing for those teams who book outside of the FIRST/Disney package is their way of attempting to get each team to pay for their own use of what Disney provides for the competition, rather than having some teams fund the use of the facilities for other teams. After all, if you were on a team who was booking within the Disney package(which, according to FIRST, is supposed to be a substantial savings from last year), how would you like to be told, "You owe $XXXX...that's for your hotel, park tickets, and event facilities use...and for the facilities use for teams A, B, and C..." ?
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Unread 12-06-2001, 12:51 AM
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Last year team 495 stayed just outside the Disney gates. We had some sort of package deal going and tehre was a shuttle bus to and from competition. The place we stayed in was called something like Larson's Family Inn or something. Anyway we had 3 day park hopper passes, the rooms were great, and we payed ~$450. Well, we didnt actually pay it, there were so few of us that our fundraising was adequate to cover all of our costs.
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