1. As I mentioned in my Administrative Note that I posted last week, I had some connectivity problems during my recent Walt Disney World trip. Just before the trip, I decided to pick up a Clear 4G Mobile hotspot. Clear uses WiMax technology to provide wireless broadband Internet access. Orlando and Kansas City were both early release markets for Clear, and (at least according to the coverage map I linked to) offered solid coverage in both cities. Alas, Clear turned out to be much better in theory than in practice. I initially tested my Clear hotspot on my lunch break at work. From my office in downtown Kansas City, Clear worked great. It was fast and easy to connect multiple devices to it (which was its big advantage over Disney’s in-room Internet service). Unfortunately, my office was the only place I ever got the Clear hotspot to connect to a 4G signal. It couldn’t find a signal at my house in suburban Overland Park, KS; couldn’t find a signal at the Royal Plaza Hotel at Downtown Disney; and couldn’t find a signal at the All-Star Music resort. The Clear hotspot turned out to be totally useless – it’s being returned today. The return process was a bit more of a hassle than it should have been too. I had to talk to two different CSRs, spent a total of about 10 minutes on hold with them, and had to wait almost two full days for the return shipping label to show up in my Email box.

I did finally get a usable Internet connection while at WDW by changing my iPhone’s AT&T data plan to allow for tethering of my iPhone. I was actually pretty surprised at the speed of the 3G connection I was able to establish in my hotel room at ASMu. I used it to upload my photos each night (I’m paranoid about getting pics backed up in multiple locations as soon as possible), and it worked flawlessly.

2. Also, I know I promised a review of our experience with Kingdom Strollers after the trip. As you may recall, a few months back I won a contest on the Disney Go To Girl site for a free one-week rental from Kingdom Strollers. So, full disclosure here – I did receive my stroller rental for free, but the free rental was not in exchange for this review. Rather, I won a contest, and am reviewing my experience with the rental. We rented a similar stroller last year from Orlando Stroller Rentals. Our experiences with both stroller rental companies were very pleasant and positive. In both cases, our stroller was waiting for us at our resort, to be picked up at the front desk. Kingdom Stroller offered a more personal experience – I received friendly Emails from the owner, discussing the arrangements for the stroller. While I’m sure my situation was a bit different, as a contest winner, the tone of the messages suggests that this was the usual attitude of the Kingdom Stroller folks, which was friendly and warm. We did have a minor issue with a strap that began to unravel a bit on the stroller from Kingdom Strollers, but it never really presented a problem, so we didn’t complain about it. Despite that we paid nothing and never complained, I received a nice Email from Kingdom Strollers the day after we returned the stroller, expressing their embarrassment at the unraveling strap and apologizing for it – a step well-beyond what was necessary under the circumstances.

As far as a direct comparison between the two services, as of October 1, 2011, their offerings are virtually identical. At the time of our rental, Kingdom Stroller had the edge, by virtue of their providing the parent console on each stroller – the storage basket located at the handles of the stroller. But as of October 1, Orlando Stroller will also provide a free parent console. Pricing for the two services is now identical as well. Kingdom’s optional stroller insurance is slightly more expensive than is OSRs (by $10 for the length of the rental); but Kingdom offers rain covers (as available) for free, while OSR adds a $10 fee for the length of the reservation. I wouldn’t hesitate to make a reservation with either service for our next trip – though this was very likely our last stroller trip. Squeaker should be ready to walk the parks by the time we return.

3. Thanks to this week’s participating Dis Dads: Mark Pratt for staying on top of the podcast panels and Paul Hajjar for his continuing work on Top 5 Tuesday.

4. A shoutout to Plancast. After seeing and hearing multiple references to Plancast among the Disney twitterati and on Disney podcasts, I went ahead and set up an account in anticipation of last week’s trip. Just before we left, I discovered via Plancast that StudiosCentral.com was planning a meet at the ABC Commissary in Hollywood Studios during my trip. I was actually planning on being in the Magic Kingdom that day, and at DHS the next day, but the crowd level estimates were such that swapping the two days was a wash. So with the approval of my ever-patient wife, I swapped the days and returned to DHS earlier than I normally would, while my wife and kids were still napping. I had a great time meeting some of the Orlando Disney-fan crew – Todd & Cheryl Perlmutter, Shelley Caran, Tom Chiodo, Scarlett Ashley, Matt & Marisa Hochberg, Megan Annunziata, and others I’m sure I’m leaving out. When my wife and kids showed up, they were welcomed as well, and the kids got to meet and play for a bit with the Orlando folks’ kids. They really know how to make an out-of-town visitor and Disney community newbie feel welcome.

5. I’ve decided to write up a trip report on this trip, and I’ll be writing it in installments here, rather than on the Disboards. So watch this space for a full report. I find that writing about a trip and going over pictures to decide which ones to post is a nice way to help chase away the post-vacation blues. 🙂

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