Chapter 4: Our Disney vacation plan – parks, rides, and crowds, oh my!

Did we really need to create such a detailed plan of our week, choosing which day would be the least crowded, with the shortest lines, for each park? Is there really a strategy in touring each park?

The dinner reservations we made had already created an overview of our vacation week. Based on the park location and time of day for each reservation, I began to prepare a plan for each of our park visits: which attractions were on our must-do list and which of those attractions needed a FastPass+ reservation to avoid long lines. I wanted to have at least an outline for our week so that I would be ready to make all FastPass+ choices on the sixty-day mark. I did not want, however, to plan every hour of every day, and we both just wanted to make sure we had some time to rest each day, as well as allow for some flexibility and spontaneity in our schedule for each day.

Many people design their Disney World trip as if it is a battle and they must have a strategic plan of approach. Other vacationers prefer their vacations to be spontaneous, which is how we usually take our vacations. At the recommendation of our travel agent, and considering this would be our first visit, we bought the 2014 version of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. This book, written by the creators of touringplans.com, was overwhelming at first. There are chapters on every aspect of planning and experiencing your Walt Disney World vacation. Could a trip to WDW be this complicated?

My research indicated that there was a great deal of anxiety among experienced WDW vacationers since the creation and implementation of My Disney Experience, Magic Bands, and FastPass+. It certainly seemed important to become aware of Disney’s new technology and the most efficient way to use it for planning our park visits. We learned from the Unofficial Guide, and the ‘companion website, that knowing the expected crowd levels for each park on any given day would help to minimize the stress of crowds during our vacation.

On our first full day we already had an ADR for the California Grill at 7:30. From Disney’s Beach Club Resort it is only a short walk to the International Gateway at Epcot. We had planned on taking an afternoon walk from our resort, through the World Showcase and Future World, to the monorail station at the front of Epcot. We had done our research and new that this would be a bit of a hike, and a long monorail ride to the Transportation and Ticket Center, followed by a ride on the resort loop to Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We wanted the complete Disney experience of gliding into the Contemporary on the monorail.

Based on the crowd calendar on several websites (Touring Plans, Easy WDW, WDW Prep School, and Dad’s Guide to WDW – yes, I researched them all), the crowds at DAK would be lower on this particular day of our vacation. A morning trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a logical choice for that day, allowing us time to experience the park, and then return to the Beach Club for some rest before our anniversary dinner at the California Grill.

We did not want to rush our morning, but we had hoped to get to DAK early. I planned a FastPass+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris for the opening hour of the park. This would give us time to go to the park and make the long trek to the attraction at a leisurely pace. A great deal of what I read on various blogs and websites did not recommend using FP+ for the first few hours after a park opens. These recommendations appear to be coming from those individuals who are attempting to do as much as possible. They wait in line for rope drop, and then go to the first attraction on their list. We want to take our time wandering toward the attraction, and, if the lines prove to be short enough, we would be able to ride the attraction again. I also planned FP+ for Dinosaur and Finding Nemo – The Musical later that morning. We would find a time and place for lunch while our roaming through the park between each attraction.

We had an ADR for lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during our second full day at WDW. The plan was to book FP+ for Star Tours within the beginning hour of park opening, permitting us the same flexibility of wandering through the park after arriving by boat from our resort, Disney’s Beach Club. Again, if time and short lines allowed, we would experience the attraction a second (or third) time. We also planned FP+ for the Great Movie Ride, and the performance of Beauty and the Beast, all before our luncheon. Other attractions on our to-do list while at DHS included the Muppet*Vision 3D, the Studio Backlot Tour, One Man’s Dream, and the Indian Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, all of which we should be able to walk on with very little wait time.

We recognized that we would need to sleep-in midway through our vacation week, and we had an ADR for Be Our Guest at 4 o’clock the afternoon of our third day, so we should plan for an evening at the Magic Kingdom. We booked FP+ for Under the Sea, Haunted Mansion (my favorite – please refer to my first post), and the Main Street Electrical Parade. Again, many WDW experienced visitors do not recommend using FP+ for a parade. However, as middle-aged vacationers, we wanted to avoid needing to find and hold a spot well in advance of the parade. We could certainly make good use of that time.

We planned to utilize the Park Hopper to split our fourth day between two parks. We were planning on a return visit to the Magic Kingdom in the morning and scheduled FP+ for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Splash Mountain, in that order. I also hoped to be able to have a second ride through the Haunted Mansion. We would lunch in the park before returning to our resort for a break. I had made a list of possible Quick Service options for us to choose from. Our evening was planned around dinner at the Rose & Crown in the U.K., with time to wander through the other World Showcase pavilions. Hopefully, we would be able to catch Illuminations. This is one reason we chose the Beach Club as our resort, the proximity to Epcot. As mature vacationers, visiting WDW for the first time, we liked the idea of staying at a resort next to Epcot and the World Showcase for the variety of cultural experiences it afforded us. Although I am still a fanatic about the Magic Kingdom, World Showcase in Epcot offers experiences more suited to adult interests. We were looking forward to the variety of dining, shopping, and other cultural experiences offered in the pavilion of each country. This is part of the main reasons I believe a Walt Disney World vacation is perfect for middle-aged vacationers. Where else can you experience the culture of 11 unique countries in one place, without leaving the United States?

Our final vacation day would be scheduled around Epcot. I planned FP+ for Spaceship Earth, Mission: SPACE (green), and Maelstrom. We were also intending to be able to walk onto other Future World attractions. After a break at our resort, just a short walk from the International Gateway, we would return in the afternoon to continue our exploration of the World Showcase. We had made an ADR at Tutto Italia Ristorante, and planned a second viewing of Illuminations.

Both the app and website for My Disney Experience turned out to be easy to navigate. After making our initial FP+ bookings for each park visit, I was easily able to log in to make adjustments after the 60-day mark. I had read that the wireless connection throughout the Disney Parks would be sporadic at best, so I made sure to take snapshots of all our FP+ reservations, as well as our ADRs. I did not know whether I would need them, or if the cast members would accept them, but it made sense to have these images as backup.

How do you plan your Disney vacation? Do you schedule a daily tour of each park, with exact times allotted for each attraction? Have you had any trouble adapting to the new FastPass+ system? What are your experiences using the app and/or website of My Disney Experience? Do you plan time to rest during the activities of each day? Do you schedule a morning to sleep-in during your vacation? Please post your comments and keep the conversation going, and do not hesitate to share my posts and blog site with other Disney fans.

The next chapter of The Mature Mouse™ will begin a series of posts detailing our experiences each day, explaining what worked and what changes we needed to make in our schedule. If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ Store for logo merchandise.

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