10 days to go and I'm overwhelmed

That’s right, I have 10 days to go and I am overwhelmed and
a little stuck. I’m sure this isn’t unusual, especially for a first timer. But
I’m a first timer who planned this whole trip on a bit a whim.

My husband will be deploying at the start of October and
about 8 weeks ago he was told he would be required to take leave before
deployment. Since we had some companion airfare vouchers to use, I figured we
should fly somewhere. When asked where to, our 19 year old son said Disney
World. So we kicked the idea around for a couple of weeks and after finding we
could get great tickets from the base ticket office (4 day park hoppers), I
ordered them, booked our hotel (Wilderness Lodge with Disney Dining Plan) and
our airfare then started some research.

I was lucky enough to find touringplans.com, but I haven’t been
able to devote as much time as possible to planning as I would like (trying to
clear my work schedule so I can go on vacation). And now we are 10 days away
and I have this big ball of fear that I’m somehow going to mess this up. I know
silly and irrational and I should just calm down, it’s Disney World how can we
have anything but a good time with even a modest amount of effort. Still I’m
afraid I’ll walk away from this trip with a big ball of I wish we would’ve
spent more time here than there or some such.

So this is my plan – we’re taking the red-eye into Orlando
and will arrive early in the morning. We have scheduled the Magical Express and
plan to use the day to acclimate to the time change (we’re coming from the West
Coast) and leisurely explore probably Downtown Disney, maybe the Boardwalk or
maybe even some of the Resorts. Just wear ourselves out so that after dinner
(reservations at Artist Point) we can pass out and be raring to go.

I planned based on which parks have EMH and we are using
touring plans and I do have the app.

Tuesday: Magic Kingdom – Wednesday: Animal Kingdom –
Thursday: Hollywood Studios – Friday: Epcot

We have reservations for dinner at Jiko on Wednesday and
this is where things go wonky and I’m stressing myself out. I know we’re first
timers, but even as first time visitors we were through California Adventure in
about 4 hours. Sure it takes a little longer now, but not a full day.

So my concern is are we going to finish with Animal Kingdom
by noon then be kind of stuck – because of the dinner reservation. Because what
if we could leave and maybe do the half day Epcot touring plan – so what about
the dinner reservation? I do want to try Jiko, should we maybe move it to late
on Thursday after Hollywood Studios? Just make it later on Wednesday and go
back? But wouldn’t Wednesday be better for an Epcot reservation if we do that?

I’m even questioning my dining choices. We have the Disney
Dining Plan, so would Artist Point and Jiko be a good use for those credits? I
now have two more nights worth credits and I’m not sure what to do with them.
Saturday we’re heading over to Universal (kid wants to see the CSI/Da Vinci
thing) so we will probably eat over there.

But can anyone help pull me out of my head and give me some

First, take a deep breath. Everything will work out ok.

Animal kingdom can be more than a half day park, especially if you see all the shows, and spend time actually looking around rather than rushing from one ride to the next. Take some time to watch the entertainment.

If you are done early, you can head over to animal kingdom lodge and explore. It’s a beautiful resort with lots to see, including a tour of the restaurant at about 4pm I believe. You can also watch the animals from the lodge (with free night vision goggles if you’re there after dark).

My DW and I loved Jiko - but we haven’t taken the kids there yet. I would keep that reservation.

Again, most of all, take a deep breath. You can’t get everything done, so don’t even try. Instead take the time to really absorb what makes Disney special. Will you miss something? Absolutely. Heck, I’ve been there lots of times and I still missed two things I wanted to do on our last trip. That’s OK though - it just gives me a reason to plan another trip. :smiley:

For your other two reservations, I would choose Epcot restaurants. You’ll be spending one day there, and it’s easy to get to (boat ride) from Hollywood studios. Or in the studios you can try 50s prime time or sci fi diner.

I agree, keep your Jiko! I do love Artist Point as well, but to me- Jiko is in its own category of special! You can also explore AKL ( lovely) , view the animals on the savannah, or just sit in the lobby or our back and enjoy the fire pits.

If you decide to move your Jiko and hop to Epcot (do you have park hoppers or can you add that to military tickets?), I would then save my fast passes for EP. The joy of FP is that you could also just plan on a leisurely morning and arrive later to Animal Kingdom. I must say, Hollywood Studios, with all the neon is so beautiful at night ( especially from the top of the ToT!

I agree with the advice above regarding AK and Jiko. People disagree about this, but to me, AK is a special park that can definitely be a full day. The shows are excellent - don’t miss Flights of Wonder, and impress your family by having a $1 bill ready to go in there. I won’t say why, but it’s awesome. Walk along all of the animal trails and soak in all of the details. Take breaks and relax - tons of tasty treats to try. Also, you may want to consider doing the Wilderness Explorers game. I saw lots of adults taking part and it’s a great way to learn more about the park and the animals and to strike up conversations with knowledgeable CMs.

As far as your dining goes, the fact is that signature restaurants are rarely the best use of credits in terms of maximizing the value, because each meal is two credits, so you essentially need to eat $76 worth of entree and dessert per person to break even. That said, the food is going to be amazing and you already bought the dining plan, so I would just not worry about that aspect of it if you can. Since you have two credits left, you can either add one more signature (I would recommend Flying Fish, probably on your DHS day) or two more regular TS meals. If you go with two more regular TS meals, you can’t go wrong with any of the World Showcase spots. For your MK day, try an MK resort dining option for a single TS credit. The Wave, Kona Cafe, Whispering Canyon Cafe, and Grand Floridian Cafe all get consistently good reviews. I recently heard Len Testa say on a podcast that WCC for breakfast is one of his top-five must-do meals at WDW. If you could get an early morning ADR there, you could do it before heading out for the day.

When you head over to Universal, I recommend Emeril’s at CityWalk. We had great good and service there. Cow Fish also gets good reviews, though I did not try it, and Mythos which is in IOA gets great reviews, too, and is apparently very reasonably priced.

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I wouldn’t worry about finishing Animal Kingdom too quickly. The one and only time our family of 3 (2 adults, one 5 y/o) visited, we were there from rope drop until park closing and still didn’t see everything we wanted to (and that was with good use of a touring plan and fast passes). We are returning in a couple weeks, and are planning another full day at AK, and also leaving half of another day open in case we want to go back. The two main shows, Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King, are in our family’s opinion the two best live shows at Disney World.

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This is the best and most important advice you will receive. It’s hard not to try and cram everything in, but that will always leave you feeling like you missed out on stuff. Instead, try to think about what your priorities are, then get those done so you can feel like you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.


I don’t have much to add, but I would like to say thank you to your husband for his service!! Also, thanks to you and your kids for the sacrifices you make! I hope you have a wonderful family trip!!


I have been to AK many times, and I have NEVER been able to to do everything there in a single day. Just trying to fit in all three shows will take most of the day. AK isn’t about “rides” (although it has some of the best in WDW), it’s about nature, it’s about walking the trails and watching the animals, it’s about taking in the atmosphere. But if all you are interested in is doing the “rides” and speed-walking through one of the trails (and the fact that you consider DCA to be a half-day park leads me to believe that this is how you feel), then you might be done at AKL by noon.

Jiko is probably my second favorite restaurant in all of WDW (CG takes first place). Even if you do get done prior to closing time at AK, it’s easy to spend an hour or two just looking around AKL. Victoria Fall is one of my favorite places to stop in for a drink.

Another option is to plan on leaving AK around 4 and go back to your resort to shower and change into some clean clothes for dinner (you will be nasty after a full day of August touring at AK). Jiko is a signature restaurant, and khakis (or “dress” shorts) and a polo shirt are much more appropriate attire than board shorts and t-shirts; I do a lot of signature dining and almost always shower and change before dinner.`


You’ve received a ton of great advice already, so I won’t add any more, but I do want to say that there are going to be a lot of us there at the same time, so I hope you’re open to Liner meets! :smiley:


I am assuming that you are just using the pre-made TPs that are on the website. Take your AK TP, copy it as a Personalized TP, and then Optimize it for the day in question. This will give you the best TP for that day, and also let you know when you will be finishing. If you have a lot of time left over or you have large blocks of Free Time, add in more attractions to fill the day.

Also, one tip if you are planning on doing KRR is to not include it in your TP when Optimizing, and once you have a plan that you like add it to the end of the plan and Evaluate. This way you will do it last and won’t have to wander around the park in wet clothes.

We never manage to do everything we want in one day at AK. Not sure why people call it a half day park… maybe because it closes earlier than the other parks??? I guess that with FP and good touring plan you could get a feeling of the park with some of the highlights in half a day.

[quote=“theprewitts, post:1, topic:16257”]
So my concern is are we going to finish with Animal Kingdomby noon then be kind of stuck – because of the dinner reservation.[/quote]

A couple things spring to mind (I haven’t read the other responses yet, so apologies if I duplicate anything that was already said). First, Jiko is at Animal Kingdom Lodge, not the actual Animal Kingdom park. You’d think they were connected, but they’re not. You can’t walk from the resort to the park, so you’ll have to take a bus to get to the Lodge. You can take a bus from any of the Disney parks or Downtown Disney to Animal Kingdom Lodge.

I suspect you’ll hear from people telling you that Animal Kingdom is a “full day” park and you just have to learn to savor the details and not run from attraction to attraction. I believe there is truth in that line of thinking, but it’s also true of all the Disney parks, and ultimately you must face the time constraints of your vacation time. Thus, any time spent savoring details is time when you won’t be doing something else in one of the other parks. I can’t tell you what your priority should be, but over the course of fifteen visits to Disney World since Animal Kingdom has been open I have yet to spend a full day in that park (and I like it there a lot, but I just like other things better).

As for using dining plan credits, I’m not an expert on how to best make use of them, but I’d certainly consider dining in one of the countries in Epcot.

This is a long reply – I got some specific replies – and a new question at the end. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to reply. I really hope to be able to pay it forward after my trip.

Agent C – Taking a deep breath – I sure needed it. My kid usually issues that reminder, but even he has his normally stoic self in a bit of a state right now. Since I’m a planner, and my husband and kid are perfectly happy to let me plan, so long as I don’t poke them too much about it – I’m going over one park per night with them and setting up the touring plan. Night before last was Animal Kingdom and that’s when all this worrying started.

While this is my trip, it is also theirs, and on some things I was outnumbered. We have a pretty democratic process so I really had to choose where to use my veto, as did they. So when my touring plan came back ending at the 12:20pm mark – I started to worry. And after having heard and read two days for Epcot – I thought maybe that might be the thing to do in the afternoon.

I’m now leaning toward making this be like a light day. I imagine we are going to be pretty beat from two packed days – even if day one isn’t packed so much but we do have that red eye flight. So I think I’ll just go with that plan.

PrincipalTinker – What is it if it’s not about the experience, right? We do have park hoppers – they were oddly the same price as the one park per day tickets – so we got the hoppers. Last night we planned HS and it is definitely not a half day. Where at AK it was NO shows, it seems there are a lot of shows they want to see. And ToT TWICE I was told. Maybe I’ll see if we move the second ride to after dark.

Iheartepcot – After going through the replies I do think we will just stay at AK and this can be a lighter day. And who knows, “Hey we have lots of time, why don’t we see Nemo.” sounds good to me. Currently our dinner reservations are a bit on the late side, and we were planning on going back to the hotel to clean up then back for dinner. But now I think I might move the reservation earlier if I can, pack a bag and put it in a locker, then just clean up before dinner – and if we’re so inclined THEN go to Epcot….maybe…probably not. I am trying to heed you can’t do everything advice – but I’m also trying to do everything we can without killing ourselves or going drazy.

HackedLife – I’m trying to get Nemo on Lion King on the board, but it’s two against one. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people of mine. But like I said above maybe having some extra time to see them will bring them around.

scrapper1617 – I’ll pass the thanks to my husband.

bswan26 – I get it’s more than just rides – but we also have been many times to San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park – and will no doubt go again. So I can hear my husband and son both going “Oh look a giraffe – seen it – oh look a lion – seen it.” But for the same reason we will go back to San Diego is the same reason we’re going to AK – it’s fun and we enjoy it.

I think my feelings stem from the fact I feel about AK the way I feel about restaurants when we travel We don’t eat at restaurants we can eat at when we’re home – that is unless it really isn’t something we would normally go to. I may be wrong about that, but especially with such a short trip, I’d rather see the things I can’t see at home than the things I can. Sure that could apply to almost any space at WDW, but in my mind I’m just not equating ToT at California Adventure to ToT at WDW the way I’m equating wildlife at AK to wildlife. But in the case of AK, it is still something I think is worth seeing. I just wasn’t sure if it was worth a whole day.

As for speeding through California Adventure, that first time was a preview day before the park opened to the public. And since then, I’ve never spent a full day there, but again the last time I was there was around 2010. I know there’s been a big expansion since, but five years ago, even though it took more than the 4 hours spent the first time, it still wasn’t an all-day thing.

mALYficent – Liner meets? I had no idea. I’ve had my head so stuffed in planning I haven’t had time to explore such things. Guess I have some poking around to do this weekend.

Brklinck – it was actually a custom plan. That’s why I think we finished so early. The family didn’t want to see most of the shows, and there was some other stuff they vetoed. I just made for a short day. But now I think I’ll be able to sway them into a show or two since we have so much time.

Thanks for the tip about KRR – how’s the water? Does it dry sticky? We’d done a water ride at Kennywood in PA and I just remember being sticky once the water dried. Maybe it was an issue with sunscreen. I was just thinking if we’re going to do a locker with clothes for dinner, if it isn’t sticky, it might help to get us cleaned up. Or maybe move the reservation and leave the park at 4 like bswan26 said and go to the hotel to clean up. Or maybe leave at 3. Something to consider.

Smee – I’m getting half day because my traveling companions don’t want to see some shows, but with the free time I’m going to try and sway them my way.

FlyerFan1973 – You really seem to have captured what I’ve been feeling and expressed it better than I have been able to. I really appreciate your response.

Thank you everyone who took the time to respond. All of your replies really helped me to get my head on straight and I thank you.

NOW – onto the new stuff. Dining plan: It appears 2 credit restaurants aren’t such a good deal. So…I’m not sure what to do. I don’t mind paying out of pocket, but really, I was just happy to pick a two credit restaurant since I didn’t have to worry about making another reservation for another credit for another night.

But now maybe I should pay out of pocket for one or both Signature restaurants – and use the TS credit at lunch those days? Or Breakfast? But then is Lunch/Breakfast a better deal for 1 TS credit or is Signature dining for 2 credits better? And then when I would use the QS credit? I can decide when to the use the credits, right? Here’s what I have for
reservations and their credits:

Day 1: Arrival Day/Down Town Disney or resorts – Dinner: Artist Point (2)

Day 2: Magic Kingdom Day - No reservations

Day 3: Animal Kingdom - Dinner: Jiko(2)

Day 4: Hollywood Studios - No reservations

Day 5: Epcot - No reservations

Day 6: Universal CityWalk - Breakfast: Whispering Canyon Café(TS1)

Day 7: Departure Day - Brunch: Raglan Road(TS1)


Thanks again everyone for your time!

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I like your dining for one reason- I think many of us find ourselves over planning our dining and then run from one meal to another. Honestly, the only concern I have is : what will you eat in HS? HS is a park where you can find some of the cheaper out of pocket dinners (50s has big portions- great for sharing). You could pay out of pocket for Jiko and add a TS in EP and HS? I do not feel a TS breakfast, other than a character meal is a better value.

Agree! I would strongly advocate for a TS at Hollywood studios - Sci Fi Diner or 50s Prime Time both get a lot of love here, and the CS options at HS aren’t anything great.

Given your crowd, I think you’re right, AK is likely to be a half-day park. You could start late at make it a 12-5 park then go to Jiko, or go early, then take a break at hotel or hop to another park before returning to the AKL for supper. Sure, AKL is close to AK… but for many people it would be the equivalent to finishing work at noon, going home for the afternoon, then returning downtown for supper… a short commute, not hours long.

Good luck, you’ll have a wonderful time. Enjoy the things you do, don’t mourn the things you miss. Also, if you’re keen for LK or Nemo show, then sell them to your crowd when it’s 104 degrees outside and 72 inside the theatres.

I have to add: Please! Watch some clips of the Festival of the Lion King! It is an amazing show!

I have 20 years of experience in San Diego and cannot count the times I’ve been to the Zoo and Wild Animal Park. AK is VERY well done, but it’s hard to “beat” arguably the best “zoo” in the country :slight_smile:

I like your dining choices, though if you changed one of them to table service in Epcot, then that would also work well. If you leave things as you have right now, then I’d consider the Brown Derby Lounge for a meal in the Studios. I’m pretty sure you can order off the full menu, but it doesn’t require a reservation and there are some pretty good small plates, far better than anything available from counter service in the Studios.

For meals in Epcot, counter service in many of the different countries (I’m partial to Katsura Grill in Japan, Tangierine Cafe in Morocco is good, and the Mexican pavilion is usually a safe choice for less adventurous eaters) are worth trying, as is Sunshine Seasons inside the Land pavilion (which offers a variety of different choices, likely to appeal to most any palette).

Just one last note about Animal Kingdom, I think Festival of the Lion King is my favorite Disney World show. Anyone who enjoys the music from that movie will appreciate that upbeat, energetic show. If I time things right, then I can usually ride Everest and the Safari first thing in the morning before catching the first Lion King show, which makes for a pretty good start to a day.


I just had a totally insane thought and I need to be stopped. In all our years, none of us have ever seen Fantasmic! (at DL) It would be completely insane to pop over to DHS after dinner at Jiko JUST to catch Fantasmic!, wouldn’t it? As opposed to AK the family seems to want to see a bunch of shows at DHS. And I really don’t want to spend time sitting for seats - but if we go with the sole purpose of seeing just the show - that’s crazy right?

Not a totally insane idea, although I understand Fantasmic is better st DLR. Also, they were doing a trial of “assigned seating” via an extra FP that you got in park, but I don’t know the current status of that.

As a follow up to @bswan26 's idea, if you do go back to your room be aware there is no direct bus service between resorts. To get to AKL you could take a bus to AK and transfer. The other option I’ve heard @len talk about is Uber, which he highly recommended.