The trip: Tues afternoon at DL, Wed morning at DL/afternoon at DCA, Thurs morning at DCA (sandwiched between our flights from Michigan to Hawaii)
Genie+ = winging it: I didn’t have a step-by-step plan like a I usually do, even for the morning. I had a plan for rope drop, and then we bounced around based on wait times and LL availability. Everything was decided in the moment, and it worked out fine for the most part. The lines for most rides seems to be a bit shorter than I’m used to at WDW, so the lack of the Fastpass system didn’t hit me as hard here. The bounce-around method was doable. I can see why they had the MaxPass instead of FPP in the before times. I still think Genie+ will drive me bananas in WDW.
Grand Californian Hotel: We only stayed two nights (with a nice military discount), and it was still pricey. Wilderness Lodge is our favorite at WDW, and GCH was exactly our taste. I wish we had more time. The rooms were very nice. A Ferris Bueller quote came to mind: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
East Coast → West Coast: I had an ambitious plan to stay for MSEP the night we got there, and that turned out to not be realistic. We were flagging by 6:30 or 7:00pm local time (we had been up since 5:45 Eastern time), but were resting in line for RotR. I thought we’d do the ride then go find a spot to watch the parade. But after waiting in line for over an hour, the ride went down. It took the rest of the wind out of our sails, and we ended up heading back to the hotel. We planned to RD the next morning, and I knew if stayed, I probably wouldn’t be able to get the kids up in time. In the end, I surrendered and we called it a night. I was disappointed for wasting over an hour on RotR without riding it and missing the parade we all love, but there was only so much we could pack in.
Pirate sadness: Pirates hadn’t reopened at the time we were there, and I didn’t get my dinner at Blue Bayou either. They were both at the top of the list of reasons we made this brief DLR stop in the first place, but I was able to contain my disappointment. The absence was felt, but maybe life will bring us back someday.
Cars Land: RSR was down basically our entire day at CA, and we never got to ride it. The other rides had long lines, and our only venture into the area was for lunch at Flo’s. So, like Pirates, maybe we’ll be back someday to complete our experience.
Web Slingers: Am I the only one who thinks this ride is just OK? The concept is clever, but I think the gameplay on TSM is better. I would have had to ride it several times to get the hang of the motion, and the wait times obviously prevented that. We paid for an ILL because that was the only way we were going to get to ride it, but I’m not sure it was worth the cost for 4 people.
Bengal BBQ: Five stars, would eat there again. So good. Thank you all for the recommendation, although the grilled meat smell permeating Adventureland probably would have drawn me there anyway.
RotR RD: After the disappointment of the ride going down the previous evening, we were determined to ride RotR twice the next day. We got up in time to be near the front of the pack, so we were successful in getting a good spot in line at RD and we also purchased an ILL for later in the morning. Be sure to line up at the Frontierland rope if you want to attempt this. You can do it from Adventureland if you sprint, but I do not recommend that. We got both of our rides in without it going down, and it was so worth it. No regrets on buying the ILL here. We Disneybounded Star Wars characters this day for a bit of bonus fun. We got a small amount of extra attention, but not like the last time we did it at WDW.
World of Color dessert party: I put my complete comments in another recent thread, but I personally find it worth it to pay for the reserved spot with a good view, table and chairs, and breathing room. If you also feel that way, then by all means, book the party. If you are doing it for the food and drinks, don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s definitely not a good value if that’s what you are after. I would have thrown money around indiscriminately for a chair at that point in the day, so I was very glad we had booked the party. We had never been to DCA before, so the show was new to us. We enjoyed it very much. Afterwards, my crazy kids and good sport DH decided to ride Grizzly River Run right before it closed, in the dark, even though the temperature had dropped quite a bit. I thought they were nuts, but they had fun and then had a short (but very wet) walk back to the hotel room just across the path when they were done.
Final thoughts: We made the best of the time we had. If the trip had been specifically for DLR, I would have scheduled at least another day, maybe two or three. The advice here was priceless, as usual, for making sure we maximized our time and had the best experience possible.