August 20-24 trip report - LOOOOOONG


#1

Just a warning that this one may get a little long. In typing it up in Word, it was 18 pages! Also, I'm posting the entire thing in one thread in different posts in quick succession. I get frustrated by others when they post one day and you get invested in reading it and then it's another week before they post another. So here is day one:

This trip was from August 20 through the 25th. The participants were myself and DS9. DW and DS4 did not go on this trip. DW was not fond of the heat at this time of the year and isn’t a huge Disney fan. The trip was intended to be just me and my son for a good trip before school starts. We didn’t take DS4 since he is too small to ride a lot of the bigger rides.

We made our reservations in May to stay at All Star Sports. This was our first stay at a Value resort. We stayed at the Polynesian in 2012 and then in 2015 and 2016 we stayed at Wyndham Bonnet Creek using either free or steeply discounted points from a co-worker who literally has millions of points each year. I had originally booked Beach Club through MVT, but in order to stay in good graces at home, switched to Sports to save money since this was going to be a park heavy trip and we really only needed a bed at night.

We live in NC, so we planned to drive to keep costs down. I love to drive, so the 8+ hour drive was no big deal. I’ve done 21 hour drives straight from NC to parts of TX, so this was a piece of cake.

Our last two trips have been the first full week after Labor Day in September. The weather is maybe a tad cooler, but the lines are way shorter that week. For this trip, I decided I would be a good parent and not pull my son out of school to go to Disney. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake, but more on that later.

When making the reservations, the incremental cost difference from a 4-day ticket to a 5-day ticket was negligible, so we decided to do one park upon arrival on Sunday. I left it up to my son as to what time we would leave, and he said, “how about 4 am.”

The car was packed and ready to go the night before. I woke up around 3:10 and he was up when I got out of the shower and we were actually in the car at 3:30 am. About 25 minutes down the road, we had our only real epic fail of the trip. My son asked me where his shoes were! He thought I packed them the night before and I thought he would put them on before we got in the car. I wasn’t about to turn around, as we had flip flops and an old pair of “backup” shoes in case of trouble.

When we made our first pit stop, I looked up the outlets in Orlando and found a Nike outlet at one of the two outlet malls along I-4. Due to the early nature of our departure, the ones along the way in SC, GA and FL wouldn’t be open as we passed. We made it to the outlets in 8 hours with 1 gas stop and two rest area stops. We hit the outlets at 11:30 and made it to Sports by 12:15 or so. Probably could have done door to door in 8:15, which would have tied my record.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 20
We arrived at the hotel and went to check-in. We had done the automated room fax request and requested the Home Run Hotel. Upon check-in, they said our room in the tennis building wasn’t ready, but they had one in the Home Run Hotel, which was great since that was what we wanted anyway. We went to our room and unpacked and our stuff. We headed to the food court to get some lunch. By this time, it was probably about 1:30 or so. We hopped on a bus to AK where we had FPPs for Kilimanjaro (5:15), Everest (6:15) and Flight of Passage (8:10).

Despite having a FPP for FOP, we wanted to ride it multiple times. I told my son that this would be the only day that I would ask him to wait in any really long lines. With the standby time at 100-110 as we approached, we hopped in line. The queue was nice, but any queue for nearly 2 hours gets monotonous. The posted wait time was dead-on. Without ruining it for anyone, we loved it! I would call it Soarin’ on crack. If Universal had this technology, I could see them doing a Harry Potter broom ride to make Forbidden Journey look tame.

After FOP, we saw that Na’vi River Journey was about 60 minutes. Again, I promised my son that this would be the only day I would ask him to wait in anything really long (longer than 30-45). This queue is rather boring and, although mainly shaded, is barely in any air conditioned spaces. The standby time was again pretty accurate and we hopped in our boat and were off.

My son hated this one. Now, I think some of that had to do with the length of the wait relative to the quality of the ride. Personally, I wouldn’t wait more than 15-20 minutes for this ride, and I figure that once Pandora calms down, that is what this ride will end up being. But with the long waits for FOP, people probably figure that this wait seems short.

After NRJ, my son wanted to get some sort of frozen drink. I figured since I essentially made him wait in lines for 3 hours, that was a fair trade. We went to Zuri’s Treats and found him a strawberry frozen drink. We sat down in Harambe and I got a free cup of water from a nearby QS location. We chilled for a minute as we waited for our Kilimanjaro FPP window to open up.

One note about the water: Disney has some of the worst tasting tap water on the planet. I actually wonder if they do that on purpose to force you to buy more Dasani. We tried the cups of water, water fountains, water in the room, etc. They all taste pretty bad!

Next, we headed to Kilimanjaro. Initially, my son had said he didn’t care to do it after doing it the last two trips, but I figured we would do it on one of our two AK days. It was a solid ride, but after riding it once or twice, I’ve never seen anything super amazing. The ankole cattle were blocking the road pretty well, but otherwise it was a pretty uneventful trip.

Next we headed over to Everest. Our FPP window hadn’t opened, but the wait was only posted as 25 minutes, so we rode once via standby. But the time we were off, our window opened and we hit it again. When we were done, we still had over 90 minutes until our final FPP for FOP, so we rode Everest a third time. By this time, my head was bothering me just a bit, which usually never happens on coasters. I told my son I was done for now with Everest, and we were both hungry.

We started a trek to find some food, which he wanted a hamburger. We headed back towards Harambe and found a cast member who suggested Restaurantosaurus. We made our way to Dinoland and ate there. My son had the kid’s burger and I got a salad. It had started to sprinkle when we were on Everest and some folks started to leave. It never did more than mist or sprinkle, and it was actually quite refreshing.

After eating, we went to the play area, but most of it was closed because the slides were too slippery from the rain. By this time, it was about 7:45, so we headed back towards Pandora. We tapped into FOP about 5 minutes early and rolled through the FPP line. The second time was still amazing. This, to me, is a ride that can be done over and over again. I noticed something new on each ride. The water, the scents, the views in the distances. Awesome!

One note is that people were definitely correct about the glasses. My son had to ride with one hand holding his glasses at all times. I wonder if they are looking into a way to try to correct this one problem and provide some better fitting glasses. Later in our trip, I had a pair that wouldn’t stay on and I had to ride one-handed.

After our second FOP ride, my son wanted to ride Everest in the dark. By this time, Rivers of Light was nearly starting and the rain was still spitting a little, so the lines for Everest were nil. We rode it another three times in a row before I had to throw in the towel. By this point, it was a little after 9 pm and we decided to head out.

We headed towards the exit and got to the bus line about 9:15. We had to wait about 5-10 minutes for a bus, but were able to get on the first one that came. Man, they can sure fit a lot of people on those things!

We headed back to the hotel, showered and watched a little TV to wind down before lights out around 10:30 or so.


#2

MONDAY, AUGUST 21

Today’s plan was to start at Epcot and then head to Hollywood Studios. We were up by 7:15 or so and had Lucky Charms in the room before leaving the room by 8:15 to head to the bus station. We only waited a few minutes and a bus came to take us to the big silver ball!

Once we arrived, we got through the tapstiles pretty quickly and waited in line. Our plan was to hit Frozen Ever After without a FPP. Our tier 1 for the day was Soarin’, as we could always do Test Track via Single Rider. When the rope dropped, we took off for Frozen. Had to keep reminding my son that we couldn’t run, but he was getting frustrated that other people were running as we approached the World Showcase area.

We were in the queue before 9 am and were probably one of the first 30 people to enter the queue. One warning about the queue if you enter it real quickly. Your eyes can’t adjust fast enough to the dark queue. People were not following the queue and were ducking under the chains to get through it faster. I decided to try to follow the line and not duck under the rope and didn’t see a chain in the dark and about wiped out when it grabbed me below the waist. Maybe I should have gone under the chains like my son and the others.

We got on a boat that was only about ¾ full and enjoyed the ride. It is a solid ride, the audio is great and I love the backwards part. But I wouldn’t wait more than 30 minutes and it is not necessarily re-ride worthy, at least to me (maybe if I had daughters). After FEA, we headed to Test Track. We had heard that it didn’t come online immediately, but we heard cars as we got closer. When we arrived, they had not yet opened single rider. The standby line was reporting 90 minutes or so. We stood there for a minute to decide if we should stick around or try something else, and they opened single rider. We were one of the first ones through and ended up getting in the same car, albeit in different rows.

We got to the first screen where it shows you the scores of your car in efficiency, I think, and the ride stopped. There were two cars in front of us and none behind us. A voice came over and said they were having technical difficulties. We probably sat there for about 15 minutes before it resumed. When we got to the unloading area, they had us unclick and re-click our seat belts and they sent us back through again. That was great, but all I could think about when we were stuck was the possibility of an anytime FPP.

After we were done, we headed to our first FPP, which was Nemo. This was basically a filler and one I like. When we were done, we didn’t spend any time in the aquarium this time, which is something I normally like to do. For some reason, I felt really rushed on this trip versus previous ones. Next, we headed over to Soarin’ for our next FPP, which hadn’t technically opened yet. We saw standby listed as 30 or 40 minutes and decided to try that, figuring we might be able to ride it twice real quickly. We got in line and didn’t move for a bit. We got around the first corner and I told my son that there was no way this was 30-40. There was a small break in the wall and we hopped out and headed to the little food court. As we left, it was up to 60 minutes posted.

We got a bite to eat and waited for our FPP window to open up. Once it did, the posted time was now 80 minutes. I told him we probably got done faster by waiting for our FPP window to open than if we had stayed in the standby line! We were in row C2, so we had a little distortion, but it is still a cool ride.

After that, we had some time to kill before our Spaceship Earth FPP, so we headed back to Test Track and did single rider one more time. Luckily, we had no breakdowns this time! After that, we headed back to Spaceship Earth where the standby wait was 40 minutes. Our FPP wait was actually probably 10-15 minutes, but not too bad. I always forget how short it is to get on a vehicle once you get through the doors at the top of that small hill.

My son likes this ride, and I do a lot, too. I’ve always thought it would be cool for Disney to do a “Night at the Museum” type movie with this ride where all the characters come to life. As we got to the top and were about to head down, the ride stopped. We were probably stopped for about 3 minutes, but we were stopped right next to a speaker that kept repeating that you were about to be turned around for the ride back to Earth. We must have heard that announcement 20 times or more in those 3 minutes.

Once the ride resumed, we headed back down the hill and exited the ride. We didn’t do any of the games, as the pavilion was pretty crowded and we had a 1:15 reservation at Via Napoli. We left the big silver ball and headed to World Showcase. One minor mistake I made was to go right around the lake instead of left, so the walk to lunch was longer than anticipated. It was also starting to get pretty hot. I am a bit of a fast walker, so my son was having trouble keeping up. And if I slowed down, he slowed down. So, I ended up putting him on my back and giving him a piggyback ride, which was a mistake, as that became a trend for the rest of the week. The good thing was that I got some good exercise out of the trip.

We got to Via Napoli a few minutes before our reservation. My intention was to have pizza based on the reviews that it was the best pizza at Disney, but the pasta with shrimp, clams and mussels spoke to me. It was pretty dang good!

It always amazes me how quickly Disney can get you in and out of a table service restaurant. Once seated, we were only there about 30-35 minutes. Once we left, we headed out and there was a little show with a guy juggling soccer balls and having people throw them into a net and other gags. We watched that for about 5-10 minutes before heading back to the International Gateway on our way to DHS.

At this point, it started to sprinkle a little, which was a welcome relief. Once we got out of the park, we had just missed a boat that was leaving the dock. I asked a cast member and they said the walk was doable and that they could beat the boat from one park to the next because it would stop three times. Being a distance runner, I figured we could easily beat the next boat.

What I didn’t factor in was how slowly my son was going to walk, or how far the walk was. I don’t know what the actual measurement is, but it was a little further than I expected. I ended up putting my son on my back again, but the competitive side of me took over and yes, we beat the boat to Hollywood Studios!

While at lunch, I had grabbed a FPP for Star Tours, so we headed there to ride that first. Our ride took us to Tatooine for pod racing and we ended up on Naboo with the nose of the other ship coming through the glass. As we exited through the gift shop, I happened to strike up a conversation with a very nice supervisor who had just come in from outside. We had missed the eclipse, which was intentional, and I was asking her how it was. We talked about a few things and she gave us an Anytime FPP. The ticket said it was for DHS, but my son asked if it would work on FOP, and she said it would not. I never did ask if it would work at other parks, but we decided to save it for another day.

While in line, I was able to score a Toy Story FPP for later in the afternoon, but we had some time to kill, so after Star Tours we headed to Rock N Roller Coaster and rode single rider. I got in the back, but my son ended up in row 2! That is one of my favorite coasters of all time, but my body of work is small considering I really didn’t start riding coasters until about 2 years ago.

After RNR, we went to Tower of Terror. This was going to be my first time on this ride. Two years ago, my son was afraid to ride it, so we skipped it. Last year, my younger son wanted someone to stay with him while the rest of the gang rode it, so I took one for the team. I must say that I was a little nervous before riding it, but I now see what all the fuss was about. That is a really cool ride! The one annoying thing was the folks in line with us. There was a guy who was with another man and his two teenage kids. The teenagers had headphones on or noses buried in their phones. The guy by himself was talking to the other dad and seemed to know everything about Disney. The dad listened but you could tell he didn’t care. Since we had a long time in line, I was eavesdropping to see if he knew his stuff. He seemed to be pretty accurate, until he said something about resort guests selecting FPPs 90 days out. From there, some of his knowledge went downhill. I so wanted to correct him on a few facts he had wrong, but didn’t have the heart. I just felt bad for the dad who was stuck listening to him for the 30-40 minute wait!

Next, we headed over towards Toy Story, which is probably my favorite ride in Disney. My son asked me why, and I think it’s because it isn’t a passive ride. Being involved in the action and shooting things and having some impact on the ride is great, at least to me.

As we headed down around the corner near Launch Bay, the characters were coming out for the last Star Wars stage show of the day. As they passed, I was booing the Imperial characters. Boba Fett made a hand gesture as if to say “zip it.” When Chewie and Rey came by, I cheered. I will say, the woman they have playing Rey is HOT! We did see the characters do this again later on in the week and I booed them again. I think I only did it to embarrass my son, which definitely worked.

It still wasn’t time for our FPP and standby was posted at 40, so we hopped in line. The line seemed long, but my son was being entertained by an 11 month old baby girl from Japan strapped in a Baby Bjorn that was giggling with him. It definitely made the time go much faster.

I ended up beating my son about 197k to 49k. We decided that the next time, I would spot him 150k points to try to make it fair. By the time we were done, our FPP was open and we hopped right back in. I did my best ever, scoring 213k to his 54k, but someone else in our car had 233k, so I didn’t even get best in our car. 

Our intent tonight was to see the Star Wars fireworks, so we started trying to kill time until 9 pm. We stopped at Rosie’s All-American Café and got some burgers. Once we got our food, we found a table, but there were no benches, so we had to scrounge for some benches to sit down. Food was good, but nothing special, but then again, wasn’t expecting anything fancy.

After eating, we headed back to Tower of Terror and rode it with a 15 minute wait. Next we did Star Tours, but it was virtually identical to our earlier ride in the day with minor changes (the nose of the ship on Naboo didn’t come through the glass, but rather fell off). After that, we hit Launch Bay and my son got a photo taken with BB-8, which was only a 10 minute wait.

After that, we went to get a spot for the fireworks. I absolutely loved them. My son didn’t like the part where the fire comes out as you can really feel the heat. One possible mistake, though, was that we were way up in the front. So when it was over, we now had to get through all of the people. With the crowds being what they were, I put my son on my back and weaved through the crowd as quickly as I could.

When we got to the bus stop, one pulled up and fit quite a few people on. It looked like we were going to make it on the next one. When the next one pulled up, an older man pushing his wife in a wheelchair went past the entire line (which was extremely long at this point) and tried to cut in line. I commend the driver who basically told him that just because he had a wheelchair didn’t give him the ability to cut in line in front of everyone else. The guy was mad, but if the bus driver hadn’t said something, there were a few others nearby who were ready to say something to him. The guy took his lumps and headed back to the back of the line.

We got on that bus and were back in our room by about 10:05. The pool at Sports was open until 11, and my son wanted to go swim, so why not? We got to the pool by 10:20 or so and swam for about 30 minutes, which was VERY refreshing after sweating our nuts off all day. The one thing I would warn is about the level of chlorine in the water. I know I packed my son’s goggles, but I couldn’t find them. He tried swimming without them, but couldn’t open his eyes under water as he said they burned. I’m guessing they put a TON of chlorine in their pools, so we ended up buying a pair of goggles at the gift shop later that week.

We were probably lights out by 11:30 that night. This was exactly the length of day I had been looking forward to.


#3

TUESDAY, AUGUST 22

Today was our MK/Epcot day. We were down near the bus stop a tad after 8 am. The screen showed we had about a 15-20 minute wait for a bus, so we opted to Uber to the park. I made one of my mistakes this morning and just put in “Magic Kingdom” as the destination. As we got closer, I realized he was going to drop us off at the TTC, but it was probably too late to request that he take us to the Contemporary and walk. Plus, my son wanted to ride the monorail. The cost of the Uber from Sports to TTC was just under $9. We would take two more Ubers and each would be under $10. I don’t see how the Minnie Vans will compete with that, honestly.

So, we went through security and decided to hop on a monorail to MK. Of course, there were delays, so we had to wait about 5 minutes to start rolling. I’m guessing that after all was said and done, the bus would probably have been about the same time. Oh well!

Once we got to the park, we strolled down Main Street and got in the spoke that would get us quickly to 7 Dwarfs Mine Train upon rope drop. We were relatively close to the front. My son complained a little about waiting, but I pointed out ALLLLLL the people behind us and how we would get to the ride before any of them. Once the rope dropped, we made our way to the ride and got on and only waited about 5 minutes or so.

I like this ride, but have never really understood the huge waits. Maybe it is that it is the best coaster for all ages (much better than Barnstormer), but I would never wait 120 minutes for it.

Once we got off, we headed towards Space Mountain, but my son saw the Teacups and wanted to ride that. I was trying not to be too overbearing, so I relented. In retrospect, I wish I had said no, as there is NEVER a long wait for the Teacups. Instead, once we got to Space Mountain, the line was up to 40 minutes. We had a 10 am FPP for it, but we were able to ride it once and then immediately get back in line for our FPP. We were on the coaster to the left this time. I’d love to see a schematic of the two rides, as I can’t quite tell if they are mirror images of each other or if they differ.

Once we got out, my son was getting hungry, so we headed to the Lunching Pad and got a Mickey pretzel. I think we ended up buying about 5 of these over the course of the week. We got cups of the not-so-great-tasting water for free and sat for a moment to savor our pretzels. Once we were done, we trekked across the park for our next FPP for Big Thunder Mtn Railroad, which was at a 30-40 minute wait at the time. Last year, this was closed when we went, so I hadn’t ridden it in 2 years. Solid ride.

Once we got off BTMR, we wanted to ride Splash Mountain, but the wait was about 80 minutes. We hopped on the train and rode back to Fantasyland and hit Barnstormer. At this point, we were killing time until our FPP for 7DMT. After Barnstormer, we went into the Dumbo play area and caught some A/C. My son played for about 15 minutes and we left without actually riding. It was pretty hot that day, so it was a good respite from the heat.

By this time, it was about 12:15, so time for our FPP for 7DMT. It is a great feeling to walk by those poor people who have been waiting for over an hour and hop right on! After 7DMT, we had some time to kill before our ADR for Tony’s, so we killed some time at Under the Sea, which was posted at 20 minutes when we went in, but was probably more like 35. Not worth the wait, but everything else we had checked was longer and couldn’t find any good FPPs, even with the modify trick.

After that, we headed over to the Fantasyland train station and rode to the front. As we passed Space Mountain, I was really trying to figure out where they are going to put Tron. Very excited for that one to come sooner rather than later. Also, on this ride, I guess I had never paid attention to the fact that Space Mountain is on the outside of the train tracks and that the lines in and out of Space must go UNDER the tracks. I guess I’m an idiot for never noticing that before.

Once we got to Main Street Station, we went to Tony’s for our ADR. This was the only restaurant my son had specifically requested before we got here. Lunch was okay. Had to wait about 10 minutes past our ADR time, but at least we were in the A/C.

My son had spaghetti and I had the pasta Bolognese or similar. We finished our lunch and looked at the wait times. There was nothing that we were dying to ride and I didn’t see any FPPs available for good ones. We were coming back the next night, so my son asked me to check DHS. I scored a RNR FPP about 90 minutes away.

We paid our tab and headed out to the buses and caught a quick one to DHS. Once we arrived, they were about to hold one of the Star Wars stage shows, which my son wanted to see, so we watched that. Next, we did Toy Story on a 30 minute wait, then perused Launch Bay and watched the movie. We met a nice CM who was doing an internship. She was actually a marine biology major at a nearby university and was telling us about a 19 foot hammerhead that was currently being tracked in the bay off Tampa. That’s a monster fish!

After that, we did our RNR FPP, which was our only time of the week riding it together. We were in the absolute last row, which was pretty cool. Definitely felt like we were pushing the coaster down the track and no lag coming off the hills. I love the differences between the front and back of coasters, although I don’t necessarily have a preference of one over the other.

By this point, it was getting a little later and our plans had been to go to Epcot for the EMH evening hours and catch IllumiNations. We caught the boat to Epcot (no walking this time), but when we got to Beach Club, we hopped off and walked the last bit as the boat headed to Boardwalk. I really wish they didn’t have those three stops so close together. Really kills the timing. I wish Disney would have the rickshaws between Epcot and DHS like they have between some of the Universal Studios. I would have tipped the guy for one of those, as I think that would be a ton quicker than a boat or bus!

Once inside Epcot, we headed to the front to ride Mission Space Green. Posted was 15, but it was probably more like 20. My son was acting nervous, which was odd considering he isn’t afraid of much worse rides. I actually liked it and tried to convince him to upgrade to Orange, but he wasn’t interested. Next, we hit Test Track single rider, which was relatively quick. By this point, it’s getting close to 8 pm, so we did Spaceship Earth one more time and then headed towards IllumiNations.

We were late to IllumiNations, so we were a bit too far to see much. My son wasn’t impressed with the first few minutes and asked if we could go ride something, so we headed to Soarin’. Standby was listed at 20 minutes, but it was practically a walk-in. I had always wondered how they determined who was a resort guest, but saw the folks checking bands at the entrance to the building. We got row B3, which was nice, although my son was more interested in being in the first row as he wanted to be up top. Oh well.

As we left Soarin’, my son said he was hungry. I had asked him a few times before this if he wanted to stop and get something to eat, and he said he wasn’t hungry. Now, with EMH, he now wanted to stop. We hit the food court there by Soarin’ and he got a cinnamon roll and I got a salad and fueled up a bit.

We headed to Test Track and hit single ride, which ended up being about 35 minutes. It looked like they were running one less vehicle in the loading cycle. This was my first night ride. I was a bit disappointed. I wish they would kill some of the outside lights and make it darker. That would seem bit faster, to me, than riding with all those lights on around the track.

We looked at Mission Space again, but the waits were too long. Frozen was down to 30 minutes, but we didn’t feel like walking all the way to the back and then back to the front. At this point, it was about 10:15, so we decided to try to beat the rush out of the park. We headed to our bus stop and only waited less than 5 minutes for a bus to arrive.


#4

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23

Today was set to be another busy day. We planned to hit DHS and MK and use the EMH evening hours at MK. The day also started a little early because my son wanted to do the Jedi Trials of the Temple training since we had never done it. I knew we had to get up early to do it, so I got up by 7 am and showered and got him out of bed around 7:20. We had our obligatory Lucky Charms in the morning and were out the door by 7:45.

When we got to the bus stop, it showed the first bus arriving in about 15-20 minutes, so we grabbed another Uber to DHS and were at the tapstiles by a few minutes past 8 am. We were about the 10th people at the tapstiles as far left as they would allow, as they were using the leftmost for ADRs. Around 8:25 or so, they opened up two more tapstiles to the left of us and we jumped over to that line and were #2 in that one. Around 8:30 or maybe a bit after, they let us start tapping into the park. We headed to the spot where they had us stopped in front of Hollywood and Vine and held us there for a bit, then let us into the Jedi line where we waited briefly for the first available CM.

We signed up for the 9:40 showing, which was the first of the day, which meant we had to be back by 9:10. It was 8:55 and no rides had opened, so we really didn’t have any time to ride anything to be sure of being back by 9:10, so we took some photos on the speeder bike near Star Tours and wandered around. It was already becoming a bit of a scorcher.

We headed over to the staging area and they handed out the robes and eventually led us over to the stage. The one bad thing about this is that there is absolutely no shade near the stage, at least not at 9:30. My son was happy to do it, but a bit disappointed that he didn’t get to fight Darth but rather had the Seventh Sister. Looking back, I remembered reading a post about which line to get in, but I guess I failed that memory test.

Overall, he had a good time, but it’s one of those bucket list items that I hope he doesn’t ask to do again, as it didn’t allow us to hit any good rides first thing. Once we were done, we used our 10 am Star Tours FPP and then headed to Launch Bay and killed some time and then went to Toy Story for our 11 am FPP. After that, we decided to have one of those HUGE doughnuts and sat down to eat those. Those doughnuts are pretty dang good, and I live in the HQ of Krispy Kreme!

Next, we headed to RNR and I rode single rider while he waited outside. He had said his head was flopping around on the ride and gave him a headaches yesterday and he didn’t want to ride it again. That was a weird complaint considering he’s taller this year and the last two years we have rode it 3-4 times in a row with no complaints.

Next up was our Tower of Terror FPP. At this point, he seemed a bit tired, so we headed to the front of the park to the Memory Maker kiosk where they linked our Jedi photos to our MDE account. That took a while since the people in front of us were having the CMs look for photos from rides that they said weren’t showing up. I commend the CMs for the patience to go through 90 minutes worth of photos from Buzz Lightyear at MK from the previous day to find two photos!

Once we were linked, we headed out to the bus stop and just missed a Sports bus. But a Music bus arrived and we decided to hop on that. Our room was at the back of Sports, so the walk from the Music bus stop to our room probably wasn’t that much further, so in the interest of saving time, we took it. Turned out to be a good decision.

When we got to our room, our Magic Band unlocked the door, but somehow housekeeping had managed to close the door behind them and get the safety latch so that we couldn’t open the door more than 2-3 inches. We had to walk to the front desk and get maintenance to get it fixed. While we waited on maintenance, we decided to go ahead and eat lunch in the food court. By the time we were done, we headed to our room and the issue was fixed.

At that point, my son wanted to swim, which we did for about 45 minutes and then relaxed in the room for a little bit. I took a quick shower and then we headed back to MK.

Once inside MK, I wanted to hit some of the rides we didn’t do yesterday. We did the walk-through Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, which my son had never done. It started sprinkling while we were doing this, which was a nice relief from the heat, but it didn’t last long. We had grabbed a BTMR FPP on the bus ride over, but it wasn’t time yet, so we grabbed something to eat at Pecos Bill.

After eating, we hit Pirates on a 20 minute standby and then did our FPP for BTMR. Once we tapped in, we grabbed a FPP for Jungle Cruise for about 20 minutes later. After Jungle Cruise, we walked to Haunted Mansion, as we had grabbed a Buzz FPP for an hour or so later. Haunted was posted at 40 minutes and it was every bit of it.

Next, we headed over and did the People Mover while waiting for our Buzz FPP, then hit Buzz. While in line, I grabbed a Winnie the Pooh FPP for 15 minutes later using Modify trick. So, next we rode that. We had grabbed a BTMR FPP while in line, so we headed that way and stopped to have a Popsicle. Although it had never really rained hard, there was thunder and lightning in the area around this time and a bunch of outdoor attractions had closed. By the time we got to BTMR, they said they were having technical difficulties and gave us an Anytime FPP, which we decided to use on Space Mountain, which was currently posted over an hour.

At this point, my son indicated he wanted to ride Peter Pan. With the HEA show about to start, we headed to PP and rode it with a 15 minute wait, although it was posted as 50. Next, we headed across the way to it’s a small world as the fireworks finished. We came out of the ride around 9:25 and found all of the lines to be pretty long and I couldn’t find any last minute FPPs.

We walked by Space Mountain. The posted time was only 50, but the line was literally out the door. At this point, my son said he was tired and could we just go back to the room. We headed to the exit and grabbed a bus.

We ended up on a non-branded bus and were right behind the driver. I asked her what was the deal with all the plain buses, and she said that Disney had a shortage of buses and drivers and were hiring other bus operators to fill the gaps.


#5

THURSDAY, AUGUST 24

This was planned to be our last day in the parks. I had planned this to be a little low key. We had a Flight of Passage FPP for later in the afternoon, so I left it up to my son on what we would do in the morning. He was pretty worn out by this point. He has a Garmin Vivofit Jr. and had 30k steps each on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I think his highest was 32k. Granted, I don’t put a lot of stock in the accuracy of those things, but I thought it was impressive considering his best day prior to this trip was 24k. Those three days on my iPhone said I had about 24k steps, but I obviously didn’t swim with it, so it probably was underreporting slightly.

Back to the trip! My son usually wakes up at home around 7 am without an alarm. On this day, he slept in until nearly 8:30 and I had to wake him at this point. I knew we weren’t going to be there for rope drop, but I didn’t want to roll in at 10:30, either.

We got up and had the last of our cereal and headed to the DHS, as that was the park my son said he wanted to visit. We had missed the bus, so we decided to take our third Uber of the day. I questioned this one a little, though, as he turned right on Osceola Pkwy and went down and made a U-turn and then came back and entered DHS through that entrance off Osceola. It was still under $10, and I think he did so to avoid the longer lines likely coming from the main gate. It did give us a chance to see some of the Star Wars construction a little up close.

We got to the tapstiles about 9:20 and headed to Star Tours. We ended on Naboo for the third time on this trip, which was a bit disappointing. The one thing I usually like about this trip is the variability, but we definitely didn’t get much of that this week. Next, we headed to Toy Story, which was a posted 25 minute wait. At this point, I was dying to break my record of 213k points. I started overthinking it and went away from one of my previous strategies and only got 157k. At this point, we still had our Anytime FPP from Monday, so we rode Toy Story one more time. I redeemed myself slightly and got 192k.

I really think one of the keys to that ride is to be in a car by yourself. My son had asked how I got 213k and I told him where some of the 5k point targets were on the ring toss, and later he was going for them and thus I couldn’t get as many of those. I think if you were by yourself, you could really focus on the higher value targets and not have to “share” them with your riding partner.

Okay, at this point it was after 10 am and the park is starting to get a little crowded. Tower of Terror was posted at 20 minutes, so we darted across the park and got in line. As we started through the queue, we knew there was no way it was 20. In fact, it quickly went to a posted of 50-55. But everything else at DHS had escalated, so we stayed in line. We met a very nice couple from Texas and chatted with them. The woman had never ridden it despite many trips to Disney. We ended up staying with them and my son wanted us to ride with them so he could see her reaction. Apparently, when she was 18 years old, she had been on a real elevator freefall, so she was a little cautious. She loved it, though!

Once we were done, we opted to say goodbye to DHS for this trip and headed to AK, since our FPPs were coming up around 1:30. We grabbed a bus and got to AK and headed to Pizzafari for a quick lunch. My son wanted to go back to the playground area in Dinoland since the slides had been closed the other night from the rain. We went over there for a bit, but he said the slides weren’t that fast. By this time, our FPP for Kali River Rapids was open.

I had never ridden Kali, since last trip I stayed with DS4 while my wife rode it. I liked it, but didn’t realize how short the ride was. We made it through relatively unscathed, but a father/son from Great Britain got DRENCHED in our boat. Next, we headed to Maharajah Jungle Trek and walked through a little bit while we killed time until our Expedition Everest FPP.

We got to Everest a few minutes early and chatted with a family of 5 from the UK. I asked them if they ever went to Disneyland Paris. They said it sucked and that it really isn’t that much more expensive to come to WDW, which I found shocking. We rode Everest once on our FPP and decided to ride it one more time. I didn’t have any headaches or issues today, so not sure what that was about on Sunday.

Our FPP for Flight of Passage was for 3:40 and the posted standby time was 230 Minutes!!!! We headed over and got in line right at 3:40. The line was barely moving. Once we got merged with the non-FPP folks, we found out that they had been having technical difficulties all morning. We were in line with a family from NJ and they had been waiting since 12:30. They never got out of line because they kept thinking that they were almost to the ride. They ended up waiting a total of 4.5 hours to ride it.

We ended up waiting nearly an hour with our FPP, but it was definitely worth it. This time, I really had to keep my glasses on my head with one hand as they really felt like they were going to slip off, more so than other day. When we were done, we saw the couple from NJ and asked them what they thought. The dad, it turns out, was too big and they couldn’t get the bars to latch, so he waited 4.5 hours only to be told he couldn’t ride. He took it in stride and the cast members were giving him a bunch of Anytime FPPs. It made sense that he was one of the delays when we were getting on the ride. We were all ready to go and then there was this unexplained delay, and it was probably the CMs trying to get him strapped in and then eventually pulling him off the ride. That would have SUCKED!

By this time, it’s approaching 5 pm. We had no more FPPs, so I asked my son what he wanted to do or what park he wanted to visit so I could look for FPPs. He said he just wanted to go back to the hotel and swim, so that is what we did. We hopped on a bus and headed back to Sports and swam. He met a 13 year old kid from Liverpool and they ended up leaving the pool area and throwing a football on the football “field” next to the pool. They were later joined by an 11 year old from NYC. Where else could my son play with kids from such faraway areas. It was great to watch that. They played together for almost an hour until I finally said it was 7:45 and I was hungry.

I tried to think of what we should do for dinner. I thought of trying to head to Epcot, but by this time it was a little after 8 and I didn’t know if we could make it in and out in time. We ended up just going to the McDonald’s right by Sports and had a relaxing meal there. We got back to the room and watched some TV and drifted off around 10:30.


#6

FRIDAY, AUGUST 25

When we originally planned this vacation, it was supposed to be just Disney. Then, I thought about heading to Universal on this day before driving home Friday night. There was a huge discussion about this, as my son is only 52” with shoes but wanted to ride Hulk and Dragon Challenge, which was made more pressing with the impending closure of Dragon Challenge.

We had spent a lot of time developing a plan. I bought some shoe lifts on Amazon that were supposed to be 1” but were more like 5/8”. Then, we tried on some Hoka One One shoes with the lifts installed at a shoe store and measured him. We couldn’t get him consistently measured at 54” using a laser. Some times he was 53.75, some he was 54, some he was 53.75. Just no interrater reliability. I didn’t want to spend $150 on shoes and then get shut down.

Now, don’t judge me that I shouldn’t put him on a ride if he’s not 54”. I know they have these heights for a reason, but I also believe that there is a buffer. For instance, we went to Silver Dollar City in Branson this summer and he rode Wildfire, where the height is 52”. That ride is by the same manufacturer as Hulk, goes upside down multiple times and I researched it and found that the cars are the exact same design. So, I figured if 52” was fine at that one, it was probably fine at Hulk.

Well, when we got to the check-out, my son decided that he didn’t want me to spend $150 if we got to the park and they denied us entry to those rides, which was very mature of him.

Then, during the week, we had some discussions about our Universal plan. Again, being pretty mature, he decided that he didn’t think it was a good idea to spend over $350 for one-day park-to-park tickets for just the two of us when there was only one new ride (Jimmy Fallon). So, we had decided on Tuesday or Wednesday that we were going to bail on Universal. We may do a Universal only trip in the spring or next fall.

So, what should we do with the day? I didn’t want to leave first thing for the drive back to NC, as we would likely time it wrong and hit Charlotte traffic at rush hour. So, we headed to Disney Springs and did some shopping. He had gotten some Cars 3 cars and still was looking for Jackson Storm, which we found at the huge Disney store there. We hit some other stores and got his younger brother a Darth Vader shirt. My son likes to go in stores, but he is like me in that he doesn’t dawdle and is in and out rather quickly. My intent all along had been to eat lunch here and then hit the road. We were done shopping by 11:30 and since we had eaten a later breakfast, neither was hungry yet. We hopped in the car and hit the rode.

Traffic was bad in Orlando as there was a wreck closer to Universal. After that, we had pretty much smooth sailing except for some rain that slowed us down, but we were home by a little before 9 pm.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I had tried to do the “right thing” by not pulling him out of school. If I had to do it over again, I would have pulled him. He is in advanced classes and is a smart kid, and it’s not like he would miss the one week where they were learning brain surgery. The heat wasn’t that bad, but the combo of the lines and the heat made it a little tougher. We have been spoiled by going the full week after Labor Day when lines are the shortest, so seeing some of the wait times was a little foreign to me.

The people watching at Disney is second, in my book, only to Vegas. What some people will wear there always cracks me up. All those women in long, black yoga pants have got to be burning up!

All Star Sports was perfect for our needs with just the two of us. Had the whole family come, I would have kept my Beach Club reservation for the larger beds or tried to get two connecting rooms at a Value resort, if they do that.

I’m already planning my next trip, but it may be awhile. My wife isn’t a huge Disney fan, so it will be hard to convince her to come back soon. My thought is a trip to Disneyland in the next year or so, and maybe a Disney cruise in 2019. Although Toy Story Land looks neat, there just doesn’t seem to be enough new stuff to warrant a return trip next year. And I think I will stay away in 2019, as I can’t imagine how crazy DHS will be for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge considering how crazy the lines for Pandora have been.

Now, if they announce some of these other rides like Tron or the Guardians coaster are opening in 2018, I might be convinced otherwise. But I’m tempted to wait a few years and come back when there are a half dozen or so new things to see and do.

I love eavesdropping on clueless people in line who know very little about what they are doing or the most efficient way to tour the parks. I pity them, but also am glad that there are a ton of people who don’t know the modify trick.

I’m sure there are more thoughts. I had written some down with my notes that allowed me to do the trip report, but I lost that slip of paper. Oh well, hope you enjoyed this!


#7

Thank you for writing a report. I will admit I laughed out loud when I read you left without his shoes!


#8

What a great report, I really enjoyed reading it! You really did get a lot done and even fit in some down time at the pool! I've been in in August before and the weather can sometimes really zap your energy.
Thanks for sharing :grinning:


#9

Loved your trip report! But what is the Fastpass modify trick?


#10

Let's say you are done with your three FPP and looking for another in Magic Kingdom. Let's say you want to get one for Space Mountain and it's currently 4:00 pm. You search for Afternoon and don't see any. You search for Evening and don't see any. Then, you search 4:00, 4:30 and 5:00. You keep choosing different times which modifies the search and usually something would show up. When I got the BTMR FPP on Wednesday evening, the FPP window I got was 8:10, but I actually found it in the 8:30 window after searching a few different ones previously. You just keep hitting different time windows which modifies the search until you find what you are looking for. Now, with FOP or 7DMT, it may not work, but for most other rides that have a few FPP left, it seems to work very well.


#11

Oh, how interesting! I will try that. Thanks for your reply


#12

Thanks for sharing! I am worn out just reading everything you did.


#13

I see that you used Uber to go to the parks. How long did you have to wait to get one?

It seems that they must be fairly close just waiting for that call.


#14

When you open the app, it will show you where any nearby Uber vehicles are. Each time we opened it, there were plenty nearby. I think the longest we waited was 3-4 minutes, with one showing up in less than 2 minutes!


#15

Thank you! I have an ADR at Boma for 9:30 my first morning and I think Uber will be the best option.


#16

lol @ Soarin on Crack. Precisely!!!


#17

I really enjoyed your report. Thanks for sharing!


#18

Hi! Thanks for you long post! I read them all & also feel tired just thinking about all you did! LOL! My family of 4 is heading to Disney in December, and we'll be part of a larger family group of 10, so I don't think we'll have your ease of travel, but I did read with interest about your Uber experiences. We've never used an Uber but might consider it after the (relatively) positive feedback I've seen on this forum. So glad you liked ToT! That's mine & my husband's favorite! We haven't ridden it in years & are hoping to find a way to ride it together during our trip.


#19

Inspired by your schematic thoughts, I did some googling and popped this site which makes it appear they are indeed mirror images or at least very, very close:
http://www.wdwthemeparks.com/details/magic-kingdom/tomorrowland/photos/blue-prints-construction-drawings#prettyPhoto[gallery3]/5/

No idea how legit the site is, but they have multiple Space Mountain blueprints that are interesting to look at where the tracks do appear to mirror each other...


#20

FWIW, to get really high scores it's actually the opposite. If you work together with your partner and clear zones of targets some really high value opportunities come up. It takes some coordination though, but for example in the Army scene you can spawn a tank which shoots high value plates etc. If you're really interested in maxing your score, check out YouTube for some pointers. I will say it is pretty cool when you work together with your son and clear an area to get a new spawn like the tank...