Hello folks. I’m more of a consumer than a producer at this site, but I got so much great help from the site/forum, I wanted to give back a little. I’m a few weeks late in posting, but hopefully some of my experience can prove helpful to others.
Sunday Aug 12-Friday Aug 17, 2018.
Driving to/from IL, staying at Contemporary. 37yo dad (me), 38yo mom, 3 daughters 8, 5, 5 (twins). We spent one and a half days in Disneyland a couple years ago, but never any time in WDW. The DL experience of semi-educated wandering left me searching for a better way, which was nicely remedied on this trip, thanks.
Sunday Aug 12
Arrive CR mid-afternoon with intent to chill at the pool until getting the text about our room (did online check-in). No park scheduled this day. We actually left home Friday afternoon and spent two nights on the road, which worked out nicely as our drive on arrival day was only around 3.5 hrs. Unfortunately although it was sunny when we arrived there supposedly was lightning in the area so we couldn’t use the pool. We took the opportunity to explore the hotel outside and in. After about an hour of that and still no text, with nothing else to do I decided to stop by the check-in desk and make sure all was well. This proved a fortuitous decision. After some time at the computer and consultation with her manager, our helper told us our room was ready and she would get us confirmed. Then she walked away and two suits came toward us from across the lobby smiling and carrying balloons. We were told we were selected as the “family of the day.” I assumed this was just a nice Disney touch and admired the balloons, but was I in for a surprise. For those unaware as I was at that moment, the Family of the Day is a big deal. First, our garden wing reservation was upgraded to the tower (7th floor bay view, but park view from the corridor door). This alone was incredible. Second, we were given a free one hour boat rental from the hotel marina, which costs over $100 on its own. Finally, the big kicker: we got a bonus anytime FP for each day in the parks. This would be good for any ride except Pandora/TSL/Frozen. Unbelievable.
Eventually the weather cleared, we got some food from Contempo Cafe, and I strategized on how best to use this shiny new touring weapon.
Monday Aug 13, MK - CL6
I was fairly confident in my plans, and I fortunately have a family that’s not afraid to walk and willing to trust me. That said, I decided not to be too ambitious with our day 1 morning, opting simply to be in the park before the 9a open, take stock of what the RD lines looked like, and go from there. We wanted to wait through the welcome show, so I assumed that meant forgoing a prime spot in the 7D line. Our scheduled FP were: 9:55 PP, 10:55 Space/Speedway (one of the twins wasn’t ready to commit to Space yet), 12:20 Enchanted Tales, with an assumption that we’d use the magic FP (which I started calling the anytime one) on 7D early evening. The goal was to stay through the 3p parade, then take a hotel break and return in evening.
I timed it, we left CR at 8:03am and arrived through the tapstiles into Town Sq at 8:17am. For those able to walk, the CR is worth every penny for the walkway. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s about 2/3 of a mile from the CR tower to Main St, and you get to pass through the always empty bag check on the way.
In hindsight, for a perfect maximization from a plan perspective, we should have gotten right into the 7D RD line, which at 8:20 wasn’t bad at all. Tomorrowland rope was basically empty. It being our first day, we decided to actually go back to Main St and look around. We actually ended up just sitting and applying sunscreen and killing time before the welcome show, because by that time I’d settled on the less-ambitious of the two personalized plans I’d put together. (For other newbies, I would recommend this, as you don’t really know what your going to be ready for until you’re in the moment, and the only thing better than one plan is two.)
Here’s what we accomplished:
9am RD to Speedway, used RS
break for snack/sunscreen
FP Peter Pan
FP Space Mtn (3 people) / FP small world (2 people)
break for pretzel
FP Enchanted Tales w Belle
break to sit down/search for FP for 15min
FP Haunted Mansion
Lunch Columbia Harbor House
Stakeout spot then watch Parade from Liberty Sq
Linger in Main St shops, then walk to hotel
Arrive CR 4:00pm
Arrive MK 6:40pm
Anytime FP 7D
break for shopping 15min
FP Winnie the Pooh
Dinner Friar’s Nook
FP small world
Monorail back to CR
Ice Cream at hotel then kids in bed by 10:00pm
I have to say, this day went flawlessly. It started with the pleasant surprise that I somehow missed in planning that we could do a rider switch on the Speedway so all three kids could drive with only one pass through the line, which allowed me to change the original plan which called for one kid to FP the Speedway while the other two went with mom to Space. (I feel the need to explain ourselves here as well as RD to the Speedway is sorta wasteful. Beyond all reason, my kids LOVED Autopia at DL, such that for one of them the Speedway was maybe her number one anticipated attraction. What can you do?) This ended up making the entire morning extremely easy, as we were only doing standby on easy rides. Again, for inexperienced WDW people, I highly recommend this approach. We didn’t wait more than 10-15min for anything all day, and my kids didn’t require a break until around 12:45pm, then again when we hit the hotel, and this on a very hot day. Of course the huge luxury of being able to do 7D anytime we wanted with the magic FP was invaluable.
- The general crowd level was manageable. It was definitely busy but didn’t get in our way.
- The heat was also manageable. I think not having to wait in long lines exposed to heat was key here. The 30min we spent waiting for then watching the parade was brutal, but we knew we had a hotel break coming.
- Recommend watching the parade from right in front of Liberty Sq Market. It’s exposed to the sun, but the view facing west allows you to see the whole parade approach, and we were allowed to follow the parade as it headed toward the hub after passing us.
- CHH was nothing special, basically like a Long John Silvers. Friar’s Nook loaded tots were good though, and my kids loved the big hot dogs there. We didn’t do the dining plan and saved a lot by ordering strategically and packing snacks in our bag. Also, if you know someone in your group will have a craving for a specific item like a pretzel, know where to go for one in advance. I spent 10 minutes walking around Fantasyland before finding one right next to where I started.
- Dumbo is pretty blah ride during the day, but the lights and colors at night are pretty amazing. Winnie the Pooh we found to be the least interesting of the dark rides. I thought Enchanted Tales was really well done, but none of my three girls really got much from it. Barnstormer seats/backs are terriblly uncomfortable but it’s very short.
- There is nothing really to see at the Castle. Having loved the walkthrough at the DL castle, this legit disappointed my kids.
- Having one of our kids over 7 was extremely important as it allowed her to ride alone on the many rides that had only two-seat cars. If you’re an odd-numbered family I would advise waiting until your oldest is 7 before doing a trip.
- I had moderate success doing the MDE refresh for extra FP in the park. You can see not counting the anytime FP, we were able to do 7 FPs without much difficulty and leaving before the fireworks. I wasn’t able to get much headliner stuff for when we were looking between 12:45-8:00pm, but most of the others were more or less readily available without requiring us to jump around the park. In fact, we never went into Frontierland or Adventureland at all this day.
part 2 to follow as a reply