We’re just back from our trip, and it was wonderful! We were there for 7 nights, 8 days, and because of Touring Plans we waited in virtually no lines. Our longest wait was for Buzz Lightyear, of all things – it was supposed to be a 12 minute wait but turned into 30 minutes after the ride stopped for about 10-15 minutes. Overall, we managed to do even more than we had planned to do, with enough rest time to keep us all happy during a very hot, humid week!
Some impressions/learning experiences:
–Getting those hard to get Fast Passes at 60 days out made a big difference! We had fast passes for Seven Dwarves Mine train and Splash mountain for each of the 4 days we thought we would be in the MK (We planned to be in the MK for 2 ½ days, and booked fast passes for the MK for our departure day as well, which we ended up using). These turned out to be everyone’s favorite rides, so we were so glad to have them! We ended up riding Seven Dwarves 6 times in the course of our trip (in addition to the fastpasses, we had a PPO breakfast at Be Our Guest so walked onto the ride after breakfast, and we got an anytime Fastpass very unexpectedly when our breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal table took a long time to get to the table due to an allergy issue (we never even complained or made an issue of it)). We pretty much walked on (no more than a 5 minute wait) with these fastpasses every time.
–Booking fast passes early in the day worked out really well for us, especially at Magic Kingdom. Using the MDE app, we were then able to get additional fast passes for Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Magic carpets, etc. very easily (those rides always had lots of availability), and even got additional fast passes for Space mountain and some of the princess meet and greets.
–We had planned afternoon breaks every day, and these were essential in the August heat. I learned that for my kids (ages 4 and 7), trying to do both the pool and have a nap did not work in the time alotted. So we ended up alternating days – some days we just went right back to the room, closed the curtains, darkened the room, and lay down for a solid 2 hour nap, and other days we went to the pool then had some downtime in the room (no nap).
–We had PPO breakfasts almost every day. We knew going in that this was ambitious, but these really worked out for us. The kids LOVED meeting all the characters, and we were always done by park open, so got a jump on touring without having to wait with the rope drop crowd. We were able to do Soarin, the Safari, sign up for Jedi training before breakfast and do the Great Movie Ride, and do both Seven Dwarves and Peter Pan on the same morning after BOG, all with no wait or minimal waits, because of those breakfasts. Having these early mornings, combined with late (for us) nights, made those afternoon rests essential though.
–Hollywood Studios was a difficult day to plan and to execute! While our Touring plans for MK and Epcot were spot on, the Hollywood Studios timing was a bit off. The Great Movie ride was listed as a 19 minute ride, with a 5 minute wait at 9 am, but it took us more like 34 minutes all in even though we got on one of the first cars. It was definitely a mistake to do that ride first on a day we had a 10:10 Jedi training, because we also had a fast pass we had to use for Star Tours by 10:10. We ended up sprinting to Star Tours and then sprinting to Jedi Training. Not my best moment. It all worked out in the end though! We also planned on doing the 12 pm Indiana Jones show that day, but it was filled to capacity and closed by the time we got there maybe 5-10 minutes before the show. We had a 1:50 lunch reservation at Sci-Fi – our only lunch reservation of the week, and decided that for us, lunch reservations do not work. We ended up waiting at least 30 minutes to get a table, and everyone was too hot and tired by that point to enjoy the lunch. We would have been much better served heading back to our hotel earlier. We also missed our chance for a later Indiana Jones show because of all the time that lunch took. We ended up coming back to Hollywood Studios for a couple hours the next day (our designated rest day), which turned out really well. We spent the morning at the pool, then a little before noon left for Hollywood Studios. My DH got to do Rockin Rollercoaster , I did Little Mermaid with the kids, then we all saw the 2 pm Indiana Jones show (we got fast passes for all three attractions that morning). We then caught a bus to the MK and a boat to Fort Wilderness for the 4 pm Hoop De Doo show, which was a highlight of our trip! We were back at our resort before 7 pm in time to roast marshmallows on the beach and make s’mores, then head in for an early bedtime. Our “rest” day turned out to be very full, but felt relaxed even with all that activity.
–Meal highlights – Be Our Guest dinner (best food of the trip) and breakfast (I had low expectations for breakfast but it was one of our favorites!); Hoop de Doo review (best overall experience), Biergarten, Ohana breakfast, which we did on our rest day so it felt more relaxed and the kids loved the parade – my DD even got to march holding Stitch’s hand! We also did ‘Ohana for dinner – I loved it but my kids really did not! Something about the smells in the restaurant set them off. This surprised me since they eat grilled steak and chicken, even with lots of seasoning or marinades, all the time at home. We had a Tiffins jungle book package booked for our Animal Kingdom day but canceled it because I knew we would all benefit from more rest time and a more flexible nighttime plan. This ended up being an excellent decision, even though I know my husband and I would have loved Tiffins. We ended up napping until almost 6 pm that day (our Tiffins reservation would have been for 6), and my kids were happier eating bad pizza from Pizzafari that night, while my husband and I snacked on samosas and falafals from the cart in Asia. Missing that Tiffins dinner (and Jungle Book) allowed us to do extra rides on Kali Rapids and Everest, the Dinoland attractions, and see the Tree of Life Awakening, before heading back to our hotel earlier than expected just in time to see the fireworks from our pool at the Polynesian (our last night hurrah).
–Character meets – I did not plan for many character meets in the park because we were doing lots of character breakfasts (including Cinderella’s Royal Table), but we ended up doing a bunch of princess meets with my daughter (I got fastpasses for most), and she really loved them. There is really something special about the interaction at those meets above and beyond the shorter interaction at the character breakfasts.
–Entertainment highlights – (most are what you would expect) Festival of Fantasy Parade, Pirate Adventure at MK – We all really loved the pirate treasure hunt – the special effects were so cool!; Star Wars fireworks, Nemo show at Animal Kingdom (I knew Lion King was good but I had never seen the Nemo show before and I thought it was fantastic), Indiana Jones
–Ride highlights – again, the expected were the hits for us – my kids loved all the thrill rides they were tall enough for. Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Splash Mountain were big favorites, and for my son, Everest and Space Mountain were highlights. With rider swap and extra fast passes from me and my daughter, my son got to ride Space Mountain and Everest 3 times with no wait. I’ll also add the princess meet and greets here. I ended up doing Ariel, Elsa and Anna, Rapunzel and Tiana with my daughter, and she LOVED them and I loved watching her interact with them.
–Resort – we stayed at the Polynesian Villas and loved it! We booked direct through Disney, switching from a regular Polynesian room about a month before our trip because a good deal became available. We requested a third floor west facing Tokelau room using Touring Plans room request, and got a Tokelau third floor east facing room, which was fine. No fireworks view from our room, but we caught the fireworks three nights from the Polynesian-- once from the beach of the Polynesian, once from the Tokelau balcony, and on our last night from the pool! It was spectacular. The monorail was very convenient and worked really well – most of the time we waited no more than 5 minutes for the monorail. One time there were technical difficulties resulting in a 20 minute wait, but overall the monorail worked out great.
–MVP of our trip – our stroller we rented from Kingdom Strollers). I originally did not plan on one, but the kids really appreciated it and we were so glad to have it. For the most part, both kids and adults stayed happy and were able to enjoy all the parks had to offer – and I think having the stroller played a big part in that. It allowed the kids to relax, rest, and not feel the brunt of the crowds.
–Memory Maker is definitely worth it if your trip is more than a couple of days! I was skeptical of spending $150 for Memory maker but it was so worth it for us! We have such wonderful pictures – including Jedi training, Enchanted tales with Belle (my husband was a Knight and my son played Maurice), lots of rides, really fun magic shots, family pictures in front of Cinderella’s Castle, the Epcot ball, the Tree of Life, Chinese Theater, Everest, all the character meets, etc. The pictures are better than anything I would have taken, capture moments (like on rides) we would not otherwise be able to capture.