The planning begins: first iteration

Regular readers will know that, over the weekend, I somewhat impetuously booked a trip to WDW for next July. With only 275 days to go, the planning starts now.

The first step is probably to think about what my goals for the trip are. Unfortunately that’s now what I spent last night doing. Instead I put a simple grid together. Unlike my usual, detailed 15-min daily breakdown, this grid simply had: park, breakfast/lunch, dinner, FPPs.

You can’t really get started on your planning until you’ve allocated parks to days. How will you know where you’re going to eat and what rides you’ll want FPPs for until you know where you’re actually going to be.

Most of the choices of park-to-day are arbitrary, but a starting point is to look at crowd calendars. I’m not a huge fan of these. I don’t really understand them (what’s a 6 compared with a 4?) and I don’t really trust them. If you subscribe to the TP updates, you’ll get a number of changes to the crowd predictions, which as often as not will mean your allocation of park to day is now hopelessly wrong.

But it’s a start.

Another way to proceed is to look for things that don’t happen every day. For example, next year I’d like to try the brunch at CG. Since this is only on a Sunday, that places me near MK on a Sunday. As it happens, I have rather different ideas about what I’m going to do after brunch, but you can see how this might work.

Perhaps before all this you need to think about how many days in each park. I have eight full days, plus arrival day and departure day. My flight arrives at about 4pm, so I may not get to my hotel much before — what? — 8pm, so I think I’m just going to go straight to the hotel and stay there. I’m staying at Pop — I’ve never been there before and I figure there’ll be plenty to explore to fill my first evening. There might even be a chance to walk round the lake and visit AOA. My flight leaves at around 8pm on departure day, so I’ll have maybe five hours of park time before I leave.

My initial thoughts were: 2 days MK, 2 days AK, 2 days Epcot, 2 days UOR and 1 day DHS. (I only have 8½ days, but you get the picture.)

I started to worry a little about how I’m going to fill the time. For example: two days at AK? Days are long and I’ve done most of the attractions before. But one benefit of two days is two sets of FPPs: so six rides with short lines and, at parks with FPP restrictions (like AK), you can have (for example) both FOP and Na’vi. Two days also gives you one day as insurance if the first day is rained off.

I’ve tried to keep costs low, but I did, perhaps naughtily, sign up for the deluxe dining plan. That’s 27 table credits to spend in ten days. Most days I figure a big breakfast, a couple of snacks, and dinner will be enough, so that implies signature restaurants are very much on the menu.

My choice of restaurants has allowed for some creativity. For example, for my two UOR days I’m going to have breakfast at WDW first — thus saving some expense at UOR. Which brings me back to brunch at CG. From there I’ll head off to UOR.

Also I enjoyed the character breakfasts I did this year and a few of these are in hotels. So one of my Epcot days will start at the Poly, where I’ll have breakfast at Ohana. One of my MK days starts with breakfast at 1900PF at the GF.

Turning to FPPs, these can help decided the allocation of parks to days. Both FOP and SDD are premium FPPs. I’ll have booking at 60+9, so I’ve pushed (at least) one of my AK and DHS days later in the trip to give me the greatest chance of getting the FPPs I want at the times I want.

After a few hours I had a first iteration of the plan.

I decided to top-and-tail with MK. So Day 1 starts with lunch at CRT, and ends with dinner at AP: a short walk and boat ride away from MK. Day 8 starts with breakfast at 1900PF and ends with dinner at BOG.

I thought I’d keep departure day simple: I’m going to AK — an early FOP, followed by lunch at Tiffins.

I have two more AK days scheduled: one is a full day that starts at Boma and ends at Jiko. The second is another short one: an early FOP followed by lunch at Satu’li, and then off to UOR. Altogether this gives me three bites at FOP / NRJ.

I’ve allocated a full day to Epcot, which will start at Ohana and end at Le Cellier. And then a mixed day: half Epcot, half DHS. Epcot will start with an early GG breakfast and then straight into the standby line for Soarin’. Then off to DHS for FPPs at SDD, TOT and RNR, with dinner at HBD.

That leaves one last day: half DHS (breakfast at H&V and a second bite at SDD) and half at Disney Springs.

There will be a temptation to book the dessert party for HEA on my last night, and the FEA dessert party to get the FPP for FEA and a good view of IllumiNations. This is strictly against my rules, but I’ll see how my finances look nearer the time.

So that’s the first iteration of the plan.


Glad you are back and planning another trip! I like the way you approach the planning.

I see you have AP listed for a dinner–you saw that they changed that to a character meal? Not signature anymore, but you get to meet the Evil Queen.

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Yes, I’m actually excited about the AP characters. Though I was “disappointed” it only costs one credit! I was desperate to spend them!


The downside to this part is that it puts you in UOR well after rope drop and the time of day when the parks are emptiest. Unless you plan to splurge for Express passes, you might want to revisit that to ensure you arrive at UOR both days as early as possible and then leave early in the day (at least one of the days) instead.

On both my previous trips I’ve had Express Passes and they just make everything so much easier. So I’m afraid I’m going to be doing that again. Yes, it’s expensive, but I love UOR and EPs are definitely worth it.

Plus I want to end the days in the UOR parks — for the Night-time Lights, and Cinematic Celebration.

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Okay. I had read someone previously state that if you are going to buy Express passes, it is almost as expensive as just staying in one of the Universal hotels, which you weren’t doing. But, perhaps that’s only true for families rather that individuals.

I did look into that, but it definitely doesn’t make sense as a solo traveller. Plus UOR make you pay in full as soon as you book. I’m almost tempted to wait until I’m actually in Orlando to book the tickets for UOR.

Listen. I’m trying to be helpful here, but every time I make a suggestion, you come back with some totally logical, already-thought-out justification for doing things YOUR way.

You almost act like this is YOUR vacation or something! :smiley:


Glad to see you have a trip booked. Looking forward to following along in your planning!

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Now to plan to be at WDW during the same time to find @profmatt and harass, er, I mean share some liner love!

Might actually work out, we are planning to drive out there next summer and time share/Airbnb hop for a couple of weeks. I’ll just make sure it falls sometime when he’s there. LOL


Hooray!!! I am so excited to follow along in the planning and in the trip itself once again! :star_struck:


I’m not sure but if you are eating breakfast at other resorts like 1900, Ohana, CG, what are your plans to get there early in the morning. If it was me. there would be 2 buses to take because I can’t uber or lyft because of the ECV. I would have to make the ADR’s around 9am or later. Just want to see how you work this out because I know you will.

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profmatt, can I ask - “How do you cope with the heat in July”? !! I went Sept/Oct and found it too hot to stay in the parks all day without it wearing me out. :slight_smile: I’m hoping to come back in 2020, and have opted for late January/mid Feb. Hoping to get cooler weather. Long way to come from Australia :slight_smile:
I do like reading all your planning though - great ideas

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I had great success with Lyft this year (and Uber last year) so for trips that are not directly to a park I’ll do that again. I accept it’s an extra cost, but it’s not huge. And it’s vastly more convenient.

I’m not sure about timings. Historically I’ve gone for late mornings, with breakfast ADRs at 11am and not getting to the parks till after noon. This is to avoid burning the candle at both ends.

But the one negative I hear about Pop is noise, so getting up late might not be possible if I get woken up early. Plus from a weather perspective being in the parks in the mornings is advantageous.

Given that I’ll be on-property I may return to Pop in the afternoons for a snooze and do mornings and evenings in the parks.

Indeed, maybe I won’t do ADR breakfasts. I can play things by ear and get up and head out when I want. ADRs do restrict you somewhat.

So maybe I’ll ADR lunch and dinner and maybe pick up a snack on my way out of the hotel. More flexibility for the morning that way. This may also be a better use of my DDP credits.

Food (ahem) for thought!


Well, that’s a very good point about the heat and further points to taking afternoon breaks and therefore doing earlier mornings that I’ve done before.

This summer I did duck out of MK one afternoon because it was just too hot and busy and I’d done my three FPPs and couldn’t find any good fourth ones. Not staying on property I headed off to monorail hotels to explore instead.

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One issue I had with having a big breakfast before going to the parks was a feeling of being too full to go on rollercoaster or motion-simulator rides.

So rides first, then lunch, then back to hotel, then rides again, then dinner, then fireworks may be the way forward.

The time difference may work in my favour, actually. If I stick to UK time, rope-dropping isn’t early at all!


If you book direct with HRH or Loewes, you pay for one night in full but you can cancel and get a full refund up to 48 hours before your stay.

So I’m probably at iteration 1.1 now.

The breakfasts are all gone. They were all repeats, anyway. Except Boma. But I have Jiko dinner.

In their place are lunches, which brings lots of new places that I’ve never been to: Coral Reef, Tusker House, Sci-Fi. And this has opened up some new dinner possibilities: Monsieur Paul, Flying Fish.

Slightly worried that the deluxe DDP is waaaaay too much food and that I’ll be tempted to use all the credits and wil die.

What’s the saying? “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow ye shall die.” Although, I’m pretty sure that was meant to be about how NOT to approach life…

It is a lot of food if you do mostly 1 TS a meal. Last year we had mostly 3 meals a day, and it was too much. This trip we’ll be doing more signatures so that there are mostly 2 meals a day.

I think your idea of lunch and dinner is a good idea. Breakfasts are usually not a good use of credits. However, it’s my favorite kind of food. I have one or two late morning ones reserved. But DD16 didn’t want any early morning ADRs this time.