Lessons, Tips and Tricks Learned
ADRs and FP+
Always secure a dummy on-property reservation for the timeframe you want before the (180 + 10) window opens for ADRs. Whether going for 4 days, 7 days or 10 days, make the reservation so that the (180 + 10) window allows you to secure the ADRs you want/need on the earliest possible date.
As an example, say my trip was 12/10 to 12/17, but I knew the last day I needed an ADR was 12/15. I should go back 10 days from 12/15 (to 12/5 – or is it 12/6 – still need to get that question answered) and make a 10-day on-property reservation, maybe at POP, for 12/5 to 12/15. That way, 180 days before 12/5, I’ll be able to make ADRs for the entirety of my planned stay through the day my last ADR is required.
Then, once I’m inside of 180 days to that last ADR day, I can cancel the resort reservation without losing the ADRs (since they are all now within 180 days or less).
I’d need to research the cancellation policy but this trick may also work if you want to stay off-site. In that case, we’d make the dummy resort reservation run through the latest day we require either an ADR or a FP+; and, we’d hold the dummy resort reservation until we are 30 days or less to go to the last day we made a FP+ reservation.
Best use of DME upon arrival and departure
Always use the DME tags on your luggage when going to WDW, unless your flight will land so late that you don’t want to risk not having your luggage in your room for the first night of your stay. Even if you don’t ride the MDE from the airport to your resort, your bags are tagged and will be collected and transported directly to your room for you.
Couple this with a simple trick – don’t carry on anything you can’t take to a park the first or last day – and you’re set to arrive and go right to a park; and, if desired, go to a park on departure day. The latter approach would also require use of the resort airline check-in counter but that went pretty straight forward!
If the DME line is too long, call an Uber or grab a Taxi and get out of there!
Once your cubes are all packed – unless you have a luggage scale at home – weigh your cubes and write the weights on a sticky note to be attached to each cube. Knowing the weights of each cube, you can shuffle the cubes at home into multiple suitcases to be sure you even out the packed weight. It may also be a good idea to create a list of the items packed in each cube so you can quickly and easily replicate this packed weight distribution when you pack to return home.
Saratoga Springs Tips
If staying at SSR, understanding the bus route and resort layout – and knowing what your priorities are for the stay – are integral to requesting a room in the correct location. There are five groups of buildings at SSR and, in order of the bus stops, they are:
• The Grandstand – This is the first bus stop, meaning (going to the parks) there is always a seat available on the bus and (coming from the parks) you’re the first to get off the sardine can. However, some of the buildings have a bit of a hike to get to the main lobby.
• The Carousel – This is REALLY far away from everything – not for us
• The Paddock – This, too, is pretty far from everything although there are nice “waterfront” views available at many rooms – and rooms in the 6501-6836 range are near the walkway to Disney Springs
• Congress Park – Many of these rooms have a “waterfront” view which can see Disney Springs in the distance, and are along the walkway to Disney Springs
• The Springs – This is the closest set of buildings to the main lobby (Carriage House) and main pool. If the pool and the lobby are important to you, this would be a consideration. However, it’s the last bus stop – so if you’re not planning on catching the early buses OR if you’re traveling with somebody that has a scooter, you may be waiting for a few buses before you can board.
Park Touring - General
For this trip, we bought 6-day non-hopper tickets. We were there Saturday to Saturday and planned to use our tickets the 6-days sandwiched in between arrival and departure day. We had originally planned 4 pre-RD breakfasts (8am-ish ADRs) and two days with morning EMH. That means we’d be at the parks, every day, from 7:30am until about 5:30pm.
By the end of the 2nd day, everybody agreed to cancel the pre-RD breakfast for Animal Kingdom. Don’t get me wrong – we’re morning people and we definitely enjoyed the 60 hours of touring and we still didn’t see everything, but touring 60 hours by going 6 days, 10 hours straight a day was too much.
Further, Logan (almost 8) appeared less-than-interested in all the character meet and greets this time around. I don’t think it was the characters as much as the anxiety of meeting them – and he was annoyed in general with “all the pictures!”
The lesson learned for us, anyway, is to build in more breaks and, possibly, at least one full “break day” (maybe a day off and attend a party that night). Logan kept asking about the pool and, despite bringing our suits, the touring plans didn’t allow any R&R time other than on arrival and departure day.
Next time, we’ll almost definitely go with a 6 or 7-day hopper ticket. Hopefully we can snag a 7-day hopper for the price of a 4-day hopper during one of UT’s promotions. It’s too early to get too detailed on the exact high-level plan (we don’t even have a countdown), but I’m pretty sure we’d like to visit the parks on arrival and departure day – and maybe do a few days where we utilize morning EMH at one park to tour 8-12, then take a mid-day break to grab lunch and relax before touring a different park in the afternoon or early evening.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Tips
Definitely bring your plastic-card park tickets with you to MK and link them to your SOTMK game. We discovered you can get a pack of cards every day for each MB and each hard-card you link to your game, even if the hard-cards are linked to the MBs you’re already using. I’m not sure if this loophole gets closed before our next visit but, if not, we’re going to take advantage. In fact, we still have the MB’s from 2013 – and we may try to bring them, our 2016 MBs and the new ones we get for the next trip and get as many packs per day as we can!
Other Collectible Cards
Ask every transportation official (bus, boat, monorail, etc.) for transportation trading cards. I had no idea this existed until I saw the family ask the boat captain at the Polynesian for cards, and then get excited that one of them got “the ferry.” As was mentioned in the trip report, the family also mentioned something about collectible safety cards which the CM’s (with tablets) have and hand out when asked. It can’t hurt to try – and I’d love to hear if somebody else knows more on this or if somebody else tries it before our next trip.
We’ve never been pin traders before – and we didn’t try it on this trip, either. That said, I think it would be a really great experience for Logan to get involved in. His anxiety makes it hard to interact with others. Practice can only make things easier. He also loves collecting things: Pokémon cards, SOTMK cards, McDonalds happy meal toys (when they’re cool – like the Minions last year), etc.
We loved collecting items throughout the week for our Fairy Godmail-children. We had bought post cards of their favorite characters and made sure we also got an autograph from each character during the week (to see handwriting). Roberta was an art major in a different life, so she was able to copy the hand-writing of those characters to write out personal messages on the backs of the post-cards. That was a cool touch.
We were all ready to mail the care package from Magic Kingdom on our final park day there (12/02) but … we had no envelopes! We hadn’t brought envelopes for this. We figured we could buy something there, buy some nice stamps, have the package post-marked right there in MK, right? Wrong, at least for us. We couldn’t find any envelopes for sale, just stamps. We were a bit disappointed but we knew we could still mail from our resort and get an “Orlando” postmark on the package, which was better than nothing at all.
Our lesson learned here – bring envelopes to MK when you’re going to mail out your Fairy Godmailer package!
World Showcase and Agent P’s Adventures
Going into this last trip, I wanted to try Agent P with Logan just because so many had said it could be fun. I was skeptical, though, because I wanted to tour World Showcase and (call me naïve) I wanted Logan to tour and learn. Agent P could take 25-40 minutes per adventure – and I felt like that would be such a waste of time.
I admit when I’m wrong – and in this case – I was majorly wrong! Playing Agent P with Logan may have been MY favorite part of the trip. We weren’t Dad/Son for that time – we were two buddies – two kids – just having a great time. The adventures make you explore some of the nooks and crannies of the countries, too.
My understanding is there are 7 countries in which you can partake in a mission: China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom. You have two choices on how to play:
• Use the devices they have at the sign-up booth (entrance of World Showcase): This would allow you to pick any of the 7 missions. The downside is – the device can only handle 1 mission, and it will time-out if you don’t start the mission within 30 minutes of activating it at the sign up booth. Therefore, if you pick Italy or Japan, get walking! Further, when the mission is over, you have to return to the sign-up booth to get it programed for the next mission. Very inconvenient.
• Use your smart phone: You still need to activate at the sign-up booth but activation is simple. You type in a URL they give you, select your Language, enter your first initial (you’ll become Agent L, for example) and then provide the sign-up CM with the 5-character activation code generated. Once your phone is activated, it will work for the rest of that day. You pick the first mission you want to do and, when you arrive in that country, you start the mission when you’re ready. Once done, you can pick the next mission you want to do without back-tracking to the sign-up booth all day. The downside to using your phone … only 5 missions are available. I hope they fix this, because we really wanted to do Italy but it was one of the 2 that weren’t available on your phone.
Disability Access Service comments
DAS was worth its weight in gold for Logan and his anxiety. Without it – there are quite possibly 6-10 experiences at each park I could list that he could not have handled. The long waits (in a queue of people) would have resulted in his anxiety building up to such a level that he would have become overwhelmed, and we would have had to exit the line. Examples of where this helped …
• Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain (anxiety of getting wet), princess M&Gs at Fairy Tale Hall, Mickey/Tinker Bell M&G’s in Town Square
• EPCOT: Mission Space, Soarin’
• Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest
• Hollywood Studios: Nearly any “ride”
Examples of where the system failed would be any organized meet and greet where FP+ wasn’t an option. Most non-FP+ rides have short lines anyway, but Baymax, Joy, Sadness, Storybrook Circus characters – they have set places, with queues, for meet and greets, but there is no way for somebody with a non-apparent disability to opt to wait “outside of the queue,” making it impossible for these characters to be met.
This was one of the reasons we had initially set up four pre-RD breakfast ADRs, along with one on departure day at 1900 Park Fare and a late breakfast on the MK morning EMH day at Crystal Palace … we’d “meet” the characters at meals, not in lines, 100% due to accommodating Logan and his anxiety. It’s an expensive accommodation but, even with that, FP+ and DAS, we still never had a chance to meet all the characters we thought Logan would want to meet. I mentioned earlier, Logan said he was getting annoyed with meeting the characters … and we’re pretty sure it was due to his anxiety.
I’ve read several posts/comments that the current DAS system stinks and it’s not acceptable anymore because it’s too hard to use. I don’t have perspective on the old system, but I don’t see how this system is difficult to use at all! We loved it – and it really made a huge difference in the experience Logan had thanks to DAS vs. the experience we would have had without it.
Sadly, I’m 100% sure there were folks abusing the system. We tried our best not to use DAS when we didn’t have to. We managed our FP+ reservations as anybody else would, and often made 4th, 5th and even 6th FP+ reservations during the day to avoid using DAS. I can see how this program would be open to abuse and, as such, viewed in a negative light. However, we really appreciated having this in place and hope it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.