Here are a few notes about our trip for those interested:
• We are a family of 5, with kids aged 9, 12, and 14
• We did 4-day Park Hopper Plus, because my son (12) really wanted some downtime – our two previous trips (2013 and 2016) were 7-day passes, so we wanted to mix in an off-day and water parks (which we had never done before)
• We stay off-site, so we are limited to 30-day FP availability. This really affected our FP/rope drop strategy.
• We’re firm believers in the TP crowd levels, so we based our week and even the park days on crowd level predictions.
• We are mostly interested in riding the headliners and other rides that we like (even the same ride many times), not as much in meet-and-greet or meals, etc.
• We generally pack a lunch and then eat out at a restaurant after a long day in the park.
• Apologies in advance, but I won’t use many of the abbreviations/acronyms – they confuse me and slow me down. I’ll probably butcher some names too, but hope they make sense!
• I’ll summarize our water park info at the end, for those interested, but I’ll mostly focus on the main parks below.
So, if that seems helpful to you, read on …
Day 1 – June 16 (Father’s Day): MAGIC KINGDOM
• MK Predicted Crowd Level 4, Actual 3
• We had FP for Space Mountain at 9:30, Splash Mountain at 11:00, and BTMRR at 12:00. Planned to rope drop Mine Train.
• Arrived at bag check at 7:50 (a little later than we wanted). Monorail wasn’t running, so we took the ferry across. We walked under the train station around 8:15 and were standing on the bridge towards Mine Train (just right of the castle) at 8:20. We were basically at the front of the line.
• Side note about this – this day had Early Morning Magic (paid event), and although I’d read plenty of posts about it not affecting rope drop, I was still nervous. In the end, it really didn’t seem to affect anything (other than my nerves while watching some folks get in ahead of us). In all likelihood, most of those had ADRs.
• Two of my kids were literally the first people behind the cast member when we got to Mine Train, and we were off the ride at 9:20. For reference, if I were to plug this into a TP, it would predict us getting off the ride at 9:50, so we were already 30 minutes ahead!
• Walked to Buzz Lightyear – rode twice with no wait.
• Wanted to do Barnstormer next (was my youngest’s favorite 3 years ago), but it was down. We used our Space Mountain fastpass at 9:50.
• Barnstormer was back up, rode it at 10:10.
• Bought swords for my two sons in Fantasyland, then did Mickey’s Philharmagic (my wife’s favorite) at 10:40.
• Realized that Splash Mountain was down, which was our 11am FP. It automatically converted to an “any experience” FP, so we went across to Tom Sawyer island at 11:15 for a picnic lunch and playtime for the boys. (They love mocking up sword battles and running around the fort.)
• Rode BTMRR at noon with our FP. Splash was still down, so we used our extra FP for a second ride on BT, which opened us up to get a 4th FP.
• Got FP for Haunted Mansion around 2:00. Walked back to fire station to do Sorcerer’s with DD14, wife and sons did snacks and another round of Philharmagic. After HM at 2:00, got FP for Laugh Floor at 2:30.
• At this point, the sky opened up and it was POURING! We made it to Laugh Floor at 2:30, then got back-to-back FP at Buzz LY again. It was very convenient, because we didn’t have to get out in the rain to keep riding. After 2 more rides on BLY, everyone had had enough (and I had my high score of 765,500) – we got a FP to Little Mermaid, but by the time we walked over, it was closed.
• We decided to call it a day - walked out around 4:30, then out to dinner.
Day 2 – June 17: HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS, then ANIMAL KINGDOM
• HS Predicted Crowd Level 6, Actual 7
• AK Predicted Crowd Level 7, Actual 8
• With the FP tiers at HS, and so few attractions (pre-Star Wars GE), it just wasn’t going to make sense for us to burn an entire day on HS. Plus, we had never seen the Rivers of Light show at AK, and we were really interested in trying to get a same-day fastpass for Flight of Passage … so our plan was to do an early morning at HS, take a break in the afternoon and then back to AK for a late night. At the 30-day window, I booked the following FP: Everest at 6:00, Kali at 7:00 and Rivers of Light at 8:20.
• We got to HS at 7:45 and were close to the front of the tapstile line. We split up – my wife and sons waited for Slinky and daughter and I for RocknRoller Coaster. We were both at the front of the rope drop lines (although DD14 and I had a much smaller crowd to contend with).
• They rode Slinky (and loved it!) right at 9:00 and then had about a 30-minute wait for TSM.
• DD14 and I rode RNRC then Star Tours, both with no wait – by the time we got to Toy Story Land around 9:45, it was an absolute zoo. Slinky’s line was completely out of TSL and posted at 135-minutes, and we decided not to wait for anything else.
• My wife took a break and went to save seats at Beauty and the Beast, and I took all the kids for another ride on Star Tours. Line was posted at 15-minutes, but took almost 40 – we just made it to Beauty and the Beast at 11:00. We ate sandwiches during the show.
• While we were watching the show, I had my first experience with the AK same-day fastpasses – they really work! At exactly 11:01am, I was able to swap our Everest FP for one at FOP for 4:55pm!
• After the show, we made light sabers for the boys (I guess they are into weapons), did Muppets 3D (not worth it), then left around 12:15.
• So now our AK FP list was as follows: FOP 4:55, Kali at 7pm, and Rivers of Light at 8:20.
• Made it to AK around 4:30, rode FOP at 4:55. AMAZING! (We wanted to ride it this night to be sure we also wanted to rope drop it on the next day – it was a unanimous and emphatic “yes”!)
• We did Bug’s Life, then ate dinner in the park and walked around Pandora while waiting for the 7pm FP. It is such an impressive and immersive area, so well done … and we’ve never even seen the movie!
• Rode Kali at 7:15, then twice more with no wait – 3 times total, until they kicked us off at 8pm when it closed. Despite ponchos, we were absolutely soaked.
• Went to our seats at Rivers of Light around 8:30, watched the show (9:00-9:30), then joined the mass of humanity trying to get out of there. The park had closed at 9:00 that night, and it took us about an hour to get to the car and back to the condo.
Day 3 – June 19: ANIMAL KINGDOM
• AK Predicted Crowd Level 5, Actual 6
• Fastpasses: Everest at 10, Kali at 11, Safari at 12 (We had had our fill of Kali on Monday night, so our plan going in was to try to swap it for another FOP at the 11:01 drop. Of course, it worked like a charm!)
• We arrived at bag check at 7:45 for the 9am open. We were close to the front of our tapstile line, but of course, the group in front of us had problems with their tickets! By the time we tapped in, we were a few people back at the bridge to Pandora. But turning around, it was nothing like the mass of humanity that was behind us!
• We were done with FOP at 9:10, basically no wait.
• Navi River had a short (10 min) wait – it wasn’t even on our list, but we decided to ride it anyway.
• Then rode Dinosaur with a 15-minute wait, and on Everest for our FP at 10:15.
• Went to Finding Nemo for 11am show, and like magic, grabbed a FOP FP at exactly 11:01. FP time was for 1:05, right after our Safari FP.
• Ate lunch and had a little downtime over at the dinosaur digging/play area, which DS9 was dying to do again.
• Had a leisurely stroll over to Safari, rode it around 12:30, then walked back to Pandora for FOP at around 1:15.
• At this point, everyone needed a break. Nabbed a FP for Lion King show, got snacks, then went to 3:00 show.
• At exactly 3:01, got ANOTHER FOP FP for 4:05. Rode it again at 4:05 (did I mention we liked it?) so 3 times in 1 day with basically zero wait (unless you count getting there early for rope drop).
• Left the park around 4:30 and straight to dinner.
Day 4 – June 21: EPCOT
• EP Predicted Crowd Level 4, Actual 2
• Fastpasses: Mission:Space at 9:30, Soarin’ at 10:30, Living with the Land at 11:30. My wife’s other favorite ride is Soarin’, so I wanted to have a guaranteed FP for this, and try to get Same Day FP for it again later. Planned to rope drop Test Track and maybe Frozen, depending on how that went.
• Got to bag check at 7:45, and basically second in line at the tapstile.
• Could touch the rope at rope drop after we tapped in at 8:30. Watched the drummers at 8:45, then we were off!
• Did a speed-walk to TT, which was too far and too fast (and too hot), but we made it on and off the ride by 9:10.
• Thought we might ride TT again (we had in years past), but there was already a 45-minute wait at by the time we got off. But only a 10-min wait at Frozen, so we walked to Norway and rode that around 9:45.
• Rode Mission Space at 10, but wife went to Soarin’ instead. We just scanned her magic band at MS to clear the FP; she had only a 15-minute wait at Soarin’.
• Ate a brief lunch, then riding Soarin’ together at 11:15 (FP).
• Scanned FP at LWTL at 11:35, then immediately got another Soarin’ FP for 12:35.
• Wasn’t on the plan, but needed to kill time, so rode Seas with Nemo then back on Soarin’ at 12:35. Got another Soarin’ FP for 2:35. (We’re the type of people that get the same thing at a restaurant every time because we know it’s going to be good).
• Took a boat across to France, got pictures with Aurora, ate ice cream, watched the French waiter comedy thing, and just chilled for a little while. (We were going to walk around, but it was so hot! And we’re from south Louisiana, so we’re used to it. I feel bad for the Canadians out there.) We gave up and took the boat back.
• DS9 wanted to play with the car stuff at Test Track, so we hung out there for a while, then rode Soarin’ around 3:30, and walked to the front around 4:00.
WATER PARK NOTES
• We had never done the water parks before, so I thought I jot down a few things that I wish I’d known before.
• We went to Blizzard Beach on Saturday 6/15 and Saturday 6/22; and to Typhoon Lagoon on Thursday 6/20. We had read that weekdays were busier, but we didn’t really notice a difference.
• We liked BB better. The atmosphere was just better, the landscaping more lush and shady, and we generally preferred the rides. Although the kids really liked the surf pool at TL better, it was really tough/scary to keep an eye on them.
• We got there between 12 and 1pm each day and had no problem finding empty shady spot for chairs. Don’t just grab the first one you see though, keep walking and there will likely be an even better one further in the back. There are some really remote ones behind the mountain at BB that never had anyone in them, but they are pretty far away from any of the attractions.
• Waits for rides varied, but usually no more than 10-15 minutes. Most had almost no wait.
• Many people say they just leave their valuables in their ice chest, but I chickened out and got a locker for cell phones, etc. I did leave a credit card and ID at the bottom of our ice chest and it was fine.
That’s about it. About 2200-words later, I hope that was helpful to someone!