Good morning! We are freshly back from the Happiest Place on Earth, and I thought I would share a few things we did and a lot of things we learned, and extend a HUGE thanks to everyone on this forum who were so helpful with our planning.
We had a 6 night/ 7 day package with free dining, and hopper tickets. We stayed at CS. It was myself, my husband and our 2 DDs, age 9 and 5. It was our kids first trip, and the first one in about 8 years for me and my spouse.
What I Learned (sometimes the hard way)
True confession - I doubted how effective a rope drop entry could be. I have since repented and mended my ways. We rope dropped at Epcot, MK and AK and those were the three BEST days we had at parks. Our kids are early risers so for the most part rope drop was easy. And OMG, our last day at MK was an 8, and by 10:30 we rode 7DMT, BTMR 3 times, Barnstormer 2 times, fixed our FPP (more on that disaster later) and headed over to Tom Sawyer Island.
When we got off 7DMT at 9:10, the wait was over 70 minutes.
MDE can be very un-Magical
I invited my husband to share our MDE and when he accepted, MDE kicked me out and defaulted to him as the primary on the account. The only thing I could think of was his name was on cc of record, so Disney assumed he was primary. Which meant I lost everything. Suddenly no fast passes, no ADRs - my MDE was blank. And when I logged in to my MDE on a laptop, everything was gone as well. Luckily this was our last day, and a helpful CM was able to add FPP for our kids with times that matched ours. (somehow during this we also lost our kids on the MDE, so we had 6 sets of FPP all with varying times and people)
I am still unclear how this happened, and will not rule out basic user error. My takeaway would be have everyone who wants access to MDE to get it all straight before you arrive at the Parks.
Before this issue, MDE worked really well for us inside the Parks.
Lines App is Way Awesome
I kept both MDE and Lines open all day every day and would compare them throughout the day. I read all about the CL increase and wait time increase and had a few sleepless nights - honestly we found all wait times to be accurate (within reason, I’m not the type to freak out over a 5 - 10 minute difference). I re-optimized plans before we left, and relied on TPs as a guide and a good indicator of what order we should ride and visit characters. It was invaluable.
The best moment was when we deviated (Mickey Squirrel) and when we happenned to walk back past the character spot and my husband says, “wow there’s only a 5 minute wait now, we should have done this later.” And I was all, “yep - that was the TP says.”
I really expected my kids to be over the moon with character meet and greets. And no, just no. This threw off our plans and ADRs and we re-adjusted plans by day 4.
Both kids were super excited when they walked past a character meet and greet, or saw Pluto walking down the street and were downright giddy during parades, but character meals left them bored. Which was unfortunate as we had 5.
After the Castle experience, we went ahead and canceled the rest of our character dining. I think we missed the sweet spot with Princess dining, and I may sound really jaded here, but after 9 hours at the MK, I was completely princessed out. They are everywhere, big ones, little ones, real ones not so real ones. We found the Castle not worth the money - which kind of broke my heart, along with my wallet.
However, both kids liked Enchanted Tales with Belle. This is one the best character interactions Disney has ever done, in my opinion. It’s very interactive, and very personal. Well worth a 30-minute wait. The que is pure disney magic.
Our kids LOVED the rides, all the rides and all the shows. This was a complete surprise. My DD9 is anxious and I did not expect her to ride anything past Dumbo. The 42-inch DD5 loves anything fast, loud and dangerous. So you can see our potential concern
Our DD9 conquered her fears and rode everything except ToT and Rock and Rollercoaster. Fantasmic was a blast - they loved it. (I thought they would be terrified).
We also had a really fun successful afternoon at Epcot Wine and Dine. The kids liked trying different foods, and looking in all the shops. It was a nice break.
The little one objected mightily to Nemo the Musical and the Festival of the Lion King, because no explosions, but once inside she was entranced. My older one loves theatre so these were a natural win for her.
Travel with Kids
Lest anyone think it was a perfectly magical vacation, let me be honest. Travel with a 5 year old, in an intense over stimulation environment is rough. If you happened to be at HS on Thursday late afternoon and saw a mom hauling her screaming, kicking daughter out of the park, that was us. Good times. But sometimes losing a FPP and a pool trip needs to happen to ensure a better next day.
Whenever possible, take the nap. Take the nap, take the break. Travel in the fall meant not so many EMH in the evenings, so we did not always feel like we had time to take an extended break during the middle of the day. When MK opens at 9 and closes at 7 - a 3 hour break in the middle of the day felt like we were missing valuable time.
The days we did take a good midday break were the best by far, it just wasn’t always possible. We stayed late at MK one night until midnight and the kids had a blast riding at night.
So overall, the trip was really fun. It will be a few years before we can afford to go back.
The best part for us was all the time we spent together as a family. That part was truly magical.
Thanks again to everyone here who answered questions and offered advice and suggestions.