Some Thoughts On the Crowd Levels:
Estimated crowd levels after the update were mostly 7-9, and when MK was a mad-house (9) the first night we were there, I was definitely worried about how our entire week would be affected. But it really wasn’t bad! Our actual crowd levels were as follows (with estimates):
Tue Jan 22: MK 9(7)
Wed Jan 23: AK 6(6)
Thur Jan 24: MK 2(6) Rain until park opening
Fri Jan 25: EP 3(5)
Sat Jan 26: AK 10(9)
Sun Jan 27: HS 1(7) RAIN!
Our TPs held up quite well, but most days we had a large afternoon break, so we weren’t waiting in lines during the busiest parts of the day. We noticed that our evening FP for things like meeting Mickey in MK, Safaris, and Soarin still had 30 minute waits. When we did our FP earlier in the day, we experienced the shorter waits you’d expect for FP.
I felt like our first evening in MK (9) was more difficult than our morning in AK (10). Maybe because it was our first experience in the parks or because lots of people had anytime FP because of lots of ride breakdowns that afternoon. Our AK (10) day couldn’t have gone better, even though there was quite a mobile order crowd at lunchtime. Standby waits were high, but with 3 FP, the animals trails, and the shows, it’s not hard to fill the day without waiting in a lot of standby lines.
I’ve talked about this a bit in other threads, but our MK (2) day didn’t feel completely accurate to me. I’m a bit torn, because there was a TON of same day FP availability in the evening as I mentioned above. But in the afternoon, I waited in two standby lines with 10 minute posted waits that took 35 minutes. Since TP works off of the posted waits, if those are inaccurate, the resulting crowd level will be too. So I’m not sure it was actually a 2, if the posted waits were wrong on other rides as well (which other Liners have mentioned), but it was definitely not more than a 5, so it was still a great day to experience MK.
Other Final Notes & Lessons Learned:
We saw lots of photo pass photographers with short or no lines throughout our trip and jumped on all those opportunities. The side shot of the castle from the Tomorrowland bridge is a good safety net shot to grab if you’re not sure how crazy the Main St photographers will be. We started with that one when we took our afternoon break and hit another one on Main Street. There are 3-6 all on Main Street depending on the time of day, so it wasn’t too hard to find the one with the shortest line.
We got fantastic parking spots arriving pre-rope drop, even on the days we arrived at 8:40. And when we returned around 5, they were filling the empty spaces in those same sections again, so we got good parking then too. YMMV of course.
We chose to eat dinner out of the park several nights to maximize park time. DS2 would eat dinner while we finished getting the park bag together. We picked up Dominoes pizza one night, which lasted for 3 meals. That was the biggest money saver, because I spent the same amount at Panera and Flame Tree, so off property isn’t necessarily cheaper.
I was surprised at how humid it was on the warmer days. We live in VA, so we’re no strangers to humidity. Maybe because it’s winter, I’m just not accustomed to it? Based on this trip, I can’t imagine going to WDW in the summer.
We didn’t necessarily follow our TP while in the park, but making and tweaking them taught me a LOT. Some days we went in the same general order, but switched a couple of times or moved lunch earlier. (We were so hungry by 11 am!) Other days I used the principles I learned about which rides were busier than others and which would have good SD FP availability to create a new plan on the spot.
We met a lot more characters than I had planned, because DS2 loved it so much. We FPed a few Mickey meets, but I didn’t think we’d do as many as we did. We met Mickey 4 days and Pluto 3 days.
Things that look ‘dumb’ on youtube are magical in real life. I was so excited for the new MousekeDance parade and kinda bummed when it finally started and I saw it on youtube. But I loved that DS2 loved it.
Pack real rain gear if you can. We saw a lot of people in ponchos, but they did not look like they were staying very dry. A poncho on Splash Mt is probably fine. A poncho when it’s raining all day… not so great.
The play area for Dumbo looked great, but there was at least a 15 minute line in order to get a beeper for that, so we skipped it and got a SD FP for it later. That said, in the summer, I’d probably have done it, because almost the entire queue is air conditioned, so we’d still have been waiting inside at least.
Learning the maps ahead of time helped a TON. I navigated MK at night in level 9 crowds with confidence on our first night. The other parks weren’t as easy. I got turned around a bit in AK, HS is just plain laid out weird, and I don’t think the map of Epcot’s Future World is drawn very accurately. The buildings weren’t in the spots that I expected them to be.
I thought it would be harder for us to make RD every day. DS2 gets up at 7 every day, so we usually get up a few minutes before that. After we figured out that it would only take us 30 minutes from exiting our apartment to tapping in at the park, we actually found ourselves with time to chill in the morning before leaving. I didn’t book any PPO breakfasts, because I thought it would be too early for us and it definitely wasn’t.
By day 4, we were feeling the need for some downtime, so next time I would plan our half park day and resort dinner earlier in the trip. And maybe multiple of those.
Try for the SD FOP drop if you don’t get FP for it ahead of time. Even if you’re not that into Avatar. If you like Soarin, you will like FOP more. It’s incredible and the world is gorgeous, so there’s a ton to look at during the ride!
Dole whip is the best. The end. Also, I forgot to mention the zebra domes when I talked about our dinner at the Mara. They’re delicious and worth a trip over there.
Bringing an external battery and charging cord to the park was super helpful on the days I didn’t go back to the apartment. I had plenty of battery for FP modifying, photo taking, and DS2 entertaining.
The glow sticks we brought for DS2 were great pre-night show entertainment, but I wish we’d brought enough to share. The kids around us at MK were well-behaved, but there were a few very restless kids at ROL and one little girl near us that saw DS’s glow sticks and wanted some too. I think we would have enjoyed the wait for the show more if we’d been handing out glow sticks.
I also think it’s worth noting (because I want to brag on myself for a minute) that we came in under budget for this trip! I’m so glad I spent so much time looking at menus and planning out our meals, because it gave me permission to order whatever I wanted without thinking about the price tag.
What about next time? This trip was our first time visiting my grandparents in FL on our own (aka, not around my parents’ timeline). We will be doing this yearly as long as they are able to host us, but I don’t think we’ll have the budget for a full WDW trip each time. (You know, because I’d like to vacation other places too!) I think our next trip will be fall/winter 2020 and we will be taking advantage of a lot of the resort restaurants and activities that we weren’t able to fit in this time. Although, DH has already asked me what we missed and would want to do next time, so who knows!
Total WDW step count: 91,589
Total characters hugged (including repeats): 22
Total photo pass photos taken: 246