Our family took a quickie trip to Disney World during the Memorial Day Weekend. We figured a lot of schools wouldn’t be out yet, and we hoped to avoid some of the long lines. Plus it wasn’t as hot as later in the summer. (I think our theories worked out pretty well. The longest line we waited in was 45 minutes and the heat wasn’t bad.)
We agreed to listen to a song and dance from a large Vacation Club (essentially a time share) in Orlando and as our reward we got to stay at a very nice hotel inside the Disney park for only $99 for three nights! It was worth listening to their sales pitch for such a great deal, and I will share on a later post how they try to sell you the time share so you can be prepared.
We also got a great deal on our tickets into the park through Michael’s father! Michael’s father retired from the U.S. Army after 29 years of service. Disney World is currently offering active duty soldiers and retired soldiers a free 5-day pass for themselves and the ability to purchase five more 5-day passes for $99 each. Here’s the link to read the deal.
I swore after having a terrible trip to Disney World when Walsh was 2 that I wouldn’t go back with another 2-year-old. (Here’s the story I wrote for the AJC’s Travel section about that trip with lots of tips for taking toddlers.) But we did, and Lilina was great! She was super patient most of the time and the lines weren’t terrible. My father-in-law sat with her when she fell asleep in her stroller for us to take the big kids on some fast rides. And when all else failed I pulled out my bag of lollipops and gave her one.
I always feel like a soldier attacking a hill when we go to Disney. I want to be efficient — have the kids wait as little as possible and see everything they want to see. So let’s talk about ride strategy and tips for a wonderful trip to Disney.
1. What’s your ride strategy inside Disney? Where do you head first inside the Magic Kingdom?
We fully believe in using the Magic Hours (extra time in the park for those staying on the property). We flipped days and went to the Hollywood Studios first purely because it had an early Magic Hour and the Magic Kingdom had late ones the next day. Our plan worked out well because we got a late start the second day due to the time share talk.
Michael says not to watch any shows during your Magic Hours. He thinks shows waste valuable riding time where you can just jump on and off of rides. I disagree a little bit in regards to the Hollywood Studios because many of their attractions are shows.
In the Disney Studios we rode the Star Tours first thing during the Magic Hours, but then Michael wanted to cross the park to go to another ride. I’m a big believer in working a geographic area. Would you cross the park or just ride in one area at a time?
We are also big believers in the strategic use of the FastPass but see the next question for more on that topic.
We couldn’t decide if we should head to Fantasyland early and try to get a jump on the crowd, or wait until all the babies went home after dinner to do that area. We decided Lilina had been so patient during all the Hollywood Studio rides that we went straight to Fantasyland and quickly did a FastPass for Peter Pan while riding other stuff.
A Disney PR person told me for the story I did a few years back to always head LEFT when you enter the park. She said studies showed people always head right when they first enter.
2. How and when do you use your FastPass?
We used the FastPass for anything over 30 to 45 minutes. We used it on Peter Pan and Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, although we probably should have used it for the Jungle Cruise. We used it for the new Toy Story ride in the Hollywood Studios.
The PR person for my earlier Disney story offered this strategy: Head to Fantasyland first thing in the morning. Get a FastPass for Peter Pan’s Flight or the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. (She also likes to FastPass Mickey’s PhilharMagic show, but I’ve never experienced a long line there.) Then get in line for Dumbo. Next, ride Cinderella’s Carousel (which typically does not have a long line), and then your FastPass time should be up. If it’s not up, she says hit It’s a Small World.
3. Do wait in line for character autographs and photos?
We think this depends on the character. We did wait in a short line to see Mickey Mouse but refused to wait to get photos with Star Wars characters.
You can also be strategic by seeing the characters in less busy places. For example, please don’t stop at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom to see characters – very long lines! We found a very secret character area in the Disney Hollywood Studios. When you take the animation tour it ends in a character meet and greet area. (You don’t even have to take the animation tour, you can walk in backwards through a gift shop near the Disney Playhouse stuff.) We saw Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Mr. Incredible, the whole cast of Up!, Pinocchio and the evil queen from Snow White. We waited no more than five minutes for any of them.
If you have the dough, the character meals are fun and an easy way to see a bunch of characters at once. But they’re not fooling around about booking those 90 days in advance. They were all booked when we called – even the crappy ones.
4. Do you watch the parade or ride really fast while the other people watch?
I am a huge believer in riding while the other “suckers” are watching the parade. We always did this when were little. It was a game to see how many rides we could get on while the parade or fireworks were happening. We’ve got three days left on our passes maybe we’ll stop to watch it one of those day.
5. Do you bring in your own stroller or rent theirs?
Since we were not park hopping, we used our own. If you plan to switch parks during the day, it’s better to rent from them because you just leave it at the door of the one park and pick it up and the next door. You don’t have to collapse it down for the bus or monorail. But I did worry all day about someone stealing my good stroller.
6. How late do you stay with kids?
Since it rained two hours during the day and since the baby had taken a very long nap (2 to 3 hours) in the park, we stayed until 11:45 p.m.. We rode a bunch of rides after 9 p.m. By the end the baby was done but she was pretty happy throughout the rides.
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Check back in tomorrow for a look at Star Wars Weekends at Disney! I even have video!