You might think as a professional Disney World planner with just the knowledge in my head I could navigate my family to the perfect vacation. You’d be wrong. Every vacation is different – from different vacationers to different days of travel. Each circumstance is different and thus each vacation deserves its own plan.
One of the most important things you can do to assure yourself a great time visiting everyone’s favorite mouse is to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be a grand plan. You don’t have to have every minute planned out. But you really should have some basics down. If you don’t believe me or if you have not yet done so, you may want to go back and review part I in this series – What’s In a Plan.
This article is Part II of the series and examines my family’s plan for a recent trip to Disney. Here I will discuss what my plans were (and weren’t) and why I made them prior to our trip. The first thing to do when making a plan is to take into account who the travelers are. In this case, it is my family plus fellow blogger Bob, so I know them well, but perhaps you do not. So very briefly let me summarize the travel party for you. Then you’ll learn some more details as we go.
Todd – Adult male Disney enthusiast (me!). Cost conscious. Likely leader of the group. Motion sickness.
Dani – Adult female. Cannot do a lot of walking so will use a motorized scooter and wants to make memories with her children while her health allows. Food allergy to gluten
Two boys age 7 and 5. Both super excited to return to Disney World, having gone two years ago. One Dumbo lover and one dinosaur lover.
Moma – Grandmother. Excited to see her grand kids go to Disney. Active and ready to go. Kid at heart.
“Uncle” Bob – Adult male Disney enthusiast and fellow blogger.
Driving and planning to arrive in Orlando area Saturday night. Checking into Port Orleans Riverside Sunday morning for a 1 week stay. Magic your way basic tickets (not park-hopper). Free Dining Plan. Not sure where they are going to stay Saturday night. May try to extend their stay in Disney if arrive early enough. Otherwise, will find something cheap in the area.
Creating The Plan:
With free dining and no park hoppers, the plan starts with selecting restaurants. Due to the free dining, it will be virtually impossible to walk in to any of the more popular restaurants at a reasonable dinner-time and be seated any time soon. So advanced reservations are a must. (They are also necessary during busy times of year when free dining is not offered. Really, for the most part, they are almost always necessary if you want popular dining locations without a wait.)
We identified 5 dining locations that we really wanted to visit if possible. They were: ‘Ohana in the Polynesian (a popular family style meal we’ve eaten at once before), Chef Mickey’s breakfast in the Contemporary resort, T-REX Café in Downtown Disney (the boys love dinosaurs), Chefs de France in Epcot at a time where the boys can meet Remy from Ratatouille, and one of a few other locations in Epcot. This will help us with planning parks because, without park hopper tickets, you generally need to plan your dining around where you are going to be or vice versa. The last dining location was open for consideration depending on our location.
The next step, lacking park hopper tickets, it was important to decide how many days we wanted to dedicate to each park. Hollywood Studios is collectively our least favorite park so we planned to spend 1 day there. On the flip side, we like Animal Kingdom second only to Magic Kingdom, but Animal Kingdom is doable in a day if planned properly so we intend to spend one day there. That leaves arrival day, departure day, and two other days. These five days will be split with three days in the Magic Kingdom, which the children love and there are many highly repeatable rides along with parade, shows, and character meets to fill the time, and two days in Epcot which is large but perhaps has less to do for the children especially with Test Track under refurbishment.
So, with this information (and further knowledge of our travelers goals too extensive to include here) we are ready to blend our dining desires with our park desires, taking into account park events, crowd levels, and available dining reservations and make a plan.
SUNDAY - Arrive the evening before and stay in a local hotel. This allows us to awaken early and check in at Port Orleans Riverside. The goal is to make it to the Magic Kingdom (low crowd level) at park opening so the boys can see the opening ceremonies on our first day there (It may be a challenge to check in and get to the park at opening). At opening, we will likely go to Tomorrowland for Space Mountain fastpasses and then ride Astro Orbiter. From there, we’ll take the day as it comes with a break in the afternoon to go to the room. Dinner that evening is ‘Ohana followed by Wishes fireworks and then Extra Magic Hours in the Magic Kingdom until we are tired.
MONDAY – Arrive at Epcot at park opening since this should be a low crowd day for Epcot. Immediately get Soarin’ fastpasses, then visit the pavilions on the right side of Future World. At World Showcase opening, ride Maelstrom in Norway and Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico followed by an early lunch in one of the countries since we have an early dinner at Chef’s de France.
TUESDAY – Today we go back to the Magic Kingdom because it is a very low crowd day. Magic Kingdom closes at 7:00 so Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party can take place so we will be done in the parks a little early this night. On the plus side, however, the party will lessen the crowds at Magic Kingdom for most of the day and also offer a special fireworks display. We will likely start this day in Frontierland with a park opening fastpass from Splash Mountain while the group rides Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This evening’s dinner is at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian after the Magic Kingdom closes followed by viewing the Halloween fireworks from somewhere along Seven Seas Lagoon.
WEDNESDAY – Arrive at Animal Kingdom at opening and go immediately to Kiliminjaro Safari. An early ride on the safari will allow for the best viewing of the animals since they will still be active after just being fed. Then proceed through Africa and Asia to DinoLand USA. Animal Kingdom closes at 5 today and the evening is flexible including dinner plans which might end up trying to walk in to T-REX café in downtown Disney, do counter service dinner, relax at the hotel, or go Miniature golfing.
THURSDAY – This is Hollywood Studios day. There is a lot to do and limited time so a plan becomes more important on this day. Since I don’t ride either Rock and Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror, I will go at opening to Toy Story Mania for fastpasses while the rest of the group proceeds to Tower of Terror and then Rock and Rollercoaster before the crowds grow. If we did not do T-REX the night before, we will go there for lunch today.
FRIDAY – Today we go back to Epcot and see the things we haven’t seen yet plus repeat any favorites. Dinner is at Teppan Edo in Japan in the World Showcase.
SATURDAY – This is our final day and we top off our visit with one more trip to the Magic Kingdom. Arriving early, we can do what we want before crowds build. (This is the one day on the trip we face a fairly crowded park.) We’ve scheduled the last breakfast of the day at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary. We can then return to the Magic Kingdom until we are ready to drive home.
You’re probably noticing a few things. First, the plans aren’t very detailed and I am a planner. There’s a few reasons for that. First, even as a detailed planner, I don’t like to over plan a Disney vacation. So much of the allure of Disney can be found in the details and the magic feelings and you have to slow down to fully appreciate those things. Secondly, I do have a bit of an advantage in knowledge and though I may not have anything planned, I do have ideas that I normally share with clients on what things work well so I can wing it a little bit better than most. And finally, when you are traveling with a group, it is important to be flexible so detailed planning doesn’t completely work.
Secondly, you’ve probably noticed there aren’t a lot of details as to why I am doing things certain ways. Trust me that there are good reasons for doing things a certain way (such as why get the last breakfast seating at Chef Mickey’s), but those reasons are beyond the scope of this document. Hopefully, we will get a chance to discuss them later in future articles or even individually if I am helping to plan your vacation.
So that was the plan. Come back next week to find out what actually happened. and learn the importance of being flexible and being able to deviate from your plans, recover gracefully, and still have a wonderful Disney vacation.