If you follow me on Facebook, then you saw our family just returned from a week at Disney World.
We left the Wednesday before MLK day and flew home on MLK Monday.
As I explained to friends afterwards, it was “nice.” It wasn’t awesome – it was too crowded to be awesome. It wasn’t terrible.
We learned a lot, and A LOT has changed since we went right before the triplets turned three. (If you’re curious how we survived that, I blogged about it way back when over at Week O Disney. )
So this week I’m going to blog about what worked and what didn’t work in 2019.
Let me start out by saying that I am NO Disney World expert. I didn’t grow up going to Disney as a kid and neither did Bray. There are a ton of blogs, some of which I read, and a ton of books, one of which I read. I also consulted with several friends who are Disney regulars to get insight into how to manage.
This is intended to be a Disney-novice inside look. That’s it.
And I know I haven’t blogged all month. You know, back to school, Disney, a trial, so there’s that. I cannot WAIT to get back to regular blogging next week.
This week though, all Disney! So just ignore me if you are not remotely interested in Disney World or have a masters degree in all things Disney.
Today I’ll fill you in on what I did to prepare that worked and didn’t work.
We booked our trip over six months in advance. I realize this is a deal killer for you lovely spontaneous people. But you can start booking things six months out and with the chaos that is Disney that worked for us.
We booked two of our dining experiences at the six month mark. I polled a lot of folks. I got a lot of great info. Tomorrow I’ll fill you in on the top vote-getters. Since I wanted to do a breakfast and a lunch on different days because of my park “schedule”, I used the Disney website to book my dining as soon as it became available and I’m glad I did. I got the exact time I wanted, and for a family of five, it’s not always easy.
We booked our FastPass+ at 6 am 60 days in advance. If you do NOTHING else, do this. Now you can only book FastPasses 60 days out if you’re staying on property, which is definitely one of my “what works” when I get to the actual event. If you are staying off property, you can book 30 days out.
Do not delay booking FastPasses, and do not think you can enjoy the park without them. You can no longer avoid them. We didn’t use FastPasses when we went in fall of 2012, but there is no way you will survive without them now.
I crowed-sourced. There are fabulous Disney veterans out there you should completely use. I booked my trip through a Disney travel agent who helped me navigate the system and jumped in when system flaws cropped up. One of my best friends sent me to her brother-in-law who utterly developed my FastPass+ strategy so I would know what rides I had to get FastPasses for and when. My social media friends gave me lots of skinny on character dining options, especially for elementary aged kids.
Use your network to get the latest intel, it is constantly changing over at the big DW.
What didn’t work:
Cutesy crap. Sorry, no nicer way to put it.
I got the kids each their own individualized knapsack for Christmas, stuffed with personalized Disney pullovers. For their birthdays, to announce we were going, all five of us had Disney water bottles to accompany the Disney World donuts. Sheesh.
This is ridiculous and clearly the sign of someone who has spent too much time on social media. The knapsacks everyone is selling on Etsy are too big (long) for kids that aren’t teens. (And I’m sure teens aren’t going to run around wearing a knapsack with a Mickey head and their name emblazoned on it.)
The idea was that they’d each carry their own water bottle and snacks, and then have a place for their pullover when the weather warmed in the afternoon. Um, no.
What ended up happening was we took two knapsacks into the park every day, and Bray carried one and I carried the other. So he was walking around with something that said a kid’s name on it. The snacks got crushed. The pullovers don’t fit when there’s just two bags (and the boys never wore their Disney ones).
I should have taken ONE backpack for Bray and I to trade. (You should have seen these poor three year olds that were walking around in floor length princess gowns – what a nightmare! Their parents had to stick them in a stroller while they tried to peel everything off because it was ‘itchy.’)
That leads me to Water Bottles. People said, “take water bottles, it will cut down on you buying drinks. You can refill your bottles at bottle stations around the park.”
Y’all, there are no water bottle stations around the park. We went to ALL FOUR PARKS and never saw one. The only one we saw was at the airport. On a very rare occasion we’d see a water fountain which would fill our water bottles half way up with warm water. Bleck.
What usually happened was we’d stop for lunch and get a cup of ice water for everyone and transfer it into our water bottles. If you have to take a reusable water bottle, then take only one. I don’t even care if you are weird about germs. You are about to go into the massive germ petri dish known as Magic Kingdom. Sharing slobber with your kid will not kill you and it will help you avoid a backache.
Crowd calendars. Okay, maybe glance at them. But please do not pin your hopes on them. I had hoped, hoped, hoped that the “low crowd” days of Thursday and Friday would offset the crowd days of Saturday and Sunday. Thursday and Friday were a zoo.
Lines were brutal. They utterly lied. When we asked a Disney “cast member” in line why it was packed, she said January is not a slow month no matter what those crowd calendars say.
Alrighty, so that brings me through the biggest prep categories. More on the actual trip pros and cons in the next couple days.
I’m writing without a “magical” lens not to deter you but to warn you. I wish I had been more informed going into the trip so we wouldn’t have had unrealistic expectations of what would happen.
Also, if you have questions along the way about where we stayed or more specifics of something we did, feel free to email me. I’d be happy to share. Until tomorrow Mouseketeers.