Saturday, December 5, 2015

Disney World Part 4: On the Ground At Disney

Magical Express
Use it, love it. If you're staying on property you won't have to lift your little finger to get around. They'll pick you up at the airport and take your luggage right to your room. There are buses, boats and a monorail to get you anywhere on Disney property you want to go. My husband didn't get behind the wheel once during our stay- not even on Tomorrowland Speedway.

It's bad. Plan on it being bad and be pleasantly surprised if it's not.

You'll be doing it. A lot of it. I thought I was a pretty good walker but I was not prepared for the miles and miles of it, even with a good touring plan. Comfortable shoes are a must. 

PhotoPass/Memory Maker
Use it, love it. If your budget allows, buy Memory Maker so you can download and print as many of your PhotoPass pictures as you want. There are dozens of professional photographers all over the parks and they will take great pictures of you and scan them to your Magic Band. Yes they will take photos with your own camera if you want, but theirs are better than yours, most likely, and the pictures will be better too. I was thrilled with my PhotoPass pictures and loved all the opportunities to get great pictures of my husband and me on our big trip.

Our Park Bag
We don't have kids, so our park bag was pretty simple. We had one backpack and filled it with
  • Ponchos for rain (we used them!)
  • Ziploc bags for the cameras in case of water rides
  • Autograph book and markers inside a Ziploc bag
  • Travel-size sunscreen bottle
  • Paper copy of each day's touring plan in a plastic sleeve
  • Each day's park map
Whenever Jeff went on a roller coaster I didn't go on, rather than pack his camera in the Ziploc bag he'd just hand off the whole backpack to me and I'd hang on to it. Keeping the autograph book and pens together in a sealable bag was just good organization. The sunscreen and ponchos were necessities. I don't understand anyone who comes to WDW without ponchos.

FastPasses and Touring Plans
If you're going to a Disney park, get FastPasses. Just get them. Get them and do a touring plan because even if you've been there before I think it really helps to have your day organized. That said, there will be times when you depart from it, but it really helps to stay focused and do the things you came there to do.

With the My Disney Experience app you can cancel and rebook FastPasses pretty easily if your plans change, and we used this feature often once we got the hang of it.

Our best days in the parks started early, followed a plan and departed from the plan when that made more sense. Get the FastPasses for the super-popular rides after say 10am, start as early as you can and have a touring plan that gets you moving right away.

We used and highly recommend it. That said, I don't recommend the app unless you are a dedicated app user. Honestly for me, bringing paper copies of the touring plans in our park bag each day was easier than checking the app all the time. And our phone batteries didn't drain as fast!

One last thing about rides. The newer coasters have something called the single rider line. My husband does coasters and I don't, so rather than burn FastPasses on rides I wasn't going to do, he did Expedition Everest, Chevrolet Test Track and the Aerosmith Rockin' Roller Coaster as a single rider and walked on. He even lapped the Aerosmith coaster a few times as a single rider. And I went shopping in the meantime. It worked out!

Character Meets
I love character meets and I wanted to do a lot of them on this trip. So I booked us a lot of character breakfasts and left the rest (except one) to chance. That's right- I didn't plan any character meets in the parks. If I happened to see one going on and I wanted to do it, I'd get in line, or I'd pass if not. If Character Meets are a big priority check with cast members and plan it the way you would plan FastPasses (and you can use FastPasses for a bunch of them). I did a ton of them without planning and that worked for me.

The only one I planned was Jack and Sally at the Halloween Party. I was a little bummed I didn't get to meet Gaston, but it wasn't worth building my day around and I have no real regrets.

There are loads of freebies in the parks. Collectible cards, snacks, other stuff- just put "free stuff at Disney" into Google and there are whole pages dedicated to the topic. I didn't go out of my way for anything (okay maybe I did for a free square of Ghirardelli chocolate- I'm not made of stone) but I enjoyed the things I came across during our days.

Hidden Mickeys
Again, didn't go out of my way but enjoyed the ones I happened to find. Next time I'd love to spend more time hunting them down.

Disney Springs
Disney Springs is a big shopping and dining area outside of the parks and resorts but on Disney property. There's a lot to see and do and eat and buy but it's a freaking zoo. Seriously, we went there on a Tuesday night and it was like Times Square. Go but be prepared.

And that's it for my series on Disney vacation planning! Ask me any questions in the comments and thanks for reading!

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