Decisions Decisions

This post is from Pam on 7/29/2011:

We are planning a trip to Walt Disney World for February 2012.   This is just one year from our last magical trip to Disney.  The fact that we are planning this trip and got two other families to join us just speaks to what a great time we had the first go round.   We will be traveling with Karen, Rocco, and Christina Deleo and Keti, Samir, and Karina Mehta.  The Deleo Family opted to stay off property in a condo, as they felt it was the best value for their family.   The Browns and Mehta’s have agreed to figure out an on-property plan that works for both families so we can be in the same hotel.  After some back and forth and pro’s and con’ lists, we agreed on the beautiful but expensive Polynesian Resort, due to the proximity to the monorail, Hawain theme, and interesting pools. 

My husband, Adam, is the consumate planner.  He is constantly reading up on discounts, attractions, deals, and the best places to stay and the best places to eat.  We are all benefiting from his planning skills. 

 

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Toy Story Mania for Wii

Apparently, the most absolute longest lines at Disney World are for “Toy Story Mania” at Disney Hollywood Studios.  Even on days of low crowds, 2-hour lines are reported.  While the attraction does take Fastpasses, they usually run out well before lunch.

Given the lack of family-friendly rides at Disney Hollywood Studios, I do anticipate we will be doing it.  (Rushing at park opening to get a fast pass or get on line).

When we happened to be shopping for something else, I saw they made a Toy Story Mania video game for the Nintendo Wii.  While the actual attraction basically has you zooming through the attraction in little cars, while you play 3-D carnival based video games, the Nintendo game is just the carnival based video games.

Well, the kids love it.  Especially my son Eli.  So I guess they will be experts in Toy Story Mania, even before we arrive at the park.

 

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The Game Plan

Just over four months until vacation. Other than booking a hotel room and airfare, that would be the end of such early planning for most vacations. But Disney World is not an ordinary vacation, especially Disney World during a Holiday Weekend.

Multiple sources suggest that Disney restaurants fill up with reservations far in advance. As Disney resort guests, we can book our dining reservations 180 days in advance. And our family likes sit-down restaurants as opposed to hurried fast-food-type lines. We knew we wanted some character meals, which are especially known to book up fast.

But in order to make dining reservations 180ish days in advance, you need to know where you are going to be, and when. A noon lunch reservation at Epcot won’t do you much good if you are on line for Dumbo at the Magic Kingdom. So what’s the best way to plan out your park schedule?

Many Disney guests simply visit the parks, based on their park preference. Often Magic Kingdom, then Epcot, then Hollywood Studios, and then Animal Kingdom. The result — Magic Kingdom is extra swamped in the early part of the vacation week, but emptier later in the week.

Additionally, the hours of the parks vary. And Disney guests can enjoy the feature of “Extra Magic Hours” or EMH — At select parks on select days, the park stays open 3 hours late, or opens 1 hour early for resort guests. Finally, some shows and parades only play on certain days of the week. If you really want to see the super-popular Fantasmic, it only plays at Disney Hollywood Studios 2 or 3 days per week. And if you really lack interest in that show, why bother fighting larger crowds that are at that park, due to the show?

How to make sense of all these factors? I highly recommend two extremely valuable online resources.
The authors of the Unofficial Guide to Disney World also maintain the website touringplans.com . For full access, there is approximately a $10 annual fee, which is discounted if you buy the book also. Among many valuable features, you find park recommendations for every single day for the next year. You will also find a crowd calendar, which projects the relative crowd index (from 1-10) at each park, for each day, in the next year. The website claims to sort through mountains of data in making their projections, and many claim they are accurate. If on Monday, Magic Kingdom has a 9 crowd, and a 6 crowd on Tuesday, while Epcot has a 5 crowd ob Monday, but a 9 crowd on Tuesday, this data is very helpful.
Another website is the entirely free blog at easywdw.com . Day by day recommendations and explanations. Suggests when and how to catch the different shows, explains the reasoning for park recommendations.

So how did I use all this information for my traveling party?

Thursday before President’s Weekend — Late arrival, dinner at the resort
Friday — Supposedly low crowds at Magic Kingdom, so spend the bulk of the day.
Saturday — EMH at Disney Hollywood Studios, crowd expected to be moderately high. So start the morning bright and early at Hollywood Studios. In early to mid afternoon, eventually get back to Magic Kingdom (for dinner at Cinderella’s Castle). Crowds at Magic Kingdom are expected to be horrible, but we are just going for princess boutique and dinner.
Sunday — There are evening EMH hours at Magic Kingdom — keeping the park open until 2 am. With my young kids, we will not be using these hours. Crowds are expected to be high at Magic Kingdom, especially in anticipation of the EMH hours, and the holiday weekend. But with guests planning on staying until late, hopefully the morning won’t be so bad. So we will start the morning at Magic Kingdom, and then spend the afternoon at Epcot, which isn’t expected to be tooooooo bad.
Monday — President’s day. Pretty bad everywhere. But Epcot is supposed to be the least-bad. (crowd level around 8). So start the early morning at Epcot. Dinner at a resort. Possibly go to Down Town Disney during the afternoon.
Tuesday — Finally getting around to Animal Kingdom. There are EMH hours at Animal Kingdom on Monday and Wednesday, so hopefully all the resort guests get their fill on those days. Crowd calendar suggests a moderately heavy day at just under 8, but better than the surrounding days. So, Animal Kindgom for our last day. (and dinner at a resort).

Next post, will have all our dining reservations — 11 dining reservations over 6 nights!

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a Disney Princess

Lilly and her mom are excited about dress up.

Ready for Cinderella… But still needs to try on Belle.

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Blogging a February Disney Vacation

So just the facts to get started.  This blog is intended to keep track of our upcoming trip to Disney World, from February 17th through the 23rd.  We are a family of four, but a traveling party of 5– 3 adults, plus a 6-year-old son and a daughter who will turn 4 during the trip.

We are staying in the garden wing of the Contemporary resort.  On the Disney Deluxe dining plan, with lots of character meals, signature meals, etc, all planned out.  Hopefully, we will post from the iphone as we go.

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