Disney World – First Timer Plans

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Today is the day! We’re off to the happiest place on earth so I should be the most excited, right? Not exactly.

We are hardcore Disneyland Paris fans so we assumed that when we decided to upgrade to Florida this year it would be a magical planning experience. We did exactly ZERO research before booking (Lee and I have both visited before but 10-15 years ago) and so the very regimented situation that is #WDWprep was quite a shock when I dipped my toe back in January.

First of all, did you know there was such a thing as a ‘crowd calendar’? If you did then you’re already in a better position than we were. We booked totally random dates and it turns out that we are there for not 1 but two less than ideal events. 1. Run Disney – A marathon weekend that brings huge numbers. 2. ‘Jersey Week’ – Just after the marathon crowds disperse the east coast schools kick out for fall break and so-called Jersey Week kicks off. If you were looking for optimum dates, ours would not be them.

Second, we didn’t know about the new(ish) fast pass system where you book all of your rides in advance. This is a huge restriction that we are not used to from our DLP experience and the thing I was most anxious about. I love to plan out our holidays but when you’re travelling with kids you need flexibility. It seemed like the wrong bookings could screw up the entire trip and when you’ve spent a small fortune on what’s supposed to be a ‘dream’ holiday that kinda sucks. We are staying off-site so we could only book our passes 30 days out, if you’re staying in a Disney resort you get 60 days so you are really getting the short end of the stick off-property. I hear it’s near impossible to get passes for the headline rides at that 30 days mark but I was still disappointed to not have nabbed any.

Once we were aware of the added crowds at Disney during our trip dates we started looking in to Universal to break up the week. Thankfully ATD very generously offered us passes meaning that we will be able to experience The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter which my husband is very excited about. We’ve done the WB Studio tour the last two years for his birthday and this year he will blow out his candles in front of Hogwarts so that’s a bit of extra magic for him. I wish we’d known about the Disney/Universal combo ticket ATD offers before we booked our park tickets because if you’re going to do both it’s way more cost effective!

I am a huge Disney fan but because of the stress of planning I’m going in to it with equal parts anxiety and excitement. It’s a lot of pressure to feel responsible for the happiness of 3 other people and as the organiser of our days I feel like it’s all on me. I’ve listened to many trip reports and podcasts and I know I’m not alone in that feeling but I really wanted to do a little pre-trip download of my own ahead of the week because I’ve found listening to peoples before/after thoughts so useful in my own planning.

Here’s the spreadsheet I used to plot our days and track what I wanted (and subsequently booked) as far as fast passes. In some cases I had to shuffle things and although we’re planning 2 Universal days I didn’t want to miss out on those fast pass bookings so I do have some in there that may go ununsed. I personally love the fireworks but nobody else is as interested in standing body to body with other families to watch them so I booked the Dessert Party and Magic Kingdom and although I’ve penciled in some others I realise I may have to skip them if the kids are too tired to stay out. I’ve only booked one other dining reservation, Garden Grill (on the recommendation of Shannon at WDW Prep School) because it’s a pretty unique restaurant (it rotates) and it’s character dining. I feel like I may have make a mistake with that since Food & Wine is on and I want to sample everything but it was the only restaurant I really wanted to visit.

I haven’t planned for us to be at any park for ‘rope drop’ (opening) but if we’re all up for it then I’m hoping fitting in a couple of early starts may help us ride some of the attractions we didn’t fast pass.. but I’m trying to adopt a zen ‘what will be will be’ at this stage. Unsuccesfully but I’m trying. My youngest is dead set that he will love big rides (despite past experiences suggesting the contrary) but my daughter isn’t keen and, truth be told, nor am I so we’ll see how that goes. I’m hoping my husband can get on some of the more thrilling coasters on his own with a smaller wait.

Anyway, off we go. I’m planning to do a little debrief/photo diary each day and, of course, I’ll be all over insta while we’re there if you want to keep up with the trip ahead of the vlogs.

Wish us luck!

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