We finally took the promised trip to Disney World. I was able to put out the world for a little while and just enjoy myself. Disney is the greatest distraction on the planet. It was my 5th trip to the most magical place on earth, but unfortunately, will be the last for a long time. There are a few things that we learned this trip, and I thought that I would share them with you.
1. Going to Disney at age 42 is much different than going at age 30. Oh, it is still fun. We are not so old that we can’t ride the rides, but they sure don’t feel the same. Space Mountain is now painful. As I walked off that ride, I wanted to ask the castmember for directions to the nearest chiropractor.
2. Disney is making it harder to stay off property. Their new FastPass+ system heavily favors those who stay on property. We always stay off property using Armed Forces Vacation Club rentals. (If you are military, this is the best way to save money.) The parking fees were $17/day which is getting prohibitive. In 2003, they were $10/day. That is a big jump. We still did better staying off property, but we spent $100 on parking alone.
3. Speaking of staying on property, you know that restaurant that everyone talks about? Yeah, unless you stay on property you will not get reservations to that restaurant. But it is ok, you still have lots of options.
4. Disney World table service is just OK. We had only eaten at the Liberty Square Tavern prior to this vacation, and we wanted to give Disney table service a try. I made reservations at 3 restaurants. What we found was good experience but ordinary food. Now, if you have food allergies, Disney is a great place to eat because all the restaurants are very accommodating. The chef will even come out and talk to you personally about your allergies. This makes for a positive experience for everyone. However, I was left feeling a little disappointed about the quality of the food. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. If I am going to drop $150 on dinner, I had better be getting some outstanding food. Instead, we ate good food for an outstanding price. I didn’t find the that the food was any better than what I would get at my local restaurant. Liberty Square Tavern was the best food of the trip. Almost worth the hefty price tag. We didn’t eat at any of the highest priced restaurants, so I can’t comment on those. Disney has a dining plan that allows for those staying at the resorts to pay in advance to eat at a variety of places. I can see how this would be attractive. You don’t experience the daily sticker shock like we did. However, I did have a conversation with one woman who said that she was so tired of eating. She was on the dining plan, and she said that she felt like she needed to eat constantly in order to get the value from their dining plan. I can see how that be an issue for me. I am sure that Disney makes money off the dining plan, or they wouldn’t offer it. Other than that, I don’t know anything about it. I still think that you should at least try to eat at one table service restaurant, but if you aren’t staying at the resort, know that your choices are more limited because those staying at resorts get to make reservations first.
5. Disney World is the best place on earth to wait tables. See meal prices above and then calculate the tip. Or if you can’t do the math in your head, it is OK because the receipt on your tab will tell you what you should tip. We had one outstanding waiter that made us laugh through dinner. We happily tipped him well, but we weren’t sure if the others were worth the $20 tip that Disney recommended.
6. If you want to meet the princesses be prepared to wait in LONG lines. Thank goodness no one in our party wanted to meet the princesses. They now have Fast Passes for this experience. If you want to meet the princesses and can snag a Fast Pass, I recommend it.
7. Any time longer than 40 minutes is too long to wait for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. I write this knowing full well that people will wait 2 hours to ride the newest ride at Disney. We waited 90 minutes to ride it because I just had to try it out. When it was over, we looked at each other and said, “That’s it?”. The ride lasts a bit over 2 minutes and is a wonderful family roller coaster. Just go in knowing that you are going to wait a long time (unless you stay on property and manage to snag one of the highly coveted fast passes). You will have to decide if it is worth missing one of your favorites to stand in the line.
8. Because missing one of your favorites is probable because of the new FastPass+ system. Remember how you used to be able to walk on to It’s A Small World if you went to Disney in the off season? Not anymore. Almost every ride has a wait time thanks to this new system that Disney has put in place. I have to say that it put a damper on our trip. We were used to visiting in the off season and standing in line for 15 minutes or so per ride. Now, It’s A Small World can have a 30 minute wait. Pirates of the Caribbean can reach wait times of up to a hour. We waited 35 minutes to ride the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot. 35 minutes!! This used to be a walk on ride. One of those rides you do because you just want to sit down for a minute. People had fast passes for this ride. Who ever would have thought you would need a fast pass for Spaceship Earth? It was the first time in all of our trips to Disney that we were unable to do everything in a day. If you find yourself reserving Fast Passes for rides like Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise and wondering if it is worth it, it is! Do it! Every ride has a wait now. It will give you the opportunity to stand in line later.
9. Yes, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is worth the money. My tip- do not combine it with a day that you are already spending in the park. Disney will allow guests to arrive for the party at 4 pm. The party ends at 12 AM. This gives you 8 hours to spend in the park. Use the morning of the party to sleep in and relax. The party is a fun mix of short lines, free cookies and cocoa, and AMAZING fireworks. The fireworks alone, in my opinion, are worth the cost of admission. You will also be able to ride the Mine Train without having to spend half your day in line. They bring out characters whom you normally don’t see on a regular day such as the Seven Dwarves and Captain Jack Sparrow. Catch the parade at 10:30 instead of the 8:00 pm. Be prepared to stand for a hour to see the fireworks, but I promise it is worth it.
10. Finally, go in with an open mind and plan well. While we had a wonderful time, we were a bit disappointed with the wait times. I think if we had gone in knowing that we were going to have long waits, we would have been less disappointed. Download the My Disney Experience app and watch the wait times a week before you go to give yourself an idea what you will be waiting for the rides. Also, while we had a loosely laid plan, we should have planned better. You need to know what you are doing all day long. It is Ok to go in with a fly by the seat of your pants mentality, but just be prepared to miss things. If you are Ok with that, then go for it! I still think a loose plan will keep your party happy.
Today as we get back to our school day and Scott gets back to work, we all agreed that we would rather be standing in line for the Seven Dwarves’ Mine Train. Take that for what it is worth!
Have a magical day!