Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Spontaneous Day at Magic Kingdom

By: Ashley

If there's one word that I WOULDN'T use to describe myself, it would be "spontaneous." I'm a planner through and through, almost to the point of detriment. I thrive on researching and having a plan, and this is especially true for our Disney trips! Lots of people ask me for advice for Disney vacations, and without hesitation I say "HAVE A PLAN!" 



So when our family was planning a trip to Jacksonville, FL to visit my brother, the thought briefly crossed my mind about possibly doing a Disney day. "No," I eventually concluded, "It would just be too much. And the heat and crowds would be miserable!" Well, a few weeks went by and my sister brought it up. Maybe we could swing it? Ultimately, when I thought of being just 2 hours away from Disney World and not going, it KILLED ME (this would be one of the signs of addiction). The next thing I knew, I made the spontaneous executive decision that we would do one day at Magic Kingdom with my mom, sisters and Evy and Liam (ages 6 and almost 5). 

So here's what happens when a Disney Addict gets an unexpected fix: you go into CRAZY EXCITED PLANNING MODE. Only problem: We were only about 3 weeks out! I'm usually the one who takes a full year to plan, make reservations, etc. But it was actually very freeing to have such a simple process. 

I went online and bought One Day Magic Kingdom tickets. No park hopping, no bells and whistles. I DID pay for expedited shipping, because the shipping time was iffy. I probably would've been safe, but Disney quotes around a 12-day shipping time. You can also elect for Will Call, but I didn't want one more thing to worry about that morning (and as I'll explain in a minute, that was definitely a wise choice!). 

I knew our day would only be successful if we could schedule some Fast Passes, but I usually book my Passes at the 60-day mark (I believe it's 30 days out for non-resort guests). I just KNEW they would all be gone. I also didn't understand how it would work for me to link Fast Passes, but it ended up being so easy! I have an account at DisneyWorld.com, which is called "My Disney Experience" (MDE). I logged in to this account and simply added the tickets to my cart that I wanted to buy. Once I purchased them, they immediately showed up in my MDE account on the website (even though the physical ticket cards were being shipped to me, the "digital" version (if you want to call it that) was linked to my account right away), so I was able to make Fast Pass reservations right from my computer! 

Keep in mind that this was around June 3, and our Disney day was going to be June 23. I knew I wanted to schedule Fast Passes in the middle of the day/afternoon, when the heat and crowds would be most intense. I also knew that we wouldn't be riding any of the major roller coasters (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain), or meeting any characters (like Elsa and Anna), so that took a ton of pressure off. I reserved Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan's Flight, and Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. Here was my rationale:

My plan was to hit Fantasyland right at opening time and knock out all of those rides (including Peter Pan first, which is the most popular in Fantasyland). I wanted to use my Fast Passes in other "lands" that we wouldn't be hitting in the morning. The one exception was repeating Peter Pan in the afternoon, because we all enjoy it so much! Some people reserve Fast Pass times for early in the day so they can try to go to a kiosk and get more passes (you can try to reserve more AFTER you've used your allotted 3). However - I have never used this plan. I might try it in the future, but after seeing the lines at the kiosks (they were a MILE LONG), it just takes up valuable time to try and get more reserved. 

Once my Fast Passes were reserved, I needed to figure out what I was going to wear! Our family always goes to the World in winter - low crowds, great temperatures! I have been so used to wearing pants and mid-weight shirts that I had to totally rethink my park outfit! I don't do great with heat, so I really wanted to be wise in my choices. After researching, I chose the Columbia Zero Rules short sleeve shirt with Omni Freeze technology, the RunningSkirts Athletic Skirt with Shorts, the Columbia Women's Coolhead Ballcap III, and my Skecher Go Walks (original model). I knew I wanted a loose fitting shirt, and a skirt with built-in shorts to avoid chafing. I tried everything on and really liked the look! 



I just packed cool shorts and shirts for the kids, and I gathered some extras for our park bag:

-Cooling towels (you wet them and they stay cool as the water evaporates)
-Sunscreen
-Swimsuits for the kids in a plastic sack (in case they wanted to do the Casey Jr. Splash Pad)
-Towel

The one thing I forgot were some items for breakfast! 

We decided to drive in from Jacksonville the night before Disney Day and stay in an off-property hotel. This way we wouldn't have to wake up at 3am! We also decided to hang out at Downtown Disney when we got in to Orlando. 

Here are some thoughts/highlights of how the day went!

-Orlando traffic is NO JOKE. We are so used to flying in and taking the Magical Express, and traffic definitely affected the magic for awhile there! Ha! Our trip should've taken about 2.5 hours and it took closer to 3.5. 

-Downtown Disney construction is NO JOKE. My GPS was all but saying "WHAT THE HECK?" We finally got into a parking garage and were able to start walking around. It was very crowded, but we managed! I even got my Birthday Button (I've always wanted one!), and it was a blast!

-We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in Hotel Plaza, and it was great! We were able to sleep the 6 of us and it was very comfortable. However, getting to the Ticket and Transportation Center the next morning was very frustrating. Again, my GPS just didn't take us where we needed to go, and we ended up driving through the back roads of Disney corporate offices! It would've been interesting if we hadn't been trying to get to the parks early! We finally got to the TTC parking lot and had to take the ferry to Magic Kingdom (the monorails weren't operating yet). We walked up to the gates of MK right at 8am (when the park was set to open). We missed the Welcome Show and I was so worried that we were already behind the 8 ball, as they had already opened the park and we missed the initial push of people. However, even with walking in at 8am and stopping at Starbucks for a quick pastry and coffees for my sisters, we walked into an almost-empty Fantasyland! I'm telling you, the masses of humanity DO NOT arrive at the parks until about 2 hours after opening! It's crazy! 

-We hit Peter Pan first, and then went around to every ride in Fantasyland, including Small World, Winnie the Pooh, Barnstormer, Dumbo, and Under the Sea with NO WAITING (maybe 5 minutes at maximum!). We were even ahead of schedule! 

-We ate lunch at Columbia Harbor House and then headed over to Adventureland. We did the Tiki Room (air conditioned!) and then our first Fast Pass, the Jungle Cruise. Even with a FP, we had to wait about 15 minutes. However, compared to the 55-minute Stand By wait, it was a breeze! 

-We did PhilharMagic (air conditioned!) and then repeated Peter Pan with our Fast Pass. The lines in Fantasyland were LONG by this point. We walked by Enchanted Tales with Belle and the posted wait was only 25 minutes (which is very low for that experience at that time of day), so we hopped in the Stand By line. I considered this optional, so it was a nice treat! 

-We headed over into Tomorrowland and got a little ice cream snack. Then we hit Carousel of Progress (air conditioned!), PeopleMover (otherwise known as Tomorrowland Transit Authority), and then used our Buzz Lightyear Fast Pass. 

-By 3:30pm, we had completed our plan! We hit our highlights and never waited more than 25 minutes for anything. I couldn't believe that on a hot summer day with a crowd level 8 out of 10, we had such an easy, non-stressful day! The key is arriving early, utilizing Fast Pass, touring efficiently, and prioritizing what's important to you! 

-We browsed on Main Street for awhile, and then a thunderstorm rolled in. We had planned to stay in the park for an early dinner, but we looked at the radar and knew this was going to be a big one. We also wanted to take advantage of being so close to the entrance, so we put on our ponchos and decided to call it a day! 

-We braved the torrential rain and rode the monorail to the TTC, where we took a tram to our car. Mercifully, the rain sort of lessened as we were walking to the car. Unfortunately I was in terrible traffic and HORRIBLE weather driving back to Jacksonville. But we arrived back to our condo safely! 



Overall, it was a WONDERFUL Disney Day! It was an unexpected treat, and it was encouraging to me that you can have such a wonderful time on very little notice. Once you adjust your expectations and do a little prep work, it can really be a full and happy day! 

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