I’ve not written anything on here in absolutely ages but with 2 weeks to go on our trip and I’ve run out of things I can plan so I thought I’d write about my plans instead.
If you’ve read my posts before you will know I’m a meticulous planner…I don’t leave anything to chance and this trip is no exception. I’ve really enjoyed every part of planning it but I know some people would find this their idea of hell.
We booked in April last year so my original countdown was 330 days to go. We had to book just the room at that stage as flights weren’t available. April is when they release the free dining so it will be coming out in a few weeks for anyone who is planning on going next year. The earlier you book the more hotels that are still available with the free dining. Free dining runs for months but all the cheaper hotels will have gone by then. They also don’t do free dining over some dates like Easter but if we arrive by the 7th April then we can have it over the Easter dates so we just sneak in on it.
We are staying at Caribbean Beach Resort which still has some construction. I chanced with it because it was all supposed to be finished by now and it was but then they are putting a sky liner in and that’s had a few problems so even more construction has started. If we hadn’t chosen here we could have only afforded a value hotel and not a moderate. It was a risk and it might not have paid off but from reading all the posts on Facebook it shouldn’t really affect us too much.
By booking in the April we got a $200 gift card to spend too. This sounds like I’ll be buying a million cuddly toys but actually it’s saved up for something else less exciting. Free dining is just for quick-service meals which means no waiter service/character dines. Since this will be the only time we stay onsite at Disney we want to go all out so we have paid £500ish to upgrade to the Table service plan. This means everyday we can have a character meal or a sit-down table meal instead of just a quick service, it’s worth it if you have young kids who want to meet the characters as those meals for a family of 5 are around $200 each. The problem on top of this is that they charge gratuity of 15-18% on table service. So all our meals are free but I’m looking at around $400 in tips! Lots of people don’t plan for this and it’s a huge pay out. So that’s where my gift card is heading!
There is an option at the resort where you can opt out of Mousekeeping. I don’t need the beds to be made every day and actually prefer someone not coming in so that’s going to get us a gift card of $10 a night which is $120 for our stay…between the two cards I’ve nearly got my tips covered! Phew!
Last time we went to Disney we booked with only 100 days to go, this time by booked early at the 180 day mark I was able to book all the restaurants I wanted. You have to have read all reviews of where you want to go as a lot of them are fully booked on that day itself!
We have the following restaurants booked:
1900 Park Fare (Buffet with Cinderella)
Be our Guest (Breakfast at the Beast’s castle. This is actually a quick service but the only one you can book in advance and it gets booked up straight away!)
Sci-fi (Dinner at a drive in cinema where you eat in a pretend car and watch old black and white films)
Story-book dining with Snow White (the newest character dine with the dwarves and evil queen)
Cinderella’s Royal Table (lunch in the main castle in Magic Kingdom, another difficult one to get)
Hollywood and Vine (Breakfast with the Disney Junior Characters)
Coral Reef (Lunch next to the aquarium at Epcot)
‘Ohana (Hawaiian themed dinner)
The Crystal Palace (Buffet lunch with the Winnie the Pooh characters)
Whisperings Canyon (Dinner at Wilderness Lodge)
Tuskers House (Buffet breakfast at Animal Kingdom with Mickey and Minnie etc)
Garden Grill (Dinner with Mickey and Chip & Dale)
We get 1 quick service, 1 table service and 2 snacks each per day. The snacks some days we will use for lunch or breakfast just mixing it up on when we have table service planned. We also plan to share QS meals as they can be enormous for the kids and then we can get more meals over the holiday. You have to be careful that you spend them all! There is so much food that it can go to waste and I don’t plan for that to happen at all. I have every snack even planned out of when and where I’m eating it!
Staying onsite means you get to select your fast passes 60 days before you travel rather than 30 days if you aren’t. Last time we were off-site and I got lots of the ones I wanted but all the big rides had gone. So staying on site is a massive perk for getting rides like Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom. The queues are regularly up to 3 hours for this ride. We couldn’t get Seven Dwarves Mine Train last time and we never rode it as the queue time were always over 2 hours and I just don’t think it’s worth it.
My plan is always to avoid as much queuing as possible, even if this means a really early start. You can get lots of rides in if you go at rope drop but given Magic Kingdom opens at 7am some days that means getting the bus over there at 6am so getting up at 5am!!!! We then will only stay in the park until lunch and spend the afternoon chilling at the water parks or by the resort pool. We might then head back to the park at night for a few more rides. I’m only doing rope drop twice FYI…I’m not totally crazy! And I do it near the start of the holiday as no matter how hard you try the jet lag will get you and you will be up at 5 anyway! I then have plans towards the end of the holiday to wake up later and use the extra magical hours (times that only guests staying onsite can go to.) One evening they are open to 2am when we are there so we will nap in the day and stay up later…I’m not expecting til 2am with a 5 year old in tow but it will definitely be quieter then.
Easter ties in with Spring Break so it’s one of the busiest times to go. I wish we could do May or October but we only get a week off school. And Christmas is even worse than Easter I hear.
We are hiring a car but we really don’t need to as there are buses that take you everywhere if you are onsite. We did it so we have a bit more freedom to go to different parks and water parks on the same day without wasting time queuing for buses. If we were just going to the same park all day we definitely wouldn’t hire one.
I didn’t originally book flights with Disney as I was waiting for Norwegian Airlines to release there flights as they are supposed to be cheap and fly direct. I saw our normal flights with Air Canada go up and up in price but I held out. In July Norwegian came out and they were far more expensive than I had expected. I then decided to book flights with Disney so I didn’t have to pay them outright and could then pay closer to leaving. I then received an email from Disney to say the airline had changed my flights. I was livid…we suddenly had a 5 hour stop over. I know airlines can do this but I wasn’t happy. Because I had only paid the deposit Disney said I could cancel the flights for $250 and book my own separately. So I have now booked my own but I’ve messed up slightly! The flight back has a very tight time to get the connecting flight and I think we are actually going to have to run Home Alone style through the airport! But I need to forget about that and not let it worry me all holiday!
When I called to cancel the flights I complained to the person on the phone and she spread a little pixie dust and has given us 2 extra fast passes per day per person! This is better than anything money can buy! We all now have 5 fast passes a day to use and the 2 extra ones don’t have to be pre-booked so we can use them what ever time of the day we want to fit in with our plans. And at this ridiculously busy time of year these are the best thing ever! Always worth complaining and asking how you are going to be compensated!
I have spent hours and hours moving round the plans so it all fits together. Getting the fast passes to fit around the dinner plans to fit around having a rest but doing as much as we can. I written out spreadsheets and plans but I think I’m pretty much there now! I just need the next two weeks to go by so I can go and enjoy myself oh and so the kids can enjoy themselves too!