Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Disney World touring guide | Disney World Itinerary

So you're going to Disney World! You've chosen a date, a resort, now where to start? (If you still need help with dates & resorts, click over to this post.)
If you're anywhere near 180 days before arrival, you'll want to secure Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) for Table Service restaurants. If Be Our Guest (the Beast's castle), Cinderella's Royal Table (eating inside the castle, 2TS Dining Credits) or Chef Mickey's, (where you can meet the Fab 5) is on your wishlist, you'll want to book those immediately at 180 days-same goes for O'Hana (cult-favorite Brazillian steakhouse type dining), Hoop-de-doo Musical Review also fills up quickly. Akershus dining at Epcot where you can meet many princesses in a Norwegian castle and happens to be adjacent to the new Frozen Ever After ride, and only requires 1 TS Dining credit so it's gained popularity-we prefer breakfast. You may choose to secure dining before drafting your itinerary, especially if you're closer than 180 days prior to your arrival. (For more on Dining plan & recommendations, read this Disney Dining post.)

How many park days should I buy?
First, you are not required to officially designate which park you'll spend your days in when you buy your Magic Your Way package. You'll only determine which parks you'll visit for your own planning purposes-Fastpass+, dining reservations, etc.
Review the parks & determine what in each park appeals to your party. Without little ones, park-hopping is a nice option, especially if the main attraction to you is thrill-rides.

With the typical 7 days/6 nights, and 4 theme parks to explore, a 4 day park pass with 1 day off mid-week and each travel day for resort pool time or strolling Disney Springs works. A day off mid-week to recover from the over-stimulation of the parks at the resort pool is recommended if younger children are in your group.
Magic Kingdom is very large & jam-packed with attractions, we often give it 2 days & skip another park.
Fastpass+ makes it possible to arrive later & still experience popular attractions, that otherwise would require hours waiting in line or early arrival to acquire a Fastpass. (Know about Fastpass+, if you know nothing else. More info. here.)

Which parks, which days?
1. Consult the online crowd calendars that break down by park or check for special events at parks that affect crowds. Apart from special events, Extra Magic Hours (EMH) draws large crowds to a park as they are promoted as a perk of being an resort guest.
EMH aren't necessary for us (regular park hours are early enough to take advantage of early hours without masses & parks stay open late enough for us.) It's more valuable to us to choose the park that has had EMH the day prior because typically that park is less crowded the day after EMH.

2. Use your time wisely. 
Get there at park opening & get on rides without waiting. 
Don't waste time in stand-by lines by securing a Fastpass+ for high-voulme attractions. {more on FastPass+ here}. Don't waste time in line to meet characters that you can meet while you eat. Character dining is included in Dining Plan and most require 1 TS credit. The food is varied, & the characters come to your table in an orderly fashion for autographs & hugs. (More on dining & recommendations here.)
Sample Itinerary (including Dining credit recommendations)

Here's what works for us to visit all 4 parks, giving Magic Kingdom 2 days. The resort pool is a big draw for us and the time off has helped to ward off whining and exhaustion from the vigor & stimulation of parks days.
Bump up the typical 7d/6n to 9d/8n (Magic Kingdom in 2 days, 1 day each for the other 3, plus 2 days off between.)
Buy a 5 day pass. (they often run a free day promotion with purchase of 4 day pass)
*This is a rough outline for the trip, I'll post individual park plans in separate posts. 
Day 1: Travel Day. Aim to arrive before noon.
We take Magical Express from the airport to our resort (FREE transport for all WDW resort guests). Magical Express gets your bags from the plane & delivers them to your room FREE of charge. We pack swim suits in our carry-on and wear pool-appropriate footwear on the airplane, which allows us to go straight to the pool after checking in.
Besides swimming and exploring the resort, we book an experience-type dinner reservation at a WDW resort (no park ticket required). O'hana, at the Polynesian is tasty and filling and the service is family-friendly. Meet Mickey & his friends by booking dinner at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort. Have a laugh & fill up on comfort foods at Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Ft. Wilderness. There's something for everyone at Disney Springs, Raglan Road won us over with their Irish pub entertainment and the food was good too.

Day 2: Magic Kingdom. (Complete Magic Kingdom Touring Plan-1 & 2 day click here)
Arrive 30min prior to opening. Stay late for fireworks.
Day devoted to Fantasyland & Festival of Fantasy Parade.
Breakfast in room/en route (typically meal bar or fruit brought from home)
QS Lunch in the Beast's castle *reserved in advance
QS Dinner: Pecos Bill (Mexican-American food w/ample toppings bar), Turkey legs (cart) in Frontierland. Cosmic Rays (American) in Tomorrowland (near Fantasyland). Columbia Harbour House (seafood)
Snack: Cookie sundaes & strawberry shortcake, other ice cream sundaes at Plaza Ice Cream Parlour or Storybook Treats. Dole Whip at Aloha Isle (Adventureland). Cinnamon Roll at Gaston's Tavern (can serve as breakfast). Main St. Confectionery.
Can't miss in Fantasyland: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan's Flight, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Philharmagic, Goofy's Barnstormer, Dumbo. Festival of Fantasy Parade

Day 3: Animal Kingdom.
TS Breakfast or Lunch: Character Dining at Tusker House: Mickey, Goofy, Donald & Daisy.
QS Dinner Flame Tree BBQ
OR late (after park close) TS dinner at Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge (quick bus ride from the park, depending on where you're staying, likely 2-step transportation back to resort or taxi/Uber service).
Can't miss attractions: Kilimanjaro Safari rides. Festival of the Lion King & Finding Nemo shows. Expedition Everest.

Day 4: Day off
No wake-up call, Resort pool, Disney Springs (DS),  Resort/DS dining.
QS Lunch. TS Dinner. 
Disney Springs is a great fit for a non-park day. Delicious dining options and shopping. Wolfgang Puck Express, no reservation req. is our family favorite for it's tasty, fresh food. Raglan Road Irish pub w/pub stage music & dancing show and T-Rex over-the-top immersion into the prehistoric era are also family favorites.
Resort QS dining notes: 1 Large Pizza requires 2 QS at resort. If your resort offers create-your-own pasta or c-y-o salad, it's large enough to share. We have combined salad/pizza or pasta/salad to feed our family of 5. Snack credits can be used for sides (fries, yogurt, etc.). On Dining plan, QS Lunch & QS Dinner include dessert (which can be fruit, yogurt saved for breakfast another day) & drink. Deluxe resorts offer some of the best dessert/snack options at WDW.

Day 5: Hollywood Studios.
TS Breakfast or Lunch: Character Dining at Hollywood & Vine (Sofia 1st, Doc McStuffins, Jake & Handy Manny).
QS dinner: Turkey legs option.
Snack: "Homemade" cookie sundaes at Scoops. Cupcakes at Starring Rolls
Can't miss attractions: Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, Star Tours, Indiana Jones stunt show

Day 6: Epcot.
TS Breakfast Character Dining at Akershus Storybook Princess Dining (Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) (breakfast food is eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes. people complain the food isn't great later in the day).
TS Dinner. Somewhere in the World Showcase. Via Napoli (pizzeria) is delicious. We like the live music at Biergarten in Germany.
Consider an 8pm reservation at a place with views of Illuminations. Eat inside a pyramid in Mexico, Fish & chips in England, or hibachi-style at Teppan Edo (Japan). Le Cellier serves the tastiest steak, though requires 2 TS credits (which isn't a prudent way to use them b/c it doesn't cost twice as much as 1 TS)
Snack: The World Showcase: Napolean cake in France, School Bread in Norway, Gelato in Italy, cupcakes throughout, and Dole Whip near Canada.
Can't miss attractions: Soarin', Test Track, Turtle Talk with Crush, & new Arendelle boat ride & meeting the Frozen princesses.

Day 7: Day off-no wake-up call, Resort pool, Disney Springs (DS), try Resort/DS dining
(QS Lunch. TS Dinner)

Day 8: Magic Kingdom. (QS Lunch & QS Dinner)
Arrive at opening if you don't have Fastpass+ for high priority attractions left on your list.
Otherwise, sleep in (a bit) if you need & book Fastpass+ beginning at 11am.
Adventureland (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Frontierland (Big Thunder Mt & Splash Mt).
Tomorrowland (Space Mt., Buzz Lightyear)
Wishes night-time spectacular
Stay for the "Kiss Goodnight" on the castle. Let the crowds rush toward transit, stick around Main St. until after the park closes. It's a special moment that happens about 30 minutes after closing. 

Day 9: See ya real soon! (Use remaining QS/TS/Snack)
Pack bags for Magical Express and check-in for return flight at resort. Get last-minute souvenirs (Disney Springs has the largest Disney store & requires no admission), use up remaining snack credits at Goofy's Candy Company (DS) (besides candy, they have the tastiest cookies, candy coated apples, rice crispy treats, fudge, etc.) Or simply enjoy the pool at your resort. Magical Express will typically pick up 3 hours prior to departure.

More Disney World Tips & Tricks:

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