Our trip to Disney World starts this week

As you read this, I am off at Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the week. Who-hoo! I am so excited!!!

Now planning a Disney World trip is always a big production – if you want to hit the good attractions, shows and restaurants.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

I am a big planner (as you might of guessed when I posted that we have the next 3 vacations planned out back in August). This trip came about on what I would consider short notice. We decided in April to rent Disney Vacation Club points and stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge during the holidays. (This is big for me as it means taking the kids out of school for a week – something I have never done before.)

DSCN2988But anyone who has been to Disney World in Florida (which consists of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a mini golf-course, 4 regular golf courses, a sports complex, a mega-shopping/entertainment center in addition to fishing, sailboats, canoes and a whole bunch of other activities offered at their 20 on-property resorts) knows you need to have some semblance of planning on this vacation.

In the past I have shared some planning posts. I am going to link back to those posts here for any of you planning a trip. But because they were written in 2013/2014, they may contain information that is no longer accurate. I will try to note here any changes from the posts but when in doubt double check all info. I suggest either a good guide book or to visit the Disboards (a message board full of Disney enthusiasts including some employees who can give you the inside scoop).

Planning Post #1 – Includes suggestions for buying a guide book, a link to AllEars.net and the Disboards, as well as suggestions to make your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) at the 180 day mark if you want some of the more popular eateries. Everything in the post seems pretty up-to-date though Star Wars Weekends no longer happen.

Planning Post #2 – Covers staying on Disney property and buying a package that includes hotel, dining plan and theme park tickets. Again, it looks like this is all good info. We didn’t go with a package this year as we rented DVC points from David’s Vacation Club Rentals and bought our theme park tickets from Parksavers at a substantial discount.

Planning Post #3 – This one covers FastPass+ which allows you to skip the standby line on 3 attractions by booking an hour window which you plan to ride/view that attraction. Most of this information on Fastpasses is accurate but I would suggest checking out the FAQ on the Disboards for the most up-to-date info. Also, ignore what I wrote about Star Wars Weekends as they have discontinued that event.

Next week I will address Disney Bounding which is wearing clothing inspired by a Disney character without actually wearing a costume. Intrigued? Then be sure to check back in next Monday.

 

Planning a trip to Disney World – Part 3

Our Disney World vacation is getting so close – just a few weeks away in fact. In case you missed the two other parts of my series…

In October, I wrote a few tips for newbies to planning a Disney World vacation (buying a guide book, making advanced dining reservations six months before your trip, and visiting the Disboards for up-to-date information).

In January, I wrote about staying on Disney’s property (verses at an off-site location) as well as some extras we are doing like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for my daughter and Pirates League for my son.

There are so many things I could cover, but I think today I will talk about an ever-changing development as well as one of their annual events. (To check out a full list of other special events, click here.)

Fastpass Plus

This is an ever-changing thing as Disney tests out their new fast pass program. As I write this (May 2nd) this is how the Fast Pass program works, but you can always check the Disboards for up-to-date information on what has change.

Fastpass is basically a way to skip the stand-by line for a ride. In the past, you pulled a paper pass but now everything is electronic. Every guest who has already purchased a ticket (no matter if they are staying on property or off) gets to book 3 fastpasses in advance. Those staying at a Disney resort can book their passes 60 days in advance. Those staying off-site, can book theirs 30 days in advance.

I know. You are wondering how you can even know what rides you will want to ride at what times – especially so far in advance. As I have said before, there is a lot of planning involved in going to Disney World. Yes, you can wing it but expect long lines. Fastpass is meant for you to skip some of those waits and to guarantee you get to ride your favorite rides or see a favorite attraction with a minimum wait.

At 60 days out, I booked my fast passes – even getting the coveted one so Lexie can meet Anna and Elsa. (The stand-by line for the Anna and Elsa character meet-n-greet is typically over three hours long.) Now I can change and rearrange them every day or even the day of our trip to the parks. Of course, some of the popular rides and attractions may not be available.

And just last week, they added where you can get a fourth (and fifth, sixth or seventh) fast pass after you have used the first three pre-booked passes. (Selecting one new fast pass from their kiosk and then another after you use that one.)  And those additional passes don’t have to be in the same park which is great for us who have park-hopper passes. (Park hopper means we can go to any park – Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot – throughout the day. The other option is to buy a one-park a day pass.)

If you are going to Disney World and need help deciding on which Fastpass to book, click here for a list of which fast passes are the most sought after and which save you the most time.

Star Wars Weekends

One of the reasons we are going to Disney World in June is to attend their Star Wars weekends, which run typically the last two weekends of May and the first two of June at Hollywood Studios. (This year they are offering Star Wars weekends for FIVE weekends. We will be there for weekend number four.)

DSCN3051Star Wars weekends offers meet & greets with Star Wars characters, autographs and Q&As with actors from the movies or animated series, special parades and fireworks and of course purchasing special Star Wars merchandise. And for the first time ever, they are even offering two special meals – one featuring Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie and Chip and Dale in Star Wars costumes and the other featuring Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Greedo and stormtroopers. We will be checking out these both. (They are a limited time offer – only running from May 4 to June 15.)

Every day when I check the Disboards’ Star Wars Weekend thread, there is some other tidbit of information – special passes, tricks for signing up for Jedi Training Academy, or that you can trade trinkets with the Jawas – on the board.

Oh and as luck with have it – we are attending the same week that Mark Hamill (Luke Skywaker) will be there. This is his first Star Wars Weekend. It should be fun. If you have a Star Wars fan in your family (I have two), then you should definitely consider going during this event!