Ahead of our Walt Disney World vacation this past October, there were some things that I was anxious-excited about. We had had a very wonderful and magical family vacation to WDW in October 2013, but the introduction of Magic Bands and Fast Pass+ (these were rolling out in Fall 2013), “Frozen” taking over the world (thus making it nearly impossible to secure Anna & Elsa Fast Passes), and Be Our Guest dinner reservation madness created a lot of additional “excitement” (if you could call it that) to the preparation.
The dedicated planner that I am, I was able to secure all our desired Fast Passes (including A&E!), a dinner reservation at Be Our Guest (fantastic food and a wonderful experience! I highly recommend!), and tickets to the Wishes Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom.
I did all my Disney shopping at my favorite etsy shops with plenty of time to spare, and then waited for our departure day to arrive.
This year we stayed at Yacht Club, which is located within walking distance of EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, and 1 of 2 sister resorts that has THE coolest resort pool on property. Our super-fantabulous Disney travel agent, Margaret Caffey, saved us a bunch of money when the resort discounts rolled out, too, which made our accommodations a win-win all around.
There was one thing – and one thing only – that shocked me about this trip. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much more perfect I felt our 2014 trip was in comparison to our 2013 trip! Though I wouldn’t change a thing about our 2013 trip; it was very perfect, too!
What I think made the difference for me was that I felt like I had a much better handle on what to do, what to expect, and where to go for this repeat fall vacation. We had crossed a bunch of “Must Dos” off our list last year, and had added fewer Must Dos to our list this year. When I was planning our days in the parks, I could actually visualize what was where and how to get from place to place. Visiting Walt Disney World is a vacation like no other, so having one full-fledged Disney vaca under my belt ahead of time really helped to make this trip more enjoyable for all of us.
So with that being said, I’ve boiled it down to 8 things that were very beneficial in planning our repeat fall vacation to make it even better than our previous trip.
- Fast Pass+ Fast Pass+ is an online system that allows you to secure 3 Fast Passes a day, for all the days you’re visiting the parks, ahead of your trip. The Fast Pass system has been around in the parks for years, but had previously been paper tickets that you can get, one by one, on the day of your park visit. What makes Fast Pass+ so amazing is that you can now do it all ahead of time and even change your FP times on the fly from your smart phone should your plans change! No more racing around the park – literally – at the moment of park opening to get your paper FP for the “good” rides. The Fast Pass+ system even lets you modify the time of day you’d like to ride each of those rides for maximum customization. By securing our FPs ahead of time, we were able to score Fast Passes for things we hadn’t had a chance to experience last year like Toy Story Midway Mania, Soarin, Peter Pan, Big Thunder Mountain, and Talking Mickey.
- Experiencing the Less-Popular Attractions There are tons of popular rides, but not everybody is going to love every one of them. We knew from our experience last year which popular rides really were Must Dos for us, and which ones we didn’t care enough to waste a FP or waste the time in line to ride again. This freed up both FPs to use on other rides as well as time in our day to take in some other rides or experiences. We also had the mindset if a ride we wanted to go on had too long of a line, we’d simply do something else. This meant we enjoyed rides and experiences like People Mover, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, Living with the Land, and Figment.
- Repeating our Favorites from Last Year There were plenty of experiences we loved last year and knew we wanted to enjoy again like Crush, Dumbo, Small World, Aladdin, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid just to name a few.
- Be Smarter about Character Meet & Greets Last year, the girls were dolled up at Bibbity Bobbity Boutique before we had lunch with the princesses at Akershus. Akershus was a great experience, but I didn’t consider that we’d encounter some of the same princesses more than once between the lunch, and regular in-park meet & greets and Princess Fairytale Hall. So this year I knew we had dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table on our arrival day, and that we’d be able to cross off meeting those 5 princesses from our vacation To Do list after that. Being smart about character meet & greets freed up time to do other things.
- Focusing on Really Good Food We had some good food in October 2013, but researching menus and paying attention to food reviews wasn’t on my radar. This year I specifically asked Margaret for recommendations for good food. And she definitely delivered! I also researched the Food & Wine festival menus ahead of time as there are more than 3 dozen food kiosks set up, and you’d waste a lot of time and money trying to see what each offered or blindly sampling as you walked.
- Spending a Day at the Pool This isn’t something we planned for ahead on either trip (and I confess that Animal Kingdom got skipped both times as a result – GASP!), but it’s something we unanimously agreed to both times: POOL TIME! During our last trip, we spent the day at the pool ahead of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (Highly recommend!). This time, we spent the day at the pool ahead of a dinner reservation, then headed over to EPCOT for the evening. SO worth it! Particularly at the amazing pool grounds at Yacht & Beach Club. Sand bottomed pool + water slide + lazy river + food and drinks delivered to your lounge chair = Vacation Nirvana!
- Staying in the EPCOT Resort Area I feel like the Disney Purists will strike me down for not dreaming of staying in the deluxe hotels by the Magic Kingdom, but – MAN – did we adore staying near EPCOT! Being able to walk to two parks was incredible! Plus, we very much enjoy EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, so it’s well worth it for us.
- Enjoying Some of the “Extras” This trip we picked pearls in Japan, explored a few of the countries in EPCOT World Showcase, completed an Agent P mission, and took an animation class at Hollywood Studios!
As I finish up this post and search through our many photos taken during this trip, I can’t help but begin mentally planning our *next* trip to WDW!