Sunday, April 27, 2014

Epcot Touring Plan

On our third day at Disney World we decided to go to Epcot.  Since we stayed at the Dolphin resort we had the option to either walk to Epcot or take the water taxi.  We chose to walk in the morning.  A short 15 minute walk and we were at the entrance to Epcot.  It was fantastic! 

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Some trips and tricks about Epcot

1.  The Layout.  Epcot is broken down into two parts, Future World and the World Showcase.  Future World contains quite a few of the rides and the large dome that is commonly associated with Epcot.  This part of Epcot also opens first.  The second part, World Showcase, opens at 11:00 am each day and features 11 countries.  Most countries have a restaurant, gift shop and attraction of some sort - whether that be a ride, a movie, an art gallery, etc.

2.  Time Management.  Try and maximize your time at Epcot by not going back and forth between Future World and World Showcase.  This way you won't spend a lot of time walking back and forth.

3.  Check out the food.  Each country has their own restaurant, so the food choices there are great!  A lot of the restaurants take reservations in advance, usually 180 days out from your trip.  Try and make reservations - otherwise you might not get a table.  Had it not been raining when we went to Epcot we would have enjoyed some food and beverages outdoors. 

4.  Future Ideas.  Epcot has a lot of great attractions throughout the year.  They have a garden show, food and wine festival and races just to name a few.  Sometime in the future we would like to go back and run in the Disney Princess race's.  How fun if we all dressed up!  I envision L in a cute runner's princess outfit, a tutu for me, a princely crown for C, and a full prince outfit for the hubby.  Wee!

5.  Rides.  Quite a few rides at Epcot seemed to have height requirements.  If you have a child that is a little older, check out Soarin' and the Test Track.  We will be doing those the next time around!

Our Touring Plan

8:00 Breakfast at Akershus with Belle (in Norway). 
This was one of the best things we did the whole time we were at Disney World.  I was HIGHLY recommend a character breakfast.  This one was fantastic.  I scheduled our breakfast for 8:00 am, which meant we were able to enter the park a full HOUR before anyone else.  It was so peaceful walking to breakfast without a large crowd.  This really gave us a chance to see the layout of Epcot before there were big crowds.  Back to the breakfast.  We were seated quickly and the buffet portion began.  On the buffet was yogurt, fresh fruit, fresh pastries, bagels, smoked fish and an assortment of cheeses.  What a great way to start our meal.  After we had given our drink orders, out came the family style breakfast food.  We had an egg bake, breakfast potatoes, sausage and bacon.  What did L, eat?  The chef at the restaurant personally came out and discussed with us what she could have.  He had Van's waffles that she was able to eat, along with the fresh fruit and bacon.  They only serve real maple syrup, so she was able to eat that too.  Win, win!  The family style food is also unlimited, so if you are still hungry, fill up!

One of the best parts of this breakfast is the fact that the princesses come directly to your table.  Here you have a great opportunity to talk with them, take pictures and get autographs.  Our little mister man even got his first kiss from someone other than his momma.  I suppose a princess will do.  : ) 

I noticed while eating, that a person at a different table was celebrating a birthday at this breakfast.  A cake was brought out to them, and the princesses helped sing happy birthday.  How fantastic would that be?!?!

9:30  The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Zero wait time.  Our next stop took us to a Nemo ride. Here the ride takes you on a journey through the story of Nemo.  At the end you have the opportunity to view large aquariums of fish.  A cute ride that L, enjoyed!

Turtle Talk with Crush.
Zero wait time.  We then walked into Turtle Talk with Crush.  In this activity you sit in a room with a large screen.  Crush, the turtle from Nemo, appears and you are able to talk with him and ask him questions.  Very cute and very fun!  L was a little disappointed she wasn't able to ask her question, but otherwise a very fun activity. 

 Epcot Character Spot
Zero wait time.  Next we journeyed over to the character spot to meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto again.  Cute interactions with the characters and little wait time!  If you want to meet Donald again, he is located in Mexico.

Explore the future world labs.
Zero wait time.  Next we checked out some of the Innovation spots in Future World.  These didn't hold L's attention very well, so we didn't spend a lot of time there!

World Showcase Opens.

11:00 Meet Mulan in China
5 minute wait time.  At 11:00 am the World Showcase opens and we headed straight in to meet Mulan.  She was very personable.  Another great meet and greet.  There are other princesses at Epcot (Belle, Aurora, Snow White and Jasmine) but we just meet Mulan.  Jasmine was not available to meet.  Aladdin was (more on that later).

Tour the countries.
Zero wait time.  We began our walk through each of the different countries.  Had the weather been nicer we would have stopped and had a cold beverage or snack at the different countries, but it was pretty rainy that day.  Each country usually offers a gift shop, an attraction of some kind (art gallery, ride, movie, etc) and a restaurant.  We browsed through there and continued on.

Meet Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco.
We were hoping to meet Jasmine and Aladdin here, but Jasmine was not available.  Aladdin said she was off on a magic carpet ride.  Aladdin was very friendly through.  I felt bad for L, she even wore her Jasmine shirt just to meet Jasmine.  Oh well.

Snacks in Germany.
Since we are of German heritage, we decided to have some snacks in Germany.  We had black forest cake, a wurst of some kind and some caramel popcorn.  Delicious!

Break time!
The rain was picked up quite a bit, so we decided to head back to the hotel and take a break.  We grabbed a light snack because we were still full from breakfast and rested in our hotel room for a bit.  This was well worth the time!

IllumiNations Reflections of Earth.
We used a FastPass+ for this.  The FastPass+ gets your preferred seating for the fireworks show.  The fireworks take place over the large pond that the WorldShowcase is centered around.  We had front row seats.  This was great!  The fireworks were spectacular.  During the show a large globe ascends out of the water and different scenes are shown on it while the fireworks and lasers are going off.  We all really enjoyed it.

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Epcot was great!  I enjoyed our time at the World Showcase.  I felt as though we could be more relaxed here since we had already met so many princesses at Magic Kingdom and at breakfast that morning.  The walk over along the boardwalk was also really nice.

Next up .... Animal Kingdom!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Magic Kingdom Touring Plan ~ Princess Edition

Our trip to Disney World was mainly centered our our daughter, L, and her LOVE of princesses.  She was SO EXCITED to meet all of the princesses and do see and do everything princess related.  To maximize our time there and to make sure we got to see everything we wanted to, we made a plan.  Here is a list of things to do before you go on your trip and while you are there.

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1.  Make A List.  As a family we sat down and went though the Disney World website and marked all of the rides and attractions we wanted to do.  We then prioritized them things we absolutely wanted to do and things that if we didn't get them, it'd be ok.  Our list pretty much ended up being do all things princess related, meet Mickey and Minnie and ride Dumbo.  Anything else was extra - but we got to do them because of planning.

2.  Pack Good Shoes.  This might sound silly, but according to a FitBit that was with us on our trip, we walked over 10 miles one day alone at the Magic Kingdom.  You'll also need good shoes so you can outrun all of the other people after the rope drop to make it to your starting point.  I turned this into a competition and boy it felt good to pass SO MANY people on our way to Enchanted Tales with Belle.  Literally some people walk in slow motion.  More on this later.

3.  Make A Touring Plan.  I read a lot of blogs on the Internet about touring plans (you can easily find them on pinterest or Googling touring plans for Disney World), checked out Kenny the Pirate, and sat down with the hubs to make our plan.  We looked at a map of Magic Kingdom and planned our the best route.  Everything I read, and what I would recommend, is to start in the back at New Fantasyland and work your way towards the front.  If you can outrun / walk the people back there you'll get on a ton of rides with no wait!  Literally we walked into Enchanted Tales with Belle, walked onto Dumbo, walked onto the Barnstormer roller coaster, waited 10 minutes for Ariel, and waited 10 minutes for Donald and Mickey.  IT WAS AWESOME!  So much accomplished in a short period of time!

4.  Set Up Your FastPass+.  Because we stayed at the Dolphin resort we were not able to set up our FastPass+ ahead of time.  We also did not have the wristbands that go along with it.  As I understand it, those were only available for people staying at certain Disney property resorts.  I believe they will be available for everyone soon.  We were able too (as would anyone with a valid ticket would) set up our FastPass+ inside the park.  When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, there were very friendly cast members waiting with I-Pads to set up your FastPass+ for you.  If you have the MagicBand, you can do this yourself before you leave for your trip.  However you get to use it - USE IT!  It was so nice to by-pass the lines for for 3 events.  Don't forget that your group doesn't all have to do every FastPass+ thing together.  For example, at Animal Kingdom I did not want to ride Expedition Everest, but the hubby did, so he got a FastPass for that, and myself and L got one for Bug's Life.  Anyway, pick the most important things to you, that you are not going to do first thing in the morning, and FastPass+ away!

5.  Bring Your Plan With You.  I had a hard copy of our plan printed out and in my purse the whole trip.  I saw some people with their plans on an electronic device, and others using the My Disney Experience App.  However you chose to do it, don't forget it!  I saved mine to my google drive also, so I would have a back up copy if necessary.

6.  Download the My Disney Experience App.  This app was fantastic.  I used it the most for ride wait times.  While I had a specific plan, there was a few times we flipped flopped a couple of attractions with each other because the wait time was shorter at one ride than other.  The maps on here are also amazing.  We were looking for our restaurant for diner one night and were able to walk right to it using the map.  You can also record your touring plan on there and it keeps track of your restaurant reservations and FastPass schedules.  So handy and FREE!

7.  Look Up When Extra Magic Hours Are At Each Park.  I researched, using Disney World's website when the extra magic hours were for each park.  It worked best for us to go to Magic Kingdom when it opened an hour earlier in the morning.  Going on a day when it was open late wasn't going to work out so well with a 4 year old and a baby.  I also liked the extra magic hours in the morning because that meant the night time parades and fireworks were earlier.  Again, do what works best for your family, but research when they are!


Here is the plan we followed for our first day at the Magic Kingdom.  Keep in mind we made use of the extra magic hours in the morning.  These worked the best for our family since our kiddos do better getting up early than staying up super late.  You'll have to make the best choice for your family.  I'll also include rough time estimates do you know how long things took.

7:00     Take the shuttle from your hotel to Magic Kingdom.  The first shuttle left our hotel an hour before the park opened.  We were not the first ones there when we arrived.  Go through the bag check and then you arrive at the gates where you can wait for the rope drop.  At this point there were cast members there to help us set up our FastPass+'s.  We waited in line to enter the park.  We did not push to the middle to see the welcome show.  If we would have been in the middle of the entrance area with a good view of the show, we would have been behind a TON of people trying to get into the park.  In my mind, racing to the back was a giant competition that I needed to win.  I'm a little competitive.  Plus you want to beat all of the slower walkers to the back of the park.

7:45     The welcome show begins.  A train arrives bringing Mickey and friends to the park.  It's cute and all, but not something I needed to see when I have bigger things to get too.  It's up to you.  YouTube a video of it to decide if you want a front row seat, or if you can listen to it and get yourself ready for a foot race.

8:00     Mickey opens the park and they 'drop the rope' and let you in.  The race is on!  Weave your way to the back of the park.  Go straight down Main Street USA through the castle and to the right back to New Fantasyland.  You'll be glad you did.  My parents might not have been so glad when they didn't get breakfast and I didn't build in potty breaks, but it all worked out.  I'll list the rides we did next in order along with the approximate wait times and a quick description of it.

Enchanted Tales with Belle
Zero wait because we hustled back there.  They only take in a few people at a time, so get there first!  The wait times later in the day were 60 minutes or more.  This was cute.  The basic idea is that you are putting on a show for Belle, recreating the day her and the Beast fell in love.  Each kid there can participate in the story.  L got to be Chip.  She was so excited!  You practice, then perform for Belle.  At the end you get to meet Belle and have your picture with her.

Ariels' Grotto
Next, head right over to Ariels Grotto and ride the ride.  Zero wait time.  We walked right on.  You ride in a clam shell and go through the story of the Little Mermaid.  It's pretty cute!

Meet Ariel
10 minute wait time.  Walk out of Ariel's Grotto and go to the next stop, the Ariel meet and greet.  She was so friendly and L got her picture with her.

***Quick potty and coffee break at Gaston's Place***

Ride Dumbo
2 minute wait time.  So much fun!  If there is a longer wait during the day, there is a play area between the 2 Dumbo rides now where you can wait and play.  We walked basically right on (we had to wait for the ride to end before we could get on).

Barnstormer Roller Coaster
5 minute wait time.  I'm not a roller coaster person, but this one was ok because it's a kiddie coaster.  L liked it!

Meet Donald and Goofy
10 minute wait time.  When you arrive at the meet and greet tent, you have a choice between Donald and Goofy and Minnie and Daisy.  We decided on Donald and Goofy first.  Wait a great meet and greet!  L asked Donald to 'shake his booty' for her, and he did!  So cute to see them both shakin' their tale feathers.

***Here is where we changed plans.  I had a FastPass+ to meet Rapunzel and Snow White.  Instead of staying and going back through the line and meeting Minnie and Daisy, we went and met Rapunzel and Snow White.  We chose to come back and meet Minnie in a little bit.  The line for Minnie and Daisy was a little long and I was worried about missing our FastPass+ window. 

Meet Rapunzel and visiting princess (Used FastPass+) at Princess Fairytale Hall
Zero wait time.  Another good meet and greet.  Rapunzel was very friendly and talked a lot about Pascal to L.  The visiting princess was Snow White.  She was great too!  Be prepared when you walk out of Princess Fairytale Hall there is a big gift shop just waiting for you : )

Meet Minnie and Daisy at Pete's Big Top Silly Circus at the end of New Fantasyland
15 minute wait time.  L has had a little stuffed Minnie Mouse doll since she was really little.  We brought her along to Disney, because she goes everywhere with us, and she was able to show the real Minnie, her Minnie.  What a special moment.  Minnie Mouse was super sweet and L was so excited to meet her.  Again, big ole gift shop waiting for you on your way out  : )

It's a Small World
Wait time was too long because the ride was broken down, so we abandoned plans and rode the carousel.  We rode Small World on our second day there.  We would have went on it, if the ride was not broken at the time.

Prince Charming's Regal Carousel
Zero wait time.  Fun carousel ride!

 Meet Cinderella and Visiting Princess (Used FastPass+) at Princess Fairytale Hall
Zero wait time.  We met Cinderella, L's absolute favorite, and Aurora next.  This was the best meet and greet.  Cinderella even recorded a quick message for a disabled girl my Mom works with.  So sweet and thoughtful.

Check on lunch.  We had planned on eating at Belle's restaurant, but the wait time was over an hour.  I wanted to take a break in the afternoon, and waiting over an hour to eat would have taken that break away, so we changed plans, and decided not to eat there.

Meet Tiana
10 minute wait time.  I had not planned on meeting Tiana now, but we saw her and the line wasn't too long, so we waited and got to meet her.  She is one of the sassier princesses, but L enjoyed the meet and greet non the less.

Break and Lunch
We rode the shuttle back to our hotel and ate lunch there.  We also took a couple hour break.  The baby crawled around the hotel room, L watched a little TV and played on the I-pad, and the hubby and I just relaxed.  This was much needed.  The morning was so fun and so stimulating that it was nice to take a little break.


Ride Aladdin's Magic Carpet
10 minute wait time.  Super fun ride.  Very similar to Dumbo, but still fun.  Beware of the camel, he spits water when it's warmer out, and he might just get you.

 Meet Jasmine and Aladdin
I had planned to Jasmine and Aladdin now, but due to rainy weather, the meet and greet was canceled.  Just know that if it is rainy, some of the outdoor meet and greets will be moved, or canceled.  We did meet Jasmine on our second day at Magic Kingdom

We ate an early dinner at The Plaza on Main Street USA.  Cute restaurant, that offered allergy friendly food.  The interior could use some updating, but the food was good and it was very conveniently located.

Meet Micky using FastPass+
After dinner we headed back to the front of Magic Kingdom and met Mickey.  At this meet and greet, Mickey actually talks to you and for us, performed a magic trick, along with spinning and dancing with L.  This was worth using the FastPass+ on.  We knew we wanted to meet Mickey, and the wait time to meet him was over 30 minutes.

*** Now would be a good time to split up your group.  Some people need to get a spot for the Electrical parade and Wishes (the fireworks show) and the rest can go meet Merida.  The best spot to view the parade is on the corner near the Plaza restaurant, or across the street.  You are basically on the turn of the street and have a great view of the castle and of the parade.

Meet Merida
Wait time 25 minutes.  This was one of the longest wait times.  I had not planned on waiting so long, but there was some sort of issue with the meet and greet and it took longer than expected.  Very nice princess and meet and greet.

Watch the Electrical Parade
Again, sit on the corner near the Plaza restaurant and enjoy this parade.  So many characters are part of the show.  If you are looking to save some money, purchase glow sticks before you leave for your vacation and bring them with you.  Then when your babies are asking you to purchase them in the park, you have some to pass out.  You'll save a ton of money!

Watch the Wishes Fireworks Show
Unfortunately, we did not get to see the fireworks show.  It started to downpour so we decided to leave.  The rain did not let up until late into the night, so this ended up being the right choice.  According to some Magic Kingdom workers, the fireworks are pre-loaded and must be shot off every night because of this.  They will shoot them off, it just may be very late into the night.

Race the crowd back to the shuttles and head back to your hotel
Just be aware that everyone will be leaving the park at one time and you might need to wait for your shuttle bus.  We actually ran to the bus station because we saw the bus coming and made it!

There you have it!  One day at the Magic Kingdom - princess style!  I'll be posting day 2 at Magic Kingdom complete with Dole Whips, meeting Jasmine and lots of non-princess activities, and our touring plans at Epcot and Animal Kingdom soon!