Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

After work one day, I got to do a Cast Member Test for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I can’t go into details about what they were testing for but that is hardly the point. I met two new friends named Amanda and Jackie who were my ride buddies. They are in the picture below! We had to record the number of times we rode, and we got up to 5. In a row. Let’s just say the line of about 100 people consistently went by really fast. The fastpass lane is what slows the ENTIRE line up. If they got rid of that, there would be no need for a fastpass line at all. I just wanted to say that this ride actually made me feel like a kid. I LOVED it. I laughed almost every time I rode it and it was great to just feel like a kid! 

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Magic After Hours

For the past month now, I have been deployed. As you know I have been in strollers, The Emporium, and now Heart of House. HOH is a very laid back, go at your own pace job, that is actually very nice. Except for one draw back. Your shift begins at 6 in the morning. No I am not lying. I have had to wake up at 4 the past two days to get to work on time. And even then I had some hiccups. But this has taught me something very important about Walt Disney World. The magic everyone sees everyday of the year is there because there are Cast Members working literally around the clock. I have left Magic Kingdom at 4am and there are workers just beginning their shift. They look at us and we look at them, both thinking we have the worst end of the deal. But there is always something getting painted, or washed, or fixed. And it is magical to see this in action. At 5am this morning, I arrived at Epcot and got to see this up close in personal. It makes you appreciate having a vacation at Disney where you are not working out all those little details, so you just see the magic.

That alligator swimming in the lagoon? You don’t even see it because a Cast Member has already taken care of that situation at 7 in the morning. *just kidding, there are rumors about alligators in the lagoon, but I have yet to see one*

Planning a Vacation

I have recently been approached about a simple question, where do I start planning my Disney Vacation. Well this blog post is for you! Although a very basic question, this deserves a multi-faceted answer. Let’s begin shall we.

Let’s address the date. November 18-20. Perfectly timed, in fact. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is HUGE at Walt Disney World. I have worked at Epcot for most of my program and we have been gearing up for Food and Wine since June. This event is scheduled to run from September 19 – November 10, 2014 and should be avoided unless you are planning your trip specifically for this event! It will be incredibly crowded which is Disney’s intention. Past years have shown a big drop in numbers when school is back in session and then Disney introduced two events to bring up their attendance. And it worked.

As far in advanced, these times may change but as of now I have access to times of the parks. Keep in mind, if staying at a Disney Resort, you have access to Extra Magic Hours which is just what it sounds like. Extra hours in the park that only Resort Guests can ride the rides.

Nov 18:

Magic Kingdom Park
9:00AM-9:00PM

Epcot
9:00AM-9:00PM

Extra Magic Hours
8:00AM-9:00AM

Future World
9:00AM-9:00PM

Extra Magic Hours
8:00AM-9:00AM

World Showcase
11:00AM-9:00PM

Disney’s Hollywood Studios
9:00AM-8:00PM

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
9:00AM-5:00PM

Nov 19:

Magic Kingdom Park
9:00AM-9:00PM

Epcot
9:00AM-9:00PM

Future World
9:00AM-9:00PM

World Showcase
11:00AM-9:00PM

Disney’s Hollywood Studios
9:00AM-8:00PM

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
9:00AM-5:00PM

Extra Magic Hours

8:00AM-9:00AM

Nov 20:

Magic Kingdom Park
9:00AM-7:00PM

Extra Magic Hours
8:00AM-9:00AM

Epcot
9:00AM-9:00PM

Future World
9:00AM-9:00PM

World Showcase
11:00AM-9:00PM

Disney’s Hollywood Studios
9:00AM-4:00PM

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
9:00AM-5:00PM

Now let’s talk about staying at a Disney Resort (hotel). My family has had the opportunity to stay both on property and off. We rented a house off property and drove down but almost always, we stay on property in a Disney Resort. Staying in a Disney Resort gives you certain advantages, such as Extra Magic Hours. This is especially important for hours such as the ones mentioned above (aka very short hours for the parks). When the park is only open for a few hours, you must make the most out of them! But there is also the Magical Express, which is a shuttle service to and from the airport (complimentary) and bus shuttles at your resort to and from the parks and other resorts (also complimentary). If you plan on driving down though, this may not be as much of a perk as those who are flying.

A huge perk to booking in advance and at a Disney Resort is getting a Magic Band and access to fastpasses and reservations in advance. A Magic Band is fairly new but it is a band that holds all your reservations, fast passes, hotel key, admission into the park, and even a credit card on file at your resort, so you can charge it and not have to carry around credit cards and cash everywhere. If you have no idea what fast passes are here is a quick rundown: There are a lot of attractions which are hugely popular at WDW and 3 fastpasses are given out a time to one park. Say you are planning to visit Magic Kingdom on Nov 18, your 3 fastpasses should be booked for MK only. Some lines exceed an hour and if you are wasting your time waiting in line, you will not see much of Disney. Choose fastpasses wisely. 

Depending on if you are into thrill rides, my picks would be The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and/or Big Thunder Mountain. Remember you can only pick 3 at a time. If thrill rides aren’t your thing, I would pick Buzz Lightyear, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, and/or It’s a Small World. Or a mixture of both thrill rides and easy going rides. If meeting characters is a big deal, then I would recommend getting fast passes to see your favorite characters or booking a character dining experience. This can be looked into more on their website.

Something to think about is the time spent in the parks. Disney Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom are both half-day parks if you know what you are doing. This requires a park hopper pass which can be purchased as an add-on to your basic ticket. I believe it to be essential when staying for a shorter period of time to experience all 4 parks. 

A lot of people like to experience the dining and get on the dining plan. There are of course pros and cons to this but my suggestion is looking into it before making that decision. This deserves another blog post in itself, so here is one already written for me. This site is FABULOUS for anyone looking for advice on booking their trip to Disney. I recommend really looking into this site and it will give you all the information you could need!

My recommendation is to skip the dining plan. My mom always makes us eat a big breakfast. We usually grab lunch from somewhere or pack a lunch….let me repeat that, or pack a lunch. Yes, Disney allows you to bring your own food and beverages into the parks and it helps you save a ton of money. And then we either eat at the parks or do a late night bite at the resort. Let me just explain that eating at Disney is usually not the cheapest, but only buying one meal a day for a family of 4 will not break the bank. Just really look into the dining plan and make sure it is right for you and your family before spending a lot of money on meals you may not use up. Don’t forget to bring lots of water with you, or else you will be making pit stops to a Quick Service Restaurant and waiting in line for water. I recommend stopping at Walmart and getting a case of water and making sure your family grabs at least one or 2 before heading out to the park.

A stroller for children under 10 is also a must. Trust me, you do not want your kids complaining at 2pm about how tired they are of walking and missing out on all that time at the park. Rent or bring a stroller. This is also extra space to store those lunches and water bottles 😉

 

Some other random advice:

  • Midday Breaks: Some people insist their children go back to the resort midday so everyone can take a nap and enjoy some air. My parents never believed in this and it really isn’t necessary for everyone. There are many places in Disney which are great stops to cool off and give kids a quick nap in their stroller if needed. Some that come to mind are Carousel of Progress in Magic Kingdom, The American Adventure in Epcot, Finding Nemo the Musical in Animal Kingdom, and Muppet*Vision in Hollywood Studios. These are all indoor and air conditioned shows in which kids can take a breather.
  • Make a Gameplan: Don’t plan every little detail, but my mom started in Adventureland in MK and worked our way around the park. Instead of darting around and doing one ride in Tomorrowland, one ride in Adventureland, grabbing lunch on Mainstreet, etc. Go in the flow of the park.
  • Pack accordingly. It can be chilly at 9pm in Florida. Even in the dead of summer. Instead of buying a $50 sweater for all your kids, just pack one. Also bring TENNIS SHOES. Do not wear flip flops or sandals or brand new shoes at all to Disney. Trust me, this is not a fashion show.
  • After living in Florida for a few months, I have learned that it rains, a lot. Bring a change of clothes or at least a poncho. It’s better than paying $9 for one on the spot.
  • Get the MyDisney App. It’s free and easy to use. It gives you live wait times, access to maps of the parks, menus of every restaurant. 
  • If you have questions, ask a cast member. They can get you the information you need. This may be pre-trip or during your trip. Also visiting the Walt Disney World Website is a great place to get information.
  • Check out this blog: Tips from the Disney Divas!