I’m a Disney girl. Disneyland is in my backyard, and I know it like the back of my hand. Can easily do both parks (Disneyland and California Adventure) in one day, because I have it down to an art. Efficiency is my middle name, and Disney is always such a fun challenge! So it’s been like a year and a half since we last went, and I’m needing a Disney fix. We started thinking about what day we wanted to go. As my “escape the country forever” plan is coming to fruition earlier than I originally expected, this would probably be my last Disney hoorah stateside. Wait- if that’s the case, shouldn’t I go out with a bang? Of course!! So the idea of going to Disneyworld instead was born.

Well, I rarely “simply” do anything, but for Disneyworld we are talking MAJOR PLANNING!!! Especially important because I know this is most likely the last time I’ll do Disneyworld in Florida. I have one shot at this and it has to be done RIGHT!! This includes, but is not limited to:
1. Figuring out which days the parks should be the least crowded.
2. Getting flights for those days.
3. Finding an AirBNB close by for those days that won’t break the bank.
4. Figuring out ground transportation.
5. Getting tickets.
6. Researching what are the “can’t miss” rides.
7. Getting Fast Passes.
8. And last, but certainly not least….WARDROBE!!! I don’t go to Disney without properly themed attire. Period. The ability to theme…it’s really the only time I care about clothes.

Let’s break each of these major events down, shall we?

1. Figuring out which days the parks should be the least crowded.
This is where a little thing called crowd calendars come in. I used the WDW Prep School Calendar. I knew we wanted to go in September, as I heard crowds are fairly light for that month (kids back in school and the peak of hurricane season), so I looked at the calendar, looked at flight prices, and decided on being in the parks September 15-17. Based on the calendar, we decided to do Magic Kingdom on the 15th, Epcot on the 16th (probably hopping back over to MK if we finish Epcot early), and Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios on the 17th.

2. Getting flights for those days.
We go for the cheapest flights, but are always willing to pay a little bit (not much) more for directs. We wanted to leave on Saturday and come back on Wednesday. Best options were Spirit Air (which we hate, but was by far the cheapest) from LAX-MCO arriving at 8pm with a one hour layover in Houston- $88.50 each one way. For coming back, United had the cheapest flight. A direct arriving LAX at 9:30pm for $93.50 total each one way- for a grand total of $182 roundtrip each. Neither of these flights allow carry on bags, just a personal item- as in must fit under your seat- which is going to make packing interesting! But we are not about to pay for a bag….

3. Finding an AirBNB close by for those days that won’t break the bank.
Yes, if you stay in one of the Disney resorts it’s all magical and you get a ton of perks and….you will need to take out a home equity loan. We don’t plan on spending any time in the room other than to sleep, so we don’t need a fancy, magical, perk-laden abode. Off to AirBNB! We looked at a few and decided on this one. $55 a night, about 15 minutes from door to parking lot of all the parks, superhost, great reviews, and everyone said it was CLEAN!! Clean is important, and some of the other properties that were a little closer in this same price range didn’t have the 5 star cleanliness stamp of approval…

4. Figuring out ground transportation.
Originally, I planned for us to just Uber. I mean, we’re going to be in the parks all day, not cruising around. Plus, you have to pay to park at Disney. So I popped open the app and calculated the costs of an Uber: $90 for round trip to the airport and $25 a day for roundtrip to the parks (same cost as parking). Plus, when we park hopped we were looking at even more money. Problem was that on Wednesday, our flight didn’t leave until 7:30pm. What in the world were we going to do all day? And how would we get there? I started looking at rental cars. Got one for $85 for our entire stay, which basically came out cheaper than using Uber (not including gas) plus gave us freedom on that last day. Sold. Rented from Economy Rent A Car. Take a copy of your car insurance policy with you so you don’t have to buy theirs.

5. Getting tickets.
This actually ended up being my biggest surprise thus far… Here in California, we know that discounted Disney tickets= scam. So naturally I went right to the Walt Disneyworld website to book my tickets. I wanted park hopper tickets, so plugged in my dates. The cost for both of us for 3 days would be $811. I held off because I wasn’t quite ready to get the tickets yet. But I knew I had to get them 31 days in advance, because at the 30 day mark you could book 3 Fast Passes and this is a major step in ensuring an efficient experience!! I was reading and researching every day about all kinds of things, and I came across a site called Undercover Tourist that claimed to have discount tickets. Huh. So I plugged in my dates. $785!! That was a savings of $26- my snack budget for 1:24pm-2:06pm on Monday! Could this be right? Was there some catch? Most importantly, with these tickets could I access the 30 day advance Fast Pass +? Tons of research answered these questions as Yes, No, and Yes! I bought them, linked them to our My Disney app (yes, there’s an app for that), and held my breath until Fast Pass day.

6. Researching what are the “can’t miss” rides.
I’m a spreadsheeter. It’s what I do. So I knew I needed a complete and total list of everything we HAD to do while we were there. And by everything, I mean rides. We aren’t big show people (I do have a couple planned) or parade people or meet the character people. If we stumble upon any of those things as we’re quickly and efficiently moving from ride to ride and we have time, we’ll stop for a bit. Otherwise, it’s a nope. So here’s the game plan list I came up with:

Jungle Cruise Frozen Avatar Flight Tower of Terror
Pirates Test Track Everest Toy Story Mania
Winnie the Pooh Soaring Kilamanjaro Safari Slinky Dog Dash
Philharmagic Show Spaceship Earth Tough to be a Bug
Rock N Roller Coaster
Peter Pan Gran Fiesta Tour Navi River Star Tours
Seven Dwarfs Train Journey Into Imagination Dinosaur Smuggler’s Run
Little Mermaid Living with the Land Kali River
Big Thunder Mountain Mission Space
Splash Mountain The Seas
Hall of Presidents Show
Haunted Mansion
Buzz Lightyear
Space Mountain

Please note: There is no “It’s A Small World” on that list. I hate that insipid ride.

7. Getting Fast Passes.
This is serious the most difficult and stressful part of planning the trip!! First of all, Fast Pass + opens up at 7am EST 30 days before you arrive (if you’re staying in a Disney resort, 60 days). And you have to be ON. IT. That means a 3:50am wake up call to be ready at 4am PST. I literally woke up at 3:49am- 1 minute before my alarm. That’s how in tune I am with this Fast Pass thing! It was like Christmas freaking morning…clicking the link, waiting for the Fast Passes to appear. I knew that top priority was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. How do I know this? Because I know the average wait times for the past 30 days and you want to book the stuff that sucks up your time if you have to wait in line!! Clock flipped to 4am, I clicked the link again, and boom…I was in!! Fast Passes galore! I scrolled down, frantically searching for Seven Dwarfs. It was at the very bottom. None available. For any time all day. Ugh- those damn resort people with their fancy magical rooms, home equity loans, and 60 days fast pass access!!! So I grabbed one for Big Thunder Mountain at 8:40, one for Space Mountain at 11:45, and one for Peter Pan at 2:15. I was under some delusion that you could get fast passes for all of your days once you reached 30 days for your first day. Wrongo. That means 2 more days of 3:50am wakeup calls…

So it’s day 1 and I’m sitting here with my first 3 fast passes, and I’m second guessing ALL OF THEM. What do I do in this situation? Go to facebook groups!!! There are 2 that I belong to- Walt Disney World Made Easy for Everyone and Walt Disney World Tips and Tricks. I was doubting myself- had I chosen correctly? Was my entire trip doomed because of some unknowingly irrational decision I made at 4am? Some people warned me about zig-zagging all over the park, some people said my last pass was too late in the day because apparently you can’t get a new pass until you’ve used all 3 of these!! EEEK!! And some said I was just fine, and to wait and change them as I needed to. Wait?? You mean to tell me I’m not locked into the decision for eternity? I can change these things!! Little cartoon birds started chirping, and my OCD went into overdrive. I proceeded to spend the remainder of the morning refreshing my pass page and managed to get Space Mountain bumped up to 9:45. The best I could do with Peter Pan was move it up 15 minutes to 2pm. But now, I have options. Options and time! And who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will open up!

Day 2, up at 3:50am to score my Epcot Fast Passes. This is a different system than for Magic Kingdom. There are Tier 1 and Tier 2 rides. Tier 1’s are the “must dos”- Frozen, Soarin’, and Test Track. And the kicker is that you can only have ONE of those as your three, and the other two have to be Tier 2.  Popped open the fast pass system at 4am on the dot and got exactly what I wanted! Mission Space at 11, Spaceship Earth at 12, and Frozen at 1:30. The plan is to RUN for Soarin’ at rope drop (for you Disney newbies, that’s the second the park opens!). After that, RUN for Test Track. Then those two Tier 1’s are out of the way, and the last one has the fast pass. The rest of the park should be a breeze. It’s not like Magic Kingdom where there are a ton of rides.

Day 3, up at 3:50am to score my last advance Fast Passes. Our final day at Disney will be 1/2 day at Animal Kingdom and 1/2 day at Hollywood Studios. Interestingly enough, the most popular ride in all four of the parks is in Animal Kingdom! It’s the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, and has average wait times for the last 30 days of over TWO hours!! Eek! However, this is also the most sought after Fast Pass, so much like Seven Dwarfs at Magic Kingdom, most likely every single fast pass has already been reserved by resort guests who get 60 days to reserve their passes. Like Epcot, Animal Kingdom uses the Tier system, and the Avatar Flight ride and the Na’vi River ride are the tier 1s. Hopefully if I don’t get Avatar, I can grab Na’vi. So, what’s my 4am verdict? Forget about Flight of Passage- those Fast Passes were gone 60 days ago. I got Na’vi River for 8:40am, Kali River Rapids for 10am, and Kilamanjaro Safari for 11:50am.

The chances that I spent more time stressing over fast passes than I ever will standing in line for anything without a fast pass is highly probable….

Spoiler Alert: In the end, this whole fast pass thing was changed COMPLETELY once we got to the parks. As in you wouldn’t even recognize them from the originals (except for Magic Kingdom, and it had changes as well). See upcoming “in park” blogs for how that all turned out…

8. And last, but certainly not least….WARDROBE!!!
I am a girl who loves a theme and loves to dress up. Halloween and Mardi Gras are my high holidays. Enough said. And there is no way in hell I’d go to Disney without properly themed attire for each day. And there is no way in hell I’d go to Disney with a man who didn’t have properly themed attire as well! Thus began the massive internet search for complementary outfits! It literally took a full 2+ weeks to gather the options and narrow them down. It’s that serious. We finally decided on our 3 outfits, that we’ll debut with photos on the trip journals. But the theme for each outfit is Haunted Mansion, Alice in Wonderland, and Jack Skellington. God, we’re freaking adorable!! 😃 Because these are clothes we can wear normally (yes, we’re those people), they won’t count toward the budget.

With all 8 of our major “to do” items checked off, it was time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the next couple of weeks until we leave! Oh…..if we were only that simple…..

Click here to read the MAJOR life changing event that changed our plans!

Roundtrip Tickets LAX to MCO for Two$364
AirBNB 4 nights$265
Rental Car 4 days$85
Parkhopper Tickets for 3 days$785






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