A Luddite Plans for Disney

May 30, 2018, 2:29 PM

My husband and I are planning our first trip to Disney together since our honeymoon twenty-four years ago. I’ve been a few times since then by myself, but not since FP+ made an annoying system even worse. So I’ve got a couple questions for those of you with more recent experience.

We’ll be visiting the first weekend in August…. Not the ideal time, weather-wise, but we’re there for an event at a hotel in the village (yeah, I’m dating myself – I sort of eventually adapted to Downtown Disney, but the Disney Springs concept just isn’t happening for me….)

Day 1 – Animal Kingdom
Our main goal here is repeated rides on Everest, then enjoying the animal exhibits. Every other time I’ve gone to AK, including right after Everest opened, it was always possible to do several repeat rides if I went straight there after rope-drop. I’m assuming that this is still possible – especially considering the focus on Avatar these days. Does this sound like a safe approach?

Day 2 – Magic Kingdom
Must rides here are Mansion, Pirates and probably Big Thunder and Splash Mountain. Is there any chance at all of hitting Mansion right after rope-drop, then proceeding on to the mountains and Pirates without having to get a Fast Pass for any of them? Or am I completely delusional?

If the general consensus is that an FP will be required for at least some of those four rides, then can someone answer questions about the steps to get one:

1. I’d have to create an account on Disney’s website?
2. Can you get FPs for two people off one account, or does each person have to have their own account to get their own FP?
3. Can FPs be downloaded to phones vs having to get one of those magic bands? If so, can you download FPs for multiple people to one phone?

I have to say, just typing this reminds me why I almost never go to Disney anymore. The very idea that I’m having to think about my ride strategy two months before I even walk through the gates just drives me nuts. I’ve definitely been spoiled by Universal’s Express Pass!

Anyway, thanks in advance for any help from those of you more familiar with the modern Disney experience.

Replies (16)

May 31, 2018, 8:29 AM

My comment got lost so I'll add it again.

I think your plan for Day 1 and Day 2 are solid! Mansion, Thunder, Splash, then Pirates is a solid start.

When you make an account on Disney's website you can add multiple people and add your tickets. You can set up FastPasses for the whole group but you will scan your ticket to get into the queue at each attraction. I don't think they have it so your phone can scan your fastpass entrance yet.

Have fun!

May 31, 2018, 9:08 AM

Everest will be relatively quiet for the first hour or 2, so enjoy your rides when you can as once the surge from Pandora starts to makes its way into the rest of the park, it will get busy. Although going in August, it's going to be busy-busy all the time. You may want to try and get a FP+ as well, just as an added insurance.
I don't go to MK very often as I don't like the crowds, but my friend is a passholder and her favourite ride is the Haunted Mansion. She never has any problems riding it early morning, and usually after she'll go to Pirates. So, I'd say you're going to be OK for those 2 rides, but I'd definitely try an get a FP+ for BTMR and Splash Mountain. You don't mention if you are staying on Disney property ? If you are then the 60 day advanced booking period should see you in with a chance for the FP+, but you may struggle at 30 days out if you are staying off property.
As has been mentioned here many times, you have to be prepared to work the phone app to get the best out of the FP+ system. When you're in the parks, and have used the 1st FP+, always try and move the other times forward, so it'll give you the 'extra' one quicker. You don't get the extra FP+ until you have used the 1st 3.
Good luck ..... you seem to know the Florida weather well :) so do what you can before 2-3pm and you should be OK.

May 31, 2018, 9:38 AM

First have a great vacation....

We just went to AK two weeks ago and Pandora is absolutely incredible...
The new ride called Flight of Passage is truly fantastic and gets real busy.. I would go there first...

You can also use the single rider lines to hit Everest's a few times.... Go on together once then use the single rider queue...

And by all means - buy a Mickey Ice cream bar.....

Edited: May 31, 2018, 9:50 AM

DAK - Do you have any interest in Pandora?? It's an incredible place, and certainly worth an effort to experience the attractions. If so, I highly recommend trying to secure a FP+ reservation for Flight of Passage, and if there are none available, get one for Na'Vi River Journey (you can only have one or the other, not both, but if you have NRJ, you can check the system periodically to see if a FoP reservation pops up and swap it out). I would also recommend rope dropping Pandora - arrive 45-60 minutes before official opening time (assuming there are no early magic hours that day) to get on and off FoP without a significant wait.

Do you and your husband need to ride together on Everest? If not, I highly recommend riding through the single rider line, and don't even bother wasting a FP+ reservation. You can probably ride 4 or 5 times an hour through the single rider line, and depending upon the flow of the standby and FP lines, you might even get to ride together a time or two.

If you're interested in the animal attractions, you probably should get a FP+ reservation for Kilimanjaro Safari. This attraction is better earlier in the day (when the animal are more active), so this should be the next priority behind the Avatar attractions.

I would probably use my 3rd pre-arrival FP+ reservation for one of the theatrical shows (Finding Nemo or Festival of the Lion King) or Rivers of Light (though having a ROL FP+ reservation will lock you out from getting additional reservations later in the day). The other FP+ attractions at DAK are really not worth the effort (Dinosaur, Kali, Tough to be a Bug, and Primeval Whirl).

MK - It's all about the mountains at MK, but you didn't mention 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. That's the toughest ticket in MK, and should be top priority if you're interested. If not, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder should be your top priority over Haunted Mansion and Pirates. Pirates typically has pretty short standby lines in the middle of the day, so you might not even need a FP+, or you can pick up a FP+ for that later in the day after you've completed your first 3. For rope drop, you can go to anything, but Peter Pan and 7DMT have the lowest capacities in the park.

1. Yes, you do need to have a Disney account to access the FP+ system. You might already have one though. Do you have an ESPN.com account, or Disney Movie Rewards? They use the same login as My Disney Experience (MDE).

2. Yes, one person can make FP_+ reservations for the entire family, though it's nice for individuals to have their own accounts too. Only one account is needed to make FP+ reservations for an entire family. Just remember that you need to have you tickets applied to your account and the correct family member (only really important if they've already applied biometrics to an older non-expiring pass - i.e. scanned it at a gate before).

3. FP+s are not "downloaded", they are attached to your admission tickets, so it's important that you have valid admission before accessing the FP system. You should download MDE to your phone before your trip and try it out so that you're used to the system. In addition to managing FP+ reservations, you can also order food at selected counter service restaurants and make/view/change counter service reservations.

May 31, 2018, 5:06 PM

Thanks for the advice, everyone!

Sounds like our plan for DAK will work. I know everyone says it's awesome, but right now we both have zero interest in Pandora. I may decide to check it out someday, but I'll wait a couple years until Star Wars steals Pandora's thunder and the lines become reasonable :-).

Good idea on the Everest single-rider line. We'll definitely want to do the full line once -- my husband is a big cryptozoology fan, so we have to walk thru the entire queue. Heck, we own some of the books in the display cases!

Think we'll probably be okay going straight to Mansion and Pirates without FP, but I'll brave the system for the mountains. Thanks, Russell, for the detailed walk-thru on that.

Wish me luck!!

June 1, 2018, 9:09 AM

If you don't mind, let us know how it all goes? I'm kinda hoping you get a chance to walk around Disney Spring and can give us your impression.

Good luck!!!

June 1, 2018, 9:10 AM

Are you not spending an entire day at DAK? Even if you ride Everest multiple times, there's not enough to fill a complete day if you're going to skip Pandora completely (especially in the summer when hours extend until 9-10 PM - DAK stays open past dark now because of Rivers of Light and Pandora). I think you're completely missing out by deliberately avoiding the new land. At the very least take a walk through, even if you don't plan on riding anything. Also, Sa'Tuli Canteen is a great counter service restaurant that is worth a try (though Flame Tree and Yak and Yeti are very good too). DAK easily has the best counter service restaurants in all of WDW.

For Pirates and Mansion, you can always get additional FP reservations after you use up your first three that you make before arriving. Just try to make those first 3 earlier in the day, and you shouldn't have any problems picking up more (1 at a time, of course) later in the day. Mansion has a slightly higher demand/lower capacity than Pirates, so if I saw times for both on the system, I would lean towards Mansion (unless the return time was significantly later than the one for Pirates).

June 1, 2018, 1:45 PM

You're right, Russell... We probably WILL walk through Pandora. I just don't want to feel pressured to plan for anything there. We ARE planning to hit Yak and Yeti for lunch :-)

Heh, RumbleMike, I can already give you my impression of Disney Springs. I HAVE spent some time there since its update. Overall, I'm not that impressed, 'cause an awful lot of it just looks like an outdoor mall to me. There are a few interesting stores, and some of the restaurants look good, but I'd have to come at odd hours to eat at most of them because I'm not a fan of crowds or long waits for food. I do still need to check-out the one bar that's themed to Indiana Jones -- haven't made it to that one yet. I'm actually going to be there again in just a week and a half for a work event, so I may sneak away and check out that bar then.

Edited: June 1, 2018, 2:37 PM

"We probably WILL walk through Pandora. I just don't want to feel pressured to plan for anything there."

I would say it's still worth checking for FP+ reservations while you're booking for other attractions. If there's one available, especially for FoP, you should grab it. It takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish to ride FoP through the FP+ queue (including walking the length of the line, grouping, pre-show, ride, and exit), but the 3-4 minute ride is totally worth it.

I highly recommend checking out MDE now, just to get a feel for how the system works (you can use it on your computer or smart phone). It's really quite simple, yet most guests seem overwhelmed by it (I don't quite understand why aside from the thought of choosing what ride you want to do 30 days from now). As long as you have a valid admission ticket, you can play around in the system and make "mock" FP+ reservations even if you're not planning to visit on that given day. You can easily cancel them and re-book when you actually get within 30 days of your visit (assuming you're staying off-site). Once you get used to the system, it will be easier to use, and you'll be more comfortable making and changing reservations on the fly once you're in the parks.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of the FP+ concept, but understand that it's a necessary evil, and try to use it to my advantage. When we were in DAK last October, we were able to ride FoP 4 times (once via standby at rope drop - off by 9:15 AM after 9:00 opening, once by FP+ that was arranged before we arrived - grabbed at @10 days in advance, not 30, or 60+, and a third and fourth time by FP+ reservations we grabbed through MDE during the day we were in the park). We did virtually every attraction in the park (except Tough to be a bug, bird show - closed, Finding Nemo, and Hester and Jester) over the course of our day, and still had time for a sit down meal at Tiffins and explored Pandora during the day and night (I took over 100 pictures). Don't be intimidated by FP+, practice using it, and work it to your advantage. Then let everyone else stand in the standby lines. We were literally getting ready to board FoP, when I saw another FoP FP+ reservation pop up on MDE, so I grabbed it. In the time it took most guests to wait through half the standby line (average @150 minutes when we were there), we had ridden the best ride in WDW twice.

Edited: June 1, 2018, 4:07 PM

Based on my experience visiting last year, you definitely need to take advantage of the FP+ system in order to do more than a handful of attractions per day at the parks. Even in the slower season, lines were often an hour for E-ticket level attractions, so I wouldn't be surprised to see 90-120 minute waits on a peak weekend. Naturally, it won't be like that at every attraction, but be prepared if you haven't visited in some time.

Fortunately, FP+ isn't really that difficult to use. Each of you will need to create an account on My Disney Experience and link tickets, but one person can handle all the reservations easily. Once in the parks, you'll just go to the attraction at the reserved time and scan your ticket at the FP+ entrance for access.

For DAK, if you've got a full day at the park you should have no problem doing everything in a day. On my visit, I did the two Dinoland rides before proceeding to Expedition Everest and was able to ride the latter with only a 10-15 minute wait. If you go straight to it, you can probably get 4-5 rides in before a sizable crowd arrives, and there is always single rider if you want more. That said, I highly recommend you get to the park early and start with Pandora, especially if you are unable to get a FP+ reservation for Flight of Passage. It is an outstanding ride, and unless simulators give you motion sickness it is not to be missed. In addition to the Pandora attractions and Everest (if you want to maximize rides), the only other attraction at DAK that warrants a FP+ reservation is Kilimanjaro Safaris, which is a must if you're into animal attractions.

For Magic Kingdom, you can probably get to one or two of those attractions before crowds build, but you'll definitely be caught in lines after that. If you really want to avoid using Fastpasses for them, you're probably best going straight to Frontierland to tackle Thunder and Splash first, then working your way back toward Mansion. You didn't mention Space Mountain or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but if you're interested in either of those they should be the priority at rope-drop if you don't have FP+ reservations. My recommendation: If you're at all interested in Seven Dwarfs or Peter Pan, get FP+ reservations for those. Use your remaining reservations for Thunder, Splash, and/or Pirates. At opening, head directly to Space Mountain, then to whichever of the four rides you listed you didn't get FP+ reservations for. Additionally, unlike DAK, it's often possible to grab additional reservations at Magic Kingdom...try to make your initial three before 1 P.M., then grab one for a ride you haven't done yet as soon as you redeem your third.

Lastly, remember that you want to avoid visiting either park on a day with extra magic hours, especially morning EMH. Therefore, avoid Magic Kingdom on Tuesday or Friday, and Animal Kingdom on Wednesday or Saturday. Other than that, it's unlikely there will be much difference in crowd levels for different days.

June 2, 2018, 12:23 PM

Thanks for sharing Melanie. I've heard that from a number of other folks too. "It feels like outdoor shopping but seems to lack the Disney element somehow." I think it's all the designer shops instead of the Disney focused merch. The old school Markeyplace portion may feel more like it used to once the major refurb on World of Disney is finished.

Jack Lindsey's Hanger Bar is neat! It can get busy, and it's not cheap (yay Disney) but it is a solid stop. The porch out back sometimes gets overlooked so check out seating there. There are a number of neat drinks and my wife really likes their pork belly sliders.


June 3, 2018, 5:38 PM

I have successfully navigated the pre-trip Disney "experience".

Tickets have been purchased, dining reservations at Yak & Yeti and Liberty Tree Tavern have been secured, and FP+ reservations made for Dinosaur (don't laugh), Mansion (to guarantee more than one ride after rope-drop) and Splash Mountain. Gonna play Pirates and Big Thunder by ear.

We're really only planning for half days at both parks -- partly 'cause it will be crowded and freakin' hot, and partly 'cause we have an evening event to go to the day we're visiting MK. I think we have a good plan in place to accomplish all of our ride goals, plus time to enjoy animal exhibits at AK and Main Street shopping at MK. I'll let you all know how it goes :-).

June 14, 2018, 7:37 PM

Wishing you a great time and looking forward to your report!

June 15, 2018, 10:28 AM

What's the point of announcing yourself as a Luddite?

June 15, 2018, 12:58 PM

Anton, it's just the fact that I'm still a bit old-school when it comes to theme parks. I don't want a magic band, I don't download apps (for anything, actually) and don't want to feel like I have to carry my phone into the theme park. I still remember the days when it was possible to do every ride at Disney with minimal waits by using only strategic planning when onsite -- not advance planning months in advance like you have to do now with FP+. I just miss the "low tech" days of theme parks :-)

June 16, 2018, 3:30 PM

I'm with you Melanie ..
When we first started going to Disney in the late 80's early 90's it was so nice. No lines and you could just walk up to any of the characters and get a great photo ... yes I still have them !!
Disney is a chore now, with planning and good use of the app pretty much essential.
Enjoy your luddite trip to Disney. I think going with your trip expectations will serve you well. I'm going to assume you won't be wearing Mickey ears ??? 🙂

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