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Old 03-07-2013, 05:35 PM   #1
snuggly duckling
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Itís beginning to look a lot like (time to plan a trip for) ChristmasÖ

I've never done a pre-trip report before, but I've enjoyed reading others'.

I need somewhere to talk through my thought process and strategy before I drive someone (ok, really, myself) insane. My husband loves Disney as much as I do, but he is so not a planner. He doesn't realize the amount of research and planning that goes into a trip. (It all just happens magically, right?) We've only just started even talking about the possibility of this trip and he's already totally over my incessant questions about which restaurants, which parks, how many days, etc.

I'd also greatly appreciate anyone's insights, advice, or support.

So here goes... come join my crazy. I've got spreadsheets.


Part 1: Backstory. We got it.
Part 2: The big questions: When? How? Where?
Part 3: Ideal park days and ADRs
Part 4: Disasters averted
Part 5: The new plan* (subject to availability)
Part 6: The time has come, my little friends...
Part 7: Check that off the list... then uncheck... then check...
Part 8: Christmas in Jul, er, August!
Part 9: Epcot dining shuffle
Part 10: What should Santa bring?
Part 11: Just Desserts!

Last edited by snuggly duckling; 10-01-2013 at 09:28 PM. Reason: Added link to next post
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Old 03-07-2013, 05:39 PM   #2
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Backstory. We got that.

So who is involved in all this, anyway?
The cast of characters includes me, DH, DS5, and DD3. We live just outside Philadelphia. I work in the marketing department of a credit card company (not evil! I swear!) and DH is a pediatrician, finishing up his hematology/oncology fellowship (not rich! I swear!) If it happens, this will be our third trip as a family. DH and I also went to WDW on our honeymoon in 2004, and once each before then (DH in 1984 and me not until 1999!) We have become mad crazy obsessed. (Donít tell him I posted this, but DH has watched a YouTube video of Wishes pretty much every night since we got back from our last trip.) Even with our (ok, my) semi-commando planning and touring style (Iím a project manager Ė itís what I do!), Disney is a magical and relaxing escape for the insanity of our regular life.

And the backstoryÖ
After our two recent trips, I fancy myself to be a Disney trip planning expert (basically thanks to obsessively reading the DIS, easywdw, and other sites.) The two trips weíve taken have been during marathon week 2012 and 2013. (We didnít/donít run. We went with our bestest friends who did/do.) During these trips, we honed a solid strategy that works for us. The 2013 trip was so easy to plan. We basically dusted off the 2012 plan, made some tweaks, and called it a day. First off, we are DxDDP people - we love food. We love sit-down meals. We love knocking out character visits while we are eating. We also like the added benefit of a little down time for the kids (and us!) to be off our feet. We use the time to strategize the next chunk of the day. Each day, we book an ADR in the park of the day at 8 am to get in before the park opens, then we hit all the good stuff before the park gets too busy. We make a 1 pm ADR for a sit-down lunch and a dinner ADR around 7 pm. Our afternoons and evenings are more relaxed and flexible, generally with the kids napping in the stroller at some point. We rock out in the park as long as we (more so the kids) can tolerate it. One day this past trip we were in the MK from well before open until after close (7:45 am until 11:30 pm.) The kids are troopers.

And the rest of the backstoryÖ
We spent Christmas 2012 with my family in MA, as we do every year but this year, it was an absolute nightmare. My mother does not let us open presents until everyone is there. Usually this is around noon and then we eat. Not the pre-dawn wrapping-paper-flying chaos of some households, but bearable, even with the kids since they can play with the toys Santa left. This year, my sister and her two kids (5 and 1) were visiting from Chicago. We were up from Philly. We were all staying at my parentsí house, so we were there and ready to go with 4 super-excited kids. But my brother who lives right in town has to make the rounds with his wifeís family before they come to my parentsí house. They did their own little family Christmas at their house. Then they went to her momís house. Then they visited her dad. Then they went to her grandmaís. Then to a cousinís. They did not show up at my parentsí house until 3 pm. And then my SIL insisted on putting my nephew (18 months) down for a nap. In the room with the tree and all the presents. By then, the food was ready so we had to eat. So we still couldnít open presents. The kids were going insane. DH was so annoyed (my sister and I were too, just to a lesser extent.) We didnít open presents until well after 4 pm. DH and I vowed that we are done with extended family Christmas. After our most recent trip to WDW, we jokingly said we should come back for Christmas. But we really weren't joking. Soooo here we are.

Christmas week is the peakest of peak (how very Dr. Seuss!) Our pre-opening ADR trick is not going to work when the parks all open at 8, or even 7 am. And the parks will be open a lot later than we are used to. We need a new strategy. I feel like a Disney novice again. I am back to poring over old threads, obsessively taking notes, toggling between like 8 different sites at the same time, and generally driving myself (and DH) crazy. But I love it.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:06 AM   #3
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The big questions: When? How? Where?

Itís really hard to plan a trip without several critical pieces of information, but I am trying. Since weíre so far out, I donít have the park schedule or the park recommendations to do the more detailed planning. But even more challenging is the fact that I donít have next yearís school schedule. We pulled DS5 out of kindergarten for a week for the 2013 trip and got all kinds of grief for doing so. As he moves into higher grades, I donít want to pull him out. He has ADHD and struggles with school already. He needs to be there as much as possible so he doesnít fall even farther behind his classmates. I am just guessing at this point, but I am assuming the last day of school before Christmas break will be Friday, December 20. I am also hoping it will be a half-day (it was this year.) Fingers crossed. So that gives us an earliest check-in day of Saturday, Dec. 21.

Our 2012 trip was 5 nights and we wished we had more. Our 2013 trip was 6 nights and we wished we had more. Christmas break affords us a little more time off than a normal vacation would. We definitely want to stay longer this time, especially knowing it will be even harder to get it all done with all the crowds. The extra time also gives us a choice in how to get there. For the two previous trips, we had to fly. Itís a 15 hour drive and we couldnít sacrifice 2+ additional days to travel. We were also able to score some pretty cheap flights the past two times, but thatís not going to happen at Christmas time. The best Iíve been able to find so far is $370 per person which is more than double what weíve paid for our January trips. Given that we have a bunch of family in Virginia and South Carolina, we have built in places to stop along the way. It may be crazy, but we have decided to drive.

So then we need to decide how long to stay Ė really itís a question of how many nights can we afford. I estimate that driving is going to save us almost $1000 (less if we decide to rent a car instead of driving our own.) After discussing it, we think we want to see what 8 nights is like.

The basic schedule would be:

Fri. 12/ 20: Drive as far as we can (to VA or SC ideally, to score free lodgings with family)
Sat. 12/21: Get up early and finish the drive; check in to resort that evening

12/21 Ė 12/28: Stay and play onsite Ė 7 full days of fun, plus 2 partial days for check-in and check-out

Sun. 12/29: Check-out, drive to VA or SC for the night
Mon. 12/30: Finish to drive back to PA (and start planning next trip!)

The last big question is where to stay. Given how much time we spend at the MK, I would love to do a monorail resort, but thatís not going to happen without an awesome PIN code (címon awesome PIN code!) Weíve gone moderate the past two times: POFQ in 2012 and POR in 2013. In the absence of an awesome deluxe discount, we will probably go moderate again. Of the two, we preferred POFQ, so thatís where weíre leaning this time. Part of me wants to try another resort, but the other part is clinging to the comfort and familiarity of POFQ. Advice?

Tentatively the big questions are answered:

When?
12/21-12/29

How?
Drive

Where?
POFQ
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Old 03-08-2013, 12:09 PM   #4
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Ideal park days and ADRs

Note: all subject to change once official park schedule and recommendations are published. Also based on what ADRs we can actually get. Iím just too impatient to hold off planning. Must get it perfect in time for my 180 out day.

Assumptions:
  • 7 day park hoppers
  • DxDDP (8 nights x 3 credits/night = 24 credits)


Fri. 12/20
  • Drive to Newport News, VA (about 5 hours); maybe we should drive farther, not sure
  • Crash with family (would have to shell out for a hotel if we drive farther)

Sat. 12/21
  • Drive, drive, drive to WDW (about 11 hours from VA); leave at the crack of dawn in order to arrive in time for dinner
  • DH and I can take turns driving / resting and kids will rest / watch movies
  • Check in to hotel
  • Have dinner at DTD. Weíve never eaten there. Weíre thinking T-Rex or Raglan Road.
  • Maybe go to park (would have to add another day to tickets) or just watch Wishes from one of the resorts, depending on how tired we are (kids will sleep in the car and will be ready to go!)

Sun. 12/22
  • Light breakfast in the room (weíll stock up at BJís before we go)
  • Rope drop at MK. It probably will not be a recommended park, but if we donít hit MK first, the kids will ask incessantly when they are going to the real Disney World. Also important to DH.
  • Late breakfast ADR at CRT, maybe 10:30 am?
  • No lunch ADR, just use snack credits as needed
  • Dinner ADR at BOG, around 6 or 7 pm
  • Stay at MK until weíve had enough

Mon. 12/23
  • Light breakfast in the room
  • Start at AK for rope drop
  • Late breakfast ADR at Tusker House, around 10:30 am
  • Late lunch ADR at Yak & Yet, around 2:30 or 3 pm
  • Hop to Epcot
  • Dinner ADR at San Angel Inn around 7:30 pm

Tues. 12/24
  • Light breakfast in the room
  • Rope drop at DHS
  • Late breakfast ADR at H&V, around 10:30 am
  • No lunch ADR, just use snack credits as needed
  • Dinner ADR at HBD, around 6 or 7 pm
  • Fantasmic (never seen it!)

Wed. 12/25 (Christmas!!)
  • Early breakfast at Oíhana (like 7:30 am if possible)
  • Start the morning at MK. I know this is the last place in the world we should be, but it is DHís #1 requirement for this trip. He knows itís going to be crazy.
  • Hop to Epcot late morning (hopefully it wonít be at capacity)
  • Lunch ADR at Akershus, around 1 pm
  • Dinner ADR at Le Cellier, around 7 pm
  • Assuming MK is not closed for capacity, back to MK for Wishes (DHís #2 request)

Thurs. 12/26
  • Light breakfast in the room
  • MK for rope drop
  • Late breakfast ADR at Crystal Palace, maybe 10:30 am?
  • No lunch ADR, just use snack credits as needed
  • DD does BBB at some point (early morning? after CP? I donít know)
  • Dinner ADR at CRT, around 6 or 7 pm
  • Stay at MK until weíve had enough

Fri. 12/27
  • Light breakfast in the room
  • Start at AK for rope drop
  • Late breakfast ADR at Rainforest Cafť (kidsí pick), around 10:30 am
  • Late lunch ADR at Tusker House, around 2:30 or 3 pm
  • Hop to Epcot
  • Dinner ADR at Biergarten around 7:30 pm

Sat. 12/28
  • Early breakfast ADR at 1900 Park Fare, around 8 a.m.
  • MK all day (but itís our 3rd full MK day so it can be more relaxed)
  • Lunch ADR at LTT, around 1 pm
  • Dinner ADR at 1900 Park Fare, around 7 pm
  • Back in to MK for as long as we want

Sun. 12/29
  • Check out of hotel
  • Breakfast ADR at Boma (never been!)
  • Maybe go to a park (would need to add extra day to tickets)
  • Drive to Columbia, SC (about 7 hours)
  • Crash with family

Mon. 12/30
  • Drive back to PA (about 11 hours)

Other things I need to think about:
  • Do we want to do a Fantasmic dinner package?
  • Do we want to do a Candlelight Processional dinner package?
  • Do we really want to eat at 1900 Park Fare twice in one day?
  • Are we rolling the dice with so much hopping? Are capacity closures going to be a problem? Especially since we are so ADR dependent.
  • And my favorite, how is FP+ going to impact all this?

Clearly this could all shift around based on park recommendations and ADR availability. But I think itís the right division of time between parks for us: 3+ days in MK, 2 partial days in AK, 3 partial days in Epcot, and 1 day at DHS.

I am officially crazy.
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:31 PM   #5
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And now I have a ticker. That means we have to go, right?
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Old 04-08-2013, 07:48 PM   #6
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Subbing!! Be back to read up on it in a minute!
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Old 04-10-2013, 09:46 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CtinaDitty View Post
Subbing!! Be back to read up on it in a minute!
Welcome! Glad to have you aboard!

I am overdue for an update... it's been a crazy few weeks. Maybe tonight I can find some time?!? I hope!
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Old 08-03-2013, 04:39 PM   #8
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Joining in.
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Old 08-04-2013, 07:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vbeaudry View Post
Joining in.
Welcome!!
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Old 08-05-2013, 01:26 AM   #10
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Whoops! Double post!
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Old 08-05-2013, 01:28 AM   #11
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Wow! Merry Xmas to you, indeed! LOL. Congrats on saving so much!

I'm not planning to do TS, and so I don't bother with ADRs, but getting them is such a thrilling sport, isn't it? Your choices look great, btw
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Old 08-05-2013, 09:50 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lei View Post
Wow! Merry Xmas to you, indeed! LOL. Congrats on saving so much!

I'm not planning to do TS, and so I don't bother with ADRs, but getting them is such a thrilling sport, isn't it? Your choices look great, btw
Thank you!

I do love the thrill of the ADR hunt. I'm now in that weird pre-trip lull... Vacation is booked, ADRs and touring plans are done, free dining is here... Only waiting on two small things (CP narrator to be announced and Wishes dessert party to open for ADRs.)

It's probably too early to start packing
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Old 09-11-2013, 09:19 PM   #13
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Double digit day!!!

Still working on daily touring plans. Should have those to share soon.
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Old 09-15-2013, 07:32 PM   #14
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What should Santa bring?

It's Lightning McQueen day! 95 days to go!

I am still working on our daily touring plans, but in the mean time I have also started thinking about the actual mechanics of Christmas day at WDW.

We are not getting the kids any gifts from us, you know, other than the 10 night trip to Disney But Santa still needs to bring a gift or two to the resort.

DD4 is easy. Princess dresses. I already have a Mulan dress and the Rapunzel wedding gown bought from a Disney Store sale a few months ago. I will probably pick up a Pocahontas dress while they are out for Halloween to round out her collection. This works perfectly. She likes to wear a princess dress in the park each day so we will already be packing them. Easy peasy.

I am struggling for DS6 though. He has asked for a Nintendo DS. I am not opposed to getting him one. It's certainly small enough to pack in our luggage since we're flying. I'm just worried that he would then rather stay in the hotel room playing DS than go enjoy the parks, and that just ain't gonna fly. I am trying to think of other ideas... Must be small enough to pack in luggage or ship to the resort. Ideally it would be Disney themed. He's not the type of kid to get excited about clothes, so it really needs to be a toy. Help!
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Old 09-30-2013, 09:12 PM   #15
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80 days! We will be in Epcot our first night so we could drink around the world!
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